SINGAPORE- Enforcement actions by the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) have secured nine criminal convictions and $11.7 million in civil penalties in the 18 months to June 2020.
The central bank has also imposed $3.3 million in composition penalties for money laundering-related control breaches.
It issued 25 prohibition orders against unfit representatives of financial institutions (FIs), according to its Enforcement Report on Wednesday (Nov 4).
The average time taken by MAS for completing its reviews and investigations shortened from 33 months to 24 months in criminal cases, and from 30 months to 26 months in civil penalty cases, compared with the previous 18 months.
Ms Peggy Pao, MAS executive director (enforcement), said; “As our financial sector grows in scale and sophistication, a robust enforcement regime will be critical in sustaining Singapore’s reputation as a trusted financial centre.”
In the four years since a centralised Enforcement Department was established, MAS has deepened its enforcement capability and expertise, she noted.
“Rigorous investigation and tough enforcement are necessary to deter financial misconduct, protect consumers, and maintain investor confidence,” she said.
The report said the successful criminal convictions were the result of collaboration with the Attorney General’s Chambers (AGC). There had been just one conviction in the earlier reporting period.
Besides collaborating with the AGC, MAS’ Enforcement Department has also forged closer partnerships with other public agencies, such as the Commercial Affairs Department, the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority, and the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau.
Those partnerships helped in reviews or investigations in several complex cases, including matters related to Wirecard, Eagle Hospitality Trust and Hyflux.
MAS and the Singapore Exchange jointly published a trade surveillance practice guide to help brokers implement good practices in their trade surveillance operations.
The MAS’ enforcement regime is also supplemented by close coordination with its counterparts in the International Organisation of Securities Commissions network.
The enforcement report said MAS will continue to strengthen its enforcement regime, as the nature of financial misconduct grows in sophistication and complexity.
The central bank will also continue to refine its processes and increasingly leverage technology to heighten effectiveness and efficiency in investigation.
The enforcement report showcased a few examples of successful investigation and convictions in cases related to market abuse, financial service misconduct and money laundering-related control breaches in the Jan 2019-June 2020 reporting period.
In November 2019, MAS imposed a civil penalty of $11.2 million on Swiss bank UBS for deceptive trades by its client advisors that contravened section 201(b) of the Securities and Futures Act.
The client advisors engaged in acts that deceived or were likely to deceive clients about the spreads or interbank prices for transactions in over-the-counter bonds and structured products.
UBS admitted liability and agreed to compensate all affected clients managed by UBS’ Singapore branch. Meanwhile, investigations into the individuals involved in the misconduct are ongoing.
In Singapore’s first case of front-running prosecuted as an insider trading offence, two senior equity dealers with First State Investments (Singapore) and a remisier with UOB Kay Hian were meted out 20 to 36 months’ imprisonment and 13 to 15 years’ prohibition orders. Through their actions, $2.43 million were forfeited in July 2019.