JPMorgan Calls First Republic a SIFI, Bank of America's Merrill Lynch Fined $11M: Finance Winners and Losers

 

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- There are people who say they've seen everything on Wall Street and there are a precious few for who that holds true. On Tuesday, Bloomberg profiled the career of Irene Bergman, a senior vice president and financial adviser at Stralem and Co. She's also 99 years old.

After weathering countless recessions and other financial disturbances, Bergman gave Bloomberg one piece of advice: "Don't do anything stupid."


On that note, Bank of America's (BAC) Merrill Lynch unit was recently fined $11 million by the SEC for not keeping adequate records of stock that was available to borrow, the Financial Times reported. The SEC highlighted three occasions between 2008 and 2014 in which Merrill Lynch traders identified stocks that were not easy to borrow, and trades of those stocks were issued at Merrill on those days.

Borrowed stock is used in short selling -- in which investors believe the price of a stock will fall so they borrow shares, sell them and buy them back at a hopefully lower price to return to the lender. 

In addition to the fine, Merrill Lynch admitted to wrongdoing and will be subject to a compliance review by an independent consultant.

Bank of America's stock closed up 17 cents to $16.72.


Name calling is usually frowned upon though analysts at JPMorgan Chase's (JPM) broker unit likely meant well when they called First Republic Bank (FRC) "the fastest growing 'SIFI' in U.S."

J.P. Morgan analysts raised First Republic's price target to $66 after a meeting with First Republic's chairman and CEO Jim Herbert as well as the bank's president, Katherine August DeWilde. By J.P. Morgan's measure, First Republic is expected to cross the SIFI-threshold in the third quarter of 2015.

As financial institutions reach $50 billion in assets, they are considered systemically important financial institutions, or SIFIs. Put another way, SIFIs are financial institutions whose failure could trigger a financial crisis. It can be exciting to be one of the big players, but being a SIFI comes with added rules and capital requirements.

However, today at least, First Republic fared well -- it closed up 64 cents to $60.95.


Meanwhile, the parent JPMorgan is on a tear in adopting technology. Monday, the Chase division announced TouchID for accessing your account via iPhone, while today the consumer bank division announced that it was eliminating voicemail.

In addition to saving employees the many headaches inherent in listening to voicemail, the bank also expects to save money.

About 65% of employees with voice mail had it deactivated, for $3.2 million in annualized savings, Michael Fusco, a JPMorgan spokesman told Bloomberg. Voicemail costs $10 a month per employee.

JPMorgan stock closed down 7 cents to $66.01.

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