Financial Regulatory Forum

Cole’s FSA departure leaves a lasting legacy but no surprise, says industry

By Martin Coyle

LONDON/NEW YORK, Feb. 16 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - City lawyers have praised Margaret Cole’s legacy following her decision to depart the Financial Services Authority and have said her successor faces a tough job continuing her good work as head of enforcement. Observers also noted that Cole’s failure to secure the top job at the new Financial Conduct Authority meant that her departure was inevitable. Cole, managing director and board member, announced her exit from the regulator yesterday after seven years. Cole, who joined the regulator as director of enforcement in 2005 from U.S. law firm White & Case, is widely credited with pushing forward the FSA’s recent tough approach to combating financial crime and market abuse. The importance of her departure was perhaps reflected as the news was briefly ‘trending’ on Twitter yesterday. (more…)

SEC’s “re-markable” action against Credit Suisse traders

By Thomson Reuters Accelus – Staff

NEW YORK, Feb.10 (Business Law Currents) - A new SEC complaint against former Credit Suisse (CS) employees shines a harsh light on an underappreciated aspect of the financial crisis: mark-to-market manipulation. Charging four traders and investment bankers with violating securities laws, the commission’s civil action (“the complaint”) alleges a “colossal fraud” to misstate the value of bonds held in the bank’s portfolio. U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara of the Southern District of New York also filed a criminal indictment against CS investment banker David Higgs, a managing director of the bank’s London office. Bharara likewise filed a criminal information against CS trader Salmaan Siddiqui, who held the title of vice president.

Unlike more high-profile litigation revolving around the residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), this particular case is noteworthy in that it attacks the accounting behind publicly filed documents, rather than allegations of material misrepresentations in the sales of securities. (more…)

Evidence, access aid job security when compliance staff raise a red flag

By Emmanuel Olaoye

NEW YORK, Feb. 9 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Two vivid reminders of the job-security perils faced by compliance officers and others who sound alarms at company practices were provided last week by a congressional hearing into the MF Global bankruptcy and a federal appeals court ruling on whistleblower law.

The risks may be part of the job, but skillful management of internal policies and wise self-protection can help avoid career-threatening retaliation, experts said. (more…)

China shadow banking: dancing in the dark

By Helen H. Chan

HONG KONG/NEW YORK, Feb. 8 (Business Law Currents) – Uncertainty over the exact size of China’s underground private financing activities, also known as the shadow banking industry, is causing concerns among international investors as well as the Chinese government.

Restrictions on bank lending to China’s small-to-medium enterprises and to the real estate sector over the past few years have driven many of these businesses to seek alternative methods of financing from larger cash-rich entities. This demand for funding has in turn prompted the development of non-bank financiers such as trust companies and private short-term financing service providers. (more…)

Some U.S. banks awash in ID theft tax-fraud proceeds as IRS cracks down

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, Feb. 3 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Despite a new federal crackdown announced this week aimed at combating tax refund fraud involving the use of stolen identities, current law enforcement efforts are not enough and fraudsters are still pumping massive sums of tax fraud proceeds through U.S. banks, sources told Thomson Reuters.

“IRS and Justice should have been doing this three years ago. This widespread criminal activity is more profitable than drug dealing,” said regulatory consultant and investigator Jim Dowling, a former Internal Revenue Service criminal investigator special agent who also acted as an anti-money laundering (AML) advisor to the Office of National Drug Control Policy.  (more…)

Funds auditing expert network relationships, asking for guidance

By Rachel Wolcott

NEW YORK, Feb. 3 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - Fund managers and investment firms are auditing their expert network relationships to ensure they do not breach insider trading rules. While many are reinforcing their rules and policies around these relationships, the fund industry has sought additional guidance from the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) and its international counterparts.

The Galleon Case in 2010 started the industry’s self-examination of expert networks’ role in insider trading, and last week the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) reinvigorated the issue with a £7.2 million fine given to David Einhorn and his Greenlight Capital fund.  (more…)

Corporate Governance: proxy advisory guidelines and the shifting landscape of benchmarking executive compensation

By Alex Lee

NEW YORK, Jan. 30 (Business Law Currents) – Last year’s introduction of say-on-pay regulations via Dodd-Frank helped to arm shareholders with the capacity to disapprove compensation policies, but the SEC’s evolving compensation disclosure regulations and recent updates from proxy advisory firms’ guidelines indicate that executive compensation remains a key issue. While the post-Lehman headlines of public outrage and calls for legislative scrutiny over executive compensation may have waned, now more than ever, companies need to exercise great care when considering executive compensation policies.

Boards are stuck between a rock and a hard place. On one hand, they must recruit, retain, incentivize, and properly compensate prized executives. On the other, the must deal with a growing public animosity towards excessive executive compensation and shareholder unrest, especially in periods where companies are not performing optimally. (more…)

Squeeze on money-transfers to Somalia requires new vigilance by U.S. banks

By Brett Wolf

ST. LOUIS/NEW YORK, Jan. 27 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Somalis and Somali-Americans in Minneapolis, Minnesota are struggling to send money to their families now that the small, ethnic-based, money-remittance firms they relied on are no longer operating. Banks are no longer willing to process their transactions;  they worry that such transactions involving “hawala” transfer agents, commonly known as “hawaladars,” will cause the banks to run afoul of U.S.  sanctions and laws against money laundering and terrorism financing.

The hawaladars in Minneapolis and other cities that have experienced similar problems accessing bank accounts continue to seek ways to wire money to counterparts — often in Dubai, United Arab Emirates — so it can be forwarded to recipients elsewhere in the Middle East, Africa and Asia though informal  networks, experts in anti-money laundering enforcement say.  As a result, U.S. banks must beware of customers who might be running clandestine hawala operations from personal or business accounts. (more…)

UK insider trading fine against Einhorn a non-starter in U.S., experts say

By Stuart Gittleman

NEW YORK, Jan. 27 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The circumstances that led to UK trading-abuse penalties against U.S. fund manager Greenlight Capital and its portfolio manager David Einhorn probably would not have led to a similar case in the United States, securities lawyers told Thomson Reuters.

The UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) this week fined Greenlight Capital, a U.S. fund manager, and David Einhorn, its portfolio manager, for selling shares after receiving a tip that the issuer was planning an offering that would dilute the fund’s position.  (more…)

Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act threatens investment in the U.S.

US dollar note and other currenciesBy Christopher Elias (The views expressed are the author’s own)

LONDON/NEW YORK, (Business Law Currents) – A fiscal tourniquet will put a squeeze on tax evasion – the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) is threatening to clog the arteries of the world’s financial system with U.S. withholding taxes and burdensome obligations on non-U.S. firms.

Designed to staunch the bleeding of capital from the U.S. to secret bank accounts, FATCA is clamping down on overseas earnings but its unintended consequences are threatening to undermine investment in the U.S. (more…)

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