Merrill Lynch Pays $132M To Settle SEC Claims Of CDO Misrepresentations

Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch division on Thursday reportedly agreed to pay a $131.8 million penalty to settle charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that the bank failed to tell investors that hedge fund Magnetar Capital played a significant role in selecting assets for two mortgage-backed securities issued in 2006 and 2007.

Magnetar, which held both equity and short positions in the collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) known as Octans I CDO Ltd. and Norma CDO I Ltd., exercised significant influence over the selection of collateral for the investments, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a statement.

‘Merrill Lynch marketed complex CDO investments using misleading materials that portrayed an independent process for collateral selection that was in the best interests of long-term debt investors,’ said George S. Canellos, co-director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement, in a release. ‘Investors did not have the benefit of knowing that a prominent hedge fund firm with its own interests was heavily involved behind the scenes in selecting the underlying portfolios.’

The SEC also sanctioned two managing partners of investment adviser NIR Capital Management, which handled the collateral selection for Norma. The executives – Scott Shannon and Joseph Parish – agreed to pay collectively more than $472,000 and were suspended from working in the securities industry, the SEC said in a separate release.

In settling the matter, the bank admits no wrongdoing.

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