SEC

Today in when prediction-markets-are-outlawed-only-outlaws-will-run-prediction-markets news, the SEC and CFTC have sued Banc de Binary, a prediction market that sounds like it’s no Intrade:

Banc de Binary solicited customers in the United States. … It broadly advertised its websites to individuals in the United States through YouTube videos, spam emails, and other internet-based advertising.

Also it’s a “Cypriot and Israeli company … based in the Republic of Cyprus and regulated by the Cyprus Securities and Exchange Commission (‘CySEC’),” so even if they are keeping your money in an escrow account at a bank it’s still not safe, ZING.

I dunno, is Banc de Binary a scam? I like the name: you say “prediction market,” they say “binary option,” someone says “online betting,” but they all mean roughly the same thing. And the website has I think median levels of eye-bleeding scrolling overpromising hyperbolic red-and-green flashing misery for an online trading site. “Spam emails” sounds bad but for the rest BdB advertises 24/7 live customer support and the SEC backs them up, saying as though it’s a bad thing “Banc de Binary also solicited potential investors in the United States by sending them emails, calling them on the telephone, and chatting with them via instant messenger over the Internet.”

Also the SEC’s (and CFTC’s) allegations about the harms of BdB are pretty meh. E.g.: Read more »

I dunno, you want to get excited about the new proposed money market fund rules? You can if you want. To get a sense of the stakes involved, consider the email I got from a reader today worrying that the SEC may wind up “killing say the market for receivables conduit financing in an attempt to ensure that the precise conditions of September 2008 are never replicated.” So: fair, but also, like, farewell receivables conduit financing market, I hardly knew ye. I did not know ye at all, is what I’m trying to say.1

The new rules basically require money market funds to tell you their net asset value, instead of the current rule of not telling you their net asset value, which again is sort of a funny thing to get upset about. In the olden days you could just say your NAV was $1.00 as long as it was at least $0.995; if it fell below that you’d “break the buck” and have to freak out and have massive redemptions and forced sell-offs and so forth. Under the basis-point rounding of the new rules, you’d break the buck at below $0.99995 of NAV and I guess the idea is who has the energy to freak out there, it’s like a basis point man, whatever. Binaries create faster death spirals than continuums. The SEC says: Read more »

Remember when Facebook IPOed last May and it was a mess? Today the SEC released its amusing order fining Nasdaq $10 million for the mess and explaining what happened. Some computers were having a stressful day at work and so they decided to give up and hide out in the nap room, is the gist of it. I feel like I’d get along with those computers.

What started the mess is that Nasdaq opens the trading of a newly IPO’ed stock with an opening cross where it compiles quotes for a while and then crosses them in one big opening cross before continuous trading starts. And it uses the following process to do the opening cross:

  • 1 Get a bunch of orders over a ~20 minute period before trading starts
  • 2 Use a program called the IPO Cross Application to calculate the clearing price and shares crossed based on those orders, which takes a few milliseconds
  • 3 Check if any of the orders were cancelled during those milliseconds
  • 4 If they were, delete those orders and Goto 2

Did you spot the problem?1 Nasdaq’s systems engineers did not, even after the IPO Cross Application had been running on an infinite loop for twenty minutes. The SEC caught it, though, reading their order, I was worried that they’d fallen prey to it as well: Read more »

“SEC Charges Institutional Shareholder Services …” is the sort of start to a headline that might make you think, ha ha ha SEC, always going after the bit players who keep big companies honest rather than the dishonest companies themselves. How’s Egan-Jones doing? But that wouldn’t be fair, for one thing because ISS – which tells lazy shareholders how to vote on proxy proposals and mergers and stuff – is kind of a Goliath itself these days, though not as much as it was last week. And also because this is really quite intensely bad:

From approximately 2007 through early 2012, an ISS employee (“the ISS Employee”) provided information to a proxy solicitor concerning how more than 100 of ISS’ institutional shareholder advisory clients (i.e., institutional investment managers) were voting their proxy ballots. In exchange for vote information, the proxy solicitor gave the ISS Employee meals, expensive tickets to concerts and sporting events, and an airline ticket. The ISS Employee, who had access to all of ISS’ clients’ proxy voting information, gathered the information by logging into ISS’ voting website from home or work and used his personal email account to communicate voting information to the proxy solicitor.

I mean! It’s not that bad for, like, the world, in the sense that institutional shareholders’ voting plans aren’t really nuclear launch codes or anything. I guess you could get up to some nefarious things with them – insider trading on close votes, etc. – but it sounds like they were mostly used for typical proxy-solicitor purposes.1 Which are mostly (1) calling up the shareholders and being all “hey why don’t you vote for us rather than for the other side?” and (2) impressing their clients with the extent of their knowledge about who’s voting how. I mean, why hire proxy solicitors if not for their knowledge of how investors are voting? You could call the shareholders yourself. One hopes. Read more »

You don’t have to agree with everything the SEC does to respect the way they do it: passive-aggressively. Felix Salmon this morning discussed “the problematic JOBS Act, where the SEC has done a good job of stalling on various silly yet Congressionally-mandated reforms,” and the SEC’s similar strategy of “being sensible and dragging its feet” on Congressional dedecimalization proposals. If you’re a regulatory agency tasked by Congress with implementing a new law, and you don’t feel like it, the best approach is always to commission a study.

Is that what’s going on with ratings agency reform proposals?

The 2010 Dodd-Frank financial-overhaul law requires the SEC to create a board that would assign a rating firm to evaluate structured-finance deals or come up with another option to eliminate the conflicts that could arise when debt issuers pay rating firms to rate their bonds. … Sen. Al Franken (D., Minn.) proposed the legislation, which is known as the Franken Amendment.

… Mr. Franken defended his proposal Tuesday to attendees at the round table, including SEC commissioners and SEC Chairman Mary Jo White. He also called on the agency to make changes to the credit-rating industry.

“My plea today is that you take action,” Mr. Franken said. “Millions of Americans lost their jobs because the credit rating agencies didn’t do their jobs,” he said.1

The agency published a report in December – six months late – that was widely expected to announce regulatory changes. Instead, the report proposed more discussion and the convening of a round table.

So hahahaha SEC you suck but the problem seems genuinely hard doesn’t it? Read more »

  • 22 Apr 2013 at 3:44 PM

What Qualifies As Insider-Trading Now

Richard Bruce Moore managed to get hit by two different theories of insider-trading in two countries—without ever actually getting a hot tip. Read more »

  • 16 Apr 2013 at 2:40 PM

CIBC Banker Used His Networking Skills For Evil

To get in trouble for insider trading, the information you trade on has to be “inside” information in some sense. Just standing outside a company’s offices and seeing who walks in, and extrapolating from that, is probably not insider trading. Seeing where corporate jets land is mostly not insider trading, to the point that it was once a feature of Dealbreaker, though in general my advice to you is never to use “well Dealbreaker does it” as a rationale for anything. Certainly there are gray areas.

Here’s a delightful new SEC insider trading case. Richard Bruce Moore, a managing director in the private equity coverage group at CIBC’s investment bank, spent a lot of time with his buddy and client, a managing director and LBO deal manager at the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. In addition to golf and such, “Moore contacted the CPPIB Managing Director at least once a month about deal opportunities and about the possibility of CIBC providing financing for those deals.” In early 2010 Moore noticed that his buddy was becoming less available, which set his sponsor-coverage-spidey-sense a-tingle, and so he did what any good coverage banker would do:

Sometime in March 2010, Moore asked how the CPPIB Managing Director’s other deals were going. The CPPIB Managing Director told Moore that he was working on something interesting and active. Moore then inquired about the possibility of assisting the CPPIB as an investment banker on the deal.

This got a soft ding – “The CPPIB Managing Director did not disclose the parties to the deal, but responded that, as far as CBIC participation, they would have to wait and see how it went” – and so he followed up a few days later with an email asking if CPPIB needed any debt on that deal. This got a little more information: Read more »