Securities

We are no longer in an age of brokers trading shares in a splendid baroque room in Amsterdam, under a willow tree in lower Manhattan, or in the coffee houses of London. We are no longer in an age of imposing 19th century bourgeois edifices lining Europe’s most important boulevards, underscoring the central position of finance - of stocks and bonds - for national economies as a keystone of Victorian social progress. And we are no longer in an age of outbound transfer of European thinking and law about securities finance to nearly every corner of the world – almost no matter what the political structure in place, the idea of marketable securities seems to have won the day. And it carries on, often in unlikely circumstances where the “soil” would have seemed too shallow for this “plant” to take root.

We are in an age where the price discovery of securities is being led by algorithmic computer programs. Most likely, we have been in this age for longer than we realized; certainly, it has been coming on for decades. The Computer Assisted Trading (“CAT”) software developed in Toronto is generally recognized as having been the first such electronic trading system established in a central, regulated marketplace. It was introduced in the now distant year of 1977, a full 40 years ago.

Institutions designed to provide stability have become the system’s linchpins.

Segregation of assets in accounts that bear the name of the owner is one of the unstoppable regulatory and commercial trends of our time. While custodian banks have invested considerable resources in the development of ingenious arguments against segregation, one third party lender is pleasantly surprised to find concerns about asset safety are increasing the attractions of its business model.

Blue Cross Blue Shield and 11 other institutional investors have failed in their attempt to open a new lawsuit against Wells Fargo in relation to losses of over $8.2m incurred in the bank’s securities lending programme during the financial crisis.

Although the proposal to introduce a global Financial Transaction Tax (FTT) in Europe with the objective of raising public finances has been rejected, 11 states have nevertheless provisionally agreed to cooperate to implement the tax. The 11 states include: Austria, Belgium, Estonia, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain; and the European Commission has issued a proposal whereby the 11 member states are expected to agree on and possibly implement the FTT in mid-2014.

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