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NASD fines HSBC Brokerage $250,000 for best execution failures

30 May 2007  |  1816 views  |  0 Source: NASD

NASD today announced that it has fined New York's HSBC Brokerage (HBI) $250,000 for failure to have adequate systems in place to supervise government securities transactions to ensure best execution.

In addition, the firm routed orders to HSBC Securities (HSI), an affiliated firm, without taking adequate steps to ensure that customers would not be harmed in the pricing of these securities. HBI's inability to provide documentary evidence of its supervisory review for best execution of trades inhibited NASD's ability to review transactions for best execution.

In April 2005, HBI merged with HSI. The combined firm retains the name HSBC Securities.

"All firms have a fundamental obligation to provide their clients with best execution of their securities orders" said James S. Shorris, NASD's Executive Vice President and Head of Enforcement. "HBI put its customers' orders at risk by failing to monitor these orders to ensure that it was getting best execution.
That risk was heightened when the firm began routing orders internally to its affiliated broker-dealer, without being able to demonstrate any supervisory review to evaluate whether its affiliate provided the best execution."

HBI's retail brokerage business was largely located in HSBC bank branches. To support the retail business, HBI operated a trading desk to handle orders that were placed by brokers who had direct contact with HBI's clients. One desk was devoted to filling orders for fixed income products. When a client order was placed, HBI required traders on the fixed income desk to call several broker-dealers on the "street" in an effort to get the best price for a client's transaction.

Toward the end of 2003, there were discussions between HBI and HSI about increasing business between the two affiliated firms and efforts were undertaken by HBI to increase its order flow to its institutional affiliate. In late 2003, HBI began to increase its order flow to its then-affiliate, HSI, and in May 2004, HBI directed its fixed income traders to route all government securities orders to HSI for execution. As a result, the dollar volume of U.S. Treasury transactions that HBI sent to HSI rose from approximately 24 percent in October
2003 to approximately 79 percent in April 2004, and to close to 100 percent from June through December 2004. While its traders were required to "shop" an order for a government securities transaction before placing it with the affiliate, HBI had inadequate systems to monitor this process by its traders.

NASD also found that while several HBI officers recognized the increased risk associated with directing all government securities orders to a single, affiliated broker-dealer, the firm failed to put reasonable policies and procedures in place to ensure that clients received best execution for these orders. The firm had minimal systems in place to supervise for best execution prior to May 2004, and no further steps were taken to monitor for best execution after the directive to send all customer orders to the affiliated firm.

HBI was unable to provide documentary evidence of supervisory review for best execution for any of the trades requested by NASD as part of its review. This, combined with the fact that the firm did not have a system for recording competitive bids, severely limited NASD's ability to review transactions for best execution. NASD identified several transactions in which the firm violated its best execution obligations, but the firm lacked the records needed for a thorough best execution review.

HBI settled this action without admitting or denying the charges, but consented to the entry of NASD's findings.

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