Levine on Wall Street: Parking-Lot Payoffs

An SEC examiner lying to his boss, or an SAC trader using information provided by an investor relations guy at Dell, seem pretty defensible, but once you're getting bags of cash in bar parking lots something has gone wrong.

Some currency traders did bad stuff

If someone is "handing over an envelope filled with cash" to you "in the parking lot of a bar in Essex" then you have made some bad life choices, as the currency dealers in this article seem to have. They knew about client order flow and rather than just using that information to position their trading book, which I would probably defend as just sort of normal market-making activity, they called their buddies who worked as independent day traders, tipped those day traders off, and then took a cut of the proceeds. In cash, in bar parking lots.

The Volcker Rule is a mess

Here is another story about how everyone at all the agencies involved in writing the Volcker Rule wants to tinker with the draft. In particular new Securities and Exchange commissioner Kara Stein wants to make hedging harder and have bank chief executive officers certify that they are not proprietary trading, even though no one at the SEC knows quite what that means. So, fine, it's a complicated rule, gotta get it right, even if that takes a long time. One thing you might wonder is what happens after the rule is finalized: If it turns out that the new hedging restrictions are too strict, or too lenient, when actually applied to actual banks, will the agencies move quickly to change them? Or will this perfectionism only last as long as they haven't published a rule?

Some hedge fund analysts talked to investor relations people

An oddity of the SAC Capital and related insider trading cases -- one of which, the trial of former SAC trader Michael Steinberg, is starting this week -- is that an important source of inside information was a guy named Rob Ray who worked in investor relations at Dell and talked to investors about Dell's financial performance. Which is what investor relations is! "While the government has characterized their dealings as improper, a Dell investor relations executive testified during an earlier trial that Mr. Ray's job included helping analysts like Mr. Goyal with their financial models." He seems to have overshared, but he's never been charged with a crime, and the people who have been charged with crimes for trading on the information he provided are understandably a bit aggrieved. If the company official in charge of telling investors things tells you a thing, and you use that in your trading, it seems a bit rough to call that a crime.

SEC examiner filled out some forms wrong

Here is the story of Steven Gilchrist, a compliance examiner at the SEC who owned some stocks he wasn't supposed to. He asked his boss for permission to keep them, was denied, and so transferred them to a joint brokerage account with his mother. The SEC requires employees to fill out a form each year -- Form 450 if you're scoring at home -- saying that they don't own any stocks they're not supposed to; he did so even though he was lying. That's bad! If you work at the SEC, you're not supposed to lie to your boss, or fill out forms wrong for that matter. He should totally be fired! He does not seem to have been fired. Instead he was arrested and charged with three felonies, which seems a bit excessive in my book. The felonies are all in the lying-to-his-boss category; there seems to be no evidence that he actually used any inside information in trading those stocks, or that his ownership of the stocks created any actual conflict of interest.

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    To contact the author on this story:
    Matthew S Levine at mlevine51@bloomberg.net

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