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Regulators are probing Comerica after a botched technology upgrade left the bank’s wealth-management unit short millions of dollars.
The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has been looking into a wealth management platform change at the bank that led to widespread errors on transactions for trust clients, according to people familiar with the matter and internal emails reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. Executives at the Texas-based bank told staff the errors could force them to potentially write down any funds they weren’t able to chase down.
The issues involved clients whose trust assets are administered by Comerica and managed by third parties such as Morgan Stanley or UBS. When clients withdraw funds from those trusts, Comerica advances the money and then gets reimbursed by the manager. For months after the May platform change, Comerica ran into issues pulling in the reimbursements, leaving a hole in its own funds, the people said.
A general ledger account for wealth management was still “significantly overdrawn,” managing director Brian Wolfe said in an email to employees Nov. 3. The fund snafu hasn’t previously been reported.
Comerica said its trust-administration unit had $175 billion in assets under administration as of Sept. 30.
Some trust-account payments also failed to go through on the new platform, while others posted more than once or with the wrong amount of money, the people said. The bank halted wealth-management fees for some accounts, concerned that balances and the fees could have been distorted by the errors.
The platform has crashed repeatedly, including as recently as Tuesday.
Greg Carr, executive vice president of wealth management at Comerica, told the Journal the unit experienced “really standard issues that occur during a conversion of this significance” and that some of those issues had been resolved. No bank or client money was ever missing, he said.
“Following the conversion, it was challenging,” he said in an interview, adding that the bank has worked “swiftly to remediate any and all of those issues.”
In the November email, Wolfe directed employees to try to collect the funds, warning they could be written off as losses at the end of the month if they weren’t collected. Executives have internally expressed concerns that Comerica could face litigation from trust clients, the people said.
Less than $500,000 has been written off so far, according to the bank.
Comerica, with $86 billion in assets, and other big regional banks have struggled this year under rising interest rates. The failure of three banks this spring led customers to pull funds from many regional institutions in search of safety, driving up costs for banks of all sizes. Comerica’s profit dropped 28% from a year earlier in the third quarter.
That has made the competition for wealthy customers, like those in Comerica’s trust business, even more fierce. But regional banks are behind megabanks on technology, especially when it comes to more complex businesses such as wealth management. Comerica’s wealth-management unit makes up about 14% of its revenue and its profit was down nearly 17% in the third quarter.
The update that caused the issue has been planned for years but repeatedly put on hold after unsuccessful test runs, some of the people said. Comerica moved forward in May, over the concerns of some employees who felt it still wasn’t ready, they said.
The bank almost immediately ran into problems on the new platform, a product from
Fidelity National Information Services, which provides data and technology services to banks and financial institutions. FIS declined to comment.
Inside Comerica’s wealth management unit, Tom Oehmler, president of Comerica Trust, has gone on leave “until further notice,” Carr said in an email to employees on Nov. 9. A number of employees who reported up to Oehmler have left the bank over the past year.
Comerica brought in advisers from PwC this summer to work on the matter. The firm was still there as of last month.
Nobody puts out the economic growth message better than Donald Trump. Nobody. Last night in his interview with Sean Hannity, he was asked about the Biden accusation that if elected he would be a “dictator.”
Without batting an eye, Trump comes back and says, “OK, on day one I will dictate that we close the border, and then we will launch ‘Drill, Baby, Drill’ and unleash America’s great oil and gas resources, which will power the economy forward.” He calls it “liquid gold.” Who else would think of that catchy phrase? Take a listen:
“We’re going to close the border on day one. The border gets closed and day one and a half we drill. You know, we drill, baby, drill, drill, drill, drill. And probably on day two, we’ll get rid of this ridiculous electric car mandate”
Terrific stuff! Then he goes on to say, “We gave you the big tax cuts, so everybody had incentive and everybody was happy and everybody was working.” This is music to my ears. In fact, what Mr. Trump did was link economic growth with the value of work equals happiness. That is exactly right.
When you look at today’s polls, over and over, you see how unhappy Americans are and how fearful of the future they are. There’s no confidence, but President Trump did it once to promote growth, peace, security and confidence in the future. Having done it once, he is saying he can do it again, even better than the first time.
There is no other candidate in either political party who has the gift and the substance of clearly and bluntly communicating a growth and confidence message. That is why he has such a big lead in the polls, both in the primary and in the general election.
Actually, Trump is lengthening his lead over Biden, according to most polls. Interesting point here, in 2016, he rarely polled ahead of Hillary Clinton, but of course he won anyway. In 2020, he was never ahead in the polls against Biden.
So, what’s happening here a year ahead of the election is very interesting and don’t forget, he’s polling well ahead of Biden in the swing states and most particularly in many of the industrial swing states.
Now of course, polls are not votes, but they are a snapshot of what folks are thinking and Mr. Trump’s polls are something of a phenomenon and Democrats are in denial about this phenomenon, but they ought to take it seriously.
Biden’s messaging on Bidenomics has been a complete failure and now the Democrats have erased the word “Bidenomics” because prices are still too high, real wages are still falling, the economy looks shaky, people are sick of socialist green new deal mandates like electric vehicles being jammed down their throats.
This is a point Trump made several times in the Hannity interview. Americans like choices, not mandates, but the socialist central-planners in the Biden administration are trying to tell people how to think, where to live, what to buy, etc.
Lastly, Mr. Trump continues to emphasize “Peace through Strength.” He is correctly concerned that the American decline abroad, which has spawned wars in Ukraine and Israel, following the cut and run catastrophe in Afghanistan could conceivably lead to a nuclear war.
I can personally attest to the fact that during his first term, Trump frequently mentioned his concerns about the potential for nuclear war, but he knows that the way to stop the axis of evil dictators in Moscow, Tehran, Beijing and Pyongyang is to be tough, not appeasing. That’s one more reason Trump is ahead in the polls.
This article is adapted from Larry Kudlow’s opening commentary on the December 6, 2023, edition of “Kudlow.”
Oil prices fell nearly 4% on Wednesday to their lowest settlements since June, as worries about global fuel demand mounted after U.S. data showed a larger-than-expected rise in gasoline inventories.
Brent crude futures settled down $2.90, or 3.8%, at $74.30 a barrel. U.S. WTI crude futures fell by $2.94, or 4.1%, to $69.38 a barrel.
“There is demand destruction coming in from the fuel side,” said Dennis Kissler, senior vice president of trading at BOK Financial.
“The market is more demand focused than supply focused right now.”
Concerns over China’s economic health and future fuel demand also weighed on prices, a day after rating agency Moody’s lowered the outlook on China’s A1 rating to negative from stable.
U.S. gasoline stocks rose by 5.4 million barrels last week, the Energy Information Administration said, more than quintuple the 1 million-barrel rise that analysts had expected. U.S. gasoline futures plummeted to their lowest in two years.
“Even though it was not the peak gasoline season, demand during the long Thanksgiving holiday weekend was lackluster,” said John Kilduff, partner with Again Capital LLC.
Gasoline demand last week lagged the 10-year seasonal average by 2.5%.
The U.S. dollar also touched a two-week high, which pressures demand by making oil more expensive for holders of other currencies.
An unexpected fall in U.S. crude inventories did little to support prices. Crude inventories fell by 4.6 million barrels, far exceeding the 1.4 million-barrel drop analysts had expected. [EIA/S]
OPEC+, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and allies such as Russia agreed late last week on voluntary output cuts of about 2.2 million barrels per day (bpd) for the first quarter of 2024.
This week, Saudi and Russian officials said the cuts should prevent a build up in oil inventories in the first quarter and could be extended or deepened.
Despite the OPEC+ supply curbs, prices have slipped nearly 11% since the settlement on Nov. 29, the day before OPEC+ met.
On Wednesday, Russian president Vladimir Putin traveled to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia to meet with the UAE’s President Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. Oil and OPEC+ were on the agenda.
Forward prices for U.S. crude were at their steepest premium to prompt barrels, a sign of ample supply and growing fears of slow demand.
The CEO of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer is slamming the presidents of three elite U.S. universities over their failure to condemn the rise in antisemitic rhetoric on their campuses in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 terror attack on Israel and the ensuing conflict in Gaza.
Albert Bourla, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, took to X, formerly Twitter, to say that he was “ashamed to hear the recent testimony of 3 top university presidents” after Harvard University President Claudine Gay, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) President Sally Kornbluth and University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) President Liz Magill testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on Tuesday.
“In my personal opinion, it was one of the most despicable moments in the history of U.S. academia. The 3 Presidents were offered numerous opportunities to condemn racist, antisemitic, hate rhetoric and refused doing so hiding behind calls for ‘context,’” Bourla wrote.
“The memories of my father’s parents, Abraham and Rachel Bourla, his brother David and his little sister Graciela, who all died in Auschwitz, came to mind,” he explained. “I was wondering if their deaths would have provided enough ‘context’ to these presidents to condemn the Nazis’ antisemitic propaganda.”
“And because dehumanization of the victims makes it easier to ‘set your own context’ and justify anything, here is a picture of Graciela Bourla, who was exterminated in the concentration camp at the age of 17. Unfortunately, no pictures of my grandparents and uncle survived. I still wonder what they looked like,” Bourla added in his post.
The trio of elite university presidents faced a grilling before the House panel on Tuesday. Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., who chairs the House Republican Conference, pressed the presidents on whether calls for a “global intifada” is a call for violent armed resistance against the state of Israel and the genocide of Jews, as well as whether the rhetoric violates campus codes of conduct.
Each president said that such rhetoric would only violate campus rules if the words become conduct, which is a position they reiterated multiple times throughout the hearing in response to questions posed by lawmakers on the congressional panel.
Kornbluth said that such rhetoric would violate MIT’s policies, “If targeting individuals, not making public statements.” She added that such chants “can be antisemitic depending on the context when calling for the elimination of the Jewish people,” and that the campus could investigate such incidents as harassment if found to be “pervasive and severe.”
Magill said antisemitic chants create a “context-dependent” situation that would constitute bullying and harassment under UPenn’s rules if it was “directed,” “pervasive” and “severe.”
Gay said that whether calls for a “global intifada” constitute harassment at Harvard would depend on the “context” and if it targets specific individuals.
As the controversy over the university presidents’ responses continued into Wednesday, Gay attempted to clarify her comments in a post on X.
“There are some who have confused a right to free expression with the idea that Harvard will condone calls for violence against Jewish students. Let me be clear: Calls for violence or genocide against the Jewish community, or any religious or ethnic group are vile, they have no place at Harvard, and those who threaten our Jewish students will be held to account,” Gay said in her post on Harvard’s X account.
FOX Business’ Michael Dorgan and Nikolas Lanum contributed to this report.
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