Proving that the in the new post-Enron environment, the Securities and Exchange Commission has no patience for stonewalling, the SEC said Wednesday that the Bank of America Corp. will pay a record $10 million fine for failing to fully cooperate with a federal investigation into potential improper trading at the bank’s securities unit.
"We will not tolerate unreasonable delay in responding to our inquiries and will act aggressively to protect the integrity of the Commission's investigative processes," said SEC enforcement director Stephen Cutler in a statement.
SEC spokesman John Heine said the penalty was the largest ever against a company for failing to produce documents, Reuters reported.
The SEC claims the securities unit, Banc of America Securities, failed to provide requested documents in a timely manner on numerous occasions, gave "misinformation" about the availability of the documents and engaged in "dilatory tactics."
The SEC is looking into the possibility that the securities unit traded securities before putting out research that would affect the market price of those securities. The agency is also looking at one former senior employee within the unit, but neither the SEC nor the bank would name the employee, Reuters reported.
The third largest U.S. bank, headquartered in Charlotte, NC, also agreed to an SEC censure and agreed to avoid future record-keeping violations without admitting or denying the SEC’s claims, Reuters reported.
Shirley Norton, Bank of America spokeswoman, called the problems identified by the "isolated," and added that an internal regulatory investigation unit has been founded within the bank to work on "new procedures and new technology to enhance e-mail recovery."
"We continue to look for ways to improve our ability to respond to inquiries such as this," Norton said.