Morgan Stanley, Citigroup Charged With Misleading Investors About Forex Trading Program
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Citigroup Global Markets have agreed to pay more than $2.96 million apiece to settle charges that they made false and misleading statements about a foreign exchange trading program they sold to investors.
According to the SEC’s orders, Citigroup held a 49 percent ownership interest in Morgan Stanley Smith Barney at the time, and registered representatives at both firms were pitching a foreign exchange trading program known as “CitiFX Alpha” to Morgan Stanley customers from August 2010 to July 2011. The SEC’s orders find that their written and verbal presentations were based on the program’s past performance and risk metrics, and they failed to adequately disclose that investors could be placed into the program using substantially more leverage than advertised and markups would be charged on each trade. The undisclosed leverage and markups caused investors to suffer significant losses.
“Citigroup and Morgan Stanley sold securities in a complex trading program without giving certain investors important information about the risks and costs of the program,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “Investors simply cannot be sold investments based on disclosures that are inaccurate or incomplete.”
The SEC’s orders find that Morgan Stanley and Citigroup violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, which prohibits obtaining money or property by means of any material misstatement or omission in the offer or sale of securities. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup each agreed to pay disgorgement of $624,458.27 plus interest of $89,277.34 and a penalty of $2.25 million for a total of more than $5.9 million combined.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted in the Miami office by Eric C. Kirsch and Gary M. Miller with assistance from Amie Riggle Berlin. The case was supervised by Elisha L. Frank. The examination that led to the investigation was conducted by Carlos Gutierrez and supervised by Nicholas A. Monaco and John C. Mattimore of the Miami office.