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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Broker-Dealer settles with SEC for improper handling of ADRs

Securities SEC Enforcement Settlement American Depositary Receipts Broker-Dealer

Securities

On February 6, the SEC announced a settlement with a broker-dealer to resolve allegations concerning the improper handling of pre-released American Depositary Receipts (ADRs), or “U.S. securities that represent foreign shares of a foreign company.” The SEC noted in its press release that ADRs can be pre-released without the deposit of foreign shares only if: (i) the broker-dealers receiving the ADRs have an agreement with a depository bank; and (ii) the broker-dealer or the broker-dealer’s customer owns the number of foreign shares that corresponds to the number of shares the ADR represents. According to the SEC’s Order Instituting Administrative Proceedings (order), the broker-dealer improperly borrowed pre-released ADRs from other brokers that it should have known did not own the foreign shares necessary to support the ADRs. The SEC also found that the broker-dealer failed to implement policies and procedures to reasonably detect whether its securities lending desk personnel were engaging in such transactions. The broker-dealer neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s allegations, but agreed to pay more than $326,000 in disgorgement, roughly $80,970 in prejudgment interest, and a $179,353 penalty. The SEC’s order acknowledged the broker-dealer’s cooperation in the investigation and that the broker-dealer had entered into tolling agreements.

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