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Investment firms that fix misconduct should be celebrated, not punished – The Globe and Mail

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The policy of giving prosecutorial discounts in deserving cases is meant to lighten the punishment that gets meted out. But what we really should be asking is: why are these firms being prosecuted and punished at all? THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrien Veczan

Adrien Veczan/The Canadian Press

Bad things can happen in any financial services firm. None are immune to internal errors or systemic failure – and transgressions by wayward employees are, unfortunately, an occasional hazard of real life. What matters most, though, is how management responds when misconduct comes to light.

In particular, do the firm’s executives react by containing the problem and implementing robust measures to prevent a recurrence? Do they report the matter to regulators immediately? Does the firm compensate every harmed client in full promptly?

Smart firms do all this. They then qualify for special treatment in regulatory prosecutions that flow from the incident. For example, they receive “credit for co-operation” that can reduce fines substantially – by millions of dollars in one recent case alone.

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In some jurisdictions such as Ontario, these firms also become eligible for “no-contest” settlements, which resolve enforcement proceedings without the firm having to make an admission of wrongdoing that could come back to bite it if any clients sue afterward.

This policy of giving prosecutorial discounts in deserving cases is meant to lighten the punishment that gets meted out. But what we really should be asking is: why are these firms being prosecuted and punished at all?

By their own initiative, they’ve promptly put things right, including, most importantly, compensating everyone who was affected adversely. Firms that do so are poster children for corporate responsibility. If we want to encourage more such behaviour, spanking them doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

Instead, we should be lauding them and easing the path for others to follow their example. So, why not simply create an administrative process allowing them to submit paperwork detailing what happened and documenting, specifically, these six key things:

  1. Their non-compliance was inadvertent or the result of rogue employee misconduct that the firm did not encourage, countenance or know about.
  2. The problem did not arise and its detection was not delayed by a lack of diligence on management’s part.
  3. The firm didn’t ignore or attempt to cover up the incident.
  4. Internal processes have been strengthened sufficiently to ensure the problem won’t occur again.
  5. Appropriate disciplinary action has been taken against every employee who engaged in deliberate wrongdoing.
  6. Every client harmed by the error or misconduct has been identified, the extent of the harm they’ve suffered has been accurately determined, and the firm has fully compensated them.

Let regulators pore over the material and investigate further as they deem necessary. But ultimately, if they’re satisfied that these six criteria have been met, the only action they should take against the firm is to identify it in a news release about the incident.

That bulletin should set out a description of the wrongdoing in enough detail to let the public understand the nature and gravity of it. Measures taken by the firm in response should be mentioned, including the fact that all affected clients have been made whole. Regulators should state they are satisfied the firm dealt with the event appropriately.

And that’s it.

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No need for officials to crank up their costly enforcement battle machinery, as a state of compliance has already been restored. No need for the firm to deploy reputation management countermeasures. No stigma. Best of all, no need for investors to spend money and incur angst to secure recompense. Everybody wins – except any employees who went rogue, if that’s what caused the problem. They would still get prosecuted, and deservedly so.

Neil Gross, president of Component Strategies, a capital markets policy consultancy in Toronto.

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Currently, regulators are limited to issuing a “no action” letter when they approve of the firm’s response and want to hold off taking enforcement action. The letter forms part of the firm’s record but is not disclosed publicly. That’s less than ideal as it fails to provide transparency. It also doesn’t capitalize on the opportunity for encouraging others to follow the firm’s good example.

Moreover, this approach keeps the matter pinned to a narrative that’s essentially negative in slant (we’ve decided not to prosecute you) instead of a celebratory one (you dealt with the situation well).

So, again, why not move these cases out of enforcement altogether and into a purely administrative process that isn’t freighted with prosecutorial overtones and limitations.

Perhaps there would be concerns about diminished deterrence – i.e., won’t this initiative foster a cavalier attitude toward supervision if companies can just clean up any messes when they occur and then walk away, penalty free?

Another related concern might be optics: will this make regulators appear soft on misconduct?

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The short answer to both questions is no. Recall that the program would excuse only non-compliance arising where there has been either no complicity or lack of diligence by the firm[PF1] . Those who have turned a blind eye to wrongdoing or have been lazy in their oversight duties won’t qualify for exemption. They’ll still face fines, denunciation and suspensions or bans and deregistration, where warranted.

So, this approach isn’t soft on malfeasance. Yet, it offers maximum redemption for those who act responsibly when “stuff happens.” It’s a big carrot, to be sure, but the deterrent stick’s still there to whack anyone in management who enables transgressions.

In addition, this approach emphasizes that the true dividing line between culpable misconduct and pardonable error lies in whether the wrongdoing was intentional or inadvertent, and whether good or bad choices are made once the problem surfaces.

Finally, this approach prioritizes getting redress for harmed investors – something regulation hasn’t always focused on as much as it should. That’s the right priority. So let’s actualize it now by stepping up from a system that offers credit for co-operation to one that strategically sets punishment aside and gives kudos for accountability instead.

Neil Gross is president of Component Strategies, a capital markets policy consultancy in Toronto.

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These Stocks That Are More of a Gamble Than an Investment – Barron's

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Some stock market trading activity has looked an awful lot like gambling as of late.


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Some stock market trading activity has looked an awful lot like gambling as of late, with huge run-ups in companies that have shown little actual evidence of profits, or in some cases, sales.

Academics say there’s more in common between gambling and stocks than you might imagine. And researchers have a simple methodology for determining which stocks are gambles rather than investments.

A research paper released this month found that gambling accounted for about 14% of stock market volume in developed countries, and that stock market gambling is 3.5 times the combined gambling in casinos, lotteries, horse racing, sports betting, gaming machines, and online gambling. The U.S. and Hong Kong have the highest per capita levels of stock market gambling in the world.

The paper—from Alok Kumar of the University of Miami, Houng Nguyen of the University of Danang, and Talis Putnins at the University of Technology Sydney and Stockholm School of Economics—proposes looking at volume over market cap as a way of determining lottery stocks. “We assume that gambling in stock markets involves disproportionate amount of trading in lottery-like stocks,” they said.

Applying their methodology, Barron’s screened the

S&P 500

and

Nasdaq 100

components for volume over the last 30 days divided by market cap.

The list makes intuitive sense—a variety of travel and energy stocks, such as American Airlines Group (ticker: AAL) and

Marathon Oil

(MRO).

Broadening out the screen to any New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq-listed company with a market capitalization of at least $500 million yields even more aggressive plays, such as cannabis stock Sundial Growers (SNDL) and genome analysis specialist

Bionano Genomics

(BNGO).

The analysis can also easily be extended across the world.

Argo Blockchain

(ARB.London) headlines the London-listed lottery stocks with market caps of at least $500 million. Solar play

GCL New Energy Holdings

(451.Hong Kong) is the biggest lottery play among Hong Kong-listed stocks.

One perhaps surprising finding from the researchers is that the stock-market gambling helps the broader market function. “Even if gamblers are relatively or completely uninformed traders, they can still contribute to market efficiency by making markets more liquid and thereby encouraging informed trading,” researchers found.

Write to Steve Goldstein at steven.goldstein@wsj.com

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Bitcoin – a Means of Financial Investment – Net Newsledger

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When it comes to money and financial assets, it’s only a thin line that separates them. Even though some people classify money as a particular type of financial asset, this, in turn, does pay back little or no interest at all. Other types of financial assets do have huge interests or returns on investments (ROI). Take for example, when you buy stocks and bonds, you would expect to get some kind of interest on it or receive dividend payments, you can even go as far as selling the stock at a very high price in the future.

Even though Bitcoin was developed with the intent of serving as an international currency, there have been changes over the year and the increase in demand for bitcoin has made it a means of investment for many people. Today, Bitcoin has turned into a high financial investment asset that can be used for different transactions.

Bitcoin which is being characterized as a means of financial investments has drawn the interest of many investors and at the same time, it has given room for financial loss. While it can be argued that the line between financial assets and money is very thin, investors’ actions generally have revealed the role asset plays in the economy.

Truly, Bitcoin price chart has really been inconsistent over the years, sometimes we experience a high run-up in price and sometimes, it is followed by some drastic crashes but checking through this chart, it has been studied that it consistently retained a large portion of its gains every time it plummets. Since the first introduction of Bitcoin, it has been the first digital asset to start the current ecosystem of cryptocurrencies. For quite a while now, investors have seen its future as a possible and replacement to the physical money we have now.

Today, the hype surrounding Bitcoin has basically been keeping it as a financial investment instead of using it as a means of payment for goods and services, You can start earning with immediate bitcoin. Jannet Yellen, who is a Former Federal Reserve said that Bitcoin is “not a stable store of value and it doesn’t constitute legal tender. It is a highly speculative asset”.

The amazing benefits Bitcoin introduced to the market cannot be over-emphasized. For one, it is a safe ecosystem for your peer-to-peer money transactions. There are little to no intermediates when it comes to Bitcoin transactions. That is why it is cost-efficient and also very fast. You can send millions of Bitcoin within a few minutes and the cost of sending this is very low compared to using fiat currency. Bitcoin has made international payments so easy in a previously unimaginable way.

If you are an investor looking to invest in bitcoin through the capital markets, then you should do that with Bitcoin Trader.Using Bitcoin Trader provides investors some certain advantages which makes an investment in bitcoin a more reliable option. For one, their system ensures a transparent trading environment through DLT technology. Also, they use trading algorithms that implement HFT trading techniques which generate profits from even the slightest market movement.

When investing in Bitcoin, you can approach it from two different scenarios:

Short Positions on Bitcoin

When there is a Bitcoin bubble (which means rise in prices of bitcoin followed by a decrease in the price), investors might bet on bitcoin decreasing in value. With this, they might decide to sell bitcoin at a certain price, and after some time, they buy it at a price lower than the selling price. Take for example, if you buy bitcoin worth $1000 and later sell it at that same rate, and you wait for bitcoin to decrease in value before buying it back. You would be buying it at a very lower price, thereby making more profits.

But you have to be careful when taking this approach, there is a high possibility that the market might move against, which might result to losing money. Before going for this, as an investor, you should have a deep knowledge about leverage and margin calls.

Long Positions on Bitcoin

With this strategy, investors want a less immediate return. They purchase bitcoin and wait till the end of a price rally before selling it. This process can be approached in so many ways, one of them is relying on the cryptocurrency’s volatility for a high rate of return, should the market move in the investor’s favor. Several bitcoin trading sites like Bitcoin Trader now exist. These platforms have provided leveraged trading. Bitcoin Trader has a trading program that conducts bitcoin trading automatically.

Final Notes

The decision to make Bitcoin a means of financial investment boils down to your appetite for risk. The price could drop drastically, going against you as an investor, and a single online hacking or hard drive crashing can wipe out your stash of Bitcoin with no compensation or repayment. You need to transact with a reliable trader!

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India’s risky investment climate – Financial Times

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Last year, India celebrated a milestone in its long campaign to attract foreign direct investment, crossing the $500bn mark in cumulative inflows over the past two decades. For the government, it was a welcome piece of good news and a sign that overseas interest remained undimmed. The numbers, however, obscure a less promising reality. India’s economy, hard hit by the pandemic, has fallen into recession and there are worrying signs that the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, far from pursuing a path of liberalisation, is turning inwards.

There are good reasons to scrutinise the supposed momentum behind the foreign investment influx. While foreign companies, including Amazon and Walmart, have gained footholds, a shifting regulatory environment has all too often sent the wrong signal to international investors. And although Silicon Valley money poured in last year, a large chunk was directed at a single company: Jio Platforms, the telecom-and-digital services arm of Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries, which attracted more than $10bn from the likes of Facebook and Google.

Foreign companies may be investing but the overriding trend is still through joint ventures or by taking minority stakes in companies owned by powerful Indian entrepreneurs. James Murdoch recently reunited with Uday Shankar on a media venture. All too often, the sums involved are not large and appear to be more defensive plays than a serious attempt to commit to the Indian market.

There are longstanding concerns that Mr Modi’s government, far from being the business-friendly administration that executives had hoped for when his Bharatiya Janata party came into power has, at best, an ambivalent attitude towards foreign investment. It has proven itself to be, in essence, an economic nationalist government. Regulation has remained unpredictable and frequent policy changes, including the recent increase in import tariffs, have fostered uncertainty

The precariousness for international investors has been exacerbated by New Delhi’s ambivalent attitude to the rule of law, in particular in reference to two corporate tax disputes, with Vodafone and Cairn Energy, which had gone to international arbitration. They stem from a decision by the previous Indian government in 2012 to change the tax code retrospectively, a move that gave it the power to claim taxes for deals struck years earlier if the underlying assets were in India. The government lost its case against Vodafone in September and against Cairn in December.

The government has since challenged the Vodafone ruling. Business expects it to do the same in the Cairn case. It is time for the government to accept the rulings. It should also make clear that it will no longer use or follow up on retroactive tax claims. Both actions would send a powerful signal that India is committed to the fair treatment of investors. Mr Modi commands strong popular support and should ignore dissenting voices that believe the government would look weak to its domestic audience. 

There is a risk that the recent backlash that has greeted government proposals to modernise India’s agricultural sector might reduce the incentive to liberalise in general. This would be a shame. As western companies seek to diversify their operations from China, India has a unique opportunity to become an alternative destination for manufacturing investments. As China has shown, export-oriented manufacturing is a critical factor for economic growth. India has a valuable opportunity to signal that it is open for business.

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