S&P Dow Jones Indices is fined by SEC over U.S. 'volatility' crash

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2/2 © Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The S&P Global logo is displayed on its offices in the financial district in New York City, U.S., December 13, 2018. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo 2/2

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – S&P Dow Jones Indices will pay a $9 million fine to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges that its negligence in managing one of its indexes caused huge losses for securities issued by Credit Suisse (SIX:) Group AG during extreme market volatility.

The SEC said S&P DJI should have disclosed that its S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures Index ER contained an “auto hold” feature that caused its value to remain static for more than an hour on Feb. 5, 2018, even as the underlying (“VIX”) was spiking 115% higher.

According to the SEC, the stale data contributed to a 96% drop in the value of the Credit Suisse’s VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Term Exchange-Traded Notes (“XIV Notes”), whose value was dependent on the S&P DJI index.

Investors in the XIV Notes have estimated that the plunge caused $1.8 billion of losses.

“When index providers license their indices for the issuance of securities, as S&P DJI did here, they must ensure that the disclosure of critical features of their products as well as the publication of real-time values are accurate,” said Daniel Michael, chief of the SEC enforcement division’s complex financial instruments unit.

S&P DJI is a joint venture between S&P Global (NYSE:) Inc, which owns a majority, and CME Group Inc. (NASDAQ:)

It did not admit or deny wrongdoing in agreeing to settle, and said in a statement it was committed to “transparency and the integrity of its benchmark determination process.”

Last month, a federal appeals court in Manhattan revived a fraud lawsuit by XIV Notes investors accusing Credit Suisse of trying to collapse that market to profit at their expense.

The price of XIV Notes plunged as low as $4.22 from $108.37 during the volatility. Credit Suisse later redeemed the notes at $5.99 each. The bank said last month it was “confident” that the lawsuit would eventually be dismissed.

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