State Street Corp. has agreed to pay a $94.3 million civil penalty to resolve the SEC’s allegations that it overcharged its asset-servicing clients, including mutual funds and other investment firms with expenses related to the custody of their assets.
The US Securities and Exchange Commission issued an order filing and simultaneously settling charges against the Boston-based bank. State Street neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing under the settlement.
State Street also faced investigations by the Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey’s office related to the invoicing errors and paid over $5 million to settle the class action lawsuit.
The regulators said State Street systematically overbilled roughly 5,000 clients of its investment fund clients for custodial services — primarily by adding markups for sending messages through the SWIFT network.
According to the order, the bank systems were unfair with their asset servicing clients for over 17 years, causing the firm to overcharge some customers more than $110 million in excess fees from at least 1998 through 2015.
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However, the financial services giant (NYSE: STT) claimed it self-identified the problem and that the majority of customers’ accounts have been adjusted and fully refunded, and the firm has otherwise taken responsibility to resolve any remaining discrepancies.
A long history of invoicing errors
State Street has previously faced several allegations of invoicing errors, which occurred in 2010 and 2011 and got the company into trouble with regulators. In 2017, a handful of State Street executives were found guilty of defrauding clients by secretly overcharging them on fixed-income and equity trade fees.
Four State Street’s executives devised the scheme to overcharge clients without their consent although they were told that commissions would be fully disclosed and agreed upon in advance.
During the three weeks trial, jurors investigated the defendants’ communications with six institutional investors, who were charged hidden markups on State Street’s electronic platform for trading US Treasuries.
The overcharging scheme began in February 2010 through at least September 2011 as the fierce competition in the sector squeezed profit margins. According to court filings, the asset managers conspired to target large fixed-income and equity trades for unauthorized charges, which they believed would be less likely to draw the attention of regulators.
This case related to the same indictments for which the UK arm of State Street was fined $32.4 million to settle related criminal charges with the Financial Conduct Authority in 2014.