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SEC Subpoenas Wall Street in Hunt for `Manipulators’

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David Scheer
Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission subpoenaed Wall Street’s biggest firms and hedge-fund advisers in a widening effort to crack down on suspected manipulation of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. and Bear Stearns Cos. shares, said three people with knowledge of the matter.

The SEC’s enforcement unit demanded information from investment banks including Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Deutsche Bank AG and Merrill Lynch & Co., according to two of the people, who declined to be identified because the inquiries aren’t public. The Washington-based regulator is seeking trading records and e- mails, one of them said.

The subpoenas mark a new front in the broadest U.S. investigation of Wall Street trading since state and federal regulators targeted mutual-fund abuses in 2003. The SEC issued an emergency order yesterday curtailing short selling in financial stocks, including Lehman and mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agency also is examining whether securities firms have adequate controls to thwart misconduct.

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“The SEC is trying to determine whether there was illegal manipulation of market prices, and that is far easier to do if you have a broad sweep,” said Tamar Frankel, a law professor at Boston University.

SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, 55, told the Senate Banking Committee yesterday the agency is investigating whether illegal trading contributed to the collapse of Bear Stearns in March and the 80 percent drop in the market value of Lehman Brothers this year. The probe focuses on traders who seek to profit by intentionally spreading false information about the New York- based firms.

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This article was posted: Wednesday, July 16, 2008 at 12:13 pm

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