SEC Releases Risk Alert on Unauthorized Trading

Press Release

SEC Releases Risk Alert on Unauthorized Trading

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
2012-33
Washington, D.C., Feb. 27, 2012

The Securities and Exchange Commission today released an alert to help firms prevent and detect unauthorized trading in brokerage and advisory accounts.

The Risk Alert issued by the agency’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) notes that although broker-dealers and investment advisers are subject to different regulatory requirements, both face similar risks of financial and reputational losses arising from unauthorized trading.

Unauthorized trading can include rogue trades in customer, client, or proprietary accounts or trades that exceed firm limits on position exposures, risk tolerances, and losses. Unauthorized trading can be done by traders, assistants on trading desks, portfolio managers, brokers, risk managers, or other personnel, including those in administrative positions in a firm’s back office.

“Unauthorized trading is not a new problem, and the risks it poses should be a perennial concern to financial firms as well as to regulators,” said Carlo di Florio, Director of OCIE. “We hope that the observations shared in the Risk Alert will be helpful for firms as they review their compliance and supervisory controls to detect and deter unauthorized trading.”

The alert notes that changes in trading patterns, a high volume of trade cancellations or corrections, manual trade adjustments, or unexplained profits for a particular trader or client may warrant additional scrutiny. The alert suggests compliance measures that firms might want to use to protect themselves and their clients from unauthorized trading, such as stress testing and independent trading reviews. The alert also discusses policies that require traders to take vacations without remote access to trading accounts. These policies could be enhanced, for instance, by using the trader’s vacation to conduct a special review of the trader’s portfolio for signs of unusual activity.

The alert is the second this year and the fourth in a continuing series of Risk Alerts that the SEC’s examination staff expects to issue.

The following staff contributed substantially to preparing this Risk Alert: Marita Bartolini, Julius Leiman-Carbia, Olin Filyaw, Dan Gregus, George Kramer, Lesley Ward, and Margaret Willenbucher.

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