Financial Regulatory Forum

New York charges Bank of America, ex-CEO with fraud; SEC settles

By Jonathan Stempel and Joe Rauch

NEW YORK/ORLANDO, Fla., Feb 4 (Reuters) – New York’s attorney general charged Bank of America Corp former Chief Executive Kenneth Lewis and former Chief Financial Officer Joe Price with fraud for allegedly misleading shareholders about the acquisition of Merrill Lynch & Co.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission separately said Bank of America agreed to pay a $150 million civil fine and bolster disclosure and governance practices to settle its two lawsuits alleging poor disclosure of Merrill’s losses and $3.6 billion of bonus payouts. That accord requires court approval.

Thursday’s civil lawsuit by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo could complicate efforts by new Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan to revive the largest U.S. bank.

Moynihan replaced Lewis, who retired under pressure at the end of 2009 after four decades at the bank.

Lewis, 62, joins Countrywide Financial Corp’s Angelo Mozilo among major U.S. financial services chief executives to face civil regulatory fraud charges over conduct since a global credit crisis began in the middle of 2007.

U.S. SEC bolsters money market fund rules on risk, liquidity

By Rachelle Younglai

WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) – U.S. securities regulators adopted rules aimed at making money market funds a safer investment after the collapse of the Reserve Primary Fund triggered a run on the $3.24 trillion market in 2008.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted 4-1 on Wednesday to bolster the funds’ liquidity, limit their riskier investments and to show investors the funds may not always maintain a stable $1 share value.

The fund industry was pleased the new rules were less restrictive than the agency initially proposed last year, but the new rules were likely to come at the expense of some yield.

US SEC mull tough rules for money market funds

By Rachelle Younglai and Aaron Pressman

WASHINGTON/BOSTON, Jan 26 (Reuters) – U.S. regulators are preparing new rules to limit the risks taken by money market funds, aiming to ensure investors can always withdraw their money, two people familiar with the plans said on Tuesday.

The Securities and Exchange Commission wants to avoid a repeat of the run on the $3.24 trillion market that occurred during 2008′s collapse of the Reserve Primary Fund.

The agency is considering requiring money market funds to hold a minimum of 10 percent of their assets in liquid securities and may shorten the average maturity of debt the funds can hold to 60 days from 90 days, the sources said.

UK finance executives worried by regulation – CBI

LONDON, Jan 18 (Reuters) – London’s status as a world financial centre is at risk due to a combination of rising regulation and global economic shifts, according to senior executives polled by Britain’s biggest business lobby.

London has emerged from the 2008 banking crisis but it faces fresh threats from a transfer of economic power to Asia, as well as potential unilateral regulatory action aimed at prevening a repeat of the financial meltdown, the Confederation of British Industry quoted company executives as saying in a report.

“London will lose market share, though it won’t diminish in importance,” Stephen Green, chief executive of HSBC, Europe’s biggest bank, told the CBI. “This is not because of the financial crisis, but because of shifts in the global economy.”

U.S. derivatives market agrees to more transparency – NY Fed

    NEW YORK, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Big players in the $450 trillion derivatives markets agreed to increase transparency and expand the volume and type of contracts they route to central counterparties, the New York Federal Reserve said on Thursday. (more…)

Top regulators to face U.S. financial crisis panel

By Kevin Drawbaugh

WASHINGTON, Jan 14 (Reuters) – Senior U.S. regulators, including outspoken Federal Deposit Insurance Corp Chairman Sheila Bair, will tell their side of the story on Thursday to a commission examining the origins of the 2008 financial crisis.

The 10-member panel, in its first public hearing, heard a tale of misjudgments and regret from top Wall Street bankers on Wednesday, but did not get an outright apology or any new explanations for the debacle that shook world markets.

Four of Wall Street’s top bankers acknowledged taking on too much risk and having choked on their own financial cooking in the subprime mortgage market, but they defended their pay packages and the huge size of their businesses.

US SEC proposes “effective” ban on naked access

By Rachelle Younglai and Jonathan Spicer

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) – U.S. securities regulators proposed rules on Wednesday that would require more supervision of unlicensed high-frequency traders who gain unfettered, or “naked,” access to public markets.

The Securities and Exchange Commission voted for a proposal that would require brokerages that rent out their access to the markets to have rules in place to protect against potential mishaps from unlicensed traders.

In the practice known as “sponsored” access, brokerages that have been approved to trade on an exchange rent their access to traders, who are then able to shave milliseconds from the time it takes to access the markets.

US SEC sets market review, high-frequency probe

By Rachelle Younglai and Jonathan Spicer

WASHINGTON/NEW YORK, Jan 13 (Reuters) – U.S. securities regulators took their first stab at deciding whether rules are needed to curb high-frequency traders, whose lightning-fast computer programs now dominate equities markets.

In a move that could overhaul how markets function, the Securities and Exchange Commission voted on Wednesday to seek public comment on the rapid trades, the anonymous trading venues known as dark pools, and other market developments that have blossomed over the last decade.

The SEC will publish a so-called concept release asking whether the current structure of markets is fair to investors and whether they have the tools to protect their interests.

US SEC mulls plans to safeguard naked market access

By Rachelle Younglai

WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) – U.S. securities regulators are mulling a proposal that would require more supervision of unlicensed traders who gain unfettered access to public markets, two people familiar with the plan said on Tuesday.

Regulators are considering a proposal that would require brokerages that rent out their access to the markets to have rules in place to protect the markets against potential mishaps from unlicensed traders, the two people said.

The practice known as “naked” access or “sponsored” access, is when brokerages that have been approved to trade on an exchange rent their access to traders who are then able to shave milliseconds from the time it takes to access the markets.

FACTBOX – 20 ways US House, Senate financial reforms differ

Jan 6 (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate will resume debate this month on financial regulation reform, focusing on proposals that differ in 20 key ways from comprehensive legislation approved last month by the U.S. House of Representatives.

A summary of the differences follows.

* RESOLUTION FUND. House bill creates $200-billion fund to help pay for Federal Deposit Insurance Corp (FDIC) actions to dismantle insolvent, non-bank financial firms.

Fund gets $150 billion from fees paid by firms with more than $50 billion in assets. Fee threshold for hedge funds is $10 billion. Fund can get $50 billion more if needed from Treasury borrowings.

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