Gifts and perks once believed to be harmless tokens of appreciation have moved into regulators crosshairs, The Wall Street Journal reports.
Entertainment practices like golf outings or all-expense-paid trips to conferences in posh settings are increasingly seen as efforts to cement deals that may benefit financial service providers but harm investors by leading to higher-than expected fees or expenses.
Although lavish entertainment has been a longstanding convention of the brokerage industry, newly launched investigations could lead to the demise of certain traditions. In a recent case that has been brought to the attention of regulators, Bank of America Corp. splurged on a generous invitation for Scott DeSano, head of stock trading at Fidelity Investments, to attend a celebrity golf outing held at Pebble Beach. DeSano reportedly paid his own travel expenses but let Bank of America pick up the tab for part of the green fees.
The NASD maintains a ban of brokerage houses courting mutual funds or investment firms with gifts exceeding $100 in value. Nonetheless, entertainment perks, such as pricey dinners, are sometimes difficult to quantify. Another lavish type of gift, one-on-one time with a golf pro, has also been known to escape the notice of compliance officers.