Banca IMI Securities to Pay $35 Million
On Aug. 18, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced that broker Banca IMI Securities Corp, an indirect, wholly-owned U.S. subsidiary of Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo SpA, has agreed to pay more than $35 million to settle charges that it violated federal securities laws when it requested the issuance of and received American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) without possessing the underlying foreign shares.
ADRs are U.S. securities that represent shares of a foreign company, and for all issued ADRs there must be a corresponding number of foreign shares held in custody at a depositary bank. Under “pre-release agreements,” brokers such as Banca IMI Securities may obtain ADRs without depositing corresponding foreign shares provided the broker owns or takes reasonable steps to determine that the customer owns the number of foreign shares that corresponds to the number of shares the ADR represents.
The SEC’s order finds that Banca IMI Securities obtained pre-released ADRs and lent them to counterparties without satisfying the proper requirements. Banca IMI Securities’s improper handling of ADRs, which lasted from at least January 2011 to August 2015, made it possible for such ADRs to be used for inappropriate short selling or inappropriate profiting around dividend record dates. In certain countries, demand for ADR borrowing increased around dividend record dates so that certain tax-advantaged borrowers could, through a series of transactions, collect dividends without any tax withholding. Pre-released ADRs that were improperly issued were used to satisfy that demand.
Earlier this year, broker ITG settled charges for similar misconduct.
“U.S. investors who invest in foreign companies through ADRs have a right to expect market professionals to create new ADRs only when they are backed by foreign shares so that the new ADRs are not used to game the system,” said Sanjay Wadhwa, Senior Associate Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “As our order finds, Banca IMI Securities’s actions left the ADR markets ripe for potential abuse.”
The SEC’s order finds that Banca IMI Securities violated Section 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933 and failed reasonably to supervise its securities lending desk personnel. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Banca IMI Securities agreed to be censured and pay more than $18 million in disgorgement plus more than $2.3 million in interest and a $15 million penalty. The SEC’s order acknowledges Banca IMI Securities’s cooperation in the investigation and its remedial actions.
For further information about this securities law blog post, please contact Brenda Hamilton, Securities Attorney at 101 Plaza Real S, Suite 202 N, Boca Raton, Florida, (561) 416-8956, by email at [email protected] or visit www.securitieslawyer101.com. This securities law blog post is provided as a general informational service to clients and friends of Hamilton & Associates Law Group and should not be construed as, and does not constitute, legal and compliance advice on any specific matter, nor does this message create an attorney-client relationship. Please note that the prior results discussed herein do not guarantee similar outcomes.
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