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Portuguese bank fined $7 mn for breaking US laws

Portugal’s Banco Espirito Santo will pay $7 million for violating US securities laws by offering brokerage services without a license to Portuguese immigrants, US authorities said Monday.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said the large Portuguese bank had agreed to settle the charges, officially lodged Monday, for marketing and selling securities to 3,800 US-resident customers without having registered as a broker-deal or investment adviser.

The bank had used the mail, a Portugal-based call center, its US money-transfer arms, and visits to US clients by private banking officials to promote various financial products.

“The registration provisions are core safeguards of the integrity of our securities markets and the financial institutions that act as gatekeepers of those markets,” George Canellos, director of the SEC’s New York regional office, said in a statement.

“BES brazenly ignored those provisions over the course of many years by acting as an investment adviser and broker-dealer without registration and by offering and selling securities to members of the US public without any of the disclosures required by the law.”

BES did not admit or deny the charges in reaching the settlement agreement. The $7 million includes repayment of profits, interest and penalties.

The bank also has to make up any losses on the investments made by its US customers.