What Does It Mean to Be Brought Over the Wall?

Being "brought over the wall" is when an employee in the research department of an investment bank—usually a research analyst—is brought over to work for the underwriting department in order to focus on a particular company. The purpose of such a transfer is to add a knowledgeable opinion to the underwriting process, thereby adding value to it. This situation is also known as "brought over the Chinese Wall."

Key Takeaways

  • When someone is brought over the wall, it is usually to lend their expertise to another department.
  • The idea is that the skilled employee will lend their expertise and knowledge to the receiving department.
  • Departments need to be careful about sharing information lest it leads to insider trading.

Understanding Brought Over the Wall

The term itself references the division between the analysts of an investment bank and the bank's underwriting department. The division is meant to prevent the exchange of inside information between the two departments. Once the underwriting process is complete, the research employee who has been brought over "the wall" is not allowed to comment on any information learned in the underwriting process until it has become public knowledge.

Bringing an employee from the research department of an investment bank "over the wall" to the underwriting department is a common practice. The research analyst lends their expert opinion on the company, which helps underwriters become better informed during the underwriting process. After such a process is completed, the research analyst is restricted from sharing any information about their time "over the wall" until the information has been made public. This measure is meant to help prevent the exchange of insider information.

This "wall" is not a physical boundary, but rather an ethical one that financial institutions are expected to observe.

The concept of the "Chinese wall" separation between the research department and underwriting department of an investment bank also came into being in 1929, when the separation of investment banking from brokerage operations was embraced by the securities industry regulators. This development was initiated by the 1929 stock market crash, and it eventually served as a catalyst for the creation of new legislation.

Rather than forcing companies to participate in either the business of providing research or providing investment banking services, the "wall" attempts to create an environment in which a single company can engage in both endeavors.

Reviewing the "Brought Over the Wall" Practice

The practice of bringing analysts over wall carried on unquestioned for decades until the 1990s dotcom boom and bust brought it back into the spotlight. Regulators discovered that big-name analysts were privately selling personal holdings of the stocks they were promoting and had been pressured into providing good ratings (despite personal opinions and research that indicated otherwise). Regulators found out many of these analysts, who personally owned pre-IPO shares of certain securities and stood to earn massive personal profits if they were successful, gave "hot" tips to institutional clients and favored certain clients, enabling them to make enormous profits at the expense of unsuspecting members of the public.