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Speech by SEC Staff: Remarks on News Conference Call About Case Against Credit Suisse Investment Bankers

Robert Khuzami

Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Washington, D.C.

Feb. 1, 2012

For the past three years, the SEC has been aggressively pursuing fraudulent conduct related to the financial crisis. We have brought actions against more than 90 individuals and entities, with more than half of them senior officers such as CEOs and CFOs.

Today, we add four more people to the list of individuals that the SEC has charged for conduct stemming from the financial crisis including the former Global Head of Structured Credit Trading for Credit Suisse, Kareem Serageldin.

Serageldin was a high-ranking member of Credit Suisse’s investment bank. He played a critical role in overseeing the bank’s activities in the structuring, marketing and selling of mortgage-backed securities.

And, in the end, he took advantage of his privileged position within the bank to consistently record fictitious profits on his books, or to cover up losses between the fall of 2007 and early 2008.

The Commission’s case today alleges that these defendants – all highly experienced, well-seasoned investment bankers and traders – corrupted the process of recording the fair value of billions of dollars of predominantly residential mortgage-backed securities owned by Credit Suisse.

Known as RMBS, these securities are created by pooling together large groups of mortgages, which can then be marketed and sold to investors or kept in a firm’s trading books.

While these products were complex, the rules were quite simple: tell the truth about the fair value of the securities that you have on your books, a rule that holds true in good markets and in bad.

Indeed, when banks report to the public about their financial health, investors – and the law – demand that the information is accurate.

In this case, defendants spent countless hours manipulating the prices of these RMBS securities to avoid having to disclose a significant decline in value, while trying to avoid marking the bonds in such a way that their scheme would be detected by the bank.

The Complaint reads like a “Greatest Hits” list of mismarking “how-tos.” For example, the defendants:

  • Used profit and loss targets to reverse engineer the marks on the bonds, rather than basing those marks on the true market price.
  • Manually overrode the proper marks when they showed more losses than the defendants wanted to take.
  • Used a friendly broker-dealer to conceal the fraud by sending that friendly broker-dealer a spreadsheet with Credit Suisse’s marks, and rather than testing those marks, the friendly broker-dealer in effect “laundered” those marks by returning them back to Credit Suisse untested – what was, in effect, a “round trip.”

As a result of defendants’ misconduct, Credit Suisse provided investors with information that painted a rosy and ultimately false picture of the fair value of its subprime exposure at a time when other major banks, one after another, had announced significant losses on their subprime exposure.

The evidence, as laid out in our complaint, is based on e-mails and recorded phone conversations, which show these defendants engaged in multiple acts of deception – acts that sought to obscure the devastating decline in the fair value of billions of dollars of subprime mortgage-backed securities they controlled.

Because Credit Suisse taped the phone lines of some of its trading personnel, our complaint is built around real words uttered by real people in the midst of a fraud.

What’s more, these defendants were incredibly knowledgeable about the markets and financial instruments that they repeatedly mispriced.

Yet, at every turn, they disregarded objective market data so that they could, in Serageldin’s own words, send a “message” to the senior-most management of Credit Suisse that they were generating profits.

I want to add that three of the defendants we have charged cooperated in the government’s investigation.

Before I turn it over to Preet Bharara, I want to thank Preet and Janice Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York office, and their teams from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI – in particular Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene Ingoglia and Virginia Chavez Romano as well as Special Agent Thomas McGuire. Like always, their work was extraordinary and professional.

Lastly, I want to recognize the dedication of the SEC staff that conducted this investigation. Those individuals – who reviewed millions of pages of documents, highly technical trading spreadsheets, and hundreds of hours of recorded calls – are:

  • Michael Osnato
  • Michael Paley
  • Kenneth Gottlieb
  • Howard Fischer
  • Kristine Zaleskas
  • Michael Fioribello
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