More than a dozen traders and brokers in London and Asia have been fired, suspended or put on leave by their employers as a multinational probe into alleged manipulation of crucial global lending rates accelerates, reports the FT. Regulators have been investigating US and European banks that help set interbank lending rates in London and Tokyo since late 2010, in an intensive profile inquiry that spans three continents and involves at least nine separate enforcement agencies. Icap, the world’s largest inter-dealer broker, has suspended one employee and put two more on administrative leave in the past six weeks. Icap declined to comment beyond noting that it was “co-operating fully” with authorities and had disclosed the official requests for information late last year. The story cites people familiar with the probe as saying traders have also been suspended, fired or placed on leave in recent months at Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Royal Bank of Scotland andCitigroup. All four banks declined to comment. Regulators sought information from the three interdealer brokers that dominate the rates market – Icap, Tullett Prebon and RP Martin, looking at information-sharing among brokers, hedge funds and banks, the sources said. An RP Martin spokesman said the firm was not under investigation and declined to comment on suspensions. A Tullett Prebon spokesman said the firm had not suspended any employees. Separately, the FT reports the US authorities are modelling their investigation on an earlier prosecution of three energy companies for violations of the Commodity Exchange Act, which resulted in criminal settlements and prison terms of up to 14 years. Read more
R.J. O’Brien Associates and Rosenthal Collins, two of Chicago’s oldest independent brokers, ended up gaining the bulk of MF Global’s former customers following its collapse, Reuters reports. Some $1.2bn in segregated customer funds flowed to the two firms in November – $800m to RJO and $362m to Rosenthall — making it the biggest monthly increase for both in three years, CFTC data revealed. The CME transferred MF Global’s diverse collection of customer accounts en masse in the wake of its bankruptcy, but received little interest from established Wall Street broker-dealers. Read more
One cannot fault the Chinese walls at Merrill Lynch, joint corporate broker to Invensys.
We have upgraded Invensys to a Buy, with a price target of 285p. While pressure on Controls will potentially continue in the short term and H2 Rail margins could be at risk, we think the valuation is now more than discounting the earnings risk. Read more
MF Global’s bankruptcy trustee has asserted client privilege in declining to hand over documents about the failed broker to regulators, the WSJ says. Louis Freeh’s office said it was prepared to waive the privilege if the CFTC, which is probing the loss of customer funds from MF Global, discussed the issue with them. However, the dispute threatens to slow down the customer funds investigation, which is already in its third month, Reuters adds. The CFTC is also investigating the role of the CME in verifying the safety of the funds held at MF Global, NYT Dealbook reports. Read more
RTRS-JON CORZINE: “I SIMPLY DO NOT KNOW WHERE THE MONEY IS” Read more
For today’s edition of history rhyming, have a look at this (seminal) piece of research from Citigroup’s Matt King.
On September 5 2008 — just weeks before Lehman Brothers collapsed — the Citi credit strategist sent out a research note carrying the provocative title of “Are the brokers broken?” The thesis was simple: America’s broker-banks were funding nearly half their own assets through repo transactions. Read more
Pity there isn’t a bond that pays out if MF Global leaves Jon Corzine.
The brokerage is looking for buyers after a hellish week, reports the FT: Read more
It gets less attention than its credit-denominated relative, but the 2008 financial crisis actually sprung from a massive ‘collateral crunch’ within the shadow banking system.
Read Manmohan Singh on rehypothecation, or try to get your hands on Matt King’s seminal ‘Are the brokers broken?’ note. The Citigroup credit analyst warned just two weeks before Lehman’s collapse that “brokers’ and banks’ gross usage of repo, revealed in footnotes of 10-Qs, far exceeds that which shows up on balance sheet. Although in principle much of this is for clients (mostly hedge funds) it still makes their business as a whole much more dependent on the continued availability of repo funding than might otherwise be appreciated.” Read more
The relationship between retail investors and those who advise them may be rewritten after the SEC publishes three studies on the regulation of brokers and advisers, Bloomberg reports. The SEC was asked by Congress in the summer to look at making brokers follow a stricter “fiduciary duty” that puts their clients’ best interests first when selling products. The SEC was also required to evaluate the examination of advisers and consider moving oversight to an outside organisation. Both studies are expected next week, along with a third calling for recommendations about improving public access to background information on advisers. Read more
Regulators have broadened their investigation into the alleged $8bn Ponzi scheme run by Allen Stanford to include brokers who invested their clients’ money in Stanford International Bank products, the FT reports. Lawyers involved in the the case said that the SEC has notified Danny Bogar, former president of Stanford International Bank’s brokerage operations, and several brokers in recent months that it intends to file civil fraud charges against them in connection with the probe. Mr Bogar’s lawyer confirmed that his client had received a Wells notice, a SEC filing used to notify individuals that they may face civil charges. Patrick Cruickshank, a broker who worked in Stanford’s Austin, Texas, office from 2006 until 2009, also received a Wells notice, according to a recent Finra filing. Read more
MF Global plans to make a push into money management and investment banking in an effort to capitalise on the derivatives brokerage’s strength in commodities markets, the FT reports, marking out an ambitious strategy hatched by its head Jon Corzine. The firm has already begun overhauling its operations by putting more capital at risk into facilitating client trades — but making the leap to investment-bank status looks much harder. Corzine is nevertheless aiming to repeat previous Street experience by building MF Global around a core strength, according to an interview with the FT. Read more
Brokers who allowed high-frequency traders to have access to the markets without undertaking proper checks on them face potential fines as part of a clampdown following the “flash crash”, according to Finra, which says it is conducting a ‘sweep’ of brokerages, reports the FT. While the causes of the crash of May 6 remain unknown, high-frequency traders — and the brokers who allowed their algorithms to the market — are in the spotlight.
Senator Ted Kaufman has meanwhile rustled up a battery of reforms to equity market structure in the wake of the crash, according to a letter sent from the Senator to SEC chair Mary Schapiro and noted by Barry Ritholtz. If we’re so serious about flash crash penalties, then destabilising trades on May 6 should have been cancelled, Rajiv Sethi argues. Read more
From a recent trip to China. Caption competition, anyone?
While banks celebrate a revival in their fortunes, the City’s independent stockbrokers are still struggling to recover from the financial crisis, reports the FT. The dearth in initial public offerings, a dull market for secondary fundraisings and persistently thin equity market volumes mean the 138 brokers in the Aim market are fighting for a bigger slice of a smaller pie. Between them, they raised only £387m for flotations on the junior market in the first half of the year – suggesting there will be little improvement on the £740.4m raised during the course of 2009. Read more
Peter Hargreaves is to step down as chief executive of Hargreaves Lansdown, almost three decades after he co-founded what has become one of Britain’s biggest retail broking houses, the FT reports. The 63-year-old Lancastrian said he made the decision to stand aside after Ian Gorham, former head of financial services at Grant Thornton, joined as chief operating officer last September. Read more
Another unpleasant surprise for the shareholders of ICAP, the inter-dealer broker run by outgoing Conservative party chairman Michael Spencer.
From RNS on Monday: Read more
US futures brokers could be forced out of business if Washington regulators push forward with a plan to increase capital requirements by at least 25 per cent, Newedge, one of the biggest companies in the sector has warned. The proposal by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission seeks to increase to 10 per cent from 8 per cent the amount of money that a broker must set aside from its own funds to cover unforeseen losses by its clients or as a result of its own trading activities. Read more