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MISSION:INTANGIBLE, the blog of the Intangible Asset Finance Society, offers critical comments on intangible asset, corporate reputation, and finance; supplemented by quantitative reputation metrics. Intangible assets include business processes, patents, trademarks; reputations for ethics and integrity; quality, safety, sustainability, security, and resilience; and comprise 70% of the average company's value. MISSION:INTANGIBLE is a registered trademark of the Intangible Asset Finance Society.

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Faking trades

Nir Kossovsky - Monday, December 21, 2009
As financial intermediaries, brokers play a crucial role of matching buyers and sellers. Central among those role is facilitating price discovery. This is especially true in markets for bespoke, less liquid products. Having a reputation for ethical behavior is valuable—as are the underlying business processes that foster ethical behavior.

Faking trades to distort pricing could threaten the commercial viability of a broker were the practice found to be widespread. At the very least, it is fraud. On Friday 18 December, ICAP Securities USA LLC reached a settlement with the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The company, a US subsidiary of ICAP plc (LON:IAP) and winner of a Queen’s Award for Enterprise, is alleged to have posted fictitious trades in 2004 and 2005 on some Treasury brokers’ screens to encourage trading by attracting those brokers’ attention.

ICAP is active in the wholesale markets in interest rates, credit, commodities, FX, emerging markets, equities and equity derivatives. ICAP has an average daily transaction volume in excess of $2.3 trillion. In June 2009, ICAP purchased the intellectual property markets division of Ocean Tomo thus becoming one of the largest market makers in a class of bespoke intangible assets. Intellectual property markets have suffered chronically from price discovery challenges.

ICAP Securities has agreed to pay the SEC disgorgement of $1 million and a penalty of $24 million as settlement to end the investigation. The settlement includes the concept of non-intentional fraud. ICAP Securities has also agreed with the SEC that ICAP Securities will appoint an independent consultant to review the improved control environment that is now in place. Shares of ICAP ADRs fell 46 cents or 3.37% in Friday’s session in New York to close at $13.19 a share. The S&P 500 index was up 0.58% and the financial services sector average was up 0.68%

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