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Thursday, February 28, 2013

SEC OFFICIAL'S COMMENTS AT THIRD ANNUAL INTERNATIONAL REGULATORY SUMMIT

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION,
Crisis and Conflicts
by
Ethiopis Tafara
Director, Office of International Affairs
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Director, Office of International Affairs
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
International Centre for Financial Regulation
Third Annual International Regulatory Summit
Regulation and Policy Priorities: Growth, Stability and Sustainability
25-26 September, 2012

Thank you, Barbara (Ridpath), and thanks to the International Center for Financial Regulation for inviting me here today. Before I get into any substance, I should give the SEC’s standard disclaimer that these remarks are my own views and do not necessarily represent the views of the Securities and Exchange Commission or other members of the Commission staff.

When I was first told about the topic of the conference, "Growth, Stability and Sustainability," I was intrigued by the combination of several seemingly mutually exclusive concepts; a "we can have it all" approach befitting election year campaigning in the United States, but perhaps problematic in real-life.

But upon reflection, this trinity makes sense. We are right now still recovering from the worst financial crisis since the 1920s and 30s. Financial instability has depressed economic growth around the world – just as in the 1920s and 30s. And recent labor reports in the United States and economic growth reports in Europe and Asia suggest that economic growth is not enough. It is about stable and sustainable economic growth. After several years of global economic weakness, with high and persistent unemployment, it is no comfort to the millions of unemployed workers that many countries are no longer technically in a recession. We may have growth, but if you can’t count on the source of your next paycheck, or even whether there will be a next paycheck, life is very unstable.

Growth, Sustainability and Stability and Capital Markets

Global prosperity depends of on economic growth and we know from history that financial markets are essential to that growth. This is a truism. But that doesn’t lessen the importance of the corollary that a return to economic growth depends on a strong financial market.

As for "sustainability," it is a term we hear overused quite a bit these days – calling into question its meaning. The meaning of sustainability in the context of a limited but renewable resource is clear: Don’t cut down a forest faster than new trees can grow; don’t continually plant the same crop on the same land lest you deplete the soil’s nutrients. But what "sustainability" means in the context of a market is less clear. Financial markets have seen bubbles and resulting financial crises on a periodic, very unpleasant, yet quite sustainable basis for almost 300 years now. A fan of economists such as Schumpeter or Minsky might even suggest that it is these very financial crises that correct for market over-exuberance and make financial markets sustainable.

As for "stability," for those of us involved in the financial markets, it is one of the most common terms we hear these days. Following the financial crisis, we saw the creation of the Financial Stability Board and the formation of the Financial Stability Oversight Council in the United States and the European Financial Stability Facility. The US Treasury Department even formed a new webpage, financialstability-dot-gov. The 2008 financial crisis has been defined as a crisis of instability – as if any fraud, poorly designed incentive structures, regulatory holes, and macro-economic structural problems were fundamentally problems because they introduce instability to the system, like a restaurant table with one of its legs a bit too short. And if only we could wedge a folded up supervisory napkin under that leg, in the form of better prudential controls and greater capital requirements, the system would be "stable." As you may have guessed, I don’t agree with that view.

Risk Avoidance and Risk Promotion


It’s true that the 2008 financial crisis was fundamentally a banking crisis. And the fears that keep banking supervisors up at night are fears of instability – bank runs and contagion, and the inherent maturity mismatch between banking assets and liabilities. However, the financial system is more than just the banking system. In our rush to prevent another banking crisis, the banking system has become the lens through which the entire financial system is viewed. And improving "financial stability" has come to mean porting traditional banking supervisory concepts over into other areas of the financial system, often in ways for which they are ill-suited and possibly quite harmful.

We can already see the effects on the broader economy. Banking supervision is, at its heart, about managing risk. The recent financial crisis shows what happens when banks, and entities engaging in bank-like behavior, take on excessive risk. So it’s natural that banking supervisors will want to oversee bank risk and monitor bank capital. After all, banks are often investing insured deposits, sometimes in illiquid assets. Catastrophe is always just around the corner if depositors lose faith in the banking system and collectively withdraw their assets.

Faith in the system is also critical to our capital markets, but it is always a very different sort of faith. For financial markets, some degree of instability has to be assumed. After all, economic growth is predicated on risk-taking, of some sort or another. A new company founded, a new product line launched, a new factory built always involves risk. And to paraphrase the guys on an American TV show called "Mythbusters," risk implies that failure is always an option.

Of course, banks and banking supervisors know that risk implies potential failure. They also recognize the risks this poses to the financial system – the "instability" it produces. But the effects of risk are quite different where capital markets are concerned. Capital markets qua markets – and by this I mean real capital markets, not banking activity masquerading as capital market activity – assume this risk and distribute it according to risk tolerance. While we all know that a run on a money market fund may look very much like a bank run, investor panic, by itself, does not necessarily affect the viability of, say, a mutual fund or a broker-dealer the way it would a bank. Where properly regulated, segregated investor assets are liquidated, and investors assume their losses. Capital may become dearer as a result, but there is no systemic contagion the way there is with a bank run. Investor assets may be insured against broker-dealer operational risk, but investors bear the market risk of their investments themselves – a fact of which they are aware.

Market Integrity, Information Asymmetry and Conflicts of Interest


As a consequence, capital markets play a very different role in our financial markets. Capital markets – and by this I mean both the public and private markets – are places where the large risks are financed. Failure is commonplace and accounted for in the cost of raising capital. Consequently, the issue that keeps securities regulators up at night isn’t necessarily contagion in the banking sense – where concerns about the solvency of one firm leads to a run on otherwise solvent firms everyone, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy of bank failures. It’s not concern about faith in the stability of the system, where stability means solvency and capital adequacy. Rather, what keeps us securities regulators up at night are fears about a widespread loss of faith in the integrity of the market – that is, a loss of investor confidence. Investor confidence in a market’s integrity is central to the integrity of the overarching financial system, but integrity and investor confidence mean very different things to a securities regulator than financial market integrity might mean for a banking supervisory. Risk, itself, is not necessarily a problem. It’s not so much that investors might fear that a particular issuer isn’t as healthy as they previously thought. It’s not so much that investors don’t happen to be winning. That occurs every day. No, the problems arise when investors begin to think that the market is a rigged game that they cannot win.

For securities regulators, this is systemic risk, and it’s a type of system risk that the normal tools of banking supervision do not address. The problems that we have seen in our capital markets as a result of the financial crisis fall squarely into this category. Many banks around the world were certainly under-capitalized and making risky investments without acknowledging or perhaps even understanding the risks they were taking. But investor losses were different. In many cases, investors either weren’t informed about critical information regarding securities they were investing in, or they were not aware of – and in some cases could not be aware of – underlying conflicts of interest that would have an impact on the performance of their investments.

Regulators need to refocus on conflicts of interest and information asymmetries facing all market participants, rather than imposing a banking supervisory approach to regulation of markets and market intermediaries ill-suited to such a model. In doing so, we will rebuild investor confidence, to the benefit of issuers and investors alike. Fortunately, securities regulators have tools at their disposal to address information asymmetry. Indeed, where problems potentially might arise from a lack of critical information, securities regulators have nearly 80 years of experience in devising disclosure requirements to address them. Not only are the disclosure requirements in a major market such as the United States’ extensive, but there exists an overarching regulatory principle in the form of something like the SEC’s Rule 10b-5 that acts as a catchall to cover contingencies that investors and regulators might not yet imagine.

Rule 10b-5 plays a critical component in the vast majority of SEC enforcement cases and is at the heart of the SEC’s oversight of issuers and markets. As regulators go, it is a model of simplicity. It says – and I am paraphrasing the entire rule minimally:
It shall be unlawful for any person to lie, by admission or omission, cheat or steal in connection with the purchase or sale of any security."
Rule 10b-5 applies in the US to both the public and private markets. And when you combine it with the SEC’s mandatory initial and ongoing disclosure requirements for publicly traded securities, and the sophistication requirements for actors involved in the US private markets, "information asymmetries" between buyers and sellers is not so great today as to pose a serious risk to market integrity. This does not mean that fraud doesn’t exist – and, as we saw with Enron, Bernie Madoff and others, information asymmetries as a result of fraud are a serious threat to the integrity of any market. But this is fraud, and a violation of existing laws and rules. These threats have to be addressed with better detection and deterrence.

The Crisis, Conflicts and Controls


By contrast, what we have seen arising out of the recent financial crisis often had less to do with lack of disclosure about critical information regarding a given security or issuer, and more to do with conflicts of interest among key market participants. We saw accusations of just these kinds of conflicts of interest with credit rating agencies and asset-backed security originators "rating shopping" to get higher credit ratings; with mortgage brokers, who got paid by the number of mortgages they arranged, regardless of the credit quality of those taking out the mortgages. We saw these accusations with banks and ABS originators themselves, who lent money for mortgages which were then packaged into asset-backed securities in such a way that the banks and originators had no incentive to police the quality of those mortgages. And we have seen accusations of such conflicts of interest in the way employees of banks are compensated, where big, highly leveraged bets that pay off in the short term are heavily rewarded, regardless of the risks they pose to the firm over the medium and long-term.

Of course, these types of conflicts of interest are hardly new – even if the exact form of the conflict of interest may be. Given that conflicts of interest are endemic to any market, disclosure itself has often proven to be the best tool to combat the problems created by these conflicts. But disclosure itself is not always enough. We have seen lots of new conflicts of interest over the past decade or so – the use of special purpose entities with pernicious effects on the incentives management of an issuer face, interlocking chains of market participants involved in designing, marketing and selling a particular security; the increasing reliance by retail investors on institutional investors when participating in the market, etc. They all have translated into a landscape of conflicts of interest that evolves too fast and involves so many permutations that, in order to address them, disclosure requirements alone would either have to be so extensive that even professional investors could not read through and understand them all, or else so broad that they would lose their usefulness.

We all recognize the problem in one form or another, and we can see how regulators have tried to grapple with this problem over the past decade. After Enron, we required new disclosures and new checks on the auditing system. We prohibited some kinds of clearly conflicted relationships, such as public audit firms providing consulting services to their audit clients. Following the recent crisis, we have developed a raft of new requirements for market participants, designed to limit or manage the conflicts of interest that led to the financial meltdown.

But, to some degree, all of these efforts are an attempt to close the barn doors after the horses have fled. As the old saying goes, it’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future. But I will offer one up here – the next financial crisis will not involve the same conflicts of interest as this last one, anymore than this last one.

Because we are always going to be playing catch-up, I suggest we change tack and approach conflicts of interest with the simplicity that we approach the disclosure of material information. And by that, I mean through a principle similar to Rule 10b-5. In other words, rather than trying, to nail down every potential conflict of interest and develop a formal policy towards it – prohibit it, disclose it, or manage it in some way – we shift the onus into the relevant market participants themselves. If a market participant involved in selling, buying, underwriting, or arranging securities on behalf of others, should have an obligation to identify conflicts of interest that might affect their relationship with clients or customers, and address them in an adequate manner.

This might be through disclosure. It might be through other means. But the obligation would be the market participant’s. Because this would be a principle-based rule like 10b-5 rather than a check-the-box style rule, if a conflict later appears that the market participant should have recognized and should have addressed, the regulator can take appropriate action. And it could take this action without necessarily having to identify the conflict before the conflict becomes a problem, in much the same way that a regulator such as the SEC doesn’t necessarily have to identify every form of mistruth before bringing an enforcement action under Rule 10b-5.

Of course, Rule 10b-5, in some cases, already captures some common conflicts of interest, since issuers, in particular, must disclose material information about the securities they are selling and known conflicts of interest clearly fall under these disclosure requirements. But issuers are not the only market participants facing dangerous conflicts of interest. As the past few decades have shown, such conflicts are rife throughout the market – and arguably, some cases unavoidable. But even where unavoidable, they need to be identified and addressed, in one form or another.

As part of the Commission’s Technical Assistance Program, my office works with a range of different governments. We advise them that their capital markets are necessary for sustainable economic growth and that these markets are distinct from credit markets. The formula for success in designing a capital market requires attention to information asymmetry and conflicts of interest. We also warn them against regulating capital markets in the interest of banks – to the detriment of market finance for the benefit of operating companies. Developed economics would do well to heed the same advice.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

SEC ACCUSES TWO HEDGEFUND MANAGERS WITH INVESTOR FAVORITISM

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., Feb. 26, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a pair of hedge fund managers and their Connecticut-based advisory firm New Stream Capital with lying to investors about their fund’s structure and financial condition before it failed during the financial crisis.

The SEC alleges that the firm’s co-owners David Bryson and Bart Gutekunst secretly revised the fund’s capital structure before it collapsed in order to placate its largest investor, Gottex Fund Management. Bryson and Gutekunst then directed New Stream’s marketing department to continue marketing the hedge fund as though all investors were on the same footing when in fact Gottex had priority over other fund investors in the event of the fund’s liquidation.

The SEC additionally charged New Stream’s former chief financial officer Richard Pereira and former head of investor relations Tara Bryson, who is David Bryson’s sister. She agreed to settle the SEC’s charges. New Stream’s Cayman Islands affiliate also was charged in the scheme, which allowed the hedge fund managers to raise nearly $50 million and receive lucrative fees while leaving investors with nearly worthless holdings when the fund went bankrupt.

"Hedge fund managers who put greed ahead of full disclosure to investors violate a fundamental trust," said George S. Canellos, Acting Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. "Bryson and Gutekunst told investors they were all investing on equal terms when in fact some were investing in a fund that had been secretly restructured to their detriment."

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut today announced criminal charges against Bryson, Gutekunst, and Pereira.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Connecticut, New Stream managed a $750 million hedge fund focused on illiquid investments in asset-based lending. In March 2008, Bryson and Gutekunst revised the fund’s capital structure after Gottex, a fund manager with nearly $300 million invested in New Stream, had threatened to redeem its investment. A restructuring of the New Stream hedge fund a few months earlier had created two new feeder funds and eliminated the preferential liquidation rights previously enjoyed by the feeder fund through which Gottex had invested. Bryson told others at New Stream that if Gottex withdrew, the firm’s hedge fund business would "tank."

The SEC alleges that revealing to all investors that New Stream restructured to favor Gottex would have made it much harder for the firm to attract and retain investors. Public disclosure also would have jeopardized cash flow from a lucrative fee arrangement that the fund’s managers put in place in late 2007. So the fund instead used misleading marketing documents that omitted the change, and Pereira as CFO falsified the fund’s financial statements to conceal the restructuring. Investors who asked about redemption levels were not told about the Gottex redemption request and others that followed. For example, Gutekunst falsely told one investor in June 2008 that there was nothing remarkable about the level of redemptions that New Stream had received and that there were no liquidity concerns.

According to the SEC’s complaint, as the financial crisis worsened in September 2008, New Stream was facing $545 million in redemption requests and was forced to suspend further redemptions and cease raising new funds. After several failed attempts at restructuring, New Stream and its affiliated entities filed for bankruptcy in March 2011.

The SEC’s complaint charges Bryson, Gutekunst, and Pereira with violating Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. Bryson and Gutekunst are charged with violating Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder, and Pereira is charged with aiding and abetting their violations of Section 206(4). The SEC is seeking a variety of sanctions and relief against them including injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and penalties.

In the settlement with Tara Bryson, which is subject to court approval, she agreed to be permanently enjoined from further violations of the provisions of the securities laws at issue in this case. She also agreed to be permanently barred from the securities industry.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, was conducted by Sheldon Pollock, Lisa Knoop, Alan Maza, Kevin McGrath, Alistaire Bambach, Scott York, and George Stepaniuk of the New York Regional Office. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

CFTC CHARGES NYME AND TWO FORMER EMPLOYEES WITH DISCLOSING CUSTOMER TRADES

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
CFTC Charges CME Group’s New York Mercantile Exchange and Two Former Employees with Disclosing Material Nonpublic Information about Customer Trades

Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today filed an enforcement action charging the New York Mercantile Exchange, Inc. (CME NYMEX), which is owned and operated by the CME Group, and two former CME NYMEX employees, William Byrnes and Christopher Curtin, with violating the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations through the repeated disclosures of material nonpublic customer information over of period of two and one-half years to an outside commodity broker who was not authorized to receive the information.

The CFTC’s Complaint, filed on February 21, 2013, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, alleges that Byrnes and Curtin worked on the CME ClearPort Facilitation Desk and were responsible for facilitating customer transactions reported for clearing through the CME ClearPort electronic system. The Complaint alleges that at least from in or about February 2008 to September 2010, Byrnes knowingly and willfully disclosed material nonpublic information about CME NYMEX trading and customers, including about trades cleared through CME ClearPort, to a commodity broker on at least 60 occasions. The Complaint further alleges that between May 2008 and March 2009, Curtin knowingly and willfully disclosed the same type of information to the same commodity broker on at least 16 additional occasions. The nonpublic customer information unlawfully disclosed by Byrnes and Curtin in conversations — often captured on tape — included details of recently executed trades, the identities of the parties to specific trades, the brokers involved in trades, the number of contracts traded, the prices paid, the structure of particular transactions, and the trading strategies of market participants, according to the Complaint.

The Complaint alleges that the CME NYMEX and the two former employees violated the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations, which specifically prohibit the disclosures of this type of customer information.

The CFTC’s Complaint also alleges that in July 2009, a market participant complained to CME NYMEX that the participant believed nonpublic information about trades cleared through CME ClearPort had been disclosed by a CME NYMEX employee named "Billy." Although a CME NYMEX Managing Director who investigated the market participant’s complaint identified "Billy" to be William Byrnes, CME NYMEX did not then question Byrnes, and Byrnes’s illegal disclosures continued for over a year, until at least September 2010. Ultimately, CME NYMEX terminated Byrnes’s employment in December 2010 after yet another market participant complained to CME NYMEX about disclosures of nonpublic customer information. Curtin had previously left CME NYMEX voluntarily.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and a permanent injunction prohibiting further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff responsible for this case include Patrick Daly, James Wheaton, David W. MacGregor, Lenel Hickson, Stephen J. Obie, and Vincent A. McGonagle.

Monday, February 25, 2013

SEC COMMISSIONER GALLAGHER'S REMARKS AT "SEC SPEAKS IN 2013" CONFERENCE

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Remarks at "The SEC Speaks in 2013"
byCommissioner Daniel M. Gallagher
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Washington, D.C.
February 22, 2013

Thank you, Craig [Lewis], for your kind introduction. This is my second year addressing this conference as a Commissioner. Last year, I spoke as one of five Commissioners, while this year, as you well know, we’re temporarily down one member. And so, I understand that the organizers are offering a 20% discount which you can collect after my remarks. Just kidding. The truth is that they asked all of us to give longer speeches, and since I am still the junior Commissioner, the others dumped their extra time on me. So, I hope you are ready for an hour long adventure.

Before I begin, let me remind you that as usual, my remarks today are my own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Commission or my fellow Commissioners.

On a number of occasions since returning to the SEC as a Commissioner, I’ve spoken about the Commission’s priorities, both in terms of what the Commission is doing and what it should be doing in order effectively to carry out its mandate to protect investors, ensure fair and efficient markets, and facilitate capital formation. Needless to say, the Commission does not operate in a vacuum, and for various reasons, it’s not always easy to execute those priorities as we see fit. The constant stream of external influences on the Commission’s work serves as a significant impediment to its ability to focus on the core mission, including the vital, basic "blocking and tackling" of securities regulation. Today, therefore, I’d like to talk about the Commission’s origin and role as an expert, independent agency — as well as the challenges to that independence — in what has become in recent years a difficult environment for independent agencies.

As I’m sure all of you know, Congress created the SEC in the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. What some of you may not know, however, is that the Securities Act of 1933 originally tasked the Federal Trade Commission with administering the new federal securities laws. Indeed, the FTC was the initial choice of many, including President Franklin Roosevelt, to administer the Exchange Act as well.
1 Ultimately, however, a consensus emerged that the difficult task of administering the federal securities laws required the creation of a new independent, bipartisan agency with a high level of technical expertise in securities matters that could focus exclusively on the nation’s capital markets. For example, during consideration of the House version of the legislation that would ultimately become the Exchange Act, Representative Charles Wolverton cited the "high degree of technical skill and knowledge," that would be necessary to administer the new federal securities laws in his support for the creation of a five-member, expert Commission to take over the administration of those new laws.2 Similarly, during consideration of the corresponding Senate bill, Senator Duncan Fletcher explained the belief among "[m]any people, Members of Congress and others . . . that a special commission ought to be provided to administer the measure because the provisions are largely technical, and we ought to have men experienced in business of the kind involved."3

The final version of the Exchange Act that emerged from Congress in the summer of 1934 provided the newly-established Commission with a broad mix of regulatory and quasi-judicial authority to carry out the legislative policies set forth in the Securities Act and the Exchange Act. The movement toward the establishment of expert, independent agencies represented a major shift in the regulatory paradigm, and it wasn’t long before this model was challenged. A year after Congress created the SEC, the Supreme Court took up the issue of independent agencies in the case of Humphrey’s Executor v. United States, which arose from President Roosevelt’s attempt to remove William Humphrey from his position as an FTC Commissioner. Much to the chagrin of the President, the Court ruled that as "an administrative body created by Congress to carry into effect legislative policies," an independent agency such as the FTC "cannot in any proper sense be characterized as an arm or an eye of the executive. Its duties are performed without executive leave and, in the contemplation of the statute, must be free from executive control."
4 Most recently, in its 2010 decision in Free Enterprise Fund v. PCAOB, the Supreme Court implicitly referenced the Commission’s independence, proceeding on the understanding that SEC Commissioners "cannot themselves be removed by the President except under the Humphrey’s Executor standard of inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office."5 This stands in contrast to, for example, Cabinet secretaries, who, while subject to Senate confirmation, serve at the pleasure of the President.

Having established the SEC as an expert, independent agency with the authority to administer the federal securities laws, Congress has traditionally provided the Commission with considerable flexibility to exercise that expertise and authority. Historically, Congress has avoided imposing minutely detailed mandates on the Commission. Instead, Congress has, in conjunction with past grants of authority to the SEC, largely left it to the Commission to study issues and formulate rules which the Commission deemed in its discretion to be "in the public interest or for the protection of investors," a phrase that appears time and again in our securities laws.
6 As President Roosevelt himself remarked upon signing the Investment Company Act and Investment Advisers Act into law in 1940, "[E]fficient regulation in technical fields such as this requires an administering agency which has been given flexible powers[.]"7

For nearly eighty years, the Commission, like other independent agencies, has brought its expertise and judgment to bear in fulfilling the legislative mandates established by Congress in the federal securities laws. Yet, in today’s post-financial crisis, post-Dodd-Frank regulatory environment, the Commission is faced with a variety of challenges that carry with them the potential to erode its independence. The Commission must remain alert to these challenges and must respond when appropriate in order to preserve its ability to act independently in fulfilling its core mission. My concerns here do not derive from ideology or a desire to perpetuate seemingly age old agency turf wars. Instead, this is about the need to preserve a long-standing regulatory model that eschews a one-size-fits-all approach in favor of allowing expert, independent agencies to craft rules that, when necessary, are appropriately tailored to the specific entities and products they regulate.

And then came Dodd-Frank. I worry about the limits placed on the Commission’s ability independently to apply its expertise and judgment under the paradigm established by the Dodd-Frank Act. The Act contains approximately 400 specific mandates to be implemented through agency rulemaking, around 100 of which apply directly to the SEC. Many of these mandates are highly prescriptive, and instead of directing the Commission to regulate in an area after studying the relevant issues, compiling data, and determining what, if any, regulatory action may be appropriate, they require the Commission to issue strictly prescribed and often highly technical rules under short deadlines. Unfortunately, although the Commission always has some degree of discretion when implementing a Congressional mandate, these more prescriptive rules limit the Commission’s flexibility in the rulemaking process while occupying time and resources that could be better spent fulfilling the Commission’s other important responsibilities. If one of the duties of an independent agency is to work proactively with Congress to ensure that statutes do not impose unnecessary or inappropriate mandates, then on that front the Commission unfortunately came up short with respect to many Dodd-Frank mandates.

Ideally, when Congress provides the SEC with statutory authority to draft and implement rules in a new area, it will allow the Commission the time and flexibility necessary to study the issues involved and formulate smart regulation that reflects a complete understanding of the underlying data, including the costs and benefits associated with regulatory action. This is, after all, how the Commission was intended to operate when it was established nearly eighty years ago. In fact, I believe it is the Commission’s duty as an expert, independent agency to continue to employ this data-driven approach as best it can even in the face of prescriptive mandates from Congress.

Although the Commission continues to stare down an overflowing plate of Dodd-Frank mandates in addition to its other responsibilities, as an expert, independent agency, the Commission must not allow itself to assume a secondary role in the regulation of matters squarely within its jurisdiction and core competencies. This, I’m afraid, is exactly the role that the Commission has taken thus far with respect to critical initiatives, including the Volcker Rule.

Pursuant to Section 619 of Dodd-Frank, the three Federal banking agencies, the SEC, and the CFTC must together adopt regulations to implement the Volcker Rule’s two prohibitions on banking entities and their affiliates: its prohibition on engaging in proprietary trading and its prohibition on sponsoring or investing in "covered funds" such as hedge funds or private equity funds. Unfortunately, there is little doubt that notwithstanding the valiant efforts of the SEC staff, the Commission for too long has taken a back seat to the banking regulators in this rulemaking process. As I have said in the past, despite the Rule’s ostensible application to banking entities, the Rule is actually focused on the conduct to be regulated, not the entities that engage in this activity. There is no question that the specific trading, hedging, and investing activities to be regulated under the Rule fall firmly within the Commission’s core competencies, as they deal directly with SEC registrants and registration requirements. It makes little sense, therefore, for the Commission to defer to the banking regulators in this area when for decades it has regulated securities market-making in order to facilitate liquidity and promote the efficient allocation of capital.

The implementing rulemaking for the Volcker Rule was proposed in October 2011. Almost a year and a half — and over 18,000 comment letters — later, the Volcker Rule remains at the proposal stage. Indeed, it appears that the proposal’s broad definitions of statutory terms have taken a bad situation and made it worse. Commission staff continue to engage in discussions with the bank regulators and the CFTC regarding the many concerns raised in those 18,000-plus comment letters. For this rule to get done and get done properly, the SEC must take a leadership role. In fact, I believe it is our duty as the independent financial regulator with primary authority over, and expertise in, the activities to be regulated to ensure that the final Rule meets the aims of Congress without destroying critically important market activity that the Rule explicitly intends not to eliminate. Moreover, in accordance with its core mission, it is the Commission’s responsibility to balance the bank regulators’ focus on safety and soundness and Dodd-Frank’s overarching focus on managing systemic risk with legitimate considerations of investor protection and the maintenance of vibrant markets.

This brings me to the elephant in the room: FSOC. FSOC was created, in part, to respond to the realization during the financial crisis that regulatory balkanization had resulted in a lack of communication and information-sharing among financial services regulators, which undoubtedly led to poor policy decisions during the crisis. None of us who lived through the crisis on the ground floor would argue against improvements to the regulatory structure that would facilitate coordination and information-sharing among regulators. However, with FSOC the threats to the Commission’s independence move from the theoretical to the immediate, for already in its short existence, this new body has directly challenged the Commission’s regulatory independence. It is also where just one member of the Commission, the Chairman, can defend that independence. Pursuant to the provisions of Dodd-Frank establishing FSOC, the group is composed not of agencies, but the individual heads of agencies, acting ex officio.

As I have said in the past, the structure of FSOC is particularly troubling for an independent agency like the SEC. While the Secretary of the Treasury and the heads of the FHFA and the CFPB may speak on behalf of their agencies — not to mention the President that appointed them — the same cannot be said of the Chairman of the SEC. To preserve its independence, Congress created the SEC as a bipartisan, five-member Commission and gave each Commissioner — including the Chairman — only one vote. This means that the Chairman has no statutory authority to represent or bind the Commission through his or her participation on FSOC. Yet as a voting member of FSOC, the Chairman of the SEC does have a say in authorizing FSOC to take certain actions that may affect — and indeed have already affected — markets or entities that the Commission regulates. While one might expect that the Chairman of the SEC would always represent the views of the Commission as a whole, there is no formal oversight mechanism available to the Commission to check the Chairman’s participation on FSOC. Moreover, although the Commission’s bipartisan structure insulates it from undue political influence, FSOC’s structure does not. On the contrary, FSOC is composed of individuals who are heads of their agencies — typically making them members of the President’s political party — and led by a Cabinet official who is removable by the President at will. These factors, among others, make FSOC particularly susceptible to political influence which, in turn, can be — and has been — exerted on the agencies led by FSOC’s members.

To further complicate matters, FSOC operates under a different mandate than the SEC, having been established by Congress with a broad mandate to identify systemic risks and emerging threats to the country’s financial stability. Putting aside the fact that FSOC’s designation of certain firms as "systemically important" likely institutionalizes the idea of "too big to fail," FSOC’s core mission is to ensure the safety and soundness of the U.S. financial system — not surprising given that a significant plurality of FSOC is composed of the heads of bank regulators. While this mission is of unquestionable importance, so, too is the distinct mission of the SEC. To be sure, proper oversight of our capital markets should positively impact the safety and soundness of our financial system. Nevertheless, the SEC is not by statute a safety and soundness regulator. In fact, the markets we regulate are inherently risky, and with good reason. By putting money at risk, investors allocate capital in a manner that spurs economic growth in the hopes of a much higher return on their investments than they could obtain from lower-risk, lower-return investments, such as bank accounts. The SEC seeks to protect these investors from fraud and to ensure that the markets in which they put their capital to work are fair and efficient. Our mission is not, and should not be, to make these markets risk-free, nor is it to preserve the existence of any particular firm or firms. Capital markets regulators and bank regulators have drastically different missions and oversee fundamentally different markets and market participants. And, importantly for me and all of those who appreciate and advocate for free markets, we must keep a healthy distance between capital markets regulation, which rightfully assumes no taxpayer safety nets, and bank regulation.

It is not difficult to see the potential tension between the SEC and FSOC missions and the resulting threat to the Commission’s ability to function independently. As the old adage goes: "No one can serve two masters." When the Chairman of the SEC faces this tension, which of these two potentially competing mandates does he or she honor?

Nor is FSOC merely an advisory body without teeth. To carry out its mandate, Congress provided FSOC with extraordinary powers for an inter-agency council. For example, FSOC has the authority to designate a nonbank financial company as "systemically important," and to subject these companies to prudential supervision by the Fed. FSOC may also designate a financial market utility or a payment, clearing, or settlement activity as "systemically important," and direct the Fed, in consultation with the relevant supervisory agencies and FSOC itself, to prescribe risk management standards. To the extent that these "systemically important" utilities or activities are conducted by firms for which the SEC or CFTC is the primary regulator, Dodd-Frank provides "special procedures" pursuant to which the Fed may, if it determines that the risk management standards set by the SEC or the CFTC are "insufficient," impose its own standards. That authority is not simply a threat to the Commission’s independence — if exercised, it would be an outright annexation.

FSOC also has the authority to recommend that a primary financial regulator, such as the SEC, apply new or heightened standards and safeguards for systemically significant financial activities or practices. In this regard, FSOC has been busy in recent months prodding the Commission on money market fund reforms, including through the release of proposed reform recommendations last November.

I won’t recount the history that led to FSOC’s involvement in the regulation of money market funds, an area which unquestionably falls within the core expertise and regulatory jurisdiction of the SEC. But I will emphasize that my colleagues and I have made it clear that, having now been provided with the rigorous study and economic analysis on money market funds that a bipartisan majority of the Commission asked for from the start, we fully expect the Commission to move forward with a rule proposal shortly. Why, then, is FSOC still involved in the process? FSOC was established in part to promote coordination, collaboration, and information-sharing among its member agencies. It is immensely troubling then to think of the FSOC as an institutionalized mechanism for one set of regulators to pressure another in the latter agency’s field of expertise — yet that is exactly what is happening.

Moving on from the threats posed to the Commission’s independence by Congressional mandates and FSOC intervention, there are other, more mainstream, jurisdictional incursions the Commission must monitor and manage. For example, in December 2012, the Fed, acting pursuant to Dodd-Frank authority, issued proposed regulations to apply U.S. capital, liquidity, and other prudential standards to the U.S. operations of foreign bank organizations with total global consolidated assets of at least $50 billion.

8 These rules, if adopted in their current form, would require such organizations to create an intermediate holding company that would house all of their U.S. bank and nonbank subsidiaries.

The Fed proposal would affect SEC registrants as the new holding company capital rules would treat assets held by broker-dealer subsidiaries differently than they are treated in the SEC capital rules because of the proposed leverage standard that would apply to foreign bank organizations. Specifically, a U.S. broker-dealer subsidiary of a foreign bank organization could be required indirectly to hold more capital than would be necessary to satisfy the SEC’s net capital rule to maintain the same positions.

The regulation of broker-dealers is at the heart of the Exchange Act and, as such, has been under the Commission’s regulatory purview for nearly eight decades. Using the expertise it has developed over this period, the Commission has designed capital requirements under Rule 15c3-1 that are tailored to the operations of broker-dealers and the industry in which they operate. Here, it is crucial to understand the differing theories that underlie broker-dealer and bank capital requirements. The Commission’s capital rules are meant to deal with failure, in that they are designed to ensure that when a broker-dealer fails, it has net liquid assets in excess of all non-subordinated liabilities so that the firm can be self-liquidated in an orderly manner and satisfy all creditors, particularly its customers. On the other hand, bank capital standards are not designed to require a bank to maintain sufficient net liquid assets to satisfy all creditors. Instead, banks have access to federal liquidity facilities that can be used as a funding source in the event that the bank cannot find private funding. These facilities allow the bank to be liquidated in a more orderly manner in the case of a failure. And, if the bank is "too big to fail," the facilities can operate as a tax payer-funded life support system. Accordingly, it will be very important for the Fed and the Commission to coordinate carefully as this rule proposal is considered to ensure that legitimate goals can be advanced without undermining SEC oversight.

This Fed rulemaking comes on the heels of the misguided repeal in Dodd-Frank of the Commission’s Supervised Investment Bank Holding Company, or SIBHC, program. This little-known program, which the Commission implemented under the authority of Exchange Act Section 17(i), should have been expanded in Dodd-Frank to allow the SEC to better oversee non-systemically important broker-dealer holding companies. Instead, Dodd-Frank eliminated Exchange Act Section 17(i), and replaced it with a new Fed program.

On a final note, the Commission must also be mindful of the effect that international regulatory bodies, even those like IOSCO and the FSB in which the Commission is a participant, can have on the Commission’s prerogatives as an expert, independent agency. Many of these organizations were formed in large part to foster cooperation, information-sharing, and coordination among financial regulators in different jurisdictions. However, we now often see from these groups one-size-fits-all "recommendations," some of which run contrary to the Commission’s existing regulations or address the substance of specific issues pending before the Commission. I believe that the Commission must remain an active, productive member of these groups, but we must ensure that policymaking remains in the hands of domestic regulators acting with the requisite independence.

Thank you all for coming to this year’s SEC Speaks, and I look forward to seeing you again next February.


ALLEGED INVESTMENT FRAUD BY ISLAND INVETMENT ADVISER

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Feb. 21, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged an investment adviser located in the U.S. Virgin Islands with defrauding clients from whom he withheld the fact that he was receiving kickbacks for investing their money in thinly-traded companies. When he faced pressure to pay clients their returns on those investments, he allegedly used money from other clients in a Ponzi-like fashion to make payments.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that James S. Tagliaferri, through his St. Thomas-based firm TAG Virgin Islands, routinely used his discretionary authority over the accounts of his clients to purchase promissory notes issued by particular private companies. In exchange for financing those companies, TAG received millions of dollars in cash and other compensation — a conflict of interest that was never disclosed to investors. The Enforcement Division further alleges that when the promissory notes neared or passed maturity and his clients demanded payment, Tagliaferri misused assets of other clients to meet those demands.

"Tagliaferri was anything but forthcoming with his clients and he repeatedly failed to act in their best interests," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "He didn’t tell them about the compensation he received from the companies they were financing, and then compounded his fraud by using client assets to pay other clients when the conflicted investments came due."

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Tagliaferri.

According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings, Tagliaferri invested TAG clients primarily in conservative and liquid investments such as municipal bonds and blue-chip stocks until around 2007, when he began investing clients in highly illiquid securities. These investments included promissory notes issued by various closely-held private companies that were nothing more than holding companies through which an individual and his family effected personal and business transactions. He also invested at least $40 million of clients’ money in notes of a private horse-racing company, International Equine Acquisitions Holdings, Inc.

According to the SEC’s order, TAG received more than $3.35 million and approximately 500,000 shares of stock of a microcap company in return for placing various investments with these companies. The compensation that TAG received from the companies for the investments that Tagliaferri made on behalf of his clients created a conflict of interest that he was required to disclose to investors.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division alleges that Tagliaferri then further defrauded clients by investing their funds in microcap and other thinly-traded public companies in order to raise at least $80 million to pay the interest or principal due to other clients on certain of the promissory notes. Tagliaferri explained in e-mails he sent in April 2010 to the individual behind the companies that the real motivation for investing TAG clients in one of his microcap companies was to use the proceeds to pay off other clients invested in the initial series of promissory notes. "Where is the $125MM. As you are aware, this money was earmarked to clear all of the notes and other issues facing us both," Tagliaferri wrote. He later added, the "shares you transferred are being sold to clients. With those proceeds, you’re buying back your own notes." TAG clients were unaware, however, that Tagliaferri’s true motivation for having them buy these stocks was to repay other TAG clients on other conflicted investments he had made for them.

According to the SEC’s order, Tagliaferri willfully violated Sections 17(a)(1) and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(3) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

FUND MANAGER CHARGED FOR ALLEGED RISKY MORTGAGE-RELATED INVESTMENT

FROM: SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Charges Fund Manager in Scheme Involving Risky Mortgage-Related Investment

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges against an investment fund manager with offices in California and Arizona who is allegedly deceiving investors about the safety and performance of their investments, which involve risky collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs).

The SEC alleges that George Charles Cody Price of La Jolla, Calif., raised $18 million for three investment funds through his firm ABS Manager LLC, and he promised investors that their money was secured by government-backed bonds yielding extraordinary double-digit returns as high as 18 percent per year. Price used the tagline "Your Flight to Safety" in marketing one of those funds. However, Price was actually investing in one the riskiest tranches of CMOs on the market, and the investments failed to achieve the returns that Price promised and sometimes even lost money. Price concealed the actual performance of these risky bonds by providing fake monthly statements to investors that inflated the value of the investments.

The SEC further alleges that Price, who regularly co-hosted a radio show in the San Diego area called "The Wealth Weekend Hour" and recommended that listeners invest in one of his funds, also stole a half-million dollars of fund assets in the form of purported fees, and grossly inflated the assets under his management to misrepresent his prominence as an investment manager as he solicited investors.

The SEC's complaint charges Price and ABS Manager with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5(a) and (c) thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2), and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rules 206(4)-8(a) thereunder. Price's three investment funds (ABS Fund, LLC [Arizona], ABS Fund, LLC [California], and Capital Access, LLC) are named as relief defendants along with his company Cavan Private Equity Holdings LLC and his wife's company Lucky Star Events LLC because they hold cash or other assets acquired from the fund assets.

Concurrent with filing the complaint, the SEC also sought a temporary restraining order, asset freeze, receiver, order prohibiting the destruction of documents, and an accounting. The SEC sought to file the action under seal. In an Order dated February 11, 2013, United States District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel denied the requests at this time.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Morgan B. Ward Doran, Janet Weissman, and Carol Shau of the Los Angeles Regional Office. Sam Puathasnanon and Lynn Dean will lead the litigation
.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

SEC SETTLES WITH EXECUTIVES IN COMPENSATION CASE

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION  
Executives to be Permanently Enjoined, to Pay Civil Penalties and Disgorgement, and to Reimburse Company Pursuant to Section 304 of Sarbanes-Oxley; Former CEO/Chairman also to be Barred for Five Years from Serving as an Officer and Director of any Public Company


The Securities and Exchange Commission today settled civil fraud charges against Amnon Landan, the former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Mercury Interactive, LLC (Mercury), and Douglas Smith, a former Chief Financial Officer of Mercury, arising from an alleged scheme to backdate stock option grants and from other alleged misconduct.

On May 31, 2007, the Commission charged Landan, Smith, and two other former senior Mercury officers with perpetrating a fraudulent and deceptive scheme from 1997 to 2005 to award themselves and other Mercury employees undisclosed, secret compensation by backdating stock option grants and failing to record hundreds of millions of dollars of compensation expense. The Commission's complaint also alleges that during this period Landan and certain other executives backdated stock option exercises, made fraudulent disclosures concerning Mercury's "backlog" of sales revenues to manage its reported earnings, and structured fraudulent loans for option exercises by overseas employees to avoid recording expenses.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission's complaint, Landan consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violating and/or aiding and abetting violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5, as well as the financial reporting, record-keeping, internal controls, false statements to auditors, and proxy provisions of the federal securities laws. Landan also agreed to be barred from serving as an officer or director of any public company for five years. Landan will pay $1,252,822 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, representing the "in-the-money" benefit from his exercise of backdated option grants, and a $1,000,000 civil penalty. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Landan will also reimburse Mercury, or the parent company that acquired it after the alleged misconduct (Hewlett-Packard Company), $5,064,678 for cash bonuses and profits from the sale of Mercury stock that he received in 2003. Under the terms of the settlement, Landan's Section 304 reimbursement would be deemed partially satisfied by his prior return to Mercury of $2,817,500 in vested options.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission's complaint, Smith consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violating Section 17(a)(2) and (a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933. He will disgorge $451,200, representing the "in-the-money" benefit from his exercise of backdated option grants, and pay a $100,000 civil penalty. Pursuant to Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, Smith will also reimburse Mercury or its parent company $2,814,687 for cash bonuses and profits from the sale of Mercury stock that he received in 2003. Under the terms of the settlement, all of Smith's disgorgement and all but $250,000 of his Section 304 reimbursement would be deemed satisfied by his prior repayment to Mercury of $451,200 and his foregoing of his right to exercise vested options with a value of $2,113,487.

The settlements are subject to the approval of the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.

The Commission previously filed settled charges in this matter against Mercury and three former outside directors of Mercury. On May 31, 2007, the Commission filed civil fraud charges against Mercury based on the stock option backdating scheme and other fraudulent conduct noted above. Mercury, which was acquired by Hewlett-Packard Company on Nov. 8, 2006, after the alleged misconduct, settled the matter by agreeing to pay a $28 million penalty and to be permanently enjoined. See Litigation Release No.
20136 (May 31, 2007). On September 17, 2008, the Commission filed settled charges against three former outside directors of Mercury alleging that they recklessly approved backdated stock option grants and reviewed and signed public filings that contained materially false and misleading disclosures about the company's stock option grants and company expenses. The outside directors settled the matter by consenting to permanent injunctions and the payment by each director of a $100,000 penalty. See Litigation Release No. 20724 (Sept. 17, 2008). Mercury and the outside directors settled the charges without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission's complaint. The Commission also previously settled with one of the four senior officers its contested action. On March 20, 2009, the Commission settled with former Mercury CFO Sharlene Abrams by which she agreed to entry of a permanent injunction against the antifraud and certain other securities law provisions, to pay $2,287,914 in disgorgement which was deemed partially satisfied by payment to Mercury, to pay a $425,000 civil penalty, to be permanently barred from serving as an officer and director of any public company, and to a Commission order barring her from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an accountant. See Litigation Release No. 20964 (March 20, 2009). Abrams settled without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission's complaint.

The Commission's litigation against one remaining Mercury officer, former general counsel Susan Skaer, is continuing.

Friday, February 22, 2013

ASSET FREEZE ANNOUNCED BECAUSE OF SUSPICIOUS TRADING AHEAD OF H.J. HEINZ ACQUISITION

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C., Feb. 15, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today obtained an emergency court order to freeze assets in a Zurich, Switzerland-based trading account that was used to reap more than $1.7 million from trading in advance of yesterday’s public announcement about the acquisition of H.J. Heinz Company.

The SEC’s immediate action ensures that potentially illegal profits cannot be siphoned out of this account while the agency’s investigation of the suspicious trading continues.

In a complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the SEC alleges that prior to any public awareness that Berkshire Hathaway and 3G Capital had agreed to acquire H.J. Heinz Company in a deal valued at $28 billion, unknown traders took risky bets that Heinz’s stock price would increase. The traders purchased call options the very day before the public announcement. After the announcement, Heinz’s stock rose nearly 20 percent and trading volume increased more than 1,700 percent from the prior day, placing these traders in a position to profit substantially.

"Irregular and highly suspicious options trading immediately in front of a merger or acquisition announcement is a serious red flag that traders may be improperly acting on confidential nonpublic information," said Daniel M. Hawke, Chief of the Division of Enforcement’s Market Abuse Unit.

Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, added, "Despite the obvious logistical challenges of investigating trades involving offshore accounts, we moved swiftly to locate and freeze the assets of these suspicious traders, who now have to make an appearance in court to explain their trading if they want their assets unfrozen."

The SEC alleges that the unknown traders were in possession of material nonpublic information about the impending acquisition when they purchased out-of-the-money Heinz call options the day before the announcement. The timing and size of the trades were highly suspicious because the account through which the traders purchased the options had no history of trading Heinz securities in the last six months. Overall trading activity in Heinz call options several days before the announcement had been minimal.

The emergency court order obtained by the SEC freezes the traders’ assets and prohibits them from destroying any evidence. The SEC’s complaint charges the unknown traders with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. In addition to the emergency relief, the SEC is seeking a final judgment ordering the traders to disgorge their ill-gotten gains with interest, pay financial penalties, and be permanently barred from future violations.

The SEC’s expedited investigation is being conducted by Market Abuse Unit members Megan Bergstrom, David S. Brown, and Diana Tani in the Los Angeles Regional Office with substantial assistance from Charles Riely, Market Abuse Unit member in the New York Regional Office who will handle the SEC’s litigation. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Options Regulatory Surveillance Authority (ORSA).

Thursday, February 21, 2013

COMPANY SETTLES WITH CFTC OVER FAILURE TO MAITAIN MINIMUM CAPITAL REQUIREMENTS

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
CFTC Orders Enskilda Futures Limited to Pay a $125,000 Civil Monetary Penalty for Failing to Meet Minimum Capital Requirements Due to Margin Errors

Washington, DC
- The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today issued an Order filing and simultaneously settling charges against Enskilda Futures Limited (EFL), a London-based Futures Commission Merchant (FCM), for failing to meet the minimum capital requirements as set forth in Section 4f(b) of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) and CFTC Regulation 1.17. The failure to meet the minimum capital requirements was a result of EFL’s failure to call for sufficient margin collateral on an intra-month basis from its ultimate parent, Skandinaviska Enskilda Banken, AB (SEB), which holds an omnibus account at EFL, the Order finds. The CFTC Order requires EFL to pay a $125,000 civil monetary penalty and to maintain the remedial measures adopted following discovery of the error.

The CFTC Order finds that during the period of July 14 to August 2, 2011 (the Relevant Period), EFL collected only net margin collateral from SEB on an intra-month basis and not gross margin collateral as required. At month end, EFL and SEB settled up and EFL called for gross margin; thus, there was no effect on EFL’s monthly capital. However, because EFL failed to collect adequate margin collateral on an intra-month basis from SEB, EFL incurred charges to its adjusted net capital. As a result of these charges, EFL failed to meet the minimum capital requirements on 11 days in violation of Section 4f(b) of the CEA, 7 U.S.C. § 6f(b) (2006), and CFTC regulation 1.17, 17 C.F.R. § 1.17 (2011), according to the Order.

The error was discovered during a routine risk-based audit conducted by CME Group, Inc. (CME) on or about November 8, 2011, the Order finds. On November 9, 2011, EFL filed notice with the CFTC, the National Futures Association, and the CME, pursuant to CFTC regulation 1.12(a) and (f)(3), 17 C.F.R. §1.12(a) and (f)(3) (2011), advising of its failure to meet the net capital requirements during the relevant period. EFL immediately undertook measures to revise its policies and procedures and collect adequate margin collateral from its customer, the Order further finds.

EFL has cooperated fully with CFTC staff, according to the Order. Further, it appears that at all times during the Relevant Period, SEB possessed ample funds to satisfy any intra-month collateral call from EFL. EFL need only have collected such funds to have remained in compliance with CFTC regulations, the Order finds.

The CFTC thanks the CME for its cooperation.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff responsible for this matter are Allison Baker Shealy, Timothy J. Mulreany and Joan Manley, with assistance from CFTC Division of Swap Dealer and Intermediary Oversight staff Kevin Piccoli, Robert Laverty, Ronald Carletta, and Linda Santiago.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Harnessing Tomorrow's Technology for Today's Investors and Markets

Harnessing Tomorrow's Technology for Today's Investors and Markets

"AMERICA'S PROPHET" PSYCHIC MORTON RECIEVES DEFAULT JUDGEMENT AGAINST HIIM

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22619 / February 15, 2013

District Court Grants Securities and Exchange Commission's Motions for Default Judgment against a Nationally Known Psychic and his Corporate Entities in Multi-Million Dollar Offering Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) announced today that on February 11, 2013 the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York entered default judgments against Sean David Morton (Morton), a nationally-recognized psychic who bills himself as "America's Prophet," his wife, relief defendant Melissa Morton, and corporate shell entities co-owned by the Mortons. In addition to ordering permanent injunctions from violating antifraud and registration statutes and rule, each defendant was ordered to disgorge, jointly and severally, $5,181,135.82, along with prejudgment interest of $1,171,110.54, and pay a penalty of $5,181,135.82 for a total of $11,533,382.18. Relief defendants Melissa Morton and the Prophecy Research Institute, the Mortons' nonprofit religious organization, were ordered to disgorge $468,281 plus prejudgment interest of $105,847.23, for a total of $574,128.23.

On March 4, 2010, the Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York charging Morton and his corporate shell entities for engaging in a multi-million offering fraud. According to the Commission's complaint, Morton fraudulently raised more than $5 million from more than 100 investors for his investment group, which he called the Delphi Associates Investment Group (Delphi Investment Group).

Beginning in or around the summer of 2006, the complaint alleged, Morton solicited individuals to invest in one of several companies he and Melissa Morton controlled under the umbrella of the Delphi Investment Group. According to the Commission's complaint, Morton used his monthly newsletter, his website, his appearances on a nationally syndicated radio show called Coast to Coast AM, and appearances at public events, to promote his alleged psychic expertise in predicting the securities markets, and to solicit investors for the Delphi Investment Group. During these solicitations, Morton made numerous materially false representations. For example, Morton falsely told potential investors that he has called all the highs and lows of the stock market, on their exact dates, over a fourteen year period. Morton further falsely asserted that the alleged profits in the accounts were audited and certified by PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (PWC) who he claimed certified that the accounts had profited by 117%. Morton also falsely asserted that the investor funds would be used exclusively for foreign currency investments, and that any other use of the funds would be considered a criminal act. Morton further falsely claimed that he would use the pooled funds to trade in foreign currencies and distribute pro rata the trading profits among the investors. In private one-on-one correspondence with potential investors, Morton was even more aggressive in his solicitation. For example, Morton wrote to a potential investor urging he invest more money in the Delphi Investment Group "RIGHT NOW…[Because] [o]nce the DOLLAR starts to DROP, which will happen soon, we are set to make a FORTUNE!"

However, the complaint alleged, Morton lied to investors about his past successes, and about key aspects of the Delphi Investment Group, including the use of investor funds and the liquidity of the funds. According to the complaint, Morton did not have the successful track record picking stocks in which he claimed, and that he in fact was simply wrong in many of his securities predictions. Further, PWC never audited the Delphi Investment Group, let alone certify any profits. Also, unbeknownst to the investors, instead of investing all of the funds into foreign currency trading firms, the Mortons diverted some of the investor funds, including nearly half a million dollars to themselves through their own shell entities.

The defendants never properly answered the allegations in the complaint. Instead, the Mortons filed dozens of papers with the Court claiming, for instance, that the Commission is a private entity that has no jurisdiction over them, and that the staff attorneys working on the case do not exist.

On February 11, 2013, United States District Judge Forrest issued default judgments against all of the defendants and relief defendants. With the entry of the default judgments, the Commission received full relief requested in its complaint. The complaint charged each of the defendants with violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint further charged that the relief defendants were unjustly enriched by receiving investor funds. The complaint sought a final judgment permanently restraining and enjoining the defendants from future violations of the above provisions of the federal securities laws.

The SEC's litigation team was led by Bennett Ellenbogen, Alexander Vasilescu, Todd Brody, Elzbieta Wraga, and Roshonda Ledbetter. Amelia Cottrell, Stephen Johnson, Jacqueline Fine, and Elizabeth Baier assisted during the investigation.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

MAN TO PAY $387,000 TO SETTLE COMMODITY POOL FRAUD CHARGES

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION

Federal Court in Nebraska Orders Omaha Resident Michael J. Welke to Pay $387,000 to Settle Commodity Pool Fraud Charges
Welke permanently barred from the commodities industry

Washington, DC
– The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it obtained a federal court order requiring Defendant Michael J. Welke, of Omaha, Neb., to pay $257,000 in disgorgement and a $130,000 civil monetary penalty to settle CFTC charges of fraud, failure to register with the CFTC, and failure to comply with disclosure and reporting requirements. The Consent Order of permanent injunction, entered on February 12, 2013, by Chief Judge Laurie Smith Camp of the U.S. District Court for the District of Nebraska, also imposes permanent trading and registration bans against Welke and prohibits him from violating provisions of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations, as charged.

The Order stems from a CFTC Complaint filed on May 23, 2011, against Welke, along with Defendants Jonathan W. Arrington, Michael B. Kratville, and their companies, Elite Management Holdings Corp. (Elite Management) and MJM Enterprises LLC (MJM) (see CFTC Press Release
6045-11). The CFTC Complaint alleged that from approximately August 2005 until at least July 2008, Welke and the other Defendants operated a fraudulent scheme that solicited at least $4.7 million from more than 130 commodity pool participants, mostly from the Omaha area, to trade commodity futures contracts and off-exchange foreign currency contracts. The CFTC Complaint further charged that Welke acted as a reference to prospective pool participants without disclosing his status as an owner and officer of Elite Management and MJM and that Welke, along with the other Defendants, misappropriated more than $1.5 million of pool participants’ funds, made false representations of material facts, and issued false statements to the pool participants regarding the profitability and value of their accounts.

The CFTC has previously obtained entries of default against Arrington, Elite Management, and MJM. The CFTC’s litigation continues against Kratville.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Christopher Reed, Margaret Aisenbrey, Stephen Turley, Charles Marvine, Rick Glaser, and Richard Wagner.

Monday, February 18, 2013

BROKERAGE FIRM AND BROKERS CHARGED WITH STEERING CLIENTS FOR COMMISSIONS

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., Feb. 15, 2013 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against a New York-based brokerage firm and two brokers who allegedly used misleading sales tactics to steer investors toward risky investments in a purported clean energy company so the firm could earn lucrative commissions.

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Gregg Lorenzo, the founder of Charles Vista LLC, teamed with an investment banker named Frank Lorenzo and made a litany of false, misleading, and unfounded statements to create the impression that speculative debt securities issued by Waste2Energy Holdings Inc., which were convertible into stock, were risk-free and likely to result in enormous investment returns. The Lorenzos are not related. While Gregg Lorenzo was touting the profitability of investing in Waste2Energy, which purported to possess technology for converting waste into clean energy, the company was struggling in reality. Waste2Energy eventually filed for bankruptcy.

"Charles Vista customers were told a false tale of a safe and conservative investment with an explosive upside, but the risky downside was downplayed in the story," said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. "Brokerage customers deserve unbiased and fair recommendations about the risks of potential investments, not misleading boiler room sales tactics."

According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings against Charles Vista and the Lorenzos, investors were solicited to purchase the Waste2Energy convertible debentures in 2009 and 2010. An e-mail that Charles Vista sent customers made various false claims, such as Waste2Energy possessing "over $10 million in confirmed assets" to provide investors with protection against losses. In reality, the company had written its assets down to less than $1 million.

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Gregg Lorenzo, who lives in Staten Island, made verbal sales pitches to investors that misrepresented Waste2Energy’s financial condition and business prospects. He made the debentures’ stock conversion feature appear valuable by making baseless predictions about the future of the company’s stock. Lorenzo told at least one investor that he believed Waste2Energy "will be a NASDAQ trading stock within 12 months. I believe they will meet the listing requirements." Frank Lorenzo was the head of investment banking at Charles Vista until he left the firm in 2010. He sent e-mails to Charles Vista customers that contained false or misleading claims about Waste2Energy’s assets and alleged contracts.

According to the SEC’s order, Charles Vista was the exclusive placement agent for the issuance of these Waste2Energy securities, and the firm’s financial interest in the offering was considerable. Documents attached to some of Waste2Energy’s SEC filings indicate that Charles Vista had arranged to receive a 10 percent "commission" on the gross proceeds of all debentures sales, a consulting fee of $10,000 per month for 12 months, and various other commissions and fees.

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Charles Vista and the Lorenzos willfully violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5. Charles Vista also allegedly violated Exchange Act Section 15(c) and Rule 10b-3. The administrative proceedings will determine what, if any, remedial action or financial penalties are appropriate in the public interest against Charles Vista and the Lorenzos.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Peter Pizzani, Melissa Coppola, Michael Osnato, and Jack Kaufman in the New York Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Mr. Kaufman and Joseph Boryshansky.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

DALLAS INVESTMENT ADVISER PRINCIPAL SUED OVER ALLEGED FRAUDULENT HIGH-YIELD INVESTMENT SHCME

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Sues Dallas Investment Adviser Principal for Conducting a Fraudulent High-Yield Investment Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Dallas investment adviser principal with defrauding investors out of $2.3 million in a high-yield investment scheme. The Commission's complaint, filed in Dallas federal court, alleges that Delsa U. Thomas, The D. Christopher Capital Group, LLC ("DCCMG"), and The Solomon Fund LP, lied to investors about the safety and potential returns of the investments. For example, the complaint alleges that Thomas promised that $1 million in investor funds would remain safely invested in U.S. Treasury securities and would yield 650 percent returns in 35 banking days, supposedly from profits in Thomas's high-yield investment program. While Thomas did purchase U.S. Treasury securities, she immediately margined those securities, commingled the margin proceeds with other investor funds, and sent the funds to a foreign intermediary, none of which was disclosed to investors. According to the Commission, Thomas used other investor funds to make Ponzi payments to investors in earlier investment programs she had sold, and for personal expenses. Finally, the complaint alleges that DCCMG was improperly registered with the Commission as an investment adviser, a violation that Thomas aided and abetted.

The complaint charges Thomas, DCCMG, and the Solomon Fund with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint also charges Thomas and DCCMG with violating Sections 206(1), (2), and (4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. The complaint also alleges that DCCMG violated Section 203A of the Advisers Act and that Thomas aided and abetted this violation. The complaint seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest and civil penalties against each of the defendants.

The SEC's investigation was conducted by Ronda Blair and Barbara Gunn of SEC's Fort Worth Regional Office. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the U.S. Secret Service, the Ontario Securities Commission, and the Alberta Securities Commission.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CFTC CHAIRMAN GENSLER SPEAKS ON FUTURES REFORM

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
Testimony of Gary Gensler, Chairman, Commodity Futures Trading Commission before the U.S. Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, Washington, DC

February 14, 2013


Good morning Chairman Johnson, Ranking Member Crapo and members of the Committee. I thank you for inviting me to today’s hearing on implementation of Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (Dodd-Frank Act) swaps market reforms. I am pleased to testify along with my fellow regulators. I also want to thank the CFTC Commissioners and staff for their hard work and dedication.

The New Era of Swaps Market Reform

This hearing is occurring at an historic time in the markets. The CFTC now oversees the derivatives marketplace – across both futures and swaps. The marketplace is increasingly shifting to implementation of the common-sense rules of the road for the swaps market that Congress included in the Dodd-Frank Act.

For the first time, the public is benefiting from seeing the price and volume of each swap transaction. This post-trade transparency builds upon what has worked for decades in the futures and securities markets. The new swaps market information is available free of charge on a website, like a modern-day ticker tape.

For the first time, the public will benefit from the greater access to the markets and the risk reduction that comes with central clearing. Required clearing of interest rate and credit index swaps between financial entities begins next month.

For the first time, the public will benefit from specific oversight of swap dealers. As of today, 71 swap dealers are provisionally registered. They are subject to standards for sales practices, recordkeeping and business conduct to help lower risk to the economy and protect the public from fraud and manipulation. The full list of registered swap dealers is on the CFTC’s website, and we will update it as more entities register.

An earlier economic crisis led President Roosevelt and Congress to enact similar common-sense rules of the road for the futures and securities markets. I believe these critical reforms of the 1930s have been at the foundation of our strong capital markets and many decades of economic growth.

In the 1980s, the swaps market emerged. Until now, though, it had lacked the benefit of rules to promote transparency, lower risk and protect the public, rules that we have come to depend upon in the securities and futures markets. What followed was the 2008 financial crisis. Eight million American jobs were lost. In contrast, the futures market, supported by earlier reforms, weathered the financial crisis.

Congress and President Obama responded to the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and carefully crafted the Dodd-Frank swaps provisions. They borrowed from what has worked best in the futures market for decades: transparency, clearing and oversight of intermediaries.

The CFTC has largely completed swaps market rulewriting, with 80 percent behind us. On October 12, the CFTC and Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) foundational definition rules went into effect. This marked the new era of swaps market reform.

The CFTC is seeking to consider and finalize the remaining Dodd-Frank swaps reforms this year. In addition, as Congress directed the CFTC to do, I believe it’s critical that we continue our efforts to put in place aggregate speculative position limits across futures and swaps on physical commodities.

The agency has completed each of our reforms with an eye toward ensuring that the swaps market works for end-users, America’s primary job providers. It’s the end-users in the non-financial side of our economy that provide 94 percent of private sector jobs.

The CFTC’s swaps market reforms benefit end-users by lowering costs and increasing access to the markets. They benefit end-users through greater transparency – shifting information from Wall Street to Main Street. Following Congress’ direction, end-users are not required to bring swaps into central clearing. Further, the Commission’s proposed rule on margin provides that end-users will not have to post margin for uncleared swaps. Also, non-financial companies, other than those genuinely making markets in swaps, will not be required to register as swap dealers. Lastly, when end-users are required to report their transactions, they are given more time to do so than other market participants.

Congress also authorized the CFTC to provide relief from the Dodd-Frank Act’s swaps reforms for certain electricity and electricity-related energy transactions between rural electric cooperatives and federal, state, municipal and tribal power authorities. Similarly, Congress authorized the CFTC to provide relief for certain transactions on markets administered by regional transmission organizations and independent system operators. The CFTC is looking to soon finalize two exemptive orders related to these various transactions, as Congress authorized.

The CFTC has worked to complete the Dodd-Frank reforms in a deliberative way – not against a clock. We have been careful to consider significant public input, as well as the costs and benefits of each rule. CFTC Commissioners and staff have met more than 2,000 times with members of the public, and we have held 22 public roundtables. The agency has received more than 39,000 comment letters on matters related to reform. Our rules also have benefited from close consultation with domestic and international regulators and policymakers.

Throughout this process, the Commission has sought input from market participants on appropriate schedules to phase in compliance with swaps reforms. Now, over two-and-a-half years since Dodd-Frank passed and with 80 percent of our rules finalized, the market is moving to implementation. Thus, it’s the natural order of things that market participants have questions and have come to us for further guidance. The CFTC welcomes inquiries from market participants, as some fine-tuning is expected. As it is sometimes the case with human nature, the agency receives many inquiries as compliance deadlines approach.

My fellow commissioners and I, along with CFTC staff, have listened to market participants and thoughtfully sorted through issues as they were brought to our attention, as we will continue to do.

I now will go into further detail on the Commission’s swaps market reform efforts.

Transparency – Lowering Cost and Increasing Liquidity, Efficiency, Competition

Transparency – a longstanding hallmark of the futures market – both pre- and post-trade – lowers costs for investors, consumers and businesses. It increases liquidity, efficiency and competition. A key benefit of swaps reform is providing this critical pricing information to businesses and other end-users across this land that use the swaps market to lock in a price or hedge a risk.

As of December 31, 2012, provisionally registered swap dealers are reporting in real time their interest rate and credit index swap transactions to the public and to regulators through swap data repositories. These are some of the same products that were at the center of the financial crisis. Building on this, swap dealers will begin reporting swap transactions in equity, foreign exchange and other commodity asset classes on February 28. Other market participants will begin reporting April 10.

With these transparency reforms, the public and regulators now have their first full window into the swaps marketplace.

Time delays for reporting currently range from 30 minutes to longer, but will generally be reduced to 15 minutes this October for interest rate and credit index swaps. For other asset classes, the time delay will be reduced next January. After the CFTC completes the block rule for swaps, trades smaller than a block will be reported as soon as technologically practicable.

To further enhance liquidity and price competition, the CFTC is working to finish the pre-trade transparency rules for swap execution facilities (SEFs), as well as the block rule for swaps. SEFs would allow market participants to view the prices of available bids and offers prior to making their decision on a transaction. These rules will build on the democratization of the swaps market that comes with the clearing of standardized swaps.

Clearing – Lowering Risk and Democratizing the Market

Since the late 19th century, clearinghouses have lowered risk for the public and fostered competition in the futures market. Clearing also has democratized the market by fostering access for farmers, ranchers, merchants, and other participants.

A key milestone was reached in November 2012 with the CFTC’s adoption of the first clearing requirement determinations. The vast majority of interest rate and credit default index swaps will be brought into central clearing. This follows through on the U.S. commitment at the 2009 G-20 meeting that standardized swaps should be brought into central clearing by the end of 2012. Compliance will be phased in throughout this year. Swap dealers and the largest hedge funds will be required to clear March 11, and all other financial entities follow June 10. Accounts managed by third party investment managers and ERISA pension plans have until September 9 to begin clearing.

Consistent with the direction of Dodd-Frank, the Commission in the fall of 2011 adopted a comprehensive set of rules for the risk management of clearinghouses. These final rules were consistent with international standards, as evidenced by the Principles for Financial Market Infrastructures (PFMIs) consultative document that had been published by the Committee on Payment and Settlement Systems and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (CPSS-IOSCO).

In April of 2012, CPSS-IOSCO issued the final PFMIs. The Commission’s clearinghouse risk management rules cover the vast majority of the standards set forth in the final PFMIs. There are a small number of areas where it may be appropriate to augment our rules to meet those standards, particularly as it relates to systemically important clearinghouses. I have directed staff to work expeditiously to recommend the necessary steps so that the Commission may implement any remaining items from the PFMIs not yet incorporated in our clearinghouse rules. I look forward to the Commission considering action on this in 2013.

I expect that soon we will complete a rule to exempt swaps between certain affiliated entities within a corporate group from the clearing requirement. This year, the CFTC also will be considering possible clearing determinations for other commodity swaps, including energy swaps.

Swap Dealer Oversight - Promoting Market Integrity and Lowering Risk

Comprehensive oversight of swap dealers, a foundational piece of Dodd-Frank, will promote market integrity and lower risk to taxpayers and the rest of the economy. Congress wanted end-users to continue benefitting from customized swaps (those not brought into central clearing) while being protected through the express oversight of swap dealers. In addition, Dodd-Frank extended the CFTC’s existing oversight of previously regulated intermediaries to include their swaps activity. Such intermediaries have historically included futures commission merchants, introducing brokers, commodity pool operators, and commodity trading advisors.

As the result of CFTC rules completed in the first half of last year, 71 swap dealers are now provisionally registered. This initial group of dealers includes the largest domestic and international financial institutions dealing in swaps with U.S. persons. It includes the 16 institutions commonly referred to as the G16 dealers. Other entities are expected to register over the course of this year once they exceed the de minimis threshold for swap dealing activity.

In addition to reporting trades to both regulators and the public, swap dealers will implement crucial back office standards that lower risk and increase market integrity. These include promoting the timely confirmation of trades and documentation of the trading relationship. Swap dealers also will be required to implement sales practice standards that prohibit fraud, treat customers fairly and improve transparency. These reforms are being phased in over the course of this year.

The CFTC is collaborating closely domestically and internationally on a global approach to margin requirements for uncleared swaps. We are working along with the Federal Reserve, the other U.S. banking regulators, the SEC and our international counterparts on a final set of standards to be published by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision and the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO). The CFTC’s proposed margin rules excluded non-financial end-users from margin requirements for uncleared swaps. We have been advocating with global regulators for an approach consistent with that of the CFTC. I would anticipate that the CFTC, in consultation with European regulators, would take up a final margin rules, as well as related rules on capital, in the second half of this year.

Following Congress’ mandate, the CFTC also is working with our fellow domestic financial regulators to complete the Volcker Rule. In adopting the Volcker rule, Congress prohibited banking entities from proprietary trading, an activity that may put taxpayers at risk. At the same time, Congress permitted banking entities to engage in certain activities, such as market making and risk mitigating hedging. One of the challenges in finalizing a rule is achieving these multiple objectives.

International Coordination on Swaps Market Reform

In enacting financial reform, Congress recognized the basic lessons of modern finance and the 2008 crisis. During a default or crisis, risk knows no geographic border. Risk from our housing and financial crisis contributed to economic downturns around the globe. Further, if a run starts on one part of a modern financial institution, almost regardless of where it is around the globe, it invariably means a funding and liquidity crisis rapidly spreads and infects the entire consolidated financial entity.

This phenomenon was true with the overseas affiliates and operations of AIG, Lehman Brothers, Citigroup, and Bear Stearns.

AIG Financial Products, for instance, was a Connecticut subsidiary of New York insurance giant that used a French bank license to basically run its swaps operations out of Mayfair in London. Its collapse nearly brought down the U.S. economy.

Last year’s events of JPMorgan Chase, where it executed swaps through its London branch, are a stark reminder of this reality of modern finance. Though many of these transactions were entered into by an offshore office, the bank here in the United States absorbed the losses. Yet again, this was a reminder that in modern finance, trades booked offshore by U.S. financial institutions should not be confused with keeping that risk offshore.

Failing to incorporate these basic lessons of modern finance into the CFTC’s oversight of the swaps market would fall short of the goals of Dodd-Frank reform. It would leave the public at risk.

More specifically, I believe that Dodd-Frank reform applies to transactions entered into by overseas branches of U.S. entities with non-U.S. persons, as well as between overseas affiliates guaranteed by U.S. entities. Failing to do so would mean American jobs and markets may move offshore, but, particularly in times of crisis, risk would come crashing back to our economy.

Similar lessons of modern finance were evident, as well, with the collapse of the hedge fund Long-Term Capital Management in 1998. It was run out of Connecticut, but its $1.2 trillion swaps were booked in its Cayman Islands affiliate. The risk from those activities, as the events of the time highlighted, had a direct and significant effect here in the United States.

The same was true when Bear Stearns in 2007 bailed out two of its sinking hedge fund affiliates, which had significant investments in subprime mortgages. They both were organized offshore. This was just the beginning of the end, as within months, the Federal Reserve provided extraordinary support for the failing Bear Stearns.

We must thus ensure that collective investment vehicles, including hedge funds, that either have their principal place of business in the United States or are directly or indirectly majority owned by U.S. persons are not able to avoid the clearing requirement – or any other Dodd-Frank requirement – simply due to how they might be organized.

We are hearing, though, that some swap dealers may be promoting to hedge funds an idea to avoid required clearing, at least during an interim period from March until July. I would be concerned if, in an effort to avoid clearing, swap dealers route to their foreign affiliates trades with hedge funds organized offshore, even though such hedge funds’ principle place of business was in the United States or they are majority owned by U.S. persons. The CFTC is working to ensure that this idea does not prevail and develop into a practice that leaves the American public at risk. If we don’t address this, the P.O boxes may be offshore, but the risk will flow back here.

Congress understood these issues and addressed this reality of modern finance in Section 722(d) of the Dodd-Frank Act, which states that swaps reforms shall not apply to activities outside the United States unless those activities have "a direct and significant connection with activities in, or effect on, commerce of the United States." Congress provided this provision solely for swaps under the CFTC’s oversight and provided a different standard for securities-based swaps under the SEC’s oversight.

To give financial institutions and market participants guidance on 722(d), the CFTC last June sought public consultation on its interpretation of this provision. The proposed guidance is a balanced, measured approach, consistent with the cross-border provisions in Dodd-Frank and Congress’ recognition that risk easily crosses borders.

Pursuant to Commission guidance, foreign firms that do more than a de minimis amount of swap-dealing activity with U.S. persons would be required to register with the CFTC within about two months after crossing the de minimis threshold. A number of international financial institutions are among the 71 swap dealers that are provisionally registered with the CFTC.

Where appropriate, we are committed to permitting, foreign firms and, in certain circumstances, overseas branches and guaranteed affiliates of U.S. swap dealers, to comply with Dodd-Frank through complying with comparable and comprehensive foreign regulatory requirements. We call this substituted compliance.

For foreign swap dealers, we would allow such substituted compliance for requirements that apply across a swap dealer’s entity, as well as for certain transaction-level requirements when facing overseas branches of U.S. entities and overseas affiliates guaranteed by U.S. entities. Entity-level requirements include capital, chief compliance officer and swap data recordkeeping. Transaction-level requirements include clearing, margin, real-time public reporting, trade execution, trading documentation and sales practices.

When foreign swaps dealers transact with a U.S. person, though, compliance with Dodd-Frank is required.

To assist foreign swap dealers with Dodd-Frank compliance, the CFTC recently finalized an exemptive order that applies until mid-July 2013. This Final Order for foreign swap dealers incorporates many suggestions from the ongoing consultation on cross-border issues with foreign regulatory counterparts and market participants. For instance, the definition of "U.S. person" in the Order benefited from the comments in response to the July 2012 proposal.

Under this Final Order, foreign swap dealers may phase in compliance with certain entity-level requirements. In addition, the Order provides time-limited relief for foreign dealers from specified transaction-level requirements when they transact with overseas affiliates guaranteed by U.S. entities, as well as with foreign branches of U.S. swap dealers.

The Final Order provides time for the Commission to continue working with foreign regulators as they implement comparable swaps reforms and as the Commission considers substituted compliance determinations for the various foreign jurisdictions with entities that have registered as swap dealers under Dodd-Frank.

The CFTC will continue engaging with our international counterparts through bilateral and multilateral discussions on reform and cross-border swaps activity. Just last week, SEC Chairman Walter and I had a productive meeting with international market regulators in Brussels.

Given our different cultures, political systems and legislative mandates some differences are unavoidable, but we’ve made great progress internationally on an aligned approach to reform. The CFTC is committed to working through any instances where we are made aware of a conflict between U.S. law and that of another jurisdiction.

Customer Protection

Dodd-Frank included provisions directing the CFTC to enhance the protection of swaps customer funds. While it was not a requirement of Dodd-Frank, in 2009 the CFTC also reviewed our existing customer protection rules for futures market customers. As a result, a number of our customer protection enhancements affect both futures and swaps market customers. I would like to review our finalized enhancements, as well as an important customer protection proposal.

The CFTC’s completed amendments to rule 1.25 regarding the investment of customer funds benefit both futures and swaps customers. The amendments include preventing in-house lending of customer money through repurchase agreements.The CFTC’s gross margining rules for futures and swaps customers require clearinghouses to collect margin on a gross basis. Futures commission merchants (FCMs) are no longer able to offset one customer’s collateral against another or to send only the net to the clearinghouse.

Swaps customers further benefit from the new so-called LSOC (legal segregation with operational comingling) rules, which ensure their money is protected individually all the way to the clearinghouse.

The Commission also worked closely with market participants on new rules for customer protection adopted by the self-regulatory organization (SRO), the National Futures Association. These include requiring FCMs to hold sufficient funds for U.S. foreign futures and options customers trading on foreign contract markets (in Part 30 secured accounts). Starting last year, they must meet their total obligations to customers trading on foreign markets computed under the net liquidating equity method. In addition, FCMs must maintain written policies and procedures governing the maintenance of excess funds in customer segregated and Part 30 secured accounts. Withdrawals of 25 percent or more would necessitate pre-approval in writing by senior management and must be reported to the designated SRO and the CFTC.

These steps were significant, but market events have further highlighted that the Commission must do everything within our authorities and resources to strengthen oversight programs and the protection of customers and their funds.

In the fall of 2012, the Commission sought public comment on a proposal to further enhance the protection of customer funds.

The proposal, which the CFTC looks forward to finalizing this year, would strengthen the controls around customer funds at FCMs. It would set new regulatory accounting requirements and would raise minimum standards for independent public accountants who audit FCMs. And it would provide regulators with daily direct electronic access to the FCMs’ bank and custodial accounts for customer funds. Last week, the CFTC held a public roundtable on this proposal, the third roundtable focused on customer protection.

Further, the CFTC intends to finalize a rule this year on segregation for uncleared swaps.

Benchmark Interest Rates

I’d like to now turn to the three cases the CFTC brought against Barclays, UBS and RBS for manipulative conduct with respect to the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR) and other benchmark interest rate submissions. The reason it’s important to focus on these matters is not because there were $2.5 billion in fines, though the U.S. penalties against these three banks of more than $2 billion were significant. What this is about is the integrity of the financial markets. When a reference rate, such as LIBOR – central to borrowing, lending and hedging in our economy – has been so readily and pervasively rigged, it’s critical that we discuss how to best change the system. We must ensure that reference rates are honest and reliable reflections of observable transactions in real markets.

The three cases shared a number of common traits. Foremost, at each institution the misconduct spanned multiple years, involved offices in multiple cities around the globe, included numerous people, and affected multiple benchmark rates and currencies. In each case, there was evidence of collusion among banks. In both the UBS and RBS cases, one or more inter-dealer brokers were asked to paint false pictures to influence submissions of other banks, i.e., to spread the falsehoods more widely. At Barclays and UBS, the banks also were reporting falsely low borrowing rates in an effort to protect their reputation.

Why does this matter?

The derivatives marketplace that the CFTC oversees started about 150 years ago. Futures contracts initially were linked to physical commodities, like corn and wheat. Such clear linkage ultimately comes from the ability of farmers, ranchers and other market participants to physically deliver the commodity at the expiration of the contract. As the markets evolved, cash-settled contracts emerged, often linked to markets for financial commodities, like the stock market or interest rates. These cash-settled derivatives generally reference indices or benchmarks.

Whether linked to physical commodities or indices, derivatives – both futures and swaps – should ultimately be anchored to observable prices established in real underlying cash markets. And it’s only when there are real transactions entered into at arm’s length between buyers and sellers that we can be confident that prices are discovered and set accurately.

When market participants submit for a benchmark rate that lacks observable underlying transactions, even if operating in good faith, they may stray from what real transactions would reflect. When a benchmark is separated from real transactions, it is more vulnerable to misconduct.

Today, LIBOR is the reference rate for 70 percent of the U.S. futures market, most of the swaps market and nearly half of U.S. adjustable rate mortgages. It’s embedded in the wiring of our financial system.

The challenge we face is that the market for interbank, unsecured borrowing has largely diminished over the last five years. Some say that it is essentially nonexistent. In 2008, Mervyn King, the governor of the Bank of England, said of Libor: "It is, in many ways, the rate at which banks do not lend to each other."

The number of banks willing to lend to one another on such terms has been sharply reduced because of economic turmoil, including the 2008 global financial crisis, the European debt crisis that began in 2010, and the downgrading of large banks’ credit ratings. In addition, there have been other factors that have led to unsecured, interbank lending drying up, including changes to Basel capital rules and central banks providing funding directly to banks.

Fortunately, much work is occurring internationally to address these issues. I want to commend the work of Martin Wheatley and the UK Financial Services Authority (FSA) on the "Wheatley Review of LIBOR." Additionally, the CFTC and the FSA are co-chairing the International Organization of Securities Commissions (IOSCO) Task Force that is developing international principles for benchmarks and examining best mechanisms or protocols for transition, if needed. On January 11, the IOSCO Task Force published the Consultation Report on Financial Benchmarks.

The consultation report said: "The Task Force is of the view that a benchmark should as a matter of priority be anchored by observable transactions entered into at arm’s length between buyers and sellers in order for it to function as a credible indicator of prices, rates or index values." It went on to say: "However, at some point, an insufficient level of actual transaction data raises concerns as to whether the benchmark continues to reflect prices or rates that have been formed by the competitive forces of supply and demand."

Among the questions for the public in the report are the following:
What are the best practices to ensure that benchmark rates honestly reflect market prices?
What are best practices for benchmark administrators and submitters?
What factors should be considered in determining whether a current benchmark’s underlying market is sufficiently robust? For instance, what is an insufficient level of actual transaction activity?
And what are the best mechanisms or protocols to transition from an unreliable or obsolete benchmark?

On February 20, we are holding a public roundtable in London. On February 26, the CFTC is hosting a second roundtable to gather input from market participants and other interested parties. A final report incorporating this crucial public input will be published this spring.

Resources

The CFTC’s hardworking team of 690 is less than 10 percent more in numbers than at our peak in the 1990s. Yet since that time, the futures market has grown five-fold, and the swaps market is eight times larger than the futures market.

Market implementation of swaps reforms means additional resources for the CFTC are all the more essential. Investments in both technology and people are needed for effective oversight of these markets by regulators – like having more cops on the beat.

Though data has started to be reported to the public and to regulators, we need the staff and technology to access, review and analyze the data. Though 71 entities have registered as new swap dealers, we need people to answer their questions and work with the NFA on the necessary oversight to ensure market integrity. Furthermore, as market participants expand their technological sophistication, CFTC technology upgrades are critical for market surveillance and to enhance customer fund protection programs

Without sufficient funding for the CFTC, the nation cannot be assured this agency can closely monitor for the protection of customer funds and utilize our enforcement arm to its fullest potential to go after bad actors in the futures and swaps markets. Without sufficient funding for the CFTC, the nation cannot be assured that this agency can effectively enforce essential rules that promote transparency and lower risk to the economy.

The CFTC is currently funded at $207 million. To fulfill our mission for the benefit of the public, the President requested $308 million for fiscal year 2013 and 1,015 full-time employees.

Thank you again for inviting me today, and I look forward to your questions.

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