WASHINGTON -- Seafirst Bank paid a $75,000 civil money penalty Tuesday to settle an enforcement action brought jointly by Comptroller of the Currency and the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The government snared Seafirst after securities the bank sent to a New York bank in December 1992 were stolen and then purchased by the Federal Bureau of Investigation in a sting operation.
Under the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934, banks are responsible for ensuring safe delivery of securities.
Specifically, a bank sending securities by mail must confirm receipt and payment within 10 business days.
If the securities have not been received, the bank must report the missing or lost securities within two business days.
For a period of about five weeks in late 1992, Seafirst sent an unspecified amount of municipal and corporate bonds and coupons to an unnamed New York national bank for collection without the ability to track their receipt and payment.
Some of the securities were stolen in transit. On Feb. 4, 1993, the FBI purchased $2.9 million of the stolen securities as part of a continuing, separate investigation.
Until then, neither Seafirst nor the New York bank knew that the securities were missing.
Seafirst's System Called a Mess
According to the enforcement order released by the government Tuesday, Seafirst's system for processing the bonds or coupons was a mess.
In October 1992, the bank moved securities processing from its trust operations department to a new department called team operating processing support.
During the transition period, the bank lost track of which securities were sent to the New York bank and then which securities were paid by that bank.
Securities Not Received
The New York bank never received the securities that were stolen in transit, so it never paid Seafirst.
"Seafirst failed to contact the New York bank to determine the status of overdue payments because the supervisor of the department had not been trained to do so," the order states.
Seafirst, a wholly owned subsidiary of BankAmerica Corp., San Francisco, neither admitted nor denied wrongdoing.