Financial Regulatory Forum

Dead man walking: The FSA’s aggressive stance with financial services firms

Pedestrians through Canary Wharf business districtBy Christopher Elias

LONDON, Sept. 20 (Business Law Currents) – If the death sentence of the UK’s Financial Services Authority (FSA) was to earn a last request then it may well have been to introduce a new era of aggressive enforcement as it prepares to hand over power to the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA).

It may have slept through the worst financial crisis in living memory and be about to be put to death but this seems to have only invigorated the FSA in its enforcement actions, as it introduces increasingly tough measures on financial firms. Dead man walking? Perhaps. But beware of those boots, as the FSA toughens up its enforcement actions. (more…)

Banker-author warns overseers to keep ‘extreme money’ in check

By Stuart Gittleman and Emmanuel Olaoye

NEW YORK, Sept. 19 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The “extreme money” and “voodoo banking” that are dominating the global financial system are too smart, too fast, too greedy, too self-absorbed and far too dangerous for traditional legislation and regulation, a veteran banker told Thomson Reuters.

Efforts to prevent another financial crisis are likely to fail unless lawmakers and regulators understand that the forces that drove the crisis of 2008 go back several decades. While keeping an eye on the past, the overseers should also look for the potential risks of proposals claiming to promote growth, and how they are disclosed, Satyajit Das says in his book, Extreme money: masters of the universe and the cult of risk (FT Press, August 2011). (more…)

Rogue traders will always pose risk to compliance controls, says industry

Traders work at their desks in front of the DAX indexBy Martin Coyle and Alex Robson

LONDON/NEW YORK, Sept. 16 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The $2 billion rogue trading incident at UBS demonstrates that determined individuals will always be able to circumvent internal systems and controls despite the recent regulatory scrutiny on this area, industry officials said. The case also highlighted the need for banks to think about their reward structures, they added.

UBS yesterday confirmed that 31-year-old London-based trader Kweku Adoboli had lost the bank around $2 billion in unauthorised deals. The director of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and “Delta 1″ was arrested on suspicion of fraud at his desk by City of London Police at 3:30am. (more…)

Tiger Asia case has exposed Hong Kong regulator’s enforcement reach, say lawyers

The latest edition of Hong Kong dollar notes during an exhibition in Hong KongBy Ajay Shamdasani

HONG KONG/NEW YORK, Sept. 15 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – The Hong Kong securities regulator’s legal troubles in bringing disciplinary action against New York-based hedge fund Tiger Asia Management has shown the limitations of its regulatory reach and signalled that funds may be safer operating from offshore, according to a source close to the proceedings. The source, a senior local financial lawyer close to the case, said that his advice for foreign funds that did not need to be licensed and regulated in Hong Kong was to forgo doing so in order to reduce the risk of disciplinary action by the territory’s Securities and Futures Commission.

The SFC is locked in a legal battle over its disciplinary action against Tiger Asia and three of its officers — Bill Sung Kook Hwang, Raymond Park and William Tomita — first taken in August 2009. The SFC alleged the hedge fund and its senior management breached local market misconduct and insider dealing rules during a placing of China Construction Bank shares in Hong Kong in early 2009, earning itself a profit of $29.9 million.  (more…)

Insider Trading: Hong Kong’s Not So Smooth Criminals

Hong Kong's central financial district's (L-R) Bank of China Tower, Cheung Kong Centre, HSBC headquarters, Standard Chartered Bank and Legislative Council (front L) are pictured lighted up before Earth Hour, March 26, 2011. REUTERS/Bobby YipBy Helen H. Chan (Hong Kong)

(Business Law Currents) – The Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) is putting the clamp on white collar criminals. Seeking to deprive convicted offenders of their freedom as well as their illicit gains, the watchdog is cracking down hard on insider dealing in the special administrative region. Recent disciplinary actions initiated by the watchdog are sending a strong message that all inside deals, even small missteps, will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law.

As previously told to Compliance Complete by former SFC head Martin Wheatley, the Commission has consciously endeavored to use criminal proceedings to deal with insider dealing in Hong Kong. The watchdog’s increasingly tough stance has put companies of all sizes on high alert. (more…)

Despite progress since 9/11, government must do more to combat terror finance, experts say

By Brett Wolf

NEW YORK, Sept. 12 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The fight against terrorism financing has advanced in the 10 years since the September 11, 2001 attacks, but vulnerabilities remain in areas such as digital currencies and alternative transfer networks, and bureaucratic turf battles have reemerged, say former law enforcement officials who pioneered U.S. counter-terrorism financing efforts.

“We cannot forget that the technological methodologies for moving funds around the world are changing exponentially everyday. We’ve got to keep up with that,” a former U.S. counter-terrorism official with the departments of Treasury and Justice told Thomson Reuters.  (more…)

Is the medicine for financial services turning out to be worse than the disease?

By Susannah Hammond

LONDON/NEW YORK , Sept. 9 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Almost three years on from the fall of Lehman Brothers and the widespread public bail-out of financial services the world is looking grim. In the white heat of the crisis itself jurisdictions, policymakers and governments moved together to resolve the worst of the immediate issues and bought global financial services time to heal. While some recovery and mending of balance sheets has certainly taken place, global financial services continue to suffer at the hands of divergent policymakers, international recessions and sovereign debt crises.

The medium-term aftermath of the financial crisis may well turn out to be more damaging to financial services than the crisis itself. Quite how severe the current state of affairs has become was highlighted by the new head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, who stated that “there remains a road to recovery, yet, we do not have the luxury of time”. The risks to any recovery are increased by “a growing sense that policymakers do not have the conviction, or are simply not willing, to take the decisions that are needed”.  (more…)

Regulatory forbearance looms as next big supervisory risk for financial giants

By Susannah Hammond

LONDON/NEW YORK, Sept. 9 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) – Regulatory forbearance is not a concept that has hit many headlines. It is, however, emerging as an underlying theme in publications by a range of bodies, from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to the European Union and beyond. Regulatory forbearance is not about supervisory incompetence but, rather, the potential for a fully briefed regulator to decide not to intervene. There may be many legitimate occasions when non-intervention is the right call but, when judged with the benefit of hindsight, more supervisory interventions, made sooner, could have ameliorated some of the worst of the issues arising out of the financial crisis.

As Bank of England governor Sir Mervyn King stated, taking away the punchbowl when the party is in full swing is never an easy decision to make. Regulators, however, must be both capable and willing to take tough interventionist action. Regulators making such difficult decisions need to be assured that they have the backing of the international financial services community, the support of their domestic political masters and, perhaps to a lesser extent, the understanding of the public.

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U.S. Justice Department disputes charges it unfairly targeted community banks

By Emmanuel Olaoye

NEW YORK, Aug. 31 (Thomson Reuters Accelus) - The U.S. Justice Department disputed charges by community bankers that it is unfairly targeting them with fair lending actions, and said the cases have been consistent with the criteria it has used to bring cases in the last 15 years.

Eric Halperin, special counsel for Fair Lending at the Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division, told Thomson Reuters on Tuesday that the criteria used to bring enforcement actions is consistent with those used in the Bush and Clinton Administrations.

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Yuan internationalization takes off in Hong Kong

By Helen H. Chan (Hong Kong)

HONG KONG, Aug. 31 (Business Law Currents) – Yuan supporters both inside and outside of China are applauding anticipated regulatory changes in Hong Kong aimed at loosening capital controls over the renminbi, China’s national currency.

During his visit to Hong Kong recently, China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang announced the formation of a spate of regulatory changes to the existing legal framework governing yuan-denominated trade and financial transactions between the special administrative region and mainland China. The 36 regulatory measures include amendments to existing items such as dim sum bond offerings, to the establishment of new mechanisms such as the pilot renminbi foreign direct investment initiative for offshore renminbi investors.

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