BNY Mellon Capital Markets LLC has agreed to pay the states of Texas, Florida, and New York $1.3M to settle allegations that it was involved in a bond bidding scam to reduce Citizens Property Insurance Corp. of Florida’s borrowing expenses. The Texas portion of the securities fraud settlement is $500,000, which will go toward its general revenue fund.
Per the Texas Securities Commissioner’s Consent Order, which it submitted last month, Mellon Financial Markets is accused of helping Citizens manipulate its ARS interest rate. Reducing these rates allowed Citizens to save money while costing investors that held the ARS when they ended up making $6.7M less in interest.
The Consent Order comes from a separate probe that the Texas State Securities Board had been involved in. The board found out that Citizens had sought the assistance of MFM in both the bidding on its own auctions and the concealment of this activity.
Per the Order, although an MFM broker reported the trading situation to a supervisor, the latter did not bring it to the financial firm’s compliance department or talk about it with legal counsel. As ARS interest rates went up, MFM placed bids for the debt at interest rates that were lower than going rates for similar ARS issues. The Order accuses MFM traders of understanding the consequences that would result from the way they were bidding.
Even after the ARS market failed in 2008, MFM traders continued to choose lower rates for Citizens until BNY’s compliance and legal departments stepped in to halt the process. The Texas State Securities Board determined that BNY Mellon Capital Markets’ actions involved “inequitable practices” related to securities sales. It also said that the financial firm violated regulations by not setting up, maintaining, and enforcing supervisory procedures that were reasonably designed.
ARS are long-term debt issues with interest rates that are reset at auctions, which usually occur at set interval periods. The yield is a result of bidding that takes place at the auction, where investors are given an opportunity to get their funds without waiting for the debt to reach maturity. The ARS market let Citizen and other entities obtain long-term financing at interest rates that are usually connected with shorter-term investments.
Unfortunately, when the ARS market failed, investors found out that their money had become illiquid and inaccessible despite claims by financial firms that auction rate securities were safe, liquid investments.
BNY Mellon Settles with Texas Over Probe Into Rigged Bond Biddinghttp://www.ssb.state.tx.us/News/Press_Release/12-22-11_press.php, December 22, 2011
Texas State Securities Board
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