Bank of America Corp.’s Merrill Lynch unit (BAC) was fined $12.5 million to settle allegations that the broker’s weak controls led to multiple orders being sent to markets, resulting in mini-flash crashes.
The bank set its internal trading limits too high, so they were ineffective and caused market disruptions on at least 15 occasions from late 2012 to mid-2014, according to a statement Monday from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. They included 99 percent drops in the stocks of Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Qualys Inc., and an almost 3 percent dip in Google Inc.’s stock in less than a second in 2013, according to the statement.
“Despite multiple red flags, Merrill Lynch failed to evaluate adequately whether its controls were reasonably designed and failed to fix the problems quickly,” Robert Cohen, co-head of the market abuse unit at the SEC’s division of enforcement, said in a statement.
The fine is the largest ever by the agency for violations of the market access rule, which governs brokers’ risk-management controls. Bank of America agreed to the SEC’s order without admitting or denying the findings.