Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch International was fined a record £13.3 million ($20 million) by the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority for failing to report transactions correctly. The fine on Bank of America is more than double the previous biggest penalty imposed by the regulator for such misconduct.
Bank of America incorrectly reported over 35 million transactions
The U.K. financial regulator said Wednesday that Merrill Lynch International, a unit of the U.S. bank, incorrectly reported 35 million transactions and failed to report another 121,387 transactions between November 2007 and November 2014.
In its final notice outlining the penalty for Merrill Lynch, the FCA said the bank had been reprimanded on the issue before, receiving a private warning in 2002 and a £150,000 fine in August 2006. The FCA’s predecessor, the Financial Services Authority, previously fined Merrill Lynch for inaccurately reporting 1.2 million European equity transactions. The latest fine by the FCA clearly sends a strong message that regulators have run out of patience with firms for failing to report transactions correctly.
In its statement, the FCA said, “The size of the fine reflects the severity of Merrill Lynch’s misconduct, failure to adequately address the root causes over several years despite substantial FCA guidance to the industry and a poor history of transaction reporting compliance.” The statement added, “Accurate and timely reporting of transactions is crucial for us to perform effective surveillance for insider trading and market manipulation.”
BofA fine eclipses previous record
FCA said Merrill Lynch’s fine was computed at a £1.50-per-line rate because “past fines have not been high enough to achieve credible deterrence.” Georgina Philippou, the FCA’s acting director of enforcement and market oversight, said the size of the fine “sends a clear message that we expect to be heard and understood across the industry.”
Britain’s FCA has fined a dozen banks now for these failures, including Barclays, Credit Suisse Group, Commerzbank, Deutsche Bank and Royal Bank of Scotland. The FCA’s latest fine for transaction reporting eclipsed the previous record of a £5.6 million penalty handed out to Royal Bank of Scotland for transaction reporting failures in July 2013.
In an emailed statement, Bank of America Merrill Lynch said: “While regrettable, today’s decision principally refers to self-identified issues which we have sought to remediate as quickly as possible. We can confirm that no clients were financially impacted as a result.”
Since Merrill Lynch agreed to settle at an early stage of the investigation, it received a 30% discount on the fine. Without this discount, the fine would have been £20 million.
Britain’s market supervisor, the FCA, has also been cracking down on several other issues to ensure integrity of the financial markets. It has fined three lenders about $2.5 billion for rigging the London interbank offered rate or Libor. Last week, the FCA also fined The Bank of New York Mellon $185 million for failing to protect its customers’ assets. This fine is the eighth-largest ever imposed by the FCA.