Virtual currency risks
Europe’s top banking regulator on Friday called on the region’s banks not to deal in virtual currencies such as bitcoin until rules are developed to stop them being abused. The European Banking Authority (EBA) said it had identified more than 70 risks related to trading in virtual currencies, including their vulnerability to crime and money laundering. The London-based body in a statement advised European financial institutions against “buying, holding or selling virtual currencies while no regulatory regime is in place.” Regulators said the lack of legal framework governing the currency, the opaque way it is traded and its volatility make it dangerous. The EBA said that the risks of virtual currencies “outweigh the benefits,” such as faster and cheaper transactions, “which in the European Union remain less pronounced.”
Penny-stock case settled
The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a tentative settlement that will resolve a case against John Babikian, originally from Montreal, who ran AwesomePennyStocks, by having him pay US$3.73 million and refrain from further promotion of penny stocks. Babikian, who regulators said operated a “pump-and-dump” scheme using penny-stock Web sites, will also be restrained from recommending the purchase of any US publicly traded stock without simultaneously disclosing any plans to sell such stock within 14 days of the recommendation, according to the agreement, filed by the SEC in a Manhattan court on Monday. The agreement, yet to be signed by a judge, would have Babikian pay disgorged profits plus US$1.7 million in civil penalties.
Banking heads named
Bank of America Merrill Lynch has named Ian Ferguson and Michael Findlay as the new co-heads for its investment banking business in the UK and Ireland. Findlay is also to continue in his role as co-head of corporate broking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Bank of America Merrill Lynch with Ed Peel, according to an internal memorandum. Ferguson has been a managing director at Bank of America Merrill Lynch since 2012, when he joined from the investment bank Evercore Partners. They will report to Bob Elfring and Diego De Giorgi, co-heads of corporate and investment banking for Europe, the Middle East and Africa at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Fund seeks executives
Norway’s US$890 billion sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, is seeking top executives for a new real-estate group that will invest almost US$10 billion annually in properties over the next three years. The fund, based in Oslo, is looking to hire new chief risk, operating and administrative officers for real estate, according to job postings on its Web site and in newspapers. The group is currently overseen by real-estate chief investment officer Karsten Kallevig, and part of the broader risk structure of the fund, headed by chief executive officer Yngve Slyngstad. The fund first received approval to invest in properties in 2010 and said last month it will invest 1 percent of its assets in real estate over the next three years as it seeks to reach its 5 percent target.