SEC Fines Big Banks; Merrill Lynch Clients May Face Higher Fees: Finance Winners and Losers

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Some of Wall Street's biggest banks including Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Goldman Sachs (GS), JPMorgan Chase (JPM) and Morgan Stanley (MS) settled with the Securities and Exchange Commision for making false statements and material omissions on muni-bond offerings. Bank of America said it can offer faster settlement on corporate debt trades. Meanwhile, clients of Bank of America's Merrill Lynch unit may want to double check their fee structure.


The SEC charged some of the nation's largest banks for failing to make adequate disclosures to investors on muni-bond offerings between 2010-2014, Bloomberg reports. The SEC said that underwriters sold bonds that made false statements or omitted material information about the bond issuers and also failed to sufficiently perform due diligence on the bond issuers claims.

Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley will each pay $500,000 to settle the claims. Outside of the banks mentioned, 31 other underwriters faced the same charges. In addition to the fines, the firms also consented to having and outside consultant review its policies and procedures on due diligence for municipal securities underwriting.

"This ongoing enforcement initiative will continue to bring lasting changes to the municipal securities markets for the benefit of investors," SEC Chair Mary Jo White said.

Shares of Bank of America closed up 0.1% to $17.38, Citigroup closed up 0.4% to $56.76, Goldman Sachs closed up 0.8% to $214.60, JPMorgan Chase closed up 0.9% to $68.78 and Morgan Stanley closed up 0.5% to $39.79.


While Bank of America's municipal debt unit may have face a setback today, its corporate debt unit may have an advantage. Bloomberg reports that Bank of America is able to settle leveraged loan trades within three days, for a price. Sources told Bloomberg that the bank charges 12.5% for the service.

In a world where high frequency trading dominates headlines, it is tough to imagine that taking three days to settle could be viewed as an advantage. However, the settlement time for these highly illiquid trades has averaged 19.6 days in the first quarter of 2015.


Finally in more Bank of America news, clients of the bank's Merrill Lynch may want to double check how their fees are being calculated.

Clients who have not already transitioned to the new Merrill Lynch One platform may find that they are no longer able to pay a flat fee based on assets under management but will instead pay on a commission basis per transaction. Clients are going to be given 30 days' notice before the change takes effect and they will be provided with assistance to transition their accounts to the likely more cost effective, Merrill Lynch One platform.

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