Bank of America to pay $12.5M SEC fine for causing mini-flash crashes

Eamon Queeney—North State Journal
An outdoor view of 1 Bank of America Center

CHARLOTTE — Bank of America Corp agreed to pay a $12.5 million fine to settle U.S. regulatory charges that its Merrill Lynch brokerage unit’s controls failed to prevent erroneous trading orders, causing “mini-flash crashes” in companies’ shares.The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday that the penalty was its largest for violating the market access rule, which requires brokerages that provide customers with direct access to the market to have reasonable controls in place.Bank of America did not admit to wrongdoing in agreeing to settle.An SEC investigation found that Merrill Lynch, Bank of America’s retail securities brokerage, caused market disruptions on at least 15 occasions from late 2012 to mid-2014, the agency said in a statement.”Given that erroneous trades were canceled by the relevant exchanges in most instances, we are not aware of any client who was harmed as a result,” said Merrill Lynch spokesman Bill Halldin.The SEC said Merrill’s conduct violated the market access rule because the firm’s internal controls for preventing erroneous trading orders were set at levels so high that they were ineffective.The SEC put its market access rule in place in 2010 after a “flash crash” that year caused the Dow Jones Industrial Average to plunge by about 700 points before rebounding sharply.”We continue to enhance our programs with new technologies and controls, which we believe are compliant with the current rule and the regulators’ expectations,” Merrill’s Halldin said.