EXCLUSIVE JPMorgan to restrict trading of some U.S. cannabis stocks -letter

A view of the exterior of the JP Morgan Chase & Co. corporate headquarters in New York City May 20, 2015. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Nov 2 (Reuters) – JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N) has told prime brokerage clients it will no longer let them buy certain U.S. cannabis-related securities beginning Nov. 8, according to a letter seen by Reuters.

The move follows similar actions by other banks, including Credit Suisse, after the high-profile collapse of private fund Archegos Capital this year left several banks nursing losses.

The saga drew regulatory scrutiny and prompted banks across Wall Street to review how much risk they are prepared to take on in their prime brokerage businesses.

While many states have legalized the medical or recreational use of cannabis, the substance remains illegal under U.S. federal law, making it risky for banks to deal with cannabis-related businesses.

“J.P. Morgan (JPMS) has introduced a framework that is designed to comply with U.S. money laundering laws and regulations by restricting certain activities in the securities of U.S. Marijuana Related Businesses,” the bank wrote to clients.

As of Nov. 8, the bank will not allow new purchases or short positions in the related businesses, but clients with existing positions will be allowed to liquidate them, it said.

The restrictions apply to companies with U.S. operations that are not listed on the Nasdaq, the New York Stock Exchange or the Toronto Stock Exchange and have a “direct nexus to marijuana-related activities.”

Nasdaq and NYSE allow certain cannabis-related companies — including Canadian companies that do not sell cannabis in the United States – to list their shares, but will not list companies involved in the direct cultivation or sales of the marijuana plant.

However, such companies have still found workarounds to trade on over-the-counter exchanges.

Cowen and Co, another U.S. bank active in the cannabis trading space, in September increased its cash margin requirements for all marijuana related trades on its platform, according to a letter it sent to clients.

A representative for Cowen did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Some investors have blamed recent selloffs in U.S. cannabis stocks on banks backing away from the sector and the new restrictions at JPMorgan and Cowen could add to the pressure.

The MSOS exchange-traded fund , which tracks U.S. marijuana stocks, has halved in value since hitting a peak in February.

Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru and Matt Scuffham in New York
Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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