Merrill Lynch Settles with SEC Over CDO Disclosures for Almost $132M

The Securities and Exchange Commission says that Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. (MER) will pay $131.8M to settle charges involving allegedly faulty derivatives disclosures. The regulator claims that the firm, which is the largest broker-dealer by client assets, misled investors about certain structured debt products before the economic crisis. By settling, Merrill is not denying or agreeing to the allegations. Also, the brokerage firm was quick to note that the matter for dispute occurred before Bank of America (BAC) acquired it.

According to the Commission, in 2006 and 2007 Merrill Lynch did not tell investors that Magnetar Capital impacted the choice of collateral that was behind specific debt products. The hedge fund purportedly hedged stock positions by shorting against Norma CDO I Ltd. and Octans I CDO Ltd., which are two collateral debt obligations that the firm was selling to customers.

The SEC contends that Merrill used misleading collateral to market these CDO investments. According to Division of Enforcement co-director George Canellos, the materials depicted an independent process for choosing collateral that benefited long-term debt investors and customers did not know about the role Magnetar Capital was playing to choose the underlying portfolios.

Also sanctioned by the SEC were Joseph Parish and Scott Shannon, two managing partners of IR Capital Management LLC. This was the investment adviser that took care of choosing collateral for the CDO Norma. They are accused of compromising their supposed lack of bias by letting a third party with its own interests affect the portfolio-selection process. The SEC says Shannon accepted assets that Magnetar chose while Parish let the hedge fund impact how other assets were selected. The two men will pay over $472,000 to settle the allegations against them and they were suspended from the industry.

Meantime, the US government continues to pursue Wall Street firms over their alleged misconduct involving the mortgage-backed securities creation that is attributed to helping cause investor losses during the financial crisis and the housing slump. The SEC has also pursued claims against Citigroup Inc. (C), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) over their involvement in structuring and promoting investments linked to home loans that were faulty.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of securities fraud, contact our CDO fraud lawyers today.

BofA’s Merrill to Pay $131 Million Over Norma CDO Marketing, Bloomberg, December 12, 2013

Merrill Lynch in $132 million SEC settlement over faulty disclosures on derivatives, InvestmentNews, December 12, 2013

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