SEC Complaints Against Former CMBS Traders Highlight Need for Fund Managers to Verify Broker Pricing for Thinly Traded Securities

In a pair of complaints filed on May 15, 2017, the SEC charged two former high-level commercial mortgage-backed securities traders at an investment bank with deliberately committing fraud against customers of the firm over a period of years. The deceptive behavior attributed to the two former traders illustrates the dangers and risks of working with brokers in trading relationships that are skewed or lopsided from an informational standpoint. These complaints follow another SEC action against a different group of traders from the same investment bank citing similar misconduct. See “Pricing Information Provided by Brokers to Hedge Fund Managers for Thinly Traded Securities May Not Be Reliable” (Sep. 17, 2015). The SEC’s complaints point to the need for sophisticated internal compliance to detect and avert fraud, as well as the need to be wary of how, when and where a broker might take advantage of a customer’s informational disadvantages in the frenzy of day-to-day trading. This article summarizes the issues raised in the SEC’s complaints, while also providing steps that firms can take to avert similar fraudulent conduct. For additional coverage of valuing illiquid assets, see “DLA Piper Hedge Fund Valuation Webinar Covers Fair Value Methodologies, Valuation Services, Valuing Illiquid Positions and Handling Valuation Inquiries During SEC Examinations” (Aug. 7, 2013).

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