FleetBoston’s Specialist Unit Settles With SEC, NYSE

FleetBoston Financial Corp. has disclosed that its Fleet Specialist Unit will pay $59.4 million in a settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the New York Stock Exchange.

The settlement stems from an investigation of the NYSE’s five largest specialist firms, who were accused of failing to oversee traders who improperly traded ahead of their customers. In a preliminary agreement announced Feb. 17, the specialists agreed to pay a total of $240 million — $155 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus penalties of about $85 million.

Until FleetBoston Financial made its annual filing Tuesday with the SEC, it was not known how much Fleet Specialist Inc. would pay in restitution and penalties.

The Boston bank holding company said the settlement includes a censure, a cease-and-desist order, and an "undetermined form of undertaking," according to the Wall Street Journal. It also said the settlement wouldn't resolve regulatory charges against individuals.

The agreement involves no admission or denial of wrongdoing and is subject to approval by the SEC and NYSE.

The other specialists involved in the Feb. 17 settlement are: Bear Stearns Cos.' Bear Wagner Specialists; Goldman Sachs Group Inc.’s Spear, Leeds & Kellogg; LaBranche & Co.; and Van Der Moolen Holding NV's Van Der Moolen Specialists USA. All deny wrongdoing.

The SEC contends that investors were shortchanged by at least $155 million over three years because the NYSE failed to police its specialists and overlooked obvious violations.

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