UK watchdog fines former banker for WhatsApp client breaches

LONDON, March 30 (Reuters) - Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has fined a former Jefferies banker almost 40,000 pounds ($49,000) for sharing confidential client information over instant messaging service WhatsApp because he wanted to “impress” the recipients, the watchdog said on Thursday.

The FCA said Christopher Niehaus, a former managing director of investment banking at Jefferies International Ltd, shared confidential information between January and May 2016 with an acquaintance and a friend, who was also a Jefferies client.

Niehaus, who sent confidential details over WhatsApp such as the identity of clients, details about a mandate and Jefferies fees, also boasted about how he might have been able to pay off his mortgage if one of the deals was successful.

Neither Niehaus nor his contacts used the information to deal in securities, the FCA said. But he was suspended from Jefferies and resigned before the bank completed a disciplinary process. According to the UK register of financial services staff, he left Jefferies in October 2016, a year after joining.

He qualified for a 15 percent reduction in his initial fine of 53,140 pounds after a full, early admission, the FCA said.

The fine comes amid heightened scrutiny on technology companies that politicians say can offer a secret place for criminals to communicate.

WhatsApp is a Facebook-owned messaging service used by more than one billion people worldwide.

$1 = 0.8040 pounds Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Mark Potter