The Resolution Law Group: FINRA Considers System That Would ‘Red Flag’ Customer Accounts at Brokerage Firms

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is looking at a system that would let the SRO run analytics on the customers accounts at brokerage firms that would allow it to identify “red flags” involving business and sales misconduct involving branches, firms, and registered representatives. The agency is now seeking comments for its proposal for the Comprehensive Automatic Risk Data System (CARDS).

Upon implementation of CARDS, clearing firms and self-clearing firms would regularly turn in, in standardized, automated format, specific data about customer accounts and the customers accounts of each member account that they clear for. This would allow FINRA to conduct analytics so it can identify excessive commissions, churning, markups, pump and dump scamps, and mutual fund switches. The information would also be used to examine broker-dealers.

FINRA says it wants to be able to find the risks and red flags earlier. According to a notice from the SRO, the agency says that this type of automated reporting would get rid of some of the one-off reporting that brokerage firms now have to engage in. This would also let FINRA compare broker-dealers and identify trends and patterns in the industry.

CARDS is part of FINRA’s efforts, since the 2008 financial crisis, to go from depending on individual financial firm exams to surveillance that is broader and occurs on an ongoing basis. The SRO says it conducted a successful trial of CARDS earlier in 2013. 300 introducing firms were involved.

To make CARDS a working reality, brokers might have to gather historical data. Meantime, clearing firms would need to construct a system that would let them turn in the information and oversee data transmission. FINRA CEO and Chairman Robert Ketchum said that the purpose of CARDS isn’t to “replace the compliance officer.” He said the SRO wants to be able to swiftly place attention on firms and their branches where there may be a “concentration in assets that are more likely to be hit.”

The Resolution Law Group works with institutional investors and high net worth individual investors to get back their money that they lost due to securities fraud. Contact our broker fraud law firm today.

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The Resolution Law Group: Deutsche Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland Settle & Others for More than $2.3B with European Union Over Interbank Offered Rates

Deutsche Bank (DB) has announced that as part of a collective settlement, it will pay $992,329,000 to settle investigations involving interbank offered rates, including probes into the trading of Euro interest rate derivatives and interest rate derivatives for the Yen.

Also paying fines as part of the collective settlement are Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) which will pay $535,173,000 and Society General SA (SLE), which will pay $610,454,000, and three others. In total, the financial firms will pay a record $2.3 billion.

The fines are for manipulating the Euribor and the Yen London interbank offered rate. EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that regulators would continue to look into other cases linked to currency trading and Libor. Also related to these probes, Citigroup (C) has been fined $95,811,100, while JPMorgan (JPM) is paying $108M. Because of Citigroup’s cooperation into this matter, it avoided paying an additional $74.6 million. The two firms reportedly admitted that they were part of the Yen Libor financial derivatives cartel.

Almunia said that transcripts of Internet conversations exist documenting collusion between traders. According to Bloomberg News, which obtained excerpts of charts that the EU used in its investigation, one trader usually requested that a few banks set low or high fixings for a benchmark rate. (This month, Deutsche Bank barred multi-party chat rooms at its currency trading and fixed-income outfits.)

The setting of Yen Libor and European Libor were part of attempts by financial firms to make money in the financial derivatives connected to the benchmarks. Because UBS (UBS) and Barclays (BARC) notified the authorities about these activities first, they were not fined in the cartel matter, although regulators had fined them previously over Libor manipulation.

The Resolution Law Group represents institutional investors and high net worth individuals with securities claims against financial institutions, broker-dealers, investment advisers, brokers, hedge funds, mutual funds, and others. Your initial case assessment with us is free.

The JOBS Act: SEC Proposes Raising Small Stock Deal Limits

The US Securities and Exchange Commission wants to up by 10 times how much money companies can raise via a simplified public offering. Under their proposal, firms could raise up to $50 million, instead of just $5 million, while giving investors less disclosures than what public companies are obligated to provide. The measure, which has just been issued for public comment, is the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act’s last big requirement.

The JOBS Act was established to assist small business in going public and raising capital. Currently, it lets the SEC preempt states from overseeing Regulation A offerings if only “qualified” buyers are allowed to purchase the the deals or if they are offered via a stock exchange. However, the SEC has to approve the offerings and companies employing the exemption have to get approval by regulators in each state where shares were sold. It is this review by the states of Regulation A deals that reportedly have been a biggest hassle because each state has its own standards for whether to approve offers.

It was Congress and the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act that mandated revisions to the Commission’s Regulation A so that investors will want to get behind smaller companies. According to a Government Accountability Office report, in 2011, the number of businesses trying to raise money under the current rule dropped to 19—way down from the 116 businesses that did in 1997. Some said that the requirements were too strict for how much money they were allowed to raise.

With the SEC’s proposal, referred to as “Regulation A-plus,” deals between $5 million and $50 million would be exempt from state oversight but they would have to meet additional regulatory obligations, such as they would have to investors audited financial statements, reports about material events, and semi-yearly and yearly reports. Investors would have a cap on how much stock they could buy, with individual investments limited to not greater than 10% of a person’s net worth or yearly income. Securities could be traded freely.

Deals under $5 million would still have to undergo state review. However, companies could choose to get out of state scrutiny of smaller deals if they submit financial statements that have been audited and contend with the other requirements that larger offerings have to meet.

The SEC’s unanimous vote on this proposal is the third rule that the regulator has brought forward under the JOBS ACT. Previous proposed rules involved one to allow equity crowdfunding and removing the ban on advertising of private stock deals.

The Resolution Law Group is a securities law firm that represents institutional investors and high net worth individuals seeking to pursue their financial losses caused by securities fraud. Contact us today.

The Resolution Law Group: The Volcker Rule May Already Be Affecting Financial Markets & The Economy

According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s just been a week since regulators approved the Volcker Rule and already investors and financial institutions are looking for new ways to finance municipal bond investments. The Volcker rule limits how much risk federally insured depository institutions can take, prohibiting proprietary trading, setting up obstacles for banks that take part in market timing, and tightening up on compensation agreements that used to serve as incentive for high-risk trading.

Now, says Forbes, Wall Street and its firms are undoubtedly trying to figure out how to get around the rule via loopholes, exemptions, new ways of interpreting the rule, etc. (One reason for this may be that how much executives are paid is dependent upon the amount they make from speculative trading.) The publication says that banks are worried that the Volcker Rule could cost them billions of dollars.

For example, with tender-option bond transactions, hedge funds, banks, and others employ short-terming borrowings to pay for long-term muni bonds. The intention is to make money off of the difference in interest they pay lenders and what they make on the bonds. While tender-option bonds make up just a small section of the $3.7 trillion muni debt market, it includes debt that has been popular with Eaton Vance (EV), Oppenheimer Funds, and others.

Under the Volcker Rule, big banks will no longer be able to deal in tender-option bonds the way they are structured, which is expected to curb new bond issuance and lower tradings (and why banks are likely scrambling to figure out how else they can finance municipal bonds). Already, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association is setting up a group to determine how its members can employ leverage to get into municipal debt.

Meantime, midsize and smaller banks are getting ready to sell collateralized debt obligations because of a provision under the rule that restricts certain risky investments. The Volcker Rule limits banks in their investing in collateralized debt obligations backed by securities that are trust-preferred. (A lot of smaller institutions issued these securities before the financial crisis.)

Now, banks such as Zions Bancorp (ZION) will have to sell some CDOs. Zion is expected to take a $387M charge to write down the securities’ value. The bank is concerned that under the Volcker Rule, the securities would be “disallowed investments.”

Per the rule, the deadline for banks to get rid of its risky assets is July 21, 2015—although an extension can be obtained via the Federal Reserve. That said, banks do need to make an adjustment right away to the accounting treatment they’ve been using for the securities.

If you suspect that you suffered financial losses because of municipal bond fraud, contact The Resolution Law Group to find out whether you should file a securities fraud claim. Your case assessment with us is a no obligation, free consultation.

The Resolution Law Group: Three Ex-GE Bankers Convicted of Municipal Bond Bid Rigging Are Set Free

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York panel has decided that three ex-General Electric Co. bankers charged with conspiring to bilk cities in a muni bond bid rigging scam can go free because the US government waited too long to prosecute them. Reversing last year’s convictions of Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm, the court dismissed the criminal case against them and ordered that they be released from prison.

According to prosecutors, the three men worked with guaranteed investment contracts that allowed municipalities to make interest on money made from bond sales until they wanted to spend on local projects. The government believes that between August 1999 and May 2004 Carollo, Goldberg, and Grimm gave three brokers, including UBS PaineWebber, kickbacks to win actions for the contracts even if it meant the bank would make interest payments that were artificially low.

A federal jury convicted the former GE bankers of defrauding the country and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They appealed, appealed, contending that the indictment on July 27, 2010 exceeded the statute of limitations, which is six years for conspiracy to bilk the US via tax law violations and five years for conspiracy. The government disagreed, arguing that the limitations’ statute went on as long as GE was paying rates that were not competitive.

Meantime, GE on Friday consented to settle for $18.25M a class action securities case over municipal bond fixing. The plaintiffs accused the company of rigging municipal bond bids. GE is among the financial firms and lenders accused of working together to rig prices for municipal derivatives. Investors say that the price fixing of the bonds violated antitrust laws and caused them to get lower interest rates.

GE had previously settled similar securities claims made by state attorneys general for $30 million, Three years ago it settled for $70 million municipal bond rigging allegations made by the US Justice Department.

If you are a municipal bond investor who suffered financial losses you think may be due to securities fraud, contact our municipal bond fraud law firm today. http://www.theresolutionlawgroup.com

 

The Resolution Law Group: Three Ex-GE Bankers Convicted of Municipal Bond Bid Rigging Are Set Free

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York panel has decided that three ex-General Electric Co. bankers charged with conspiring to bilk cities in a muni bond bid rigging scam can go free because the US government waited too long to prosecute them. Reversing last year’s convictions of Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm, the court dismissed the criminal case against them and ordered that they be released from prison.

According to prosecutors, the three men worked with guaranteed investment contracts that allowed municipalities to make interest on money made from bond sales until they wanted to spend on local projects. The government believes that between August 1999 and May 2004 Carollo, Goldberg, and Grimm gave three brokers, including UBS PaineWebber, kickbacks to win actions for the contracts even if it meant the bank would make interest payments that were artificially low.

A federal jury convicted the former GE bankers of defrauding the country and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They appealed, appealed, contending that the indictment on July 27, 2010 exceeded the statute of limitations, which is six years for conspiracy to bilk the US via tax law violations and five years for conspiracy. The government disagreed, arguing that the limitations’ statute went on as long as GE was paying rates that were not competitive.

Meantime, GE on Friday consented to settle for $18.25M a class action securities case over municipal bond fixing. The plaintiffs accused the company of rigging municipal bond bids. GE is among the financial firms and lenders accused of working together to rig prices for municipal derivatives. Investors say that the price fixing of the bonds violated antitrust laws and caused them to get lower interest rates.

GE had previously settled similar securities claims made by state attorneys general for $30 million, Three years ago it settled for $70 million municipal bond rigging allegations made by the US Justice Department.

If you are a municipal bond investor who suffered financial losses you think may be due to securities fraud, contact The Resolution Law Group municipal bond fraud law firm today.

The Resolution Law Group: Volcker Rule is Approved by SEC, FDIC, Federal Reserve, CFTC, and OCC

Five regulatory agencies in the US have voted to approve the Volcker Rule today. The measure establishes new hurdles for banks that engage in market timing and will limit compensation arrangements that previously provided incentive for high risk trading.

While the Federal Reserve Board and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation voted unanimously to approve the Volcker Rule, the Securities and Exchange Commission approved it in a 3-2 vote, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission approved it in a 3-1 vote, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s sole voting member also said yes. President Barack Obama praised the rule’s finalization. He believes it will improve accountability and create a safer financial system.

Named after ex-Federal Chairman Paul Volcker, the rule sets up guidelines that impose risk-taking limits for banks with federally insured deposits. It mandates that they show the way their hedging strategies are designed to function, as well as set up approval procedures for any diversions from these plans. Per the rule’s preamble, banks have to make sure hedges are geared to mitigate risks upon “inception” and this needs to be “based on analysis” regarding the appropriateness of strategies, hedging instruments, limits, techniques, as well as the correlation between the hedge and underlying risks.

Banks with federal insured deposits won’t able to take part in proprietary trading, which involves engaging in risky investment endeavors for their own benefits. They also won’t be allowed to take ownership stakes in private equity funds and hedge funds.

Unlike an earlier version of the rule, which gave an exemption to the proprietary trading ban involving US Treasury securities, this final rule lets firms trade foreign debt. That said, foreign banks in the US will have to contend with stringent trading restrictions and overseas banks with US offices won’t be allowed to sell, buy or hedge investments for profit.

According to CNN.com, advocates of reform believe that with the Volcker Rule’s restrictions taxpayers wont have to bail out these institutions In the future. Meanwhile, representatives of the industry are calling measure burdensome and too complicated.

Banks wanted the rule to protect market timing (with the firms hold the securities to engage in customer transactions). They also wanted to keep their ability to trade for hedging purposes.

Now, with the Volcker Rule, to show that they are taking part in market making (rather than speculation), banks will need to demonstrate that trades are being determined by customers’ “reasonably expected near-term demands,” and that historic demand and existing market conditions have been factored into the equation. Also, although banks will now have to contend with more limits on foreign bond trading, they can still take part in the proprietary trading of federal, state, municipal, and government-backed entities’ bonds.

As for hedging, firms will have to identify specific risks that such activities would offset. Bankers involved in hedging won’t be compensated in a manner that rewards proprietary trading.

The Resolution Law Group represents institutional investors and high net worth individual investors throughout the US. We help our clients recover their securities fraud losses