New sheriff in Hong Kong markets hands out fines

The SFC’s new enforcer has been clearing the decks on long-running investigations. That's a wise move — he can now move on to bigger, tough-to-tackle problems.

Thomas Atkinson, the head enforcer for the Hong Kong securities watchdog, has been making his presence felt.

Since his appointment on May 3 to the Securities and Futures Commission (SFC) for a three-year term, he has been naming and shaming banks for breaches and handing out a slew of small fines.

Banks to fall foul of the new sheriff in town include Morgan Stanley, Bank of America Merrill Lynch and most recently HSBC, which was hit with a small fine on Wednesday.

Before taking up responsibility for surveilling the securities and futures markets for unacceptable conduct in Hong Kong, Atkinson held a similar position at the Ontario Securities Commission in Canada.

On Wednesday the SFC said it had fined HSBC HK$2.5 million ($322,249) for failing to comply with securities and futures rules. The case dates back to July 2014, when HSBC first notified the SFC its net position delta had breached a prescribed position limit.

In another case, the watchdog fined Morgan Stanley HK$18.5 million last month for internal control failures dating back to 2013.

BofA ML was publically censured in June after failing to disclose dealings related to two transactions back in 2015 as required under the Takeovers Code, namely the partial offer for China Resources Beer and the privatisation of Power Assets Holdings, in which the bank acted as financial advisor.   

Broadly these technical and complicated matters have been dragging on and soaking up the time of his small team.

Better he clears the decks at the SFC's enforcement division and focuses on major issues in Hong Kong — such as insider trading and money laundering.

FinanceAsia looks forward to greater things from Mr. Atkinson now his team has more time on their hands.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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