McKinsey had access to nonpublic information while trading Puerto Rico bonds, SEC says

Bonds

The Securities and Exchange Commission Friday censured a McKinsey & Co. affiliate and ordered it to pay $18 million to settle allegations that MIO Partners had access to material nonpublic information about issuers, including Puerto Rico, while it was overseeing investments that included the issuers’ securities.

Active partners at McKinsey acting as restructuring consultants for Puerto Rico and other companies had access to material nonpublic information about the issuers while they were also sitting on the investment committee of affiliate MIO Partners Inc., which provides investment options exclusively to current and former McKinsey partners and employees, the SEC said in a Nov. 19 enforcement order.

The SEC said McKinsey & Co. failed to maintain proper policies for partners who had access to material nonpublic information about issuers while they also sat on an investment committee of an internal fund that was trading those issuers’ securities. Photographer: Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg

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McKinsey partners who served on MIO’s investments committee were “routinely privy to [material, nonpublic information] relating to, for example, financial results, planned bankruptcy filings, mergers and acquisitions, product pipelines and funding efforts, and material changes in senior management,” the enforcement order said. That “presented an ongoing risk of misuse” of the material, nonpublic information.

The SEC did not accuse the firm of any insider trading, and the firm agreed to settle the SEC’s charges without either admitting or denying the findings.

In January and February of 2017, MIO was directly invested in the municipal bonds of Puerto Rico at the same time McKinsey was providing restructuring advice to the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight & Management Board, the SEC said in the order.

During that time, the investments committee was overseeing MIO’s direct investments, “including MIO’s sale of nearly $1 million worth of Puerto Rican bonds,” the SEC said. “Further, in addition to MIO’s direct investments in Puerto Rico, through at least June 2017, MIO was also invested in Puerto Rico’s debt via its [separately managed accounts] and other third-party managed funds.”

This conduct led to a violation of the Investment Advisers Act, the SEC contended, specifically the law’s requirement that investment advisory firms establish and maintain supervisory systems designed to prevent the misuse of nonpublic information. The policy in place did not rise to the necessary level, the SEC found.

In a statement, a McKinsey spokesperson said the issues have been resolved.

“The historical issues identified in the SEC order have been resolved by MIO through strengthened policies and procedures, and the order does not identify any misuse of confidential or material non-public information by either MIO or McKinsey. MIO and McKinsey are operationally separate and follow strict policies to limit information sharing between the two organizations.”

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