Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BNY) has agreed to pay $1.3 million to the states of Florida, New York, and Texas over allegations that it engaged in the manipulative trading of auction-rate securities. The settlement comes following a joint probe by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, and the Texas State Securities Board over Mellon Financial Markets’ actions as Citizens Property Insurance Corp. of Florida’s intermediary broker in an alleged scam to lower borrowing costs. Citizens Property is run by Florida and it is the largest home insurer in the state.
ARS interest rates are reset at auctions that usually occur at 7-day or 28-day intervals. According to the Texas State Securities Board, investors made $6.7 million less in interest than they would have earned if Citizens Property hadn’t placed bids during its own auctions. Mellon Financial Markets is accused of assisting Citizens Property in manipulating auction-rate securities‘ interest rates by making and accepting bids on the latter’s behalf.
In 2008, Citizens Property allegedly asked a Mellon Financial Markets representative to assist it in bidding on its own ARS while hiding this action because broker-dealers in charge of managing the securities would have otherwise turned their bids down. Citizens Property then made bids that were lower than market rates, which caused the auctions to clear at rates below what they would have been. Meantime, Mellon Financial made approximately $300,000 in fees. At least one Mellon Financial broker expressed concern about these trades to a supervisor, who allegedly failed to seek legal advice or talk about these concerns with the MFM’s compliance department.
Following the collapse of the ARS market, one broker-dealer, who suspected that Mellon Financial was making Citizens’ bids, said that orders would no longer be made for a company bidding on its own securities. Yet, according to authorities, traders kept on with this practice until Bank of New York Mellon issued the order to stop. Those involved allegedly knew that bidding for CPIC established lower clearing rates, which would prove “detrimental” to investors holding or bidding on these ARS.
Citizens Property Insurance maintains that it thought its actions were “legally permissible.” The company claims that it was “vigilant” about getting advice from outside legal counsel before taking part in the transactions.
BNY Mellon Capital Markets has said that the alleged misconduct was related to the “isolated conduct” of three persons no longer with the financial firm. Mellon Financial Markets was a separate entity when the alleged bidding scam was happening.
BNY Unit Settles Auction-Rate Case, Wall Street Journal, December 23, 2011
Bank of New York Mellon Settles Auction-Rate Investigation, Bloomberg/Businessweek, December 23, 2011
BNY Mellon to pay $1.3M in Schneiderman suit, Crain’s New York Business, December 22, 2011
More Blog Posts:
Securities Claims Accusing Merrill Lynch of Concealing Its Auction-Rate Securities Practices Are Dismissed by Appeals Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 30, 2011
Raymond James Settles Auction-Rate Securities Case with Indiana Securities Division for $31M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 27, 2011
Contact our securities fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP to find out whether you have a claim.