U.S. securities industry regulator The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has announced it has fined the Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. unit of German banking giant Deutsche Bank AG (USA) (NYSE:DB) $12.5 million for significant supervisory failures related to research and trading-related information it disseminated to its employees, called ‘hoots’ or ‘squawks,’ over internal speakers commonly known as ‘squawk boxes.’
Despite multiple red flags regarding the potential dissemination of confidential information, Deutsche Bank failed to establish adequate supervision over registered representatives’ access to hoots or their communications with customers regarding hoots. As part of the settlement, Deutsche Bank also agreed to provide a written certification that it has adopted and implemented supervisory systems and written procedures concerning hoots that are reasonably designed to achieve compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws.
FINRA found that Deutsche Bank was aware that hoots involving research and trading might contain confidential, price-sensitive information, and that there was a risk that material non-public information could be communicated over them.
However, for several years, the firm repeatedly ignored red flags indicating that its supervision was inadequate, including internal audit findings and recommendations, multiple internal warnings from members of the firm’s compliance department, and internal risk assessments. Despite these red flags, the firm still failed to implement reasonable written policies, procedures and systems governing who should have access to the hoot information, how the employees should handle hoot information, and how supervisors should supervise employees to ensure compliance, and protection of confidential and material nonpublic information potentially communicated over the hoots.
Brad Bennett, FINRA’s Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement, said,
Recognizing and responding to red flags is the hallmark of proper supervision, particularly in areas involving confidential information. Deutsche Bank’s disregard of years of red flags including internal audit findings, risk assessments and compliance recommendations was particularly egregious given the risk that material nonpublic information could be communicated over squawk boxes.
In settling this matter, Deutsche Bank neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.