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Posts Tagged ‘did finra front run ARS market’

Who Protects Investors from Regulators?

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 19th, 2009 2:44 PM |

Is there anything worse than being violated by an individual in a position of trust? Crimes perpetrated by regular citizens are one thing, but crimes perpetrated by individuals in a position of public trust, in my opinion, are the most heinous. I am speaking of members of the clergy, teachers, law enforcement, and public servants.

When engaged in private business, individuals typically remain on guard from fraudulent and criminal behavior. That innate defense mechanism is usually relaxed when engaged with a public or quasi-public official. Given that vulnerability, the violation is far more painful due to the emotional damage even if the actual financial costs are minimal.

As I go down this path, let me emphasize the obvious – that is, the presumption of innocence and due process.

1. Today we learn that as part of the case against Allen Stanford, an indictment has also been handed down against Antiguan financial regulator Leroy King. Bloomberg reports that King not only took bribes from Stanford but also showed Stanford information relating to the government’s developing case.

If in fact these allegations are true, King aided and abetted the fraud which is speculated to be of a magnitude of $1-7 billion dollars.

2. In regard to the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, we have no evidence to indicate criminal intent or activity on behalf of anybody at the SEC. That said, the SEC – by its own admission – failed to perform its duties. For those impacted by the Madoff fraud, the lack of accountability by the SEC is no less damaging than if there were criminal activity. Why is that? The length of time over which Madoff perpetrated the scheme along with the amount of evidence provided by Harry Markopolos was so overwhelming and should have minimized the damage, both financial and emotional.

3. We do have evidence of potential culpability on behalf of FINRA in the Auction-Rate Securities fraud. FINRA was headed by Mary Schapiro, current head of the SEC. This fraud is MANY MULTIPLES the size of the fraud perpetrated by Allen Stanford. Professionals, both inside and outside of the financial industry, have estimated that there are anywhere from $80 billion to $175 billion ARS (of a $330 billion market) still outstanding.

Let’s take the midpoint of those estimates, $125 billion, as a best guess of outstanding ARS positions. These securities do not actively trade, like government bonds, but in speaking with Kevin O’Connor of Second Market, he shared that bonds trade around 75 cents on the dollar. Thus, we are looking at approximately $30 billion in losses on a mark-to-market basis.

FINRA’s potential culpability stems from the fact that they liquidated their own ARS holdings in 2007. I have asked repeatedly and will put forth once again, for the benefit of those thousands of investors and billions of dollars:

-what was the exact trade date of FINRA’s ARS liquidation?
-through whom did they liquidate their ARS position?
-what price were they paid for their ARS position?
-did they possess material non-public information about the ARS market failing and act upon it?

The U.S. attorney and SEC are investigating executives from Lehman (Gia Rys, Alex Kirk) for potentially front running the ARS market in 2007. Will we ever find out if FINRA did the same? FINRA is charged with protecting investors. They certainly failed to protect investors in Auction-Rate Securities.

4. Given the fraud involved in the marketing and distribution of ARS, I am blown away by the fact that the SEC, now headed by Ms. Schapiro, blessed the marketing and distribution of the new version of municipal ARS, known as x-Tender, or henceforth called Porky Pig here at Sense on ¢ents. Please see my post earlier today, An Auction-Rate Pig by Any Other Name Is Still a Pig.

Sad but true, as we enter the Brave New World of the Uncle Sam economy, investors need to remain diligent and should not assume that regulators are necessarily protecting them.

LD

A Real Regulatory Review: Sense on Cents Interview with Bill Singer

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 15th, 2009 1:35 PM |

I feel so strongly about my interview last evening with Bill Singer, the preeminent veteran Wall Street regulatory lawyer and market reform advocate, that I am providing a transcript of highlights. My transcription is not totally word for word, so at the end of this post I will provide a BlogTalkRadio audio player so that you can playback the complete interview.

As time allows, I sincerely hope you read the entirety of this transcript and will listen to the complete interview. In my opinion, the issues addressed are that important. You will not be disappointed.

Given Bill’s extensive experience and relationships, he is uniquely positioned to comment on these timely and cutting edge issues. And now, on to the transcript . . .

Sense on Cents: Bill, we have just gone through a tsunami of epic proportions. Our financial industry brought our nation to its knees. We now get the sense that the regulatory oversight of our financial industry may not truly change. What are your feelings about that?

Bill Singer: I think you are right on point. My greatest fear is at the end of the day, we all go back to square one. It’s like asking for a mulligan in golf. People’s lives have been shattered and businesses destroyed. If you listen to the ‘garbage’ coming out of Washington, it’s as if the solutions are the same old things. We’ll set up panels, write papers, but what will really change?  I don’t know what planet these people are living on, but last I looked, we haven’t gotten out of this crisis. We owe the next generation a much better regulatory system and a much fairer market. You just get this overwhelming sense that the ‘fix is in.’

Wall Street is wiping their brow and sweat and saying “whew, that was a close one.” It’s as if Wall street is telling Washington, “You’re still with us, aren’t you? We’re still paying for your campaigns.” I’m just afraid that nothing will really change other than some cosmetic changes.

Sense on Cents: I hope some real statesmen step up to address these issues. Since I’ve been writing, I believe we always get into the sufficiency of regulations. Which regulations need to be improved and which should be wiped away. I strongly believe, first and foremost, any industry has to have transparency and integrity in its process. As you just mentioned, it seems as if the ‘fix is in.’

Bill Singer: Larry, I’ve been reading your columns for quite some time now. This is not the time for anybody to be blowing smoke up anybody’s “you know what.”  We have a career cast of politicians and regulators who by and large have never really worked for a living and who don’t really have a sense of what the ‘everyday Joe’ goes through. What we need right now is new ideas, new blood. You can’t break into the system. If you have been one of the individuals who has been warning about the major issues for years, you’d think that you would be invited in to ask to contribute ideas to fix them. That never happens. Those folks who regulate us are a very closed society. We have a system in our country that feeds cronyism and there is no way out of it.

I have reached out repeatedly over the years to regulatory bodies and as a 30 year veteran, and a former regulator, if I can’t even get an interview (and I’m not saying I would even want the job; they probably couldn’t afford me), that tells me how corrupt the system is.

When the public reads about Harry Markopolos and Gary Aguirre who have tried to expose issues and they aren’t embraced, that speaks volumes. Regulation has been “in bed” with Wall Street for very long. We need a vibrant and intelligent regulatory system to protect the public against fraud and the industry against its own folly. (more…)






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