independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Regulators turn away queries on stockbroker citing 'confidentiality'

IT IS almost a year and a half after the blow-up of Bloxham Stockbrokers and we are still none the wiser about what happened.

But more importantly, we don't know if anyone is going to face prosecution after the firm had been discovered to be cooking its books for five years.

And whether or not the Central Bank was involved in a regulatory failure may never be known.

This is because the regulators are adamant no "report" currently exists into the activities of the stockbroking firm.

The Central Bank is investigating what happened, but won't confirm that it will publish a report outlining what went wrong and how we can make sure something like this does not happen again.

However, the Irish Independent understands from a senior regulatory source that a report has been completed into the regulation of Bloxham. Its contents are said to be embarrassing for regulators, which begs the question – does the report exist or not?

It is worth noting that an in-depth report was published by the bank into the collapse of Custom House Capital, which led to losses for thousands of pensions savers.

A list of 12 direct questions about Bloxham from this newspaper were not answered by the Central Bank.

One of the questions asked is why no report has been produced by the Central Bank into the Bloxham regulatory failures.

Just like in the days of banking excess, the Central Bank has fallen back on an old favourite excuse for not answering direct questions.

INVESTIGATION

"Under the confidentiality requirements as specified under Section 33AK(8) of the Central Bank Act 1942, we cannot comment on the specific details of the investigation into affairs at Bloxham," the Central Bank added.

Section 33AK was regularly trotted out when journalists asked awkward questions about Anglo Irish Bank, Irish Nationwide and Quinn Insurance during the bubble years. Regulators say no client funds were at risk or lost.

The 17,000 clients of the stockbroking firm were unaffected and Davy Stockbrokers now handles their affairs.

However, Bloxham claimed to be Ireland's largest independent stockbroker, with most of its clients (by number) being retail investors.

It was a founder member of the Irish Stock Exchange.

Surely there are pertinent questions to be answered about what happened at Bloxham and the role of the Central Bank in regulating it?

After all, the bank's regulatory staff in the stockbroking section were receiving daily reports on the main activities at Bloxham.

These reports would have outlined the top 10 trades, the top 10 debtors, the firm's cash, its biggest positions, debts outstanding etc.

The Central Bank also got monthly financial reports from Bloxham Stockbrokers outlining what was owed to the firm, its main trades, among other information.

How then was someone in Bloxham able to cook the books between 2007 and 2012 unnoticed by the Central Bank?

We deserve better answers.

Irish Independent

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