Tag: Bonds


2015 FINRA Enforcement Actions

Jonathan N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg.

Over the past several years, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), the self-regulatory organization responsible for regulating every brokerage firm and broker doing business with the U.S. public, brought between 1,300 and 1,600 disciplinary actions each year. In 2014, the most recent year for which full-year statistics are available, it ordered $134 million in fines and $32.2 million in restitution. During the same period, it barred or suspended nearly 1,200 individuals, and expelled or suspended 23 firms. It also referred over 700 fraud cases to other federal or state agencies for potential prosecution. FINRA orders also often trigger automatic “statutory disqualifications” under Section 3(a)(39) of the Securities Exchange Act and Article III, Section 4 of FINRA’s By-Laws. Absent relief, these disqualifications prohibit persons from associating with a broker-dealer or prohibit firms from acting as broker-dealers.

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SEC Enforcement Actions Against Broker-Dealers

Jon N. Eisenberg is partner in the Government Enforcement practice at K&L Gates LLP. This post is based on a K&L Gates publication by Mr. Eisenberg. The complete publication, including footnotes, is available here.

In its 2015 Financial Report, the SEC repeated its view that one of the two principal purposes of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 is to ensure that “people who sell and trade securities—brokers, dealers and exchanges—must treat investors fairly and honestly, putting investors’ interests first.” Broker-dealers have been and remain a critical focus of the Commission’s enforcement program. In the first 11 months of 2015, the SEC brought enforcement actions against broker-dealers in approximately two dozen distinct areas, with sanctions ranging from less than $100,000 to nearly $180 million.

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Comment Letter of 18 Law Professors on the Trust Indenture Act

Adam J. Levitin is Professor of Law at Georgetown University Law Center, specializing in bankruptcy, commercial law, and financial regulation. This post contains the text of a letter spearheaded by Prof. Levitin, and co-signed by 18 professors of bankruptcy and corporate finance law, regarding a proposed omnibus appropriations rider that would amend the Trust Indenture Act of 1939. The complete letter is available here.

We are legal scholars of corporate finance. We write because we are concerned by a proposed omnibus appropriations rider that would amend the Trust Indenture Act of 1939 without any legislative hearings or opportunity for public comment on the proposed amendment.

As you may know, the Trust Indenture Act is one of the pillars of American securities regulation. Congress passed the Trust Indenture Act in the wake of the Great Depression to protect bondholders in restructurings. Among other things, the Trust Indenture Act provides that no bondholder’s right to payment or to institute suit for nonpayment may be impaired or affected without that individual bondholder’s consent. These provisions are intended to protect bond investors by requiring any restructuring of bonds to occur subject to the transparency of a court supervised bankruptcy process, absent bondholder consent to a debt restructuring.

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The Importance of Being Earnest About Liquidity Risk Management

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement at an open meeting of the SEC; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

The fund industry has witnessed substantial changes in recent years, including the rise of novel investment strategies, a growing use of derivatives, and an increased focus on assets that, traditionally, have been less liquid. Unfortunately, it appears that not all funds’ liquidity risk management practices have kept pace with these developments.

Today [September 22, 2015], the Commission considers proposing a set of rules and amendments that will help ensure that open-end investment companies—which include mutual funds and exchange traded funds—manage their liquidity risks in a prudent and responsible manner. The proposed changes will also help attenuate the dilution risks that confront long-term shareholders, and will give investors needed tools to monitor how well funds are managing their liquidity risk. These proposals are important, because they will adapt our decades-old liquidity regime to the fund industry’s new and vastly altered landscape. The proposals we consider today are especially timely, for at least two reasons. First, a study published just last night suggests that U.S. bond funds need to sharpen their methodologies for analyzing the liquidity of their portfolios, because their current methods might be inadequate. And second, a resurgence of volatility in the bond markets in recent months has, in concert with shifting market dynamics, thrust liquidity concerns in that space to the forefront.

These proposals are intended to foster a rigorous and analytically sound approach to liquidity risk management, while also helping investors to better gauge the ability of funds to fulfill redemption obligations.

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Revisiting the Regulatory Framework of the US Treasury Market

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

Yesterday [July 13, 2015], staff members of the federal agencies that comprise the Interagency Working Group for Treasury Market Surveillance (“Working Group”) issued a joint report concerning the so-called “flash crash” that occurred in the U.S. Treasury market on October 15, 2014 (the “Report”). I commend the staff of all the agencies for their hard work in putting together the Report, which examined the events of that day and the broader forces that have changed the Treasury market in recent years. This was a difficult undertaking, but the report does an excellent job of discussing the known factors, while acknowledging that more work needs to be done.

The remarkable events of that day, which cannot yet be fully explained, have dispelled any lingering notion that the Treasury market is the staid marketplace it was once thought to be. The transformative changes that swept through the equities and options markets in the past decade have vastly reshaped the landscape of the Treasury market, as well. As a result, the structure, participants, and technological underpinnings of today’s Treasury market are far different than they were just a few years ago.

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Fed Proposes Amended Bank Liquidity Rules

Andrew R. Gladin is a partner in the Financial Services and Corporate and Finance Groups at Sullivan & Cromwell LLP. This post is based on a Sullivan & Cromwell publication authored by Mr. Gladin, Samuel R. Woodall III, Andrea R. Tokheim, and Lauren A. Wansor.

On Thursday, May 21, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (the “Federal Reserve”) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (the “Proposal”) that would amend the final rule implementing a liquidity coverage ratio (“LCR”) requirement (the “Final LCR Rule”), [1] jointly adopted last September by the Federal Reserve, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), to treat certain general obligation state and municipal bonds as high-quality liquid assets (“HQLA”). [2] Unlike the Final Rule, the OCC and FDIC did not join the Federal Reserve in issuing the Proposal. Accordingly, the Proposal would apply only to banking institutions regulated by the Federal Reserve that are subject to the LCR, absent further action by the other agencies. [3] The Proposal would allow these entities to treat general obligation securities of a public sector entity (“PSE”) as level 2B liquid assets, provided that the securities generally satisfy the same criteria as corporate debt securities that are classified as level 2B liquid assets, as well as certain other restrictions and limitations applicable only to these assets as described further below. Comments on the Proposal are due by July 24, 2015.

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Remarks at the 4th Annual Fixed Income Conference

Michael S. Piwowar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Piwowar’s recent remarks at the University of South Carolina and UNC-Charlotte 4th Annual Fixed Income Conference, available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Piwowar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

This conference is one stop on a bit of a tour I have been on lately, speaking with academics around the country. In each of those conferences, meetings, and other events I have been encouraging increased dialogue between academic researchers and the SEC. Just last month, I spoke to a group of equity market microstructure researchers at the University of Notre Dame, with a message similar to what I intend to share with you today [April 21, 2015]. [1] That message is simple: your work is vital to helping the SEC accomplish its core mission to protect investors, maintain fair, orderly, and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation.

Given the talent and collective focus of the people in this room, I do not need to recite statistics about the size of the fixed income markets, the degree to which issuers rely on bonds for debt financing, or the pervasiveness of fixed income products from the largest institutional investor portfolios to the smallest retail investor accounts. Suffice it to say that well-functioning fixed income markets are a concern of nearly all participants in our securities markets.

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More Corporate Actions, More Insider Trading?

The following post comes to us from Patrick Augustin of the Finance Area at McGill University; Jianfeng Hu of the Finance Area at Singapore Management University; and Menachem Brenner and Marti Subrahmanyam, both of the Finance Department at New York University.

According to Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney of the Southern District of New York, insider trading is “rampant” in U.S. securities markets, and his actions in the past few years indicate concrete action by his office to combat such activity. In a similar vein, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has stepped up efforts to chase down high profile insider traders, and has made it its key priority in pursuing errant behavior. Academic studies, including our own, have previously documented empirical evidence of informed trading ahead of major corporate events such as earnings announcements, mergers and acquisitions (M&A) and corporate bankruptcies.

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Making the Municipal Securities Market More Transparent, Liquid, and Fair

Luis A. Aguilar is a Commissioner at the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This post is based on Commissioner Aguilar’s recent public statement; the full text, including footnotes, is available here. The views expressed in the post are those of Commissioner Aguilar and do not necessarily reflect those of the Securities and Exchange Commission, the other Commissioners, or the Staff.

It is difficult to overstate the importance of the municipal securities market. There is perhaps no other market that so profoundly influences the quality of our daily lives. Municipal securities provide financing to build and maintain schools, hospitals, and utilities, as well as the roads and other basic infrastructure that enable our economy to flourish. Municipal bonds’ tax-free status also makes them an important investment vehicle for individual investors, particularly retirees. Ensuring the existence of a vibrant and efficient municipal bond market is essential, particularly at a time when state and local government budgets remain stretched.

Unfortunately, despite its size and importance, the municipal securities market has been subjected to a far lesser degree of regulation and transparency than other segments of the U.S. capital markets. In fact, investors in municipal securities are afforded “second-class treatment” under current law in many ways. This has allowed market participants to cling to outdated notions about how the municipal securities market should operate. The result is a market that, in the view of many, is excessively opaque, illiquid, and decentralized.

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Impact of the Dodd-Frank Act on Credit Ratings

The following post comes to us from Valentin Dimitrov and Leo Tang, both of the Department of Accounting & Information Systems at Rutgers University; and Darius Palia, Professor of Finance at Rutgers University.

In response to the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-2009, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank) in July 2010. Among its various provisions, Dodd-Frank outlines a series of broad reforms to the Credit Rating Agencies (CRA) market. Many observers believe that CRAs’ inflated ratings of structured finance products were partly to blame for the rapid growth and subsequent collapse of the shadow banking system. In response, Dodd-Frank’s CRA provisions significantly increase CRAs’ liability for issuing inaccurate ratings, and make it easier for the SEC to impose sanctions and bring claims against CRAs for material misstatements and fraud.

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