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SEC to review US asset management sector; 2 NJ banks in $19.4M deal

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is planning to start an investigation this year to examine if consolidation in the U.S. asset management industry and fee compression threatens the business of small and midsized asset managers, limiting the choice of asset managers available to investors, the Financial Times reports. Speaking at a California conference hosted by the Investment Company Institute, Dalia Blass, director of the SEC's division of investment management, said the regulator plans to look at factors that make it difficult for small and midsized companies to compete and if these issues can be addressed without jeopardizing investor protection.

On the M&A front, Hamilton, N.J.-based First Bank is acquiring Hamilton Square, N.J.-based Grand Bank NA in a stock deal valued at about $19.4 million. Grand Bank shareholders will receive 3,262.956 First Bank common shares for each Grand Bank common share outstanding in an all-stock exchange and First Bank expects to issue approximately 1.7 million new shares to complete the transaction. The deal could close in the third quarter.

Investment banking and alternative asset management firm JMP Group LLC sold a 50.1% equity interest in JMP Credit Advisors LLC to Medalist Partners LP, an alternative asset management firm specializing in structured credit and asset-backed lending, and a 4.9% interest to JMP Credit Advisors' management employees. A JMP Group unit will retain a 45.0% interest in JMP Credit Advisors.

Wells Fargo Securities LLC agreed to pay a civil penalty of $800,000 to settle with the SEC for allegedly defrauding investors in a $75 million municipal bond offering to finance video game company 38 Studios, according to the Associated Press. The proposed settlement is subject to court approval.

Fidelity Investments is facing a second lawsuit for allegedly charging an "illegal" fee to some investment companies for using its platform to offer their products to retirement plan participants, InvestmentNews reports. Plaintiffs claimed the so-called infrastructure fees, which increased fund expenses and reduced retirement savings, were not disclosed to 401(k) participants. A similar lawsuit was filed against Fidelity earlier this year, which prompted the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth to request information about the fees.

Canada Pension Plan Investment Board is looking to open an office in Beijing, the Canadian pension fund investor's first in China, as soon as 2020, Bloomberg News reports, citing CPPIB's head of Asia Pacific, Suyi Kim. CPPIB is growing its portfolio in the Asian country, which accounts for about 10% of its total fund, Kim said.

Blockchain company Digital Asset Holdings LLC named Yuval Rooz CEO. Rooz is a co-founder of Digital Asset.

And on Capitol Hill, the House Financial Services Committee scheduled a March 26 vote on several bills, including the Secure And Fair Enforcement Banking Act, or SAFE Banking Act of 2019. The bill, H.R. 1595, seeks to allow depository institutions to provide financial services to legal cannabis-related businesses without fear of being penalized. Four other bills will also be up for voting on the same date.

In other parts of the world

Asia Pacific: State Bank of India, Bank of China sign MOU; SBI opens new unit

Europe: UBS fined; Italy to extend bad loan guarantees; BBVA, Nordea sell CoCos

Middle East & Africa: Attijariwafa Bank FY'18 net income rises YOY; Alexander Forbes gets new CFO

Now featured on S&P Global Market Intelligence

Deposit betas to keep rising at US banks even as Fed slows rate hikes: S&P Global Market Intelligence's recently updated five-year outlook for the U.S. banking industry suggests that further increases in deposit costs will prevent further expansion of net interest margins in 2019.

Analysts see largest fintech merger of all time as 'defensive' play: Analysts view the cash-and-stock deal between Fidelity National and Worldpay, which S&P Global Market Intelligence valued at $35.34 billion, as a maneuver to build scale in the face of another megamerger announced two months ago. That price tag excludes the assumption of Worldpay debt that FIS expects to refinance.

The day ahead

Early morning futures indicators pointed to a lower opening for the U.S. market.

In Asia, Hang Seng declined 0.49% to 29,320.97, while the Nikkei 225 gained 0.20% to 21,608.92.

In Europe, around midday, the FTSE 100 fell 0.14% to 7,313.56, and the Euronext 100 dropped 0.28% to 1,050.20.

On the macro front

Click here to read about today's financial markets, setting out the factors driving stocks, bonds and currencies around the world ahead of the New York open.

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