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A former Bank of America Corp. executive was indicted for allegedly participating in what prosecutors said was a “far-reaching conspiracy” to defraud municipal bond investments through bid rigging.
Phillip D. Murphy, former head of Bank of America’s municipal derivatives desk, was charged with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., wire fraud and conspiracy to make false entries in bank records, according to the indictment filed in federal court in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Murphy “allegedly participated in a complex fraud scheme and conspiracies to manipulate what was supposed to be a competitive process,” Scott D. Hammond, a deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division, said in an e-mailed statement. “The division recently convicted at trial several individuals in this investigation, which is ongoing.”
Bloomberg reported that so far, 13 individuals from banks including Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and UBS AG (UBSN) have pleaded guilty in the Justice Department’s investigation. Bank of America, JPMorgan, UBS, Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) and General Electric Co. have paid more than $700 million in restitution and penalties.
Bank of America, which self-reported the illegal activity, has been cooperating for more than four years with Justice Department prosecutors who say that bankers paid kickbacks to CDR Financial Products to rig bids on investment contracts sold to local governments. Municipalities bought the contracts with money raised through bond sales, which allowed them to earn a return until the funds were needed for schools, roads, and other public works.
From 1998 until 2006, Murphy allegedly conspired with CDR Financial Products to increase the number of and profitability of investment agreements and municipal finance contracts that went to the bank, according to the indictment. Murphy won auctions for the investment contracts after other banks submitted intentionally losing bids, the government said.
The wire fraud charge has a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison while the conspiracy charges have a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The court today issued a summons to Murphy ordering him to make his initial appearance in the case on Aug. 20.
Susan Necheles, Murphy’s lawyer, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone message seeking comment on the indictment. Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Charlotte-based Bank of America, declined to comment on the charges.
Prosecutors say that favored bankers received inside information from brokers who handled the bidding so they could carve up the market. Kickbacks were disguised as fees on derivative transactions.