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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Raymond James and Robert W. Baird Are Charged With Compliance FailuresThe 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 proceeds that would have allowed them to figure out how much in commissions their clients were charged whenever 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 PerformanceBrian 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.
The U.S. Attorney for Manhattan’s Southern District is asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals to look at a ruling that overturned the jury verdict that held Countrywide Home Loans liable for mortgage fraud. Countrywide, which is now owned by Bank of America (BAC), made billions of dollars on home loans that went into default following the 2008 financial crisis.
It was in 2007 that the mortgage provider introduced a new program, referred to as the “high-speed swim lane,” to process applications for mortgages. Within Countrywide, the program was dubbed the “hustle.”
The program did not include the majority of conditions required to make sure loans would be paid back after Wall Street banks, Freddie Mac, or Fannie Mae sold them to investors. Unfortunately, Freddie and Fannie were not told that these conditions had become more relaxed or that loans no longer met certain criteria. The two mortgage finance firms had tightened their own loan buying requirements and underwriting guidelines. As a result of the loosened restrictions by Countrywide, contended the Justice Department, “rampant instances of fraud” resulted.
Despite the 2013 jury verdict that found Countrywide and a Bank of America executive liable for mortgage fraud, a Second Circuit judge panel overruled the decision. It found that even though Countrywide purposely breached contracts, this was not fraud because the lender had not intended to fool customers at the time that contracts were signed.
Now, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara wants a Second Circuit panel of judges to consider that Countrywide made false statements when selling loan bundles to customers, including Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. He said that the court bypassed evidence at trial that showed how the defendants made fraudulent misrepresentations when selling the loans and while the contracts were being executed. Prosecutors are arguing that the language in the contract refers to each mortgage sale during the actual sale and not upon the writing of the contract.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) is a defendant in a securities lawsuit brought by Primus Pacific Partners. Primus used to own 20% of Eon Capital, a Malaysian lender. In its complaint, brought in the New York State Supreme Court, Primus accused Goldman and ex-Managing Director Tim Leissner of hiding that there were conflicts of interest involving Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is a sovereign wealth fund.
Goldman had been advising Eon Capital when the latter was considering a takeover offer from Hong Leong Bank Bhd, which is a Malaysian bank. According to Primus, in January ’10, Goldman and Leissner determined that Hong Leong’s first bid wasn’t fair. A few months later later, however, they decided that a revised offer that was only 2.8% greater was fair and recommended that Eon Capital take the deal.
The plaintiff believes that Goldman approved of the higher bid because it was seeking to impress the Malaysian Prime Minster whose brothers would benefit from a merger. Nazim Rajak worked for Hong Leong as a director while Nazir Rajak was chairman of CIMB Group Holdings Bhd, which advised Hong Leong about its takeover bid of EON Capital.
Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) will pay $36.3M to settle allegations accusing ex-employees of obtaining access to confidential documents from the Federal Reserve. The Fed contends that Joseph Jiampietro, while working as a Goldman Sachs managing director, obtained the unauthorized supervisory data belonging to bank regulators and utilized the information for his work at the financial firm.
The Fed said that ex-Goldman Sachs banker Rohit Bansal was the one who shared the confidential documents with Jiampietro. Bansal had gotten the documents from his friend Jason Gross, a New York Fed employee that he used to work with at the regulatory agency. The confidential data involved a bank that was a client of Goldman Sachs. Last year, Bansal pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge involving the Fed documents, while Gross pleaded guilty to giving Bansal the information.
The Fed believes that Jiampietro used the confidential information to make pitches to potential and current clients. A lawyer for Jiampietro, who had previously worked for UBS Group Ag (UBS) and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), maintains that the allegations against his client are “demonstrably false.”
Jiampietro maintains that he never asked anyone for confidential supervisory information, nor did he use said information to benefit him or anyone else. Last week, he filed a lawsuit against Goldman Sachs accusing his former employer of not paying at least $350K in legal fees that he incurred in the government probe into the Fed documents.
As part of the settlement, Goldman Sachs will remedy flaws in its policies so that confidential document leaks don’t happen in the future. The firm will have to set up an improved program to fulfill compliance expectations around issuing and using secret supervisory information and it cannot re-hire individuals previously linked to improper disclosures.