Ex-Jefferies Banker's WhatsApp Boast Leads to FCA App Fine

  • Christopher Niehaus fined $46,000 by regulator for breach
  • Niehaus ‘boasted’ deal might help him pay off mortgage

A former Jefferies Group LLC banker was fined 37,198 pounds ($46,000) by the U.K. Financial Conduct Authority for sharing confidential client data on WhatsApp with a personal acquaintance and friend, in the regulator’s first action related to a messaging app.

Christopher Niehaus, a managing director at Jefferies, shared private information about two clients on a number of occasions in early 2016, the FCA said in a statement Thursday. In one instance he sent his friend, who was also a Jefferies client, confidential information about a deal involving the friend’s competitor, the regulator said.

“The information he shared included the identity of the client, the details relating to the client mandate and the fee Jefferies would charge for their involvement in the transaction,” the FCA said in the statement. “Niehaus also boasted about how he may be able to pay off his mortgage if one of the deals was successful.”

The messages came to light after an unrelated complaint made against Niehaus led him to voluntarily hand over his phone to Jefferies, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, who didn’t want to be identified because the details are private. The messages were discovered and the matter was referred to the FCA, the person said.

Niehaus, 49, was responsible for covering European industrial groups in Jefferies’s investment-banking division and was frequently given information in relation to the firm’s upcoming corporate deals. He had worked in the banking industry for 12 years and was at UBS Group AG prior to Jefferies, according to the FCA register of approved persons.

He was suspended from Jefferies in 2016 pending a disciplinary review, but resigned before the process was finished. He admitted his conduct in an early FCA interview and received a 15 percent reduction to the financial penalty.

A lawyer for Niehaus and an official at Jefferies declined to comment. The FCA said none of the three parties dealt in any securities in relation to the information Niehaus shared.

Impress Friends

One time Niehaus told his friend, who was also a client, at a social gathering in April 2016 that a competitor of the friend was about to complete a rights issue. After the information became public in May, Niehaus messaged his friend and said the client had “c[o]me out with a profit warning” and was “in trouble.”

Niehaus told the FCA he "didn’t know" why he disclosed the information other than he wanted to impress his friends.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.
    LEARN MORE