UBS Settles for $8M SEC Charges Over the Inaccurate Recordkeeping of Short Sales

Less than a month after UBS Securities, LLC agreed to pay $12M to settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claims of supervisory failures and violating regulation SHO in securities short sales, the broker-dealer has now consented to an $8M penalty to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges over poor recordkeeping related to the short sales.

Under Regulation SHO, broker-dealers have to accurately record how it has given out locates. A locate is a determination of that broker-dealer’s representation that it has set up to borrow, already borrowed, or reasonably believes it is able to borrow the security to settle a short sale. The SEC contends that UBS employees regularly attached a lender’s employee name to such locates even though that person had never been contacted to confirm availability. Thousands of locates were sourced this way.

The Commission also claims that at least for the last four years, UBS’s “locate log” inaccurately showed which locates came from direct confirmation with lenders and which ones were based on electronic feeds. (Although broker-dealers employees usually can access the electronic availability feed that lenders send to broker-dealers, they can’t always depend on the feeds and need to get directly in touch with lenders to confirm the security’s actual availability.) The SEC’s probe found that UBS employed practices made it hard to determine whether it had reasonable grounds for granting locates.

While the Commission’s order did not find that the broker-dealer executed short sales without a reasonable grounds for thinking that it could borrow the stock to complete its settlement obligations, it did find that UBS violated sections of Regulation SHO and the Exchange Act. SEC Director George S. Canelllos noted that it is important that regulators be able to know that a firm’s records are accurate and can serve as evidence that the financial firm is complying with the law in addition to safeguarding “against illegal short selling.” With short sales, the security being sold doesn’t belong to the seller. The short seller must either buy or borrow the security to deliver it.

In addition to the $8M penalty, UBS greed to hire an independent consultant that will review the UBS Securities Lending Desk’s policies, practices, and procedures regarding locate requests. By settling, the broker-dealer is not denying or admitting to wrongdoing.

Regulation SHO
Under Regulation SHO, broker-dealers cannot accept short-sale orders in equity securities or a effect a short sale in one unless the dealer or broker has borrowed the security, become involved in an arrangement to borrow it, or has reasonable grounds to believe it can borrow the security to be delivered when due. Documented compliance must come with this requirement. A “locate” shows that the broker-dealer has fulfilled these requirements. It is fairly common for customers to ask for locates from broker-dealers.

With the FINRA case, the SRO contended that it was supervisory failures that allowed UBS’s employees to commit the Regulation SHO violations. Significant deficiencies with UBS aggregation units were also believed to be factors resulting in locate violations and order-marking.

SEC Charges UBS With Faulty Recordkeeping Related to Short Sales, SEC, November 10, 2011

FINRA Fines UBS Securities $12 Million for Regulation SHO Violations and Supervisory Failures, FINRA, October 25, 2011

More Blog Posts:
UBS Fined $12M for Supervisory Failures and Regulation SHO Violations in Securities Short Sales, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 25, 2011

UBS Financial Services Fined $2.5M and Ordered to Pay $8.25M Over Lehman Brothers-Issued 100% Principal-Protection Notes, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 12, 2011

UBS Trader Charged with Fraud Related to $2B Trading Loss, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 23, 2011

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