Standing nearby when what our banker friends call a liquidity event takes place can result in an influx of wealth. Who doesn't want that.
The opposite feeling takes hold for what we'll refer to as liability events. These usually involve the disappearance of money that belongs to Other People. Bankers like to distance themselves in those instances.
Sometimes they succeed.
Witness Levitt v. J.P. Morgan Securities, Inc., No. 10-4596-cv (2d Cir. Mar. 15, 2013). In that case, the Second Circuit panel threw out a class action that accused a "clearing broker" of securities fraud in connection with a scheme by an investment banker, Sterling Foster, to scam investors in five initial public offerings. Sterling Foster had cut a deal with insiders of the IPO firms to release them from standard "lock-up" agreements shortly after their IPOs hit the market so that SF could buy their shares for below-market prices and sell them right away for a huge profit.
J.P. Morgan's predecessor, Bear Stearns, served as the clearing broker for SF. But it expressly disclaimed any duties towards SF's customers. And, even though Bear seems to have Gotten the Idea that SF was up to no good, its keeping its distance led the court to rule it had no obligation to disclose the fraud and that therefore the class of SF customers couldn't invoke a presumption of reliance on SF's misrepresentations and nondisclosures. The district court thus erred in certifying the case as a class action, the panel decided.