A Japanese regulatory crackdown on insider trading suggests that stockbrokers here have leaked confidential information more as a service to good clients than for direct profit.
Financial regulators are examining emails and other records provided by a dozen major brokers-including the Japan arms of Wall Street banks-to check whether they leaked advance information of share offerings, allowing favored clients to profit before the formal announcement.
Regulators this year have publicly identified five cases where they found such behavior. Japan's two largest brokers, Nomura Holdings Inc. 8604.TO +1.43% and Daiwa Securities Group Inc., 8601.TO +0.66% have admitted that employees were responsible for leaks, and Nomura's top executives stepped down to take responsibility. Nomura salespeople likely leaked information in several more cases, the broker and regulators said, but the investigation has ended on a lack of evidence that anyone profited.
日本监管机构今年公开确认了五桩他们认为存在泄密行为的内幕交易案。日本两家规模最大的券商野村控股(Nomura Holdings Inc.)和大和证券(Daiwa Securities Group Inc.)已承认，其员工应为泄密行为负责，野村已有多名高管引咎辞职。野村和日本监管方说，野村的销售人员可能在其它几个案子中也泄露了信息，但由于缺乏有任何人获利的证据，所以调查已经结束。
Overall, the five cases have resulted in modest fines for the investors involved and a business-improvement order-a relatively light sanction-for Nomura, which was involved in three of the cases.
The backdrop to the Japanese investigation is far different than that of the U.S., where 66 traders, analysts and corporate executives have been convicted or pleaded guilty to insider trading in the past three years. In the U.S., many of the defendants were found to have generated significant sums of illicit profit. The Japan cases have involved largely lower-level employees, often salespeople, who appear to have used the inside data to curry favor with top clients, rather than to directly enrich themselves or their firms.
Interviews with more than 30 brokers, institutional investors, hedge funds, regulators, legislators and lawyers suggest an environment in which securities salespeople regularly fed customers gossip and analysis, mixed with scraps of confidential information, in return for business.
Market players say the pursuit and offer of market-moving information was allowed to spread partly because of widespread ignorance among brokers and investors on just what insider information is and the lack of penalties to punish leakers. Unlike in the U.S., Japanese insider-trading laws apply only to those who directly profit from nonpublic information, not those who leak it. Regulators can impose a sanction on brokers for lax controls, as happened with Nomura.
'It seems to have become common practice for securities companies to leak information as part of their business model,' said Tsutomu Okubo, an influential legislator and former Japan managing director of a major U.S. brokerage who is leading a push to tighten insider-trading laws through, for example, establishing penalties for those who leak.