US regulators on Tuesday fined 16 financial firms, including Barclays (BARC.L), Bank of America, Citigroup, Credit Suisse (CSGN.S), Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and UBS (UBSG.S), a combined $1.8 billion after staff discussed deals and trades on their personal devices and apps.
The sweeping industry probe, first reported last year and subsequently disclosed by multiple lenders, is a landmark case for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC), marking one of their largest collective resolutions.
From January 2018 through September 2021, the banks’ staff routinely communicated about business matters such as debt and equity deals with colleagues, clients and other third-party advisers using applications on their personal devices such as text messages and WhatsApp, the agencies said.
The institutions did not preserve the majority of those personal chats, violating federal rules which require broker-dealers and other financial institutions to preserve business communications. That impeded the agencies’ ability to oversee financial markets, ensure compliance with key rules, and gather evidence in other, unrelated investigations, the agencies said.
Spokespeople for UBS, Morgan Stanley and Citi said the banks were pleased to have resolved the matter. Bank of America, Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Nomura and Credit Suisse declined to comment.
“Today’s actions – both in terms of the firms involved and the size of the penalties ordered – underscore the importance of recordkeeping requirements: they’re sacrosanct. If there are allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct, we must be able to examine a firm’s books and records,” said Gurbir Grewal, director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
The failings occurred across all 16 firms and involved employees at multiple levels, including senior and junior investment bankers and traders, the SEC said.
In a major victory for the agencies, the institutions admitted the facts and acknowledged that they violated federal laws, although Bank of America and Nomura neither admitted nor denied aspects of the CFTC’s investigative findings, it said.
The institutions, which cooperated with the investigation, have begun implementing improvements to their compliance policies and procedures, the SEC said.
‘WE DELETE CONVOS’
Wall St banks have for years struggled to stamp out the use of personal devices at work – often banning them altogether from trading floors – but the problem became acute as bankers and traders worked from home during the pandemic.
According to CFTC Commissioner Christy Goldsmith Romero, staff used personal apps to evade oversight, sometimes at the direction of senior executives who knew they were violating bank policies but wanted to obfuscate trading communications.
In one example cited by her office, Bank of America staff used WhatsApp, with one trader writing: “We use WhatsApp all the time but we delete convos regularly.” The head of a trading desk routinely directed traders to delete messages on personal devices and to use Signal, including during the CFTC’s probe.
In another example, a Nomura trader deleted messages, which included incriminating statements about trading, after the CFTC sent a request to preserve documents, her office said.
“Those choosing to participate in US financial markets are on notice: the era of evasive communications practices is over,” Goldsmith Romero said in a statement.
Bangladesh Triumphs in IMO Council Election-2023
Bangladesh has emerged victorious in the International Maritime Organization (IMO) council election 2023 in category C, securing 128 votes out of the 175-member council. This marks the first time Bangladesh has won in the highly competitive category C of the IMO, as reported by the Bangladesh mission in London.
Following the election results, Bangladesh High Commissioner to the UK and Permanent Representative to the IMO, Saida Muna Tasneem, expressed gratitude to IMO members for electing Bangladesh as a Council member. She reiterated Bangladesh’s commitment to the IMO’s charter of actions for dealing with maritime affairs. Tasneem extended thanks to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Shipping in Bangladesh, specifically acknowledging Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her decision to participate in the IMO council election in 2023.
“Bangladesh’s election to the International Maritime Organisation’s elite 40-member council is a testimony of the confidence and trust that the IMO member states and the International Maritime Community place in Bangladesh’s leadership as a maritime nation, led by the prudent leadership of our Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina,” stated the Bangladesh envoy.
Previously, Tasneem was elected by consensus as the Vice President of the 33rd assembly of the IMO during which the election took place.
The IMO, as the only UN specialized body, regulates global shipping standards that impact ship-operating flag states, seafarers, and maritime safety, security, and marine pollution.
Bangladesh, heavily reliant on international trade, with 90 percent conducted via the sea, aims to address key issues such as the transition of maritime ports into green and digitalized entities and compliance with the Hong Kong convention on ship recycling and the use of greener fuels. These matters will be on Dhaka’s negotiation agenda at the IMO council during the term 2024-25.
BGMEA Urges Gloria Jeans to Boost Garment Sourcing from Bangladesh
Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BGMEA) President Faruque Hassan has encouraged Gloria Jeans, a prominent Russian high street retail giant, to explore increased sourcing of garments from Bangladesh, particularly focusing on high-value and non-cotton items. The plea was made during a courtesy meeting between Faruque Hassan and Moyeen Ahmed, the regional general manager for Bangladesh and India at Gloria Jeans, held at the BGMEA head office in the capital.
In the meeting, discussions revolved around mutual interests and efforts to strengthen the collaborative relationship between Gloria Jeans and the Bangladeshi garment industry. Faruque Hassan provided insights into Bangladesh’s garment industry initiatives aimed at enhancing manufacturing capabilities, emphasizing the production of high-end products like manmade fiber and technical textile-based garments. Additionally, he highlighted BGMEA’s ongoing endeavors to promote eco-friendly processes and the adoption of a circular economy model in Bangladesh’s ready-made garment (RMG) industry.
Dollar Slides as Traders Bet on Fed Rate Cuts Amid Inflation Battle
The US dollar continued its decline on Wednesday as traders increased bets on the Federal Reserve cutting interest rates in the coming year, fueled by optimistic statements from officials regarding the battle against inflation. Meanwhile, equity markets showed a mixed performance after another subdued day on Wall Street, with attention turning to the central bank’s preferred gauge of prices, set to be released later in the week.
Recent indicators have suggested a softening in the US job market and a slowing economy, though not at a pace that raises significant concerns about a recession. This has led investors to shift back into risk assets, although profit-taking has restrained the latest gains in anticipation of a potential “Santa rally.”
Market data indicates that traders are now anticipating a Fed rate cut in June, with an 80 percent likelihood of such a move in May. Billionaire investor Bill Ackman has even suggested the possibility of a rate cut as early as the first quarter. The dovish comments from Fed officials, falling yields, and adjusted rate expectations have weighed on the dollar, causing it to reach its weakest level since September against the yen, near a four-month low versus the euro and sterling, and lower against various other currencies.
Fed Governor Christopher Waller expressed confidence in the current policy’s ability to slow the economy and bring inflation back to the target, signaling a positive shift. Michelle Bowman, his counterpart, supported potential rate hikes but remained conditional in her assessment. The market’s reaction to these comments has been significant, leading to a decline in the dollar’s value.
Despite the dovish turn, some analysts noted the potential challenge posed by falling yields, which may limit the effectiveness of higher Treasury yields as a substitute for further rate hikes. Equity markets struggled for direction as investors awaited the release of the personal consumption expenditures (PCE) data, the Fed’s preferred guide for inflation.
In Asian markets, Tokyo, Sydney, Seoul, Wellington, Taipei, and Jakarta saw gains, while Hong Kong, Shanghai, Seoul, and Manila experienced declines. The subdued performance on Wall Street persisted, even as reports indicated an increase in US consumer confidence and healthy sales over the recent shopping weekend.
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