Fidelity Investments fined its high-profile head of stock trading, Scott De Sano, amid a federal probe of its gift-giving and business entertainment activities, the Wall Street Journal reports.
The Boston mutual fund giant said last week that it disciplined 14 traders in its investment arm and that two more have left the company as a result of an internal investigation. De Sano was among the list of disciplined traders, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. He was fined, in part, for failing to supervise some of his employees, the newspaper report said. De Sano will remain at his job "now and in the future," a Fidelity spokeswoman told the Journal.
Additionally, the two traders who supposedly left the company, Robert Burns and Thomas Bruderman, Jr., were fired, the newspaper said. Fidelitys disciplinary actions in also included fines, warnings and suspensions. Fidelity has said that none of the violations uncovered harmed any of its mutual funds or their shareholders.
The move comes as the NASD and the Securities and Exchange Commission are conducting a comprehensive investigation of gift and business entertainment practices, particularly perks provided to mutual fund companies by brokers looking to win business. Red flags went up at Fidelity after a broker at Jefferies Group was dismissed for handing out excessive gifts to a group of Fidelity traders including private jet rides to Las Vegas, Super Bowl tickets, expensive wine and golf foursomes at upscale resorts.
The NASD bars brokers from giving or receiving gifts worth more than $100. Mutual funds are not bound by any specific restrictions on gifts but it is considered a best practice to have similar rules in place. The SEC does, however, require mutual funds to award brokers business based on best execution, which would preclude funds from trading with the firms who gave the best gifts.
De Sano has been a vocal critic of what he believes to be the inefficiencies of the New York Stock Exchange, a problem he argues has an adverse effect on Fidelity fund shareholders. During his eight-year tenure as the head of the Fidelity trading desk, De Sano has successfully squeezed profits from Wall Street brokers, enabling the company to keep fund expenses low and save investors millions of dollars.
Fidelitys trading costs, once on par with other fund shops are now lower than 85% of the industry, according to data provided by research firm Abel/Noser. While this is clearly a home run with investors, it has caused some degree of consternation among brokers looking for fatten up their commissions on trades.
The NASD is currently looking into several golf outings arranged for De Sano by Bank of America, one of Fidelitys biggest brokerage partners. De Sano The bank reportedly sponsored De Sano several times in the annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament. The invitation-only event allows executives to pair up with pro golfers to help raise money for charity.
De Sano reportedly received permission to attend the golf outing provided that he paid his own travel expenses. However, De Sano did not reimburse BoA for his spot in the tourney, for which the greens fee alone costs $9,500 per golfer. On top of that, many participating firms often purchase hospitality packages for their guests, which include VIP passes and a chalet along the fairway. These packages vary in price but can cost up to $150,000, a tournament spokesman told MME last week.