September 28, 2015

Credit Suisse to Pay $4.25M Over Blue Sheet Trading Data that Was Deficient

The SEC is charging Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC (CS) with submitting deficient blue sheet data to the regulator about customer trades. The financial firm is settling the charges by paying a $4.25 million penalty. It has admitted to violating federal securities laws. Credit Suisse acknowledged that it made at least 593 deficient blue sheet submissions to the Commission while leaving out 553,400 reportable trades that represented 1.3 billion shares between 2012 and 2014.

Blue sheet data refers to the color of the forms this type of information used to be placed on before being mailed from a broker-dealer to the SEC. The agency uses the trades when conducting investigations and doing other work. The process by which the regulator now procures this information is electronic but the “blue sheet” name has stuck.

The deficiencies at the firm were related to a probe in which the SEC was looking at blue sheet data and comparing them to data that came from the National Securities Clearing Corp. Credit Suisse has identified the cause of the deficient blue sheet submissions as human and technological errors. The firm has since put into place a number of changes to make sure its blue sheets are accurate from now on.

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September 26, 2015

Pension Fund Fraud: Ex-Detroit Treasurer Gets 11 Years in Prison, Gates Foundation Trust Sues Petrobas, Utah Bank to Pay $5M Over Missing Retirement Monies

Ex-Detroit Pension Trustee Gets 11 Years in Prison
Jeffrey Beazley, a former treasurer of the city of Detroit, Michigan, has been sentenced to 11 years behind bars for getting kickbacks and bribes from businessmen who received hundreds of millions of dollars from two of the city’s pension systems. Beasley, a former fraternity brother of ex-Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, was treasurer of the city from 2006 until September 2008. He was in charge of both pension systems and served as trustee for the city’s Police and Fire Retirement System and General Retirement System.

The two pension systems serve over 30,000 pensioners, city employees, and beneficiaries. The kickbacks and bribes were part of a wider corruption scam involving Kilpatrick and others and cost the pensions over $97 million. The former mayor is serving 28-years behind bars for his role. A jury found Beasley guilty of bribery, extortion, and fraud conspiracy.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust Sues Petrobras and Its Auditor
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Trust, which is the trust that oversees the $41 billion endowment of the couple’s foundation, has filed a lawsuit accusing Brazil’s Petróleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras) and its auditor of involvement in a widespread corruption scam. The trust claims they lost millions of dollars because of the scheme. WGI Emerging Markets Fund, LLC, which managed investments for the Gates trust, is a co-plaintiff.

While other plaintiffs have also sued Petrobras, the oil company remains adamant that it was the victim of bribery and a bid rigging plot involving a few company insider and suppliers. Among US investors that have filed over a dozen complaints are those that purchased Petrobras-sold American depositary receipts. These plaintiffs include the Rhode Island city of Providence, public pension funds in Hawaii and Idaho, and the Attorney General of Ohio.

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September 24, 2015

SEC Proposes to Modify Rules Regarding The Use of Its In-House Judges in Enforcement Cases

The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued proposals that would amend its rules governing its use of administrative law judges in enforcement proceedings. The proposed amendments come in the wake of criticism and lawsuits contending that having in-house judges preside over SEC cases gives the regulator an unfair advantage over defendants and violates the constitution because of the way the judges are appointed.

According to The Wall Street Journal, from October 2010 through March 2015, the SEC won 90% of its cases that were presided over by an in-house judge. It won just 69% of cases in federal court during that same time period. Every fiscal year since October 2004, the SEC has emerged victorious against at least four out of five defendants in cases that went before its judges.

Billionaire Mark Cuban, who was previously found not liable in the SEC's insider trading case against him, recently said in a court brief that if his case had been heard by an SEC judge instead of in federal district court, he would have not benefited from certain protections and the outcome would have been very different for him. Cuban filed the brief in support of real estate developer Charles Hill, who also has been accused of insider trading. Hill is seeking to have his case transferred from the SEC’s in-house court to federal court.

Already a federal judge has ruled that the use of an in-house judge in the Commission’s case against Hill was “likely unconstitutional” and a federal judge stayed the case in June pending further review. The SEC is appealing.

Three primary changes to the Commission’s Rules of Practice that have been proposed, including, the

· Modification of the timing of administrative proceedings. such as giving more time before a hearing takes place in certain cases. Currently, defendants have four months to get ready for trial. The modified rules would give them eight months.

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September 21, 2015

SEC Charges First Eagle Investment Management With Improper Use of Shareholder Assets

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging First Eagle Investment Management and its distribution arm FEF Distributors with improperly using the assets of mutual fund shareholders to pay two broker-dealers to market and distribute its funds. To settle the charges, both entities will pay $40 million, which will go toward repaying shareholders that were impacted. The SEC said the violations took place from 1/08 to 3/14.

While it is typical for mutual fund managers to pay money to brokerage firms and other financial intermediaries to get funds placement on platforms and distribution through financial advisers, the payments are only allowed to come from the assets of an actual fund if they are part of a 12-1b plan that involves apprising shareholders and fund boards of such payments. Also, while funds are allowed to pay broker-dealers for services rendered, again they can only come out of a fund’s assets for said services and not for access to a brokerage firm’s clients.

The SEC has been looking into whether funds are being illegally paid to broker-dealers under the pretense that their money was going toward other services. The regulator's efforts are related to its Distribution-in-Guise Initiative, which involves investigating whether certain mutual fund advisers are using fund assets improperly by disguising distribution payments as sub-transfer agency payments. The Commission contends that First Eagle and FEF distributors illegally caused the asset managers to pay close to $25 million for services that were related to distribution as opposed to using its own assets to pay firms for this access.

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September 19, 2015

Ex-Aurelia Finance Managers Compensate Asset Managers Bilked in Madoff Ponzi Scam

Five ex-Aurelia Finance wealth managers have paid “substantial compensation” to resolve criminal complaints related to the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scam. According to prosecutors, the Swiss-based private bank lost up to $800 million of client money that they put into the scheme.

Pascal Cattaneo, Jean Marc Weneger, Vladimir Stepczynski, Olivier Ador, and Laurent Mathysen-Gerst were charged with criminal mismanagement of the money because they put too much into a Madoff feeder fund. Among those who lost money through asset management units were Italy's UniCredit, Santander (SAN.MC), and Swiss-based EFG International. Prosecutors claim that the ex-directors got rich on management fees, commissions, and finder fees paid for bogus returns that were never verified.

In total, the Madoff Ponzi scam cost its investors $17 billion. Those impacted included retail investors, celebrities, other wealthy private investors, and institutional investors.

Meantime, efforts to recover the money lost by Madoff’s victims continue.

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September 17, 2015

SEC Denied Request that Temporary Ban on In-House Judges Be Lifted

District Court Judge Richard Berman in New York has rejected the Securities and Exchange Commission’s request that a preliminary injunction on its use of administrative law judges in its proceedings be lifted. Berman said that the regulator has not shown “likely success” in its claim that the ALJ process is constitutional.

The judge also turned down the SEC’s contention that its administrative case against ex-Standard & Poor’s Rating Services (S & P) managing director Barbara Duka should proceed. Duka is challenging that securities case, arguing that SEC proceedings with administrative judges violate the Constitution because of how the justices are named and supervised.

Berman wants the SEC to fully probe charges of bias related to in-house judges. Critics have expressed concern that the in-house court presided over by Commission judges places the regulator at an unfair disadvantage over defendants. The SEC disagrees with these concerns, claiming that not only are judges impartial but also its court system is more efficient than that of the federal courts.

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September 16, 2015

Insider Trading Cases: Judge Says SEC Can Charge Former Euro-Pacific Capital Brokers, Ex-Morgan Stanley Broker Pleads Guilty, Traders Who Used Hacked News Releases Settle for $30M, Father and Son Face Charges,

SEC Can Pursue Ex-Euro Pacific Capital Brokers For Insider Trading
In Manhattan, U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff said that the SEC could pursue insider trading charges against two ex- Euro Pacific Capital Inc. stockbrokers despite a recent ruling issued by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in another case.

Judge Rakoff turned down Benjamin Durant and Daryl Payton request to dismiss the SEC case accusing them of illegal trading prior to an IBP Corp. deal. The brokers had contended that the securities case should be dismissed because of the Second Circuit’s ruling that threw out the convictions of two hedge fund managers. The appeals court held that prosecutors have to prove a trader was aware that the source who provided a tip got a benefit beyond friendship for the exchange.

Payton, Durant, and others were criminally charged and pleaded guilty to insider trading. They had traded on SPSS stock based on a tip that IBM was going to acquire SPSS Inc. However, after the 2nd circuit ruling in the hedge fund case, a federal judge threw out the guilty pleas and prosecutors dismissed the criminal charges.

Still, the SEC continued with its criminal case against Payton and Durant. Now Rakoff is delaying the scheduled civil trial while the U.S. Supreme Court decides whether to deal with the appellate court’s ruling.

Former Morgan Stanley Broker Accused of Swallowing Tips Pleads Guilty
Vladimir Eydelman, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, has pleaded guilty to tender-offer fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy to commit both in an insider trading case. In federal court in New Jersey, the 43-year-old admitted to receiving insider corporate tips on pieces of paper and napkins, which he then chewed up and swallowed at Grand Central Station in New York.

The tips involved information filched from computers at a New York law firm. The insider trading scam, which lasted five years, resulted in $5.6 million in profits. Frank Tamayo, who provided Eydelman with the information, pleaded guilty to the charges against him last year. Eydelman used the information given to him to buy securities for himself, relatives, friends, Tamayo, and his brokerage clients before news of the deals went public.

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September 14, 2015

Credit Suisse To Pay Over $80M to Settle Dark Pool Allegations, Says Source reports that according to someone familiar with the matter, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) will pay over $80 million to resolve federal and state authorities’ claims that it failed to fully disclose information to clients about how it ran its dark pool. Over $50 million of the payment is expected to take the forms of fines and disgorgement in a settlement with the SEC, while about $30 million would resolve the allegations made by the New York Attorney General.

Credit Suisse’s dark pool, Crossfinder, is the biggest alternative trading system in the country. The source said that the Swiss bank is accused of misrepresenting certain aspects about the way it runs the platform.

In dark pools, demand and supply remain private. Only specifics about executed trades are disclosed. Dark pools comprise one-fifth of trading in the U.S. stock market. Large investors, high frequency traders, and hedge funds are among those that trade on these alternative trading systems. There is concern that some traders are able to exploit and profit, sometimes with the help of dark pool operators. Meantime, ordinary investors may be suffering because of their inability to avail of such benefits.

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September 12, 2015

Bank of America, Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, & Other Big Banks Settle $1.87B Settlement Over Swaps Price-Fixing Case

$1.87B securities settlement has been reached with 12 major banks. The case resolves investor claims that the financial firms conspired to rig prices to hold back competition in the credit default market. For now, the resolution is an agreement in principal and the parties have two weeks to work out the details before turning the deal over to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan for preliminary approval.

The defendants in this credit default case are:

· Bank of America Corp. (BAC)


· Goldman Sachs Group Inc., (GS)

· Barclays (BARC)

· Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS)

· BNP Paribas SA (BNP)

· Morgan Stanley (MS)

· Citigroup (C)

· JPMorgan Chase (JPM)

· Credit Suisse Group AG (CS)

· Deutsche Bank AG (DB)

· HSBC Holdings Plc (HSBC)

Markit Ltd and the International Swaps and Derivatives Association are also defendants.

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September 9, 2015

CFTC Investigates JP Morgan For Product Steering

According to The Wall Street Journal, sources say that the CFTC is probing into whether J.P. Morgan Chase (JPM) engaged in product steering by inappropriately directing private banking clients to its own hedge funds. Its investigation is also scrutinizing Highbridge Capital Management LLC, which is owned by the bank. The CFTC wants to know why a significant chunk of Highbridge’s assets is from J.P. Morgan’s private banking assets and whether this was beneficial to the alternative investment management firm during the economic crisis.

Although banks can sell in-house investments, advisers are only allowed to recommend these investments if they are in the best interests of clients or, at a minimum,suitable for their portfolios and needs.

J.P. Morgan purchased Highbridge in 2009. The firm’s returns were solid for years until the financial crisis, which is when investors sought to take out billions of dollars from its biggest hedge fund. To keep investors from leaving, Highbridge offered incentives, such as lower fees.

J.P. Morgan’s private banking clients still hold significant investments in Highbridge funds. However, a J.P. Morgan spokesman who spoke to The Wall Street Journal said that 95% of hedge fund investments from the financial institution's private banking clients are in funds that have no connection to Highbridge.

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September 8, 2015

Three Ex-Nomura Traders Face RMBS Fraud Charges

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut and the Securities and Exchange Commission are charging three ex-Nomura Securities International (NMR) traders with mortgage-backed securities fraud. The SEC contends that while at Nomura, Michael Gramins, Ross Shapiro, and Tyler Peters misrepresented the bonds and offers that the firm was provided for the residential mortgage-backed securities, along with the prices at which it bought and sold the securitizations and the spreads earned for intermediating the trades.

The three men are accused of not only lying to customers about the pricing data of the mortgage bonds but also of bilking of them of millions of dollars. The SEC claims that they coached, trained, and instructed junior Nomura traders to also commit this fraud. Their wrongdoing purportedly helped Nomura make millions of dollars in illicit revenue—$5 million from their alleged misconduct and $42 million from the omissions and lies made by those whom they trained.

Meantime, prosecutors have announced criminal charges against the three men. According to the indictment, they oversaw Nomura’s RMBS Desk in New York. Shapiro was a managing director, Gramins was the desk’s executive director, and Peters was a Senior VP whose role was concentrated on bond trading of alt-A loans and prime loans.

The men are accused of conspiracy to defraud Nomura customers by inflating the RMBS bond price that the firm had to pay in order to get customers to pay an even higher price. They also purportedly deflated the price that Nomura could sell an RMBS bond to get customers to sell at lower prices, as well as set up fake third third-party sellers and offers even when Nomura already owned the bonds, which they then pretended they were getting potential buyers.

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September 5, 2015

FINRA Fines Charles Schwab $2M for Supervisory Failures, Capital Deficiencies

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is fining Charles Schwab & Co. (SCHW) $2 million. The self-regulatory organization said that between 5/15/14 and 7/1/14, Schwab was capital deficient by up to $775M because of cash inflows that went beyond what it could invest with existing facilities on three occasions. Because of this, said FINRA, the firm moved $1 billion to its parent company for overnight investment. Under a revolving loan agreement, Schwab’s Treasury group approved the funds as an unsecured loan.

The SRO claims that Schwab lacked the procedures that would have mandated that its Treasury group consult with the company’s regulatory reporting group. It also contends that the firm’s supervisory systems were not designed in a manner reasonable enough to stop the Treasury group from going into unsecured transfers with affiliates that could lead to a net capital deficiency.

Schwab is not denying or admitting to the FINRA alelagtions. A firm representative did issue a statement expressing regret over the failure to note the overnight cash transfers.

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