Financial Regulatory Forum

U.S. Treasury wants financial institutions to help combat identity theft-related tax frauds

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - U.S. Treasury Department reminded financial institutions of their obligation to lend a hand as the Internal Revenue Service struggles to crack down on rampant schemes using identity theft to obtain fraudulent tax refunds via electronic filings.

“Financial institutions are critical in identifying tax refund fraud because the methods for tax-refund distribution – direct deposit into demand deposit accounts, issuance of paper checks, and direct deposit into prepaid access card accounts – are often negotiated and deposited at various financial services providers,” Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) stated in an advisory issued Friday. (more…)

Disclosure system no guarantee of protection for China-focused investors

By Helen H. Chan (Hong Kong)

HONG KONG/NEW YORK, March 26 (Business Law Currents) – China’s bourse regulators and the nation’s IPO watchdog, the China Securities Regulatory Commission, have been busy brainstorming improvements to legislation governing the disclosure requirements of listed companies in the PRC.

Aiming to bring increased transparency and other investor protection merits often associated with a disclosure-based securities regulatory framework, the CSRC is contemplating models from Hong Kong, the United States and other jurisdictions where listed companies are required to publicly disclose corporate and financial statements in a timely manner. (more…)

Corporate governance: succession planning through crises and emergency transitions

By Alex Lee

NEW YORK, March 23 (Business Law Currents) – In an environment of increased corporate governance scrutiny, succession planning through both departures and crises is a focal point for shareholder interests and transparency-related issues. Companies historically kept succession plans close to their vests, but recent succession episodes at Apple Inc., Bank of America Corpand Hewlett-Packard have highlighted the multitude of issues that shareholders have with respect to the concern shown by boards on such a significant matter.

In October 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reversed its long-held position whereby the exclusion of shareholder requests for disclosure of succession plans from proxy statements was allowed. The SEC clearly recognized that succession planning-related matters are within the remit of shareholder proposals, and that boards must significantly address the issues as leadership voids or uncertainty could adversely affect companies. (more…)

Compensatory penalties, hedge-fund insider cases mark SEC enforcement trends

By Nick Paraskeva

NEW YORK, March 14 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission wants more power to fine firms and individuals for fraud and market abuses, in the face of tougher public scrutiny and judicial opposition to recent settlements. While the agency has been imposing stiffer penalties, the amount remains constrained by the agency’s current authority, said George Canellos SEC New York Regional Office Director.

Canellos was speaking as part of a panel last week on trends in financial enforcement and securities litigation after Dodd-Frank. The panel was organized by NYU Stern Business School and NERA Economic Consulting. (more…)

Corporate governance: boardrooms fret over corporate espionage and federal guidance regimes

By Alex Lee

(Business Law Currents) – Dodd-Frank related governance issues such as say-on-pay and proxy access have been well known focal points for boardrooms during the 2012 proxy and annual meeting season, but another issue has topped headlines and is of increasing concern to boardrooms: business intelligence gathering activities. Faced with shareholder oversight, the risks posed by private intelligence gathering firms and governmental regulation in this area, companies must ensure that they abide by accepted best practices, the highest ethical standards and standards for compliance with laws.

Shareholders and governing bodies have enhanced scrutiny of corporate governance, with scandals such as MF Global highlighting abuses of corporate power and potential criminal activities by company officers. Effective corporate governance principles dictate that those who conduct unethical or, worse, illegal activities on behalf of a company must be brought to heel. (more…)

Grading Canada’s enforcement efforts

By John Mackie

CANADA, March 8 (Business Law Currents) – With the Supreme Court of Canada having put an end to the notion of a national securities regulator this past December, securities regulation and enforcement remain matters of provincial and territorial jurisdiction, at least for the time being. In the wake of that decision, several reports have recently been issued regarding enforcement activities by provincial regulators. (more…)

U.S. financial institutions seen lacking anti-corruption policies for domestic politicians

By Brett Wolf

ST. LOUIS/NEW YORK, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Despite an international push for financial institutions to crack down on corruption and money laundering linked to political figures, it remains unclear how firms in the United States and abroad will respond.

Some U.S. financial institutions say they have taken steps to address the specific corruption and money laundering risks associated with American political figures and those close to them. Others say they have not, and to date, regulators’ expectations are unclear.  (more…)

U.S. Justice Department unit to ramp up hiring as mortgage probes advance

By Emmanuel Olaoye

NEW YORK, March 6 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The U.S. Justice Department plans to step up its hiring of staff to investigate abuses in the packaging of residential mortgage backed securities and to work with regulators to uncover serious fraud, a senior department official told Thomson Reuters in the wake of criticisms that Obama administration efforts were insufficient.

Last week, the former chairman of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission claimed that the government was not doing enough to uncover serious fraud. In a New York Times opinion piece, Phil Angelides said the 55 attorneys, agents and analysts assigned to the administration’s new mortgage packaging Working Group were not enough to uncover serious fraud. Angelides also criticized the absence of federal regulators in the Working Group.  (more…)

Companies should use metrics to defend themselves from Dodd-Frank whistleblower claims, report says

By Emmanuel Olaoye

NEW YORK, March 5 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Companies in the United States should focus on implementing performance metrics to defend themselves from whistleblower claims and to prevent misconduct within the company, according to a report from consultancy PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Using metrics such as the turnover of compliance staff and the percentage of anonymous reports can help a company monitor the performance of its compliance program. It can also help to reduce the chances of an employee reporting misconduct directly to the Securities and Exchange Commission, PwC said in the report, which is an analysis of whistleblower rules included in the Dodd-Frank regulatory overhaul and adopted last May by the SEC. (more…)

Short-selling and CDS regulation in EU: Less to nakedness than meets the eye, funds and firms argue

By Peter Elstob

LONDON/NEW YORK, March 5 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Regulators and market participants continue to differ fundamentally over when a credit default swap should be deemed to be uncovered, or ‘naked’, and when investors are using CDS as a legitimate hedge. If a sovereign CDS can be demonstrated to be hedging counterparty or systemic risk, it can be exempted from the provisions of the proposed European short-selling regulation, which is aimed at abusive use of sovereign CDS by financial institutions to bet against countries’ debt.

Trade bodies argue that regulators should recognize various forms of ‘proxy’ hedging, including buying CDS for the debt of countries other than the one where the institution’s exposure lies — so-called ‘cross-border’ hedging’ — and ‘tail-risk’ hedges that may or may not turn out to have been necessary over a given period. They believe that the short-selling regulation (level 1) does not ban these strategies, and they should therefore be permitted (and so qualify for exemptions) in the detailed rules (level 2) that the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) is still drawing up. (more…)

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