Nomura Home Equity Loan, Inc. and Nomura Asset Acceptance Corporation have agreed to jointly pay over $3M to settle allegations that they engaged in the sale of faulty residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to the Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and the U.S. Central Federal Credit Union. The National Credit Union Administration brought the RMBS fraud case on behalf of the two corporate credit unions.It was in 2011 that the NCUA Board, while serving as liquidating agent for both financial institutions, brought the claims against the Nomura entities. The RMBS lawsuit was brought in federal district courts in Kansas and California.The $3M settlement dismisses NCUA’s pending cases against the two firms. By settling, neither firm is denying or admitting to the alleged wrongdoing.
Raymond James to Pay Vermont Almost $1.5M in Immigrant Visa Case
The Securities Division of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation said that Raymond James & Associates (RJF) must pay $1.45M in penalties because one of its registered representaitves allowed investor money to be misused in a$350M development fraud involving the EB-5 program. The program lets rich foreign investors obtain permanent residency if they invest a certain amount in projects that help establish jobs for U.S. citizens.
Earlier, a Securities and Exchange Commission-appointed receiver sued Raymond James, which received wire transfers involving the scam beginning in 2008. The money was from investors who thought they were investing in a Vermont ski resort. One of the fraudsters, Ariel Quiro, is accused of borrowing against the Raymond James accounts and using nearly $2.5M of investors’ money to cover margin interest loans to the firm. Last month, Raymond James arrived at a $5.95M settlement with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation over violations involving the ski resort. $4.5M of the money was for paying back investors.
Regarding this $1.45M fine, Vermont regulators said that it was a Raymond James representative who set up the brokerage and margin accounts involved in the alleged scam. The financial representative also failed to procure the proper documentation showing that Quiros was entitled to act for certain limited partnerships and let him authorize the transfer of $13M in limited partnership money to buy the ski resort even though written instructions directed otherwise.
Citigroup Admits Wrongdoing Over Blue Sheet Data
According to the SEC, for 15 years, Citigroup Global (C) markets provided the regulator with incomplete blue sheet data regarding trades that it executed. The coding error involved software that the firm used from 5/99 to 4/14 for processing the Commissions’ requests for the information, including data about trade times, prices, volume traded, and information identifying customers. As a result, Citigroup left out nearly 27,000 securities transactions in responses to over 2,300 blue sheet requests.
Citibank (C) is the first U.S. bank to settle allegations of benchmark interest rate manipulation. To resolve the Commodities Futures Trading Commission claims that it manipulated the London Interbank Offered Rates (LIBOR), Citibank will pay $250M. It will pay $175M to resolve Euroyen Tibor and Yen Libor rigging claims. Also settling charges within this case are Citibank Japan Ltd (CJL) and Citigroup Global Markets Japan Inc. (CGMJ).
The CFTC claims that between ’07 and ‘12 Citigroup had specific traders input false information so their trading positions would benefit. It also claims that the bank’s affiliates issued false reports related to dollar Libor rates and ISDAFIX benchmark rates during the financial crisis so that its reputation would be protected.
Citigroup Global Markets Japan is charged with trying to rig Euroyen TIBOR and Yen LIBOR. Citibank Japan Ltd. is accused of engaging in false reporting related to the Euroyen TIBOR so that derivatives trading positions priced according to Euroyen TIBOR and Yen LIBOR would purportedly benefit.
Libor, along with the Tokyo Interbank Offered Rate (Tibor), is what banks use to establish the cost of borrowing from one another. Libor is also used to set the rates on mortgages, credit cards, derivatives, and other financial products.
Seven big banks have resolved a U.S. lawsuit accusing them of rigging ISDAFix rates, which is the benchmark for appraising interest rate derivatives, structured debt securities, and commercial real estate mortgages, for $324M. The banks that have reached a settlement are:
· Barclays PLS (BCS) for $30M (In 2015, Barclays paid $115M to U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to resolve charges of ISDAfix rigging.)
· Bank of America Corp. (BAC) for $50M
· Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) for $50M
· Citigroup Inc. (C) for $42M
· JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) for $52M
· Deutsche Bank AG (DB) for $50M
· Royal Bank of Scotland Group plc (RBS) for $50M
The deal must be approved by a Manhattan federal court. The defendants had sought to have the case dismissed, but US District Judge Jesse Furman in Manhattan refused their request. stating that the case raised “plausible allegations” that the defendants were involved in a conspiracy together.
U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman has turned down the request by Barclays Plc (BARC), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), Citigroup Inc. (C), Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS), BNP Paribas SA, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS), HSBC Holdings Plc, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), UBS AG (UBS), JPMorgan Chase & CO. (JPM), Wells Fargo & CO. (WFC), and Nomura Holdings Inc. to dismiss the antitrust lawsuits accusing them of working together to rig the ISDAfix. The benchmark rate is used to establish prices on commercial real estate mortgages, interest-rate swap transactions, and other securities. Another defendant is ICAP Plc, which brokered transactions that set the rate for ISDAfix.
Furman said that plaintiff Alaska Electrical Pension Fund and other investors have brought up “plausible allegations” that there may have been a conspiracy between the defendants that allowed them to collude with one another. The investors are seeking billions of dollars in losses they believe they sustained because ISDAFix was allegedly rigged. In this case, the judge let the breach-of-contract claims and antirust claims proceed to trial but dismissed the other claims.
Citigroup (C) Inc. has agreed to pay $23M in an institutional investor fraud lawsuit accusing the bank of conspiring to manipulated the Euroyen Tibor and yen Libor benchmark interest rates and Euroyen Tibor futures contracts. Plaintiff investors included hedge fund Hayman Capital Management LP and the California State Teachers’ Retirement System. They contend that Citigroup and other banks benefited their trading positions from ‘06 through at least ’10 when they conspired to manipulate rates. As part of the settlement Citigroup said it would cooperate with the plaintiffs, whose lawsuits are still pending against other banks.
Also settling but without having to anything is broker-dealer RP Martin. Defendants that have yet to settle include Barclays Plc (BARC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Deutsche Bank AG (DB), UBS AG (UBS), HSBCA Holdings Plc (HSBC), Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Holdings Inc., and Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc.
U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren has issued a report in which she claims that the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Department of Justice have been doing a poor job on enforcement when it comes to going after companies and individuals for corporate crimes.
In Rigged Justice: How Weak Enforcement Lets Corporate Offenders off Easy, Warren takes a closer look at what she describes as the 20 worst federal enforcement failures of 2015. The Senator noted that that when federal agencies caught large companies in illegal acts, they failed to take substantial action against them. Instead, companies were fined for sums that in some cases could be written off as tax deductions.
Some of the 2015 cases that Warren Mentions:
• Standard & Poor’s consented to pay $1.375B to the DOJ, DC, and 19 states to resolve charges that it bilked investors by putting out inflated ratings misrepresenting the actual risks involved in collateral debt obligations and residential mortgage-backed securities. Warren Points out that the amount the credit rater paid is less than one-sixth of the fine the government and states had sought against it, and at S & P did not have to admit wrongdoing. No individuals were prosecuted in this case.
• Citigroup (C), Barclays (BARC), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), and UBS AG (UBS) paid the DOJ $5.6B to resolve claims that their traders colluded together to rig exchange rates. As a result, the firms made billions of dollars while investors and clients suffered. While admissions of guilt were sought, no individuals were prosecuted. Also, the SEC gave the banks waivers so they wouldn’t have to deal with collateral damages from pleading guilty.
The state of Virginia has arrived at a $63M settlement with 11 banks to resolve claims that they bilked the state’s retirement system by purportedly misrepresenting the quality of residential mortgage-backed securities in the run up to the 2008 financial crisis. The resolution settles all claims against the financial firms accused of causing financial harm to the Virginia Retirement system and its taxpayers and pensioners.
The banks involved will pay the following amounts respectively to settle, including:
· UBS Securities for $850K
· Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. and Countrywide Securities Corp. (BAC) for $19.5M
· Credit Suisse Securities (CS) for $1.2M
· RBS Securities (RBS) for $10M
· HSBC Securities (HSBC) For $2.5M
· Barclays Capital (BARC) for $9M
· Goldman Sachs & Co. (GS) for $2.9M
· Morgan Stanley & Co. (MS) for $6.9M
· Citigroup Global Markets (C) for $4.8M
· Deutsche Bank Securities (DB) for $5.6M
The state lost $383M over RMBS it purchased from 2004 to before 2010 and it had to sell most of these securities, which were toxic and constructed on junk mortgages. The settlement is the largest non-healthcare related financial recovery in a case involving Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act-related violations. However, according to the state’s Attorney General Mark Herring, even though the firm is settling it is not denying or admitting liability.
Performer Ne-Yo Files Countersuit Against Citibank Over Alleged $5.4M Securities Fraud
Singer Ne-Yo is suing Citibank (C), claiming that the financial institution should have had the proper safeguards and procedures in place that could have prevented his ex-money manager Kevin Foster from allegedly bilking him of $4.5M. The performer had filed a securities case against Foster and the latter’s employer, V. Brown & Co., in 2014.
Ne-Yo sought $8M. $4.5M of which Foster had purportedly swindled by moving funds out of the singer’s accounts to the money manager’s own accounts and the accounts of others. Ne-Yo sought $3.5M for service payments he says that he paid Foster and V. Brown between ’05 and ’13.
The performer claims that Foster forged his name on loan documents and took the money, including $1.4M from Citibank that the singer claims he never signed off on. Right before Ne-Yo sued his ex-manager, however, Citi filed its own lawsuit against him for the loan.
Now, Ne-Yo is saying that Citibank never told him of the numerous transactions made by Kevin, some of which involved his overdrawn account at the bank.
Sec Issues Over $700K Award to Whistleblower
The Securities and Exchange Commission is issuing an over $700K award to an individual who blew the whistle on a company. The information that the person provided led to a successful enforcement action. The whistleblower, an industry expert, was not employed at the company. This is the first time a company outsider has been issued this type of award since the SEC opened its whistleblower office in 2011.
Because the regulator protects the confidentiality of whistleblowers, the individual’s identity has not been revealed. SEC Enforcement Division Director Andrew Ceresney said that the agency values voluntary submissions by industry experts with ‘first-hand” information of wrongdoing committed by company insiders.”
In the U.K., a panel for the Court of Appeal refused to overturn the criminal conviction of ex-UBS (UBS) and Citigroup (C) trader. Tom Hayes is behind bars for conspiring to rig Libor. However, while his conviction will stand, the panel did lower his criminal sentence from 14 years to 11 years, citing his non-managerial role at the two banks and his diagnosis of mild Asperger’s.
Hayes is considered the main leader, spurring dozens of traders to manipulate the London interbank offered rate. However, his lawyers claim that Hayes did not hide his conduct from others at the bank and never considered his actions dishonest. Hayes said that his behavior was common in his industry.
When he voluntarily testified before prosecutors, Hayes admitted to manipulating rates. He also testified against a number of ex-friends and colleagues. Hayes also is facing criminal charges in the U.S.
Libor helps shape the borrowing costs for trillions of dollars in loans. Banks set rates, including Libor, by turning in rates at which they would be willing to lend each other money in different currencies and at different maturities.