Hong Kong’s Securities and Futures Commission (SFC), the country’s financial regulator, has issued a warning against Merrill Lynch International (HK) Limited, a fraudulent clone posing as Merrill Lynch, an international investment bank with a presence in 75 countries, according to an SFC manifest.
The SFC routinely warns about such scams operating in Hong Kong, one of Asia’s paramount financial hubs. The fake Merrill Lynch is claiming its shares are registered in Hong Kong, but the watchdog says that it is in no way affiliated with the SFC-licensed corporation Merrill Lynch Far East Limited and Merrill Lynch (Asia Pacific) Limited.
Merrill Lynch Wealth is an American wealth management division under the auspices of Bank of America. Along with BoA Merrill Lynch, the investment banking arm, both firms engage in prime brokerage and security dealings.
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Not the First Case
The inclusion of Merrill Lynch brings to light one of many tactics used by cloning entities – the misuse of the name of international financial services giants. Merrill Lynch is not the first banking giant to have clones in Hong Kong. Earlier this year, the SFC warned against clones of Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo & Co, and Citigroup, as well as many financial services providers.
Cloned firms are a common fraud in which companies mask their fraudulent activities by using details the same as or similar to those of an authorized entity to give the appearance of trustworthiness and legitimacy.
Hence, Hong Kong’s financial regulator reiterates that investors should be extremely cautious in their financial dealings, and it keeps them informed by drawing attention to suspicious operations and unregulated entities that market participants should abstain from doing business with.
The Alert List contains entities which have come to the attention of the SFC because they are unlicensed in Hong Kong and are believed to be, or to have been, targeting Hong Kong investors or claiming to have an association with Hong Kong.