SEC charges ex-officials of CIBC over fund trading

All of these men left CIBC between 2002 and 2003, but that is cold comfort for the bank, which has been trying to rehabilitate its public image following a series of embarrassing and costly scandals stretching back to its involvement with Enron Corp. A spokesman for CIBC declined to comment.

The Globe and Mail
February 1, 2007

SEC charges ex-officials of CIBC over fund trading
Fallout from four-year probe plagues bank
Sinclair Stewart

The fallout from a four-year-old investigation into the U.S. mutual fund industry continues to haunt Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, after several former officials at the bank's New York brokerage arm were accused yesterday of taking part in an improper fund trading scheme.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission levied allegations against four officials, who it claimed collaborated with hedge funds to make deceptive trades. The regulator also fined a former CIBC World Markets Corp. manager $100,000 (U.S.) as part of a settlement over allegations he repeatedly ignored warnings about his brokers, and failed to supervise them properly.

All of these men left CIBC between 2002 and 2003, but that is cold comfort for the bank, which has been trying to rehabilitate its public image following a series of embarrassing and costly scandals stretching back to its involvement with Enron Corp.

A spokesman for CIBC declined to comment.

Paul Flynn, a former mid-level official with CIBC, was arrested in 2004 and charged with two counts of grand larceny for allegedly helping hedge fund clients make illegal trades that cost mutual fund investors millions of dollars.

Eliot Spitzer, at the time New York State Attorney-General, eventually dropped the charges, and a judge later dismissed a civil fraud case against Mr. Flynn that had been filed by the SEC.

CIBC, meanwhile, paid $125-million as part of a joint settlement with the SEC and Mr. Spitzer over the bank's alleged role in the abusive mutual fund trades.

That settlement was almost two years ago, but the bank has yet to outrun the taint of the lingering fund probe.

The SEC alleged yesterday that former brokers Michael Sassano and Dogan Baruh violated anti-fraud provisions by helping clients "market-time" mutual funds. Market timing involves rapid trading of funds by large investors to take advantage of minor price discrepancies during the day. The practice is not illegal, but many funds prohibit it, since it can depress returns for average investors.

The SEC claimed these men used several methods to disguise the trades, including multiple accounts, different branch numbers, and accounts at other firms. The regulator also accused Robert Okin, who was head of private client services, and Scott Abry, a branch manager, of abetting Mr. Sassano and Mr. Baruh, and failing to adequately supervise them.

In a separate order, the SEC said it had settled with Marshall Dornfeld, a managing director and head of financial services at CIBC World Markets in New York between 1994 and 2003, for failing to supervise the brokers. According to the SEC allegations, mutual fund companies sent over 1,000 letters to CIBC and the brokers complaining about abusive trading, but the warnings went unheeded.

"If Dornfeld had responded reasonably to the red flags reflecting the CIBC brokers' conduct, he could have detected and prevented the brokers' securities law violations," the SEC alleged. It claimed CIBC brokers defrauded hundreds of mutual funds and their shareholde


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