sec merrill lynch enforcement action June 23, 2016Posted by Bradley in : compliance , add a comment
Merrill Lynch does “wealth management and financial services.” Today the home page of this wealth management website states “Life. It’s a totally different beast.TM” I have no idea what that is supposed to mean. But probably most clients and prospective clients don’t expect that Merrill Lynch would be playing games with their money.
From the SEC’s Press Release:
Merrill Lynch violated the SEC’s Customer Protection Rule by misusing customer cash that rightfully should have been deposited in a reserve account. Merrill Lynch engaged in complex options trades that lacked economic substance and artificially reduced the required deposit of customer cash in the reserve account. The maneuver freed up billions of dollars per week from 2009 to 2012 that Merrill Lynch used to finance its own trading activities. Had Merrill Lynch failed in the midst of these trades, the firm’s customers would have been exposed to a massive shortfall in the reserve account…. Merrill Lynch further violated the Customer Protection Rule by failing to adhere to requirements that fully-paid for customer securities be held in lien-free accounts and shielded from claims by third parties should a firm collapse. From 2009 to 2015, Merrill Lynch held up to $58 billion per day of customer securities in a clearing account that was subject to a general lien by its clearing bank and held additional customer securities in accounts worldwide that similarly were subject to liens. Had Merrill Lynch collapsed at any point, customers would have been exposed to significant risk and uncertainty of getting back their own securities.
Not only did the firm breach customer protection rules, but (in violation of other rules) it provided in severance agreements that employees could not provide information to the SEC. Notably the SEC is also taking action against the firm’s Head of Regulatory Reporting at the time, Bill Tirrell (and there is to be a litigated proceeding). Tirrell has had a long career in compliance at Merrill Lynch. The SEC states that “Tirrell worked in MLPF&S’s Regulatory Reporting Department from November 1980 to April 2016.” SIFMA has this bio of Mr Tirrell:
Mr. William (Bill) Tirrell is a Managing Director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch and Head of US Broker Dealer/FCM Regulatory Reporting. Mr. Tirrell is a former President of SIFMA’s Financial Management Society and currently serves as an advisor to the FMS Board. Mr. Tirrell is a member of the FMS National Conference Committee and chairs SIFMA’s Capital Steering Committee and the Regulatory Capital and Margin Committee.
In March 2016 he participated in a CFTC Roundtable on issues relating to futures commission merchants (at p. 58):
I think we’re starting to get fairly comfortable with the new regulations, and the implementation of those, and operationally and practically making those work.
why brexit matters June 21, 2016Posted by Bradley in : governance , add a comment
This is what I spent a chunk of today writing. It is here.
london as an independent city state? June 21, 2016Posted by Bradley in : financial regulation, governance , add a comment
brexit worries June 17, 2016Posted by Bradley in : governance, inequality , add a comment
I think this piece by John Harris is exactly right, and at the same time what he imagines is so, so wrong:
at the centre of where we find ourselves there is an undeniable irony, which may yet turn cold and cruel. If the revolt succeeds and Brexit wins, the party in power is likely to take a political turn that will lead us even further away from what the moment demands, while Labour will likely tumble further into division and introspection.
The EU has some problems, sure. It’s an elite, intellectual project and always was, despite years of attempting to reach out to citizens across the EU. At the same time the EU institutions have a sense of social solidarity that the UK EU-haters lack. And this story of the development of the Brexit idea by Matthew d”Ancona links it to ideas of flexible labour markets, freedom from red tape and British economic creativity that needs to be freed from EU shackles. Not a surprise. But, as Harris argues, these flexible markets free from regulation are not the sort of markets to give any hope at all to the people who seem likely to vote for Brexit.
early draft of my new financial stability paper May 26, 2016Posted by Bradley in : financial regulation , add a comment
summer writing May 16, 2016Posted by Bradley in : financial regulation , add a comment
Over the summer I am working on a new paper on financial stability, which is a development of a paper I wrote for a book edited by Pablo Iglesias-Rodriguez, Anna Triandafyllidou & Ruby Gropas with the title The Financial Crisis and Paradigm Shift: Legal, Economic and Political Perspectives forthcoming July 2016. My chapter is Changing Perceptions of Systemic Risk in Financial Regulation. The new paper is looking at climate change and Brexit as issues of financial stability and I am taking it to Law and Society at the beginning of next month. Meanwhile I also have produced a draft of a paper on Financial Stability, Financial Services and the Single Market .
payday loans: csr and regulation May 13, 2016Posted by Bradley in : consumers , add a comment
Google’s new policy on payday loan ads which will be banned defines the relevant loans as follows:
We will no longer allow ads for loans where repayment is due within 60 days of the date of issue. In the U.S., we are also banning ads for loans with an APR of 36% or higher. When reviewing our policies, research has shown that these loans can result in unaffordable payment and high default rates for users so we will be updating our policies globally to reflect that.
The policy doesn’t just seem to apply to the worst sort of payday loans. The NY Department of Financial Services says that payday loans are typically repayable within 2 weeks and can carry an interest rate of 400%. The Google announcement doesn’t say how Google will think about issues such as roll-over of loans (where loans originally repayable within a two week period end up being outstanding for longer because they are rolled over into new loans) or high fees which might not be characterized as part of an APR. A study by the FCA in the UK published in 2014 found that payday lending consumers were frequently surprised by roll-over or extension of the loans and the fact that this would raise the cost of the loans.
What’s different now is that an increasingly small number of technology firms control what an ever expanding number of people see online. And they’re willing to go beyond what is circumscribed in law to make their own decisions – maybe shaping society in areas where governments won’t act.
This article, and the Google announcement, seem to suggest that what Google is doing here is engaging in corporate social responsibility (CSR). But in fact payday lending is an area where Governments are becoming more active: payday lending is already illegal in a number of states (such as New York, although the rules in different states do vary) and it has been targeted by the CFPB: just this week the CFPB announced that it had taken Action Against Check Cashing and Payday Lending Company for Tricking and Trapping Consumers and last month the CFPB published a report which shows that online payday lending customers are at risk of being subject to overdraft and non-sufficient funds charges imposed by their banks and even of having their checking accounts closed. New rules on payday lending are expected soon. And other jurisdictions, such as the UK and Australia, regulate payday lending. So it’s really about getting ahead of (or alongside) regulation rather than CSR, isn’t it?
critiquing consumer surveys May 5, 2016Posted by Bradley in : consumers , add a comment
This article identifies some of the problems with the endless consumer surveys we are subjected to all the time:
Problems with surveys are two-fold, researchers said. First, too many surveys with too many questions turn off consumers. Second, results that are tied to employee bonuses — or jobs — prove inaccurate. Combined, these problems are turning a useful method of interacting with customers into a headache.
But there’s often an additional problem, as the surveys tend to focus on the performance of the people who are actually providing the services. If I book Sears to provide repair services for a washing machine the survey will ask me how happy I was with the service provided by the person who actually came to my home to work on the machine. The surveys control the service providers pretty well. They don’t tend to ask for feedback on how pleasant or unpleasant it is to interact with the firm as a whole rather than the particular individuals you deal with. And if the experience overall is horrible but the person you actually interact with seems to do a good job and is pleasant to deal with, of course you will give them the high score. But this may be misleading.
The article suggests that it can be a problem if customers are effectively “bribed” to give positive feedback. I am not so sure: asking your customers to speak to you before giving you a lower score than 10 so you can persuade them to give a higher score is in some sense about consumer satisfaction.
new jotwell post February 3, 2016Posted by Bradley in : jotwell , add a comment
lying as normal October 14, 2015Posted by Bradley in : truth , 1 comment so far
It is surprisingly hard to find a link to this, but there’s a Best Buy ad I have seen a few times recently. A girl is doing a science project and the video of the simulated volcanic eruption isn’t as impressive as she would like so her Dad goes to Best Buy and buys what is probably an expensive screen on which she can display her unimpressive video in a way that looks impressive. The tag li[n]e: “So even small successes can be big triumphs.”
The takeaways: people who have money to burn can do better on school science fair projects than people who don’t and lying is OK. If you can present what you have done as being exceptional [by the application of money] it doesn’t matter that it is merely ordinary.
Obvious, but depressing.
October 21 update: The line is actually “So even small successes can look like big triumphs.” For a few days I saw the ad a couple of times without this line. I just saw it again with that line included. Encouraging a new generation to prepare for work at Volkswagen and other large corporations?