WASHINGTON — The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced today that it has fined Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC $4.5 million, and Merrill Lynch $3 million for misrepresenting delinquency data and inadequate supervision in connection with the issuance of residential subprime mortgage securitizations (RMBS).
Issuers of subprime RMBS are required to disclose historical performance information for past securitizations that contain mortgage loans similar to those in the RMBS being offered to investors. Historical delinquency rates are material to investors in assessing the value of RMBS and in determining whether future returns may be disrupted by mortgage holders' failures to make loan payments. As there are different standards for calculating delinquencies, issuers are required to disclose the specific method it used to calculate delinquencies.
FINRA found that in 2006, Credit Suisse misrepresented the historical delinquency rates for 21 subprime RMBS it underwrote and sold. Although Credit Suisse knew of these inaccuracies, it did not sufficiently investigate the delinquency errors, inform clients who invested in these securitizations of the specific reporting discrepancies or correct the information on the website where the information was displayed. Credit Suisse also failed to name or define the methodology used to calculate mortgage delinquencies in five other subprime securitizations. Additionally, Credit Suisse failed to establish an adequate system to supervise the maintenance and updating of relevant disclosure on its website.
For six of the 21 securitizations, the delinquency errors were significant enough to affect an investor's assessment of subsequent securitizations, as it was referenced in four subsequent RMBS investments.
In a separate case, FINRA found that Merrill Lynch negligently misrepresented the historical delinquency rates for 61 subprime RMBS it underwrote and sold. However, in June 2007, after learning of the delinquency errors, Merrill Lynch promptly recalculated the information and posted the corrected historical delinquency rates on its website. Merrill Lynch also failed to establish a reasonable system to supervise and review its reporting of historical delinquency information. On January 1, 2009, Merrill Lynch was acquired by Bank of America, but the firm continues to do brokerage business under its own individual broker-dealer registration.
In eight instances, the delinquencies were significant enough to affect an investor's assessment of subsequent securitizations, as it was referenced in five subsequent RMBS investments.
Brad Bennett, FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement, said, "Firms must provide accurate information about the products they offer so that their customers can make informed investment decisions. Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch failed to monitor and supervise the reporting of historical delinquency rates, depriving investors of information essential to assessing the profitability of mortgage-backed investments."
In settling this matter, Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch neither admitted nor denied the charges, but both broker-dealers consented to the entry of FINRA's findings.
The investigations of Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch were conducted by Allen D. Boyer, Andrew Kampel and Penny Rosenberg, under the supervision of Susan Light, Enforcement Chief Counsel.
Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any FINRA-registered broker or brokerage firm by using FINRA's BrokerCheck. FINRA makes BrokerCheck available at no charge. In 2010, members of the public used this service to conduct 17.2 million reviews of broker or firm records. Investors can access BrokerCheck at www.finra.org/brokercheck or by calling (800) 289-9999.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business – from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing rules, enforcing those rules and the federal securities laws, informing and educating the investing public, providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and firms. For more information, please visit www.finra.org.