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E*Trade Customer-Service Reps Snared in Philippines Raid

May 20, 2016, 10:23 PM UTC
Global Markets Continue Last Week's Steep Decline
CHICAGO, IL - AUGUST 24: Stock prices are flashed across a screen in the lobby of an E-Trade branch on August 24, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. Uncertainty among traders after big losses in the Asian markets caused a sharp selloff in stocks today in the U.S.. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Photograph by Scott Olson, Getty Images

In recent years, the online brokerage E*Trade has been trying to boost its reputation for “high touch” financial advice, as Fortune recently reported in a profile. But some of its employees have been accused by investigators in the Philippines of taking their services too far. Last week, an E*Trade office in Manila was raided, and several dozen of its employees arrested and temporarily detained, as part of a probe into whether the staffers were making unauthorized trades for customers in the U.S.

The raid and arrests, which took place May 10, were first reported Friday by the New York Post. E*Trade CEO Paul Idzik confirmed the raid and the closure of the offices in an email to staff dated May 12 and leaked to the Post.

E*Trade’s Manila office is a customer-service and technical-support center whose staffers handle calls after business hours in the U.S. The Philippine authorities made the raid as part of an investigation into allegations that customer-service reps had made trades for customers without being licensed to do so. Sources familiar with the events told Fortune that the detained employees had been released.

Most E*Trade phone-support staffers in the U.S. are registered representatives, licensed to make trades at a client’s request. E*Trade, citing the ongoing probe, declined to comment on whether its Manila staffers were also registered representatives, or whether they had been conducting trades. In a statement, a spokesperson said, “We believe the investigation’s claims to be completely without merit, and are cooperating fully, while vigorously defending ourselves and our colleagues.”

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E*Trade also said that the Manila office remained “temporarily closed,” with customer service calls rerouted to its stateside offices, and that the closure had had no material impact on its operations. As of 5:30 p.m. EDT, shares of E*Trade (ETFC) were down slightly in after-hours trading.

The National Bureau of Investigation, a Philippine federal law-enforcement agency, did not immediately respond to voice mail and email messages sent to its Manila regional offices.

Fortune will update this story as further details emerge.