Articles Posted in Financial Firms

Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) has admitted wrongdoing and will pay a penalty of $90 M to the SEC settle civil claims accusing the firm of misrepresenting how much it brought into its wealth management business.

According to the regulator’s probe, Credit Suisse strayed from its methodology for figuring out NNA (net new assets), which it disclosed to the public. This is the metric that investors value to gauge a financial institution’s success in bringing in new business.

Although disclosures said that the bank was assessing assets individually according to each client’s goals and intentions, Credit Suisse would occasionally employ an undisclosed approach that was “results-driven” to determine NNA  to satisfy specific targets that senior management had set. SEC Enforcement Division Director Andrew J. Ceresney said that the bank’s failure to reveal that it was employing a results-driven approach prevented investors from having the chance to properly judge Credit Suisse’ success in drawing in new money.

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Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) will settle two civil residential mortgage-backed securities lawsuits for $1.1B.  The payment will go to the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) and resolves claims accusing the bank of selling faulty MBSs to two corporate credit unions, causing their failure.  The federal actions were brought in California and Kansas, respectively. This is one of the largest settlements reached in mortgage-backed securities cases brought against banks.
The allegedly toxic RMBSs were sold to Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and the Central Federal Credit Union. By settling, however, RBS is not admitting fault.
It was just last year that Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay $129.6M to NCUA to resolve claims over its sale of mortgage-backed securities to Members United Corporate Federal Credit Union and Southwest Corporate Federal Credit Union. Both are now defunct, too. 

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Aozora Bank Ltd. has asked a New York appeals court to allow it to sue Credit Suisse (CS) again over losses that it claims it sustained from a $1.5B collateralized debt obligation.  The Japanese lender claims that a lower court erred in dismissing the claims it had previously brought on the grounds that they were submitted too late.
It was last year  that New York Supreme Court Judge Charles E. Ramos  threw out the CDO fraud lawsuit on the grounds that the state’s statute of limitations had already passed.  In New York, fraud claims can be brought within two years from when a plaintiff could have, with reasonable diligence, realized that it was defrauded or within six years of when a transaction had closed.
Aozora believes that Credit Suisse employed a “trash bin” for its assets that were toxic. The Japanese lender purchased the Jupiter High-Grade CDO V Ltd CDO notes for $40M on 5/11/07 but did not file it’s case until 6/26/13. Ramos said that Aozara failed to prove that there was no way  it could have discovered the problems with the Jupiter V notes that it purchased from Credit Suisse before that filing date.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is awarding over $4M to a whistleblower for providing original information that led to a successful fraud case. This is individual is the 34th whistleblower that the SEC’s program has awarded since 2011, upping the total amount granted in such awards to over $111M.
In what was the second biggest award issued by the regulator to date, he SEC awarded $22M to an to an ex- Monsanto Co. financial executive last month. The individual had reported alleged accounting violations involving Roundup, the company’s weed killer. According to media reports, Monsanto offered distributor rebates to raise sales but moved the costs into the following fiscal year. As a result, the company moved up its revenue while postponing the reduction that resulted from the costs. 
Under the SEC Whistleblower program, individuals who voluntarily give the regulator unique information that leads to a successful enforcement case are entitled to 10-30% of the sanctions collected when that amount is over $1M. Since the program’s inception five years ago, the Commission has received over 14,000 tips. 

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Deutsche Bank (DB) and the U.S. Department of Justice have yet to reach a settlement over allegations about the way that the German lender packaged toxic mortgages leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. According to The Wall Street Journal, The DOJ wants the bank to pay $14B. Deutsche Bank, however, said it has no plans to pay “anywhere near the number cited” and sees that figure as a starting point in negotiations.

In a statement, the firm said that it expected the final figure to be much lower and closer to what other banks have paid over similar allegations. InvestmentNews reports that it has not been uncommon for the DOJ in its investigation into MBSs to first put forward higher penalties than the eventual settlement that is reached.

Other firms and their deals over their mortgage lending activities include Bank of America (BAC) for $16.7B, Citigroup (C) for $7B, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) for $9B, Goldman Sachs (GS) for $5.1B, and Morgan Stanley (MS) for $3.2B. Goldman Sachs admitted to wrongdoing when it settled claims that it did not properly vet MBS before selling them as quality debt to investors.

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Voya Financial Inc. (VOYA) is the defendant in a 401(k) lawsuit alleging excessive fees. According to a Nestle 401(k) Savings Plan participant, Voya and managed-account provider Financial Engines came up with an arrangement that allowed Voya to collect excessive fees for service related to investment advice, but without disclosing that this was part of their deal. In Patrico v. Voya Financial, Inc. et al., the plaintiff is claiming breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA.
The proposed class action lawsuit contends that Voya offered participants an advice program via the Voya Retirement Advisers but subcontracted to have Financial Engines give      the advice.  The plaintiff contends that even though Voya didn’t provide “material services” related to the advice that participants were given through the program, the company collected a fee to which it purportedly had no right. Voya allegedly keeps a “substantial” part of the fee, while giving some of the fee to Financial Engines.
Voya denies any wrongdoing. 

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Raymond James and Robert W. Baird Are Charged With Compliance Failures

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that Robert W. Baird and Co. and Raymond James & Associates (RJF) will pay $250K and $600K, respectively, to settle charges accusing them of compliance failures in their own wrap free programs. Both firms resolved the charges without admitting or denying to them. They did, however, consent to the regulator’s orders, which found that they violated the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-7.

According to the SEC’s investigation, Raymond James and Robert W. Baird did not put into place the necessary policies and procedures that would have allowed them to figure out how much in commissions  their clients were charged when sub-advisers “traded away” with a brokerage firm that was not part of the wrap fee programs. As a result, said the regulator, the advisers could not let clients know the “magnitude of the costs” nor did the firm consider these commissions when trying to figure out whether the wrap fee program or sub-advisers were appropriate for clients. Because of this, claims the SEC, some clients did not know that they were paying for more than the single wrap fee for investments that were bundled.


Two ARCP Ex-Accounting Executives Face SEC and Criminal Charges For Allegedly Inflating the REIT’s Performance

Brian S. Block and Lisa P. McAlister are facing criminal and civil charges for allegedly overstating the performance of the American Reality Capital Properties (ARCP), now called VEREIT Inc. The two former ARCP accounting executives are accused of inflating a key metric that investors and analysts used to evaluate the publicly-traded real estate investment trust.

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Former Fannie Mae CEO Settles SEC Charges for $100K
Daniel Mudd has agreed to pay $100K to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the ex-Fannie Mae CEO of misleading investors about the degree to which the mortgage company was exposed to subprime loans leading up to the 2008 economic crisis. The regulator had filed its civil case against Mudd and two other Fannie Mae executives in 2011. The latter two settled with the Commission last year.

Mudd maintains he did nothing wrong.

WL Ross Resolves Fee-Allocation Disclosure Charges
WL Ross & Co. will reimburse specific WL Ross funds about $11.8M to resolve SEC charges related to its fee allocation practices and disclosures. The firm will also pay a $2.3M civil penalty.

According to the SEC, WL Ross was given transaction fees by portfolio companies. This lowered the management fees that funds had to pay the firm. The regulator points to WL Ross’s limited partnership agreements that were unclear regarding fee offsets when multiple funds and other co-investors share ownership.

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An ex-participant in Morgan Stanley’s (MS) 401(k) plan is suing the financial firm. The plaintiff is alleging self-dealing and excessive retirement plan fees. Robert Patterson contends that the firm enriched itself at cost to employees. The case is Patterson v. Morgan Stanley et al. He is alleging breaching of fiduciary duty under ERISA. Patterson believes that plan participants sustained millions of dollars in losses in retirement funds from 1/11 through 4/14 because of the alleged breaches.

He is seeking class action status for case over the losses sustained and he wants the firm to pay $150M. The Morgan Stanley 401(k) Plan includes several Morgan Stanley mutual funds. According to the complaint these funds suffered “high relative fees” and/or “poor relative performance.” Although there were a number of non-proprietary investments included in the retirement plan, Patterson claims that they also performed poorly.

Meantime, Edwards Jones is also now a defendant in a 401(k) lawsuit. The plaintiff is a plan participant who claims that the firm caused employees to pay excessively high fees for record keeping and investment management services that purportedly resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in retirement savings. The proposed class-action lawsuit is McDonald v. Edward D. Jones & Co. L.P. et al.

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Edwin Chin, an ex-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) senior trader, will pay $400K to resolve U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing him of misleading the bank’s customers when he sold them residential mortgage-backed securities at prices that were higher than they should have been. Even though he is settling, Chin is not denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings. He has, however, agreed to the entry of the order stating that he violated the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.

According to the Commission’s order, from 2010 until 2012, which is when Chin left the bank, the former Goldman trader made extra money for the firm by concealing the prices that it had paid for different RMBSs and reselling the securities at higher prices to customers. The difference in cost would go to Goldman.

The SEC said Chin made over $1.5M in additional trading profits. Because Goldman made more money, Chin did as well.

The regulator accused Chin of sometimes misleading buyers by suggesting that he was in the process of negotiating a transaction between customers when he was merely selling residential mortgage-backed securities from Goldman’s inventory. In one alleged incident, Chin earned an additional $200K by telling a hedge fund client that he would sell a bond at cost price and without compensation. Unfortunately, he purportedly neglected to tell the hedge fund that he had already bought the security, had it in inventory, and was charging the fund a worse price than what Goldman paid earlier that day. The SEC said that Chin misled the same client about the price of a different security the following day, resulting in an additional $100K in profit.

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