Among recent SEC and FINRA actions were Cantor Fitzgerald being censured and fined and FINRA imposing a $14 million settlement on a Hong Kong-based firm charged with insider trading and fines and censures on findings of supervisory and anti-money-laundering failures; reporting failures; e-mail review; system deficiencies; and research reports.
Cantor Fitzgerald Hit by FINRA on WSPs, Supervisory Failures
Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. was censured by FINRA, fined $150,000, required to revise its WSPs and certify in writing to FINRA that it had adopted and implemented supervisory systems and written procedures reasonably designed to achieve compliance with current Regulation SHO requirements, and provide details of its actions. The firm neither admitted nor denied the findings but consented to their entry.
FINRA found that the firm’s equity trading and marketmaking manual had no compliance or supervisory procedures regarding either Rule 204T or Rule 204 of Regulation SHO; neither did its compliance and supervisory manual contain any compliance or supervisory procedures for SEC Rule 204.
Although the firm’s operations manual contained certain SEC Rule 204 procedures, it had no procedures to monitor fails to deliver in proprietary transactions, and procedures gave no guidance on action(s) to be taken to close out proprietary fails. Findings also stated that operational procedures failed to identify the specific individual(s) responsible for identifying securities that needed to be closed out, and effecting the necessary closeouts and/or buy-ins. Additional failures were found, in execution and in reporting.
Hong Kong Firm to Pay $14 Million SEC Settlement
The SEC announced that a Hong Kong-based firm, Well Advantage, charged with insider trading in July, has agreed to settle the case by paying more than $14 million—double the amount of its alleged illicit profits. The proposed settlement is subject to the approval of Judge Richard Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The SEC filed an emergency action against Well Advantage to freeze its assets less than 24 hours after the firm placed an order to liquidate its entire position in Nexen Inc. The SEC alleged that Well Advantage had stockpiled shares of Nexen stock based on confidential information that China-based CNOOC was about to announce an acquisition of Nexen.
Well Advantage is controlled by the prominent Hong Kong businessman Zhang Zhi Rong, who also controls another company that has a “strategic cooperation agreement” with CNOOC. Immediately after the public announcement of the acquisition, Well Advantage sold the shares it allegedly stockpiled for more than $7 million in illicit profits.
Although the firm neither admits nor denies the charges, Well Advantage has agreed to the entry of a final judgment requiring payment of $7.1 million in illegal profits made from trading Nexen stock, and payment of a $7.1 million penalty. The proposed judgment also enjoins Well Advantage from future violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5.
Sanders Morris Harris, Execs Censured, Fined by FINRA
Houston, Texas-based Sanders Morris Harris (formerly known as SMH Capital) and two of its registered principals, Paul Charles Blackman of Gate Mills, Ohio, and Pak Cheung Fung of Shaker Heights,Ohio, were censured by FINRA and fined. The firm was fined $150,000, $10,000 of which was joint and several with Blackman, $10,000 of which was joint and several with Fung, and $5,000 of which was joint and several with another principal. Blackman was also suspended from association with any FINRA member in any principal capacity for 30 business days.
The firm, Blackman and Fung neither admitted nor denied findings that the firm, acting through Blackman and another principal, failed to reasonably supervise a registered representative. Blackman and the other principal failed to adequately implement the representative’s heightened supervision plan, in that they failed to preapprove low-priced equity transactions he executed, and failed to show they had contacted his customers on a quarterly basis as the supervision plan required.
The findings also stated that the firm failed to establish and maintain a reasonable supervisory system to supervise options trading by its registered representatives at a branch office, instead allowing the branch, at which more than three registered representatives were located, to transact an options business under an unqualified principal supervisor.
The findings also stated that the firm, acting through Fung, its anti-moneylaundering (AML) compliance officer, failed to establish and maintain an adequate compliance program to detect and identify potential “red flags” for suspicious activity, and focused on only one of the four clearing platforms with which the firm had agreements. Fung had no access to trading activity or exception reports for three of the four, and performed no manual review, leaving about 40% of the firm’s business unreviewed. Additional failures were also discovered, including failure to accurately calculate and report the firm’s net capital requirement.
BCG Financial Transaction Reporting Failure Charged by FINRA
BGC Financial was censured and fined $100,000 by FINRA on findings that it failed to report transactions in Trade Reporting and Compliance Engine (TRACE)-eligible corporate and agency debt securities to TRACE within 15 minutes of the execution time, and also reported certain of these transactions to TRACE with an inaccurate trade execution time.
FINRA’s findings also included failure by the firm to transmit all its reportable order events (ROEs) to the Order Audit Trail System (OATS) over numerous business days under one particular market participant identifier (MPID) during a review period. FINRA found that the firm failed to enforce its WSPs related to OATS reporting by failing to identify preferred share transactions effected by the trading desk operating under a particular MPID as ROEs.