UPDATE 1-BlackRock agrees to end analyst surveys and assist probe

Thu Jan 9, 2014 4:06pm EST
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By Karen Freifeld

Jan 9 (Reuters) - BlackRock Inc, the world's largest asset manager, agreed to end its analyst survey program worldwide, as part of an agreement reached Wednesday with the New York Attorney General's office.

The agreement stems from an investigation by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman into the early release of Wall Street analyst sentiment to "front-run" the market.

BlackRock agreed to pay $400,000 for the cost of the investigation, but no fine or penalty, and to cooperate in Schneiderman's ongoing industry-wide probe.

At a press conference on Thursday, Schneiderman said the continuing investigation includes looking at the analysts and brokerage firms that participated in the surveys.

He said BlackRock's agreement was a "major step forward" in ensuring a level playing field for all investors.

"We're going to continue to crackdown," Schneiderman said. "This is a growing area of concern because ... sophisticated market participants can gain early access to market-moving information that provides them an unfair advantage over the rest of us."

The Analyst Survey Program operated by BlackRock was believed to be the largest analyst survey in the world, Schneiderman said.   Continued...