Articles Posted in Swap Trades

The Securities and Exchange Commission said it has brought an enforcement action against Sand Hill Exchange for illegally offering complex derivative products to retail investors. The regulator said that the company, based in in Silicon Valley, was offering and selling security-based swaps contracts to investors who did not qualify as “eligible contract participants” (ECPs) according to the law.

Sand Hill Exchange was started as an online business not unlike a fantasy sports league. It dealt with the valuation of private start up companies in the area. However, its founders Elaine Ou and Gerrit Hall ended up revising the company business model numerous times, with Sand Hill eventually inviting people to use real funds to purchase and sell contracts referencing companies that have not yet had their initial public offering.

To fund accounts, Sand Hill solicited investors to use dollars or bitcoins. Users, however, were not asked about their financial holdings nor were offerings restricted to those who held a certain number of assets. Instead, anyone could qualify.

It was the Dodd-Frank Act that put into place two integral requirements for security-based swaps offered or sold to retail investors who fail to meet the eligible contract participant standards. First, there has to be a registration statement for the offering, and second, the contracts must be sold on a national securities exchange. The requirements give the retail investors full access to key information about the offering while limiting such transactions to platforms that are only subject to the highest regulatory scrutiny.
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Larry Feinblum, an ex-Morgan Stanley & Co. Inc. (MS) trader, has consented to settle for $150,000 SEC allegations that he hid from risk managers the true extent of risk involved in certain proprietary trading. This move caused the financial firm to suffer about $24.47 million in losses when it unwound the unauthorized positions.

The SEC claims that over a 3-month period in 2009, Feinblum, who was a supervisor on Morgan Stanley’s Equity Financing Products Swaps Desk, and trader Jennifer Kim executed a number of transactions that set up net risk positions that were significantly over limits that “could be exceeded only with supervisory approval.” The two are also accused of submitting swap orders into the firm’s risk management system that they never planned on executing and which they then promptly canceled.

The SEC says that not only did Feinblum and Kim set up their arbitrage trading strategy at positions that exceeded Morgan Stanley’s risk limits, but they also submitted the orders for the purpose of artificially and temporarily lowering the net risk positions in the securities as recorded in the firm’s risk management systems. They also went after a trading strategy that was supposed to create a profit from price discrepancies between foreign markets and US markets.

On December 17, 2009, Feinblum, who had just lost $7 million the day before, admitted that he and Kim had gone beyond the risk limits on repeated occasions and that they hid their misconduct. Morgan Stanley then proceeded to unwind the positions but by then they had already taken the financial hit.

Related Web Resources:

Former Morgan Stanley Trader Barred for Bogus Swaps, Securities Technology Monitor, June 2, 2011
SEC: Morgan Stanley trader’s trick caused millions in losses, The Washington Post, June 2, 2011
SEC Administrative Proceeding

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