A large custodian/clearing firm agreed to pay $2.8 Million to settle charges that it failed to file Suspicious Activity Reports about the conduct of dozens of terminated advisors that the SEC claims violated the Advisers Act. The SEC asserts that the Bank Secrecy Act required the custodian/clearing firm to file SARs when it suspected that advisers using its platform engaged in questionable fund transfers, charged excessive management fees, operated a cherry-picking scheme, or logged in as the client. According to the SEC, such unlawful activities fall within the SAR rules because they had no lawful business purpose or facilitated criminal activity.
OUR TAKE: The SEC is leveraging the Bank Secrecy Act, adopted to combat money laundering, to require broker/custodians to police advisers on their platforms for violations of the Advisers Act. It’s a novel legal theory to further the regulator’s enforcement goal of requiring large securities markets participants to serve in a gatekeeping role for the industry.