Risk & Compliance

Ex-Nomura Traders Accused of CMBS Fraud

The former heads of Nomura's CMBS desk allegedly lied to customers about bond prices to generate $758,000 in illicit profits.
Matthew HellerMay 16, 2017
Ex-Nomura Traders Accused of CMBS Fraud

Two former head traders at Nomura Securities International have been charged with generating more than $750,000 in illicit profits for the firm from trading commercial mortgage-backed securities on the secondary market.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said James Im and Kee Chan — both of whom ran Nomura’s CMBS desk between August 2009 and January 2012 — lied to customers about bids and offers that they made or received for bonds, the prices that Nomura paid or received when it bought and sold bonds, and Nomura’s spread on the trades.

As a result of the lies, the SEC alleged, they “deceived and misled customers into believing that Nomura was receiving less of a spread than it actually was receiving” and, in some instances, “expressly misstated the specific amount of the spread.”

On one occasion, Im allegedly bragged about duping a trader into paying a spread of 24 “ticks,” or three-quarters of a point, while giving her the impression she had agreed to a spread of 16 “ticks,” or half a point.

To settle the SEC’s charges, Chan agreed to pay $51,965 in disgorgement plus $11,758 in interest and a $150,000 penalty. The case against Im is pending.

“Im and Chan operated under cover of an opaque CMBS secondary market to gain illegal trading profits and potentially larger bonuses by lying to firms on the other side of their trades about the prices at which they were buying and selling securities,” Andrew M. Calamari, director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office, said in a news release.

As intermediaries, Im and Chan worked both sides of CMBS trades, buying bonds for their own account from one customer and then selling the same bond to another customer. They generated Nomura’s profit from the spread between purchase and sales prices, negotiating the spread separately, but often simultaneously, with each counterparty.

According to the SEC, Chan generated at least $391,407 in additional, ill-gotten profits for the CMBS desk while Im generated at least $366,743. After Chan left Nomura in June 2012, Im ran the desk alone until December 2014.