Citigroup fined $100MM for ARS, while ABCP fiasco remains untouched
Further to last weekends’ excitement (see prior post “Cuomo takes action against Citigroup, while ABCP buyers wait in vain” August 2-08), the U.S. enforcement world has moved swiftly once again. And even the SEC is getting into the game with a $100 million fine for Citigroup (C:NYSE) for selling auction-rate securities “as though they were liquid”, when they most certainly were not, according to one SEC prosecutor during today’s news conference.
Although institutional holders won’t get cashed out by Citigroup on their US$12B of paper, they are certainly doing all they can for 40,000 individual investors.
Soon after this settlement hit the wire, Merril Lynch (MER:NYSE) announced that it would buy back US$10 billion of auction-rate securities at par from the widows and orphans in January 2009.
UBS and Bank of America are next on the list.
Many Canadian financial institutions have already provided a similar “cash out” for the smaller investors who owned up to $1 – $2 million of their ABCP holdings. However, there has, shall I say, been a distinct dearth of announcements regarding regulatory investigations or fines when it comes to the role that Canadian FIs played in the $36 billion asset backed commercial paper fiasco, now in its second year.
1. An occurrence, circumstance, or fact that is perceptible by the senses.
2. pl. phe-nom-e-nons
a. An unusual, significant, or unaccountable fact or occurrence; a marvel.
Apparently, the SEC felt this ARS illiquidity event was “perceptible by the senses” and deserving of fines, while the CSA had concluded that the liquidity crunch that has befallen the ABCP market was an “unaccountable fact or occurrence”. If the event was unaccountable, no one can be held accountable for it. Obviously.
The OSC announced just today, however, that it has temporarily suspended the limited market dealer licence of New Life Capital Corp., a small group that plays in the “life settlement” business. (New Life has nothing to do with Citigroup, the SEC or ARS fines). Who has time for the big fish when you have all of these 3 person LMDs to keep an eye on?
According to the temporary order, “OSC Staff have identified apparent deficiencies in New Life’s registration, sales and governance practices”. All trading of their securities by the three New Life staff shall cease immediately.
ABCP holders will be gratified at the speed with which the OSC has attended to whatever was going on at New Life, even if the ABCP Elephant remains, unattended, in the room. Eating all of the furniture, knocking over the lamps and wizzing on the carpets.