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SEC Charges Rochester, NY, and City’s Former Executives and Municipal Advisor with Misleading Investors

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Washington, D.C.–(Newsfile Corp. – June 14, 2022) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the City of Rochester, New York, its former finance director Rosiland Brooks-Harris, and former Rochester City School District CFO Everton Sewell with misleading investors in a $119 million bond offering. The SEC also charged Rochester’s municipal advisor Capital Markets Advisors, LLC (CMA) and its principal Richard Ganci with misleading investors and breaching their fiduciary duty to Rochester.  CMA, Ganci and CMA co-principal Richard Tortora were also charged with failing to disclose conflicts to municipal clients.

The SEC alleges that in 2019 the defendants misled investors with bond offering documents that included outdated financial statements for the Rochester City School District and did not indicate that the district was experiencing financial distress due to overspending on teacher salaries. Sewell was allegedly aware that the district was facing at least a $25 million budget shortfall, but he misled a credit rating agency regarding the magnitude of the expected shortfall. The SEC alleges that Brooks-Harris and Ganci were also aware of the Rochester City School District’s increased financial distress, including overspending on teacher salaries, yet they made no effort to inquire further about the District’s financial condition prior to the bond offering, nor did they inform investors of the risks that the overspending posed to the district’s finances. In September 2019, 42 days after the offering, the district’s auditors revealed that the district had overspent its budget by nearly $30 million, resulting in a downgrade of the city’s debt rating and requiring the intervention of the state of New York.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that CMA, Ganci and Tortora failed to disclose to nearly 200 municipal clients that CMA had material conflicts of interest arising from its compensation arrangements. In many cases, CMA, Ganci and Tortora falsely stated that CMA had no undisclosed material conflicts of interest.

“We allege that the Rochester City School District’s financial health was important to investors, who were counting on the district as the expected source of repayment,” said LeeAnn Ghazil Gaunt, Chief of the Enforcement Division’s Public Finance Abuse Unit. “As described in our complaint, these defendants failed to inform investors of the serious financial difficulties the district was experiencing at the time of the offering.”

The SEC’s complaint against the city, Brooks-Harris, CMA and Ganci, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of New York, charges them with violating the antifraud provisions of the securities laws. The complaint also charges CMA, Ganci and Tortora with violating the municipal advisor fiduciary duty, deceptive practices, and fair dealing provisions of the federal securities laws. The Commission is seeking injunctive relief and financial remedies against all parties.

Sewell agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by consenting, without admitting or denying any findings, to a court order prohibiting him from future violations of the antifraud provisions and from participating in future municipal securities offerings, and to pay a $25,000 penalty. The settlement is subject to court approval.

Cori Shepherd, Warren Greth, Laura Cunningham, Jon Wilcox, and Creighton Papier of the Enforcement Division’s Public Finance Abuse Unit conducted the investigation under the supervision of Ivonia Slade and Rebecca Olsen. The SEC’s litigation will be led by James Carlson and Eugene Hansen. 

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Expressions of Interest for Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

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The Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, is inviting Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified candidates to be considered as Ireland’s Director of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The remunerated position of Director is an important post with a demanding workload. A full-time residential position, it is based at Bank headquarters in London.

The Minister’s nominee is expected to be appointed by the EBRD, with the agreement of Ireland’s Constituency partner countries, for a three-year term from 1 August 2024.

Minister McGrath commented:

“This is an exciting opportunity to represent Ireland (and our Constituency partners Denmark, Lithuania and Kosovo) as a Director on the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development overseeing the policy-making and governance of the Bank. The EBRD is a unique International Financial Institution supporting projects across three continents. By investing in projects which otherwise would not be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and sustainable market economies. I am keen to ensure our Irish representative has the ability, education, vision, and experience to make a significant contribution to the Board and brings a range of skills and diverse perspective to the deliberations of the Board.

My nominee will need high competence in economic and financial matters. Expertise can come from notable or significant achievements in the corporate or financial sector, academia, policy-focused institutions, or public service. Importantly, they will have the highest ethical standards, a strong sense of professionalism and commitment, and dedication to serving the interests of all the shareholders and be able to make themself readily available to the Board in the fulfilment of their duties.”

Expressions of interest will be accepted up to 3pm on 27th March 2024

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Council adopts regulation on instant payments

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The Council adopted today a regulation that will make instant payments fully available in euro to consumers and businesses in the EU and in EEA countries.

The new rules will improve the strategic autonomy of the European economic and financial sector as they will help reduce any excessive reliance on third-country financial institutions and infrastructures. Improving the possibilities to mobilize cash-flows will bring benefits for citizens and companies and allow for innovative added value services.

The instant payments regulation will allow people to transfer money within ten seconds at any time of the day, including outside business hours, not only within the same country but also to another EU member state. The regulation takes into consideration particularities of non-euro area entities.

Payment service providers such as banks, which provide standard credit transfers in euro, will be required to offer the service of sending and receiving instant payments in euro. The charges that apply (if any) must not be higher than the charges that apply for standard credit transfers.

The new rules will come into force after a transition period that will be faster in the euro area and longer in the non-euro area, that needs more time to adjust.

The regulation grants access for payment and e-money institutions (PIEMIs) to payment systems, by changing the settlement finality Directive (SFD). As a result, these entities will be covered by the obligation to offer the service of sending and receiving instant credit transfers, after a transitional period. The regulation includes appropriate safeguards to ensure that the access of PIEMIs to payment systems doesn’t carry additional risk to the system.

Under the new rules, instant payment providers will need to verify that the beneficiary’s IBAN and name match in order to alert the payer to possible mistakes or fraud before a transaction is made. This requirement will apply to regular transfers too.

The regulation includes a review clause with a requirement for the Commission to present a report containing an evaluation of the development of credit charges.

Background

This initiative comes in the context of the completion of the capital markets union. The capital markets union is the EU’s initiative to create a truly single market for capital across the EU. It aims to get investment and savings flowing across all member states for the benefit of citizens, businesses, and investors.

On 26 October 2022 the Commission put forward a proposal on instant payments that amends and modernises the single euro payments area (SEPA) regulation of 2012 on standard credit transfers in euro by adding to it specific provisions for instant credit transfers in euro.

Source: European Council

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FCA highlights need for enhanced competition in wholesale data markets

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The FCA has unveiled the outcomes of its in-depth study into the wholesale data market, focusing on the sectors of credit ratings data, benchmarks, and market data vendor services.

Despite deciding against major regulatory actions due to the risk of unintended consequences that could affect the data’s availability and quality—a crucial resource for global investors—the FCA has pinpointed several areas where competition could be significantly improved.

The study’s revelations indicate that the current state of competition in these markets may lead to users incurring higher costs for data than would be the case in a more competitive environment. This concern is particularly pressing given the critical role that such data plays in supporting effective investment decisions across the financial sector.

In a move to address these findings, the FCA has proposed initiatives aimed at ensuring wholesale data is distributed under fair, reasonable, and transparent conditions. This approach forms a part of the regulator’s broader strategy to ‘repeal and replace’ assimilated EU law, reinforcing the UK’s status as a premier global financial hub fostering investment, innovation, and sustainable growth.

Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, emphasised the importance of quality and accessible wholesale data for the efficiency of financial markets. “The quality and availability of wholesale data is integral to well-functioning wholesale financial markets,” Mills stated. He further clarified, “Our market study found that firms can access the data they need to make effective investment decisions. We do not believe the case has been made for significant interventions. However, we will examine ways to help support wholesale data being provided on fair, reasonable and transparent terms.”

In its commitment to fostering a competitive and fair marketplace, the FCA will continue to scrutinize allegations of anti-competitive behavior across all markets, including wholesale data markets, leveraging its powers under the Competition Act to address any such issues.

Source: Fintech Global

 

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