Barclays and Deutsche Bank Under Scrutiny Over Barrier Options Transactions

The U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations plans to conduct a hearing over what it believes are abusive transactions made by financial institutions. Bloomberg is reporting that Deutsche Bank AG (DBK), Barclays PLC (BARC), and hedge fund manager Renaissance Technologies LLC will have representatives testifying at the hearing.

The July 22 hearing is expected to focus on barrier options transactions between the banks and the hedge fund manager. There are tax benefits that allegedly came from the options, which the Internal Revenue Service and Renaissance are in dispute over.

Bloomberg reports that the transactions let the hedge fund manager’s Medallion fund borrow up to $17 for every dollar the fund owned, which is more than it could have in a traditional margin-lending relationship. Under Federal Reserve rules, stockbrokers are not allowed to lend over $1 for each client money dollar. Usually, hedge funds can borrow no more than $5 or $6 for each dollar it has and only if there is a special agreement with the banks.

In one type of barrier-option transaction, Barclays purchased a pool of securities and paid Renaissance a small fee to run them. It then put the securities in Palomino Ltd., a subsidiary.

Barclays also sold a two-year option to the hedge fund that moved any losses or gains from the pool to Medallion without financing expenses. Since the bank legally owned the assets, the option changed the short-term trading profits of the hedge funds’ investors into long-term capital gains, which have a lower tax rate. The IRS claims the option deal was a deception and that Medallion was the actual owner of the assets.

Meantime, Deutsche Bank sold options to Renaissance not unlike the ones that Barclays provided. It also sold a similar structure to an investment vehicle under the management of hedge-fund manager George A. Weiss.

According to a Government Accountability Office report, the IRS found out about the options arrangement practices after Securities and Exchange Commission did in 2008. In 2010, the IRS made a case against the technique. Bloomberg say that according to sources, Deutsche Bank then stopped offering option arrangement transactions that offered a tax benefit.

In other Barclays news, trading is down in its dark pool after New York prosecutors accused the financial firm of misleading clients. The state’s attorney general claims that Barclays fraudulently misled customers about the way its LX dark pool was run. After the dark pool lawsuit was submitted, other brokers, including Deutsche Bank, Credit Suisse (ADR), and Royal Bank of Canada (RY) started closing their links to LX and taking it out of routing algorithms.

As for Deutsche Bank, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has dismissed an appeal by plaintiffs accusing Deutsche Bank National Trust Company and its trusts of residential mortgage-backed securities fraud. The complaint questioned the defendants’ ownership of the loans and mortgage. The plaintiffs had mortgaged their homes and borrowed money. Now, they are challenging the defendants’ rights to collect payment on the loans and start foreclosures proceedings when payments weren’t made.

The plaintiffs believe the assignments were defective because the mortgage loans could not be found listed in the attachments that came with the assignment agreements. In their appeal, they said that the district court made a mistake in tossing their complaint.
Now, however, the Second Circuit has concluded that the plaintiffs’ alleged facts don’t give them standing to go after their claims. The appeals court affirms the district court’s judgment to dismiss.

Barclays, Deutsche Facing U.S. Senate Hearing, Bloomberg, July 16, 2014

Trading in Barclays Dark Pool Down 37%, The Wall Street Journal, July 14, 2014

Second Circuit dismisses class action against Deutsche Bank, Washington Examiner, July 14, 2014

More Blog Posts:
NY Sues Barclays Over Alleged High Speed Trading Favors in Dark Pool, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 26, 2014

Deutsche Bank, Wells Fargo, Citigroup Sued by Pimco and Blackrock Over Trustee Roles Involving Mortgage Bonds, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 3, 2014

Deutsche Bank AG Settles Shareholder Lawsuit Over Mortgage Debt, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 2, 2014