U.K. Bank Shortfalls, Hedge Funds, SEC Shift: ComplianceCarla Main
April 29 (Bloomberg) -- Britain’s new banking regulator has rattled lenders by holding off disclosing how much capital each firm will have to raise after ordering the industry to plug a 25 billion-pound ($38 billion) shortfall by the end of the year, three people with knowledge of the discussions said.
The Prudential Regulation Authority, the unit of the Bank of England that took over supervision of the industry from the Financial Services Authority this month, isn’t expected to detail the steps all banks need to take to bolster their balance sheets until mid-May at the earliest, said two of the people who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. Banks had expected to be told in March, one of the people said.
That delay could leave banks less than seven months to plug the gap identified by the Bank of England. The regulator is recommending the firms raise capital to cover bigger potential losses, possible fines for mis-selling and stricter risk models.
The banks will hold within three weeks their first formal meetings with the PRA since the central bank published its report on March 27, the people said. They will discuss the assessment by the Bank of England’s Financial Policy Committee and the capital plans the banks have already outlined, the people said.
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SEC’s White Said to Push to Lift Ban on Hedge-Fund Advertising
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission chairman Mary Jo White is pushing to adopt a rule allowing hedge funds to advertise in a move consumer advocates say could fail to protect unsophisticated investors, according to two people familiar with the matter.
White, who became SEC chairman on April 10, has suggested the commission pass the existing plan without major changes and add additional protections later, said the people, who declined to be identified because the deliberations are private. The approach would placate congressional Republicans who have complained the SEC has slow-walked the rule, which was required to be completed by July 2012.
Approving the regulation would allow White to make good on a promise she made in her Senate confirmation hearing to prioritize rules mandated by the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, which was designed to boost capital-raising and job creation. At the same time, it could anger advocates for small investors and at least one Democratic commissioner.
The SEC’s five-member commission has been divided on the rule since last year.
John Nester, an SEC spokesman, declined to comment on White’s plans.
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U.S. Regulators Say Libor Needs Shift to Market-Pricing System
Interest-rate benchmarks must be tied to market transactions instead of estimates to protect the global financial system against mis-allocation of capital and mismanagement of risk, according to a panel of U.S. regulators.
U.S. and overseas agencies must identify alternatives to the London interbank offered rate “that are anchored in observable transactions and are supported by appropriate governance structures,” the Financial Stability Oversight Council said in a report released April 25.
FSOC, a council of regulators created by the Dodd-Frank Act to monitor financial-system risk, made the recommendations after three banks paid $2.5 billion in fines in a global manipulation probe. The council, led by Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew, also includes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke and heads of agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
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Scottish Independence May Cause Pensions ‘Timebomb,’ Herald Says
Scottish independence could prompt a multibillion pound pensions “timebomb” as companies are forced to plug the shortfall in under-funded cross-border pension plans, the Herald newspaper said, citing a report by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland.
The requirement under European Union regulations could bankrupt some companies leaving hundreds of thousands of past and present workers seeking backing from state-backed protection funds, the Glasgow-based newspaper said.
ICAS urged the Scottish and U.K. governments to begin talks to resolve potential pension difficulties in the event of Scotland becoming independent after next year’s referendum, the Herald said.
The Scottish government said there was no reason why an independent Scotland could not reach the same sort of agreement the U.K. has with Ireland to allow cross-border funding shortfalls, the newspaper said.
Regulators Don’t Understand Structured Products, Eusipa Says
Regulators of the $1 trillion structured products market don’t understand the difference between risk and complexity, according to the European Structured Investment Products Association.
Individual investors who buy the notes, which package debt with derivatives, don’t need to understand every detail of the structures, said Thomas Wulf, secretary general of Eusipa, as the organization is known. The association comprises issuer groups in Europe that represent banks including Deutsche Bank AG and Goldman Sachs Group Inc.
Wulf was responding to criticism of structured notes from European and U.K. regulators who are scrutinizing the market. Martin Wheatley, chief executive of the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority, said this month the products have “often been mind-bogglingly complicated financial gambles.”
“Complexity is not always a disadvantage to a client,” Wulf said. “Adding features to a product to make it more secure, such as by giving it protection against capital loss or issuer default, is necessarily making it more complex.”
The Madrid-based International Organization of Securities Commissions proposed new rules on April 18 governing sales of the securities. At least 16 regulators are considering changing their existing rules for the products, said the Madrid-based group.
Policy makers are preparing to require lenders in the European Union to publish so-called key information documents, or KIDs, that provide concise information about the characteristics and risks of their products, which could be in place by the end of next year.
Australia Approves Variations to APX Market License Rules
The Australia government approved variations to the Asia Pacific Exchange market license, integrity and operating rules, and compensation arrangements.
Once a number of regulatory conditions are complied with, the changes will permit APX to begin operating an exchange market in Australia, according to a statement.
CFTC Certifies ICE’s Routing Plan Over DTCC Objections
The U.S. Commodities and Futures Trading Commission certified Intercontinental Exchange’s plan to route data on cleared swaps to its own data repository, the agency said on its website.
The Depository Trust and Clearing Corp. opposed the plan and urged the CFTC to reject it, arguing it is anti-competitive.
Databases are required under Dodd-Frank to hold information about swap prices and volume.
Barclays Libor Trial Delayed Until 2014 to Allow for Appeal
The first U.K. trial over allegations of fraud related to manipulation of benchmark interest rates was delayed until next year to allow Barclays Plc an opportunity to have an appeals court dismiss the case.
A six-week trial won’t take place until April 2014, after appeal judges have ruled, a London court ruled today.
Barclays, which is being sued by affiliates of Guardian Care Homes Ltd. over swap contracts linked to the London interbank offered rate, appealed a decision allowing Libor fraud claims to be included in the case.
The bank has obtained permission from the court of appeal to challenge the ruling on the Libor claims, a Barclays spokesman said in an e-mailed statement. Guardian spokesman Toby Pellew didn’t immediately respond to e-mails seeking comment.
Allen Stanford Ordered to Disgorge $6.7 Billion in SEC Case
R. Allen Stanford, the Texas financier convicted last year of leading an investment fraud scheme, was ordered to disgorge more than $6.7 billion by the judge in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission lawsuit.
U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas issued the order April 25 against Stanford, his Stanford Group Co. and the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.
The order may clear the way for Godbey to grant a court-appointed receiver’s request to make an interim $55 million payout to investors who lost money after buying certificates of deposit issued by the Stanford Bank.
Godbey described the fraud as egregious and having been done with a “high degree of scienter,” using the legal term to describe the mental state of intent to deceive.
A federal jury in Houston convicted Stanford of lying to investors about how their money was being handled.
Stanford, 63, was sentenced to 110 years in prison. Maintaining his innocence, he has appealed the verdict.
The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank, 09-cv-00298, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas). The criminal case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
The investors’ case is Rotstain v. Trustmark National Bank, 09-cv-02384, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas).
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SEC Foreign Payment Rule Challenge Declined by Appeals Court
A challenge to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring some companies to disclose payments to foreign governments must first be handled by a lower court, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington said.
The SEC disclosure regulation comes under a section of law requiring review by the U.S. District Court, not the appeals court, which has jurisdiction over many other commission rules, the court said in a ruling April 26. The regulation, issued under the 2010 Dodd-Frank financial reform law, covers companies engaged in oil, natural gas or mineral extraction.
Anticipating the dispute over venue, the American Petroleum Institute, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and two other trade groups that sued in the appeals court lodged a similar, pending complaint in district court in Washington.
The case is American Petroleum Institute v. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 12-1398, U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia (Washington).
The district court case is American Petroleum Institute v. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 12-cv-01668, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
Widow Gets Less Than Minute of Probation in U.S. Tax Case
A 79-year-old widow who pleaded guilty in the largest individual case since a U.S. crackdown on offshore tax evasion began received less than a minute of probation from a judge who scolded prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge Kenneth Ryskamp April 25 sentenced Mary Estelle Curran, who had an account at UBS AG, to one year of probation before immediately revoking it in federal court in West Palm Beach, Florida. Curran’s attorney Roy Black told the judge that she was “unsophisticated” about financial matters.
Curran, of Palm Beach, faced as long as 37 months in prison for failing to disclose to the Internal Revenue Service that she had more than $43 million in Swiss bank accounts. Curran pleaded guilty to two counts of tax evasion in January. She paid a $21.6 million penalty as well as back taxes.
Ryskamp described the situation as “tragic,” and said the government “should have used a little more discretion.” He urged Black to appeal to the president to pardon Curran, saying it would be “just spiteful” if the government didn’t join in.
Mark Daly, a Justice Department trial attorney, declined to comment after the hearing. Daly didn’t oppose Black’s request for probation.
Since 2008, U.S. prosecutors have charged almost 90 people in a crackdown on offshore tax evasion, including more than two dozen bankers, lawyers and advisers.
Zurich-based UBS, the largest Swiss bank, was charged with conspiracy in February 2009 and avoided prosecution by admitting it aided tax evasion, paying $780 million and handing over account data on 250 clients, including Curran. It later disclosed information on about 4,450 more accounts.
Curran, who has a high school education, contacted a lawyer who advised her to declare the accounts she had inherited from her husband. The lawyer didn’t file the paperwork until after Curran had been named and federal investigators deemed her ineligible for an amnesty program.
The case is U.S. v. Curran, 12-cr-80206, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Florida (West Palm Beach).
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Heim on Heinz Deal Trading Anomalies Subject of Probe
Securities attorney Robert Heim, a partner at Meyers & Heim LLP and a former assistant regional director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission in New York City, discussed trading anomalies before the announcement of a deal involving the purchase of H.J. Heinz Co. He spoke with June Grasso on Bloomberg Radio’s “Bloomberg Law.”
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Yoder Says Donation Oversight Goes Beyond SEC’s Scope
U.S. Representative Kevin Yoder, a Kansas Republican, talked about the Securities and Exchange Commission’s plan to consider requiring public companies to disclose political spending.
Yoder coordinated a letter from 66 House Republicans urging the SEC not to move forward with a rule. He spoke with Erik Schatzker and Sara Eisen on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.”
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Dimon Losing Chairmanship Would Be ‘Nuts,’ Langone Says
Kenneth Langone, founder and chief executive officer of Invemed Associates Inc., and Richard Farley, a partner at Paul Hastings LLP, talked about the possibility that JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Jamie Dimon will be stripped of his chairman role.
Langone also discussed proposed legislation to increase capital requirements on “too-big-to-fail” banks while easing requirements on smaller, regional banks.
He and Farley spoke with Erik Schatzker and Sara Eisen on Bloomberg Television’s “Market Makers.”
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SEC’s Canellos Says Enforcers Shifting to Dodd-Frank Compliance
George Canellos, co-chief of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s enforcement division, said investigators are turning their focus to enforcing new regulations from the 2010 Dodd Frank Act.
Canellos made the remarks April 26 while speaking on a panel at a Practising Law Institute event in New York. Enforcers play a “critically important” role in shaping new rules, he said.
While highlighting new regulations aimed to bring transparency to the derivatives market, he said investigators are pursuing issues such as the role of fiduciaries who are responsible for setting up internal safeguards against fraud and improper risk taking. The shift in focus comes as the agency wraps up cases linked to the credit market turmoil of 2008, Canellos said.
Investigators are also trying to harness technology to drive more data-driven cases, according to Canellos. The agency is looking for evidence of companies distorting their earnings reports by comparing past performance records against analyst estimates. A consistently close correlation could indicate fraud, he said.
Comings and Goings
Juncker Adds Duties For Finance Minister in Luxembourg
Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker will take charge of relations with religious communities and Finance. Among other changes, Minister Luc Frieden will also become communications minister in a government shuffle.
Juncker, who will stay prime minister and treasury minister, announced a governmental reorganization April 27 after the resignations of Justice Minister Francois Biltgen and Family, Integration and Cooperation Minister Marie-Josee Jacobs.
The government in its new form met for the first time on Friday.
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