Top banks could be investigated over $20bn fire sale of hedge fund assets

Collapse of Archegos has reportedly prompted SEC and FCA inquiries into Credit Suisse, Goldman Sachs, Nomura and others

UK and US regulators are looking into whether global investment banks breached rules by holding group discussions shortly before launching a fire sale of nearly $20bn worth of assets belonging to the distressed hedge fund Archegos Capital Management, according to reports.

The Securities Exchange Commission is said to have requested further information from major US banks Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, as well as Japan’s Nomura and Swiss lender Credit Suisse about a meeting with Archegos founder Bill Hwang on Thursday.

It is understood that the Financial Conduct Authority has also contacted the lenders’ UK operations as part of its own inquiries.

The meeting with Hwang was reportedly part of final efforts to unwind the hedge fund’s investments in an orderly fashion, according to the Financial Times. The lenders, which served as prime brokers to Archegos, were allegedly trying to avoid a fire sale that would reduce the value of the assets they were trying to dispose of after Archegos defaulted on a series of margin calls.

A margin call occurs when investment banks, which act as brokers to a client such as Archegos, request that clients top up their account with extra cash or collateral. This is usually in response to a drop in the value of assets held in the account.

If clients fail to meet that demand, the broker will take steps to minimise their potential exposure to losses – including selling shares and other assets owned by the client.

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The hedge fund’s collapse and the subsequent sell-off has been blamed for a sharp drop in the share price of the US media giant ViacomCBS last week, as well as a number of other US media and Chinese tech companies, which Archegos had holdings in. Credit Suisse has warned that it is going to face “significant” losses as a result, while Nomura has estimated it would probably take a $2bn hit.

Karen Kessler, a spokesperson for Archegos, said: “This is a challenging time for the family office of Archegos Capital Management, our partners and employees. All plans are being discussed as Mr Hwang and the team determine the best path forward.”

The SEC did not immediately respond to request for comment.

The FCA said: “We and other supervisory authorities are aware of the situation, which we continue to monitor.”


Kalyeena Makortoff Banking correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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