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To settle a private securities lawsuit in the US alleging Libor manipulation, HSBC Holdings Plc. (HSBC) has agreed to pay $100M. The bank is accused of conspiring to rig the London interbank offered rated (Libor) benchmark. The plaintiffs in the lawsuit are a number “over-the-counter” investors, including Yale University and the Maryland city of Baltimore, that dealt directly with banks belonging to the panel tasked with determining the key benchmark interest rate. Now, a court will have to approve the preliminary settlement.

The plaintiffs sued 16 banks for alleged Libor rigging in 2011. According to their case, HSBC and other banks conspired together to submit artificially low borrowing costs so that they could appear more financially robust and increase earnings. These lower borrowing costs led to a lower Libor, which had an adverse effect on institutions and persons that invested in pension funds, money market funds, mutual funds, the bond market, a number of derivative products, and bank loan funds.

Libor is the benchmark used to establish rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars of transactions, including those involving credit cards, student loans, and mortgages. It also allows the banks to figure out what it would cost them to borrow from one another.

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To settle an Securities and Exchange Commission case, Maxwell Technologies, Inc. and one of its former sales executives and officers, Van Andrews, have agreed to pay $2.8M and $50K in penalties, respectively, but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s allegations. They are not, however, admitting to or denying the SEC’s finding that they were involved a fraudulent revenue scam that inflated the energy storage company’s reported financial results.

The regulator’s order said that the company acknowledged revenue from ultracapacitor sales “prematurely” so as to better fulfill the expectations of analysts. Andrews is accused of inflating revenues through secret customer deals and by doctoring records to hide the scam from outside auditors, as well as company finance and accounting staff.

As part of his settlement, Andrews is barred for five years from taking on an officer or director role in a public company. Also settling charges against them related to this matter are ex-Maxwell CEO David Schramm, who will pay almost $80K in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, plus a penalty. Ex-Maxwell controller James DeWitt will pay a $20K penalty. The two men are accused of not doing an adequate enough job of addressing red flags indicating that misconduct may have been afoot. Ex-Maxwell CFO Kevin Royal has not been charged by the SEC with wrongdoing. However, he repaid the company the $135,800 in compensation he received during the time that the alleged accounting violations are said to have occurred.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined Aegis Capital Corp. $550K for inadequate supervision and anti-money laundering systems related to its low-priced securities sales. According to the self-regulatory organization, the firm’s supervisory system that oversees trading involving delivery versus payment (DVP accounts) was not designed in a manner reasonable enough to properly “monitor and investigate” trading in the accounts, especially those involving securities transactions that were priced low.

With DVP accounts, a broker-dealer making the trades does not have to be holding the securities that are bought and sold. FINRA said that Aegis did not “adequately monitor or investigate” seven DVP customer accounts, a number of which belonged to foreign financial firms, in which trading involved the liquidation of billions of dollars of such securities. These transactions resulted in millions of dollars in proceeds. A number of these institutional clients made the transactions for underlying customers whose identities Aegis did not know.

The SRO found that Aegis failed to mark these transactions as suspect even after a clearing firm highlighted that there were anti-money laundering-related red flags. Aegis is settling FINRA’s case but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

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Bank of America Merrill Lynch (BAC) will pay a $42M penalty to New York State to settle allegations that it engaged in fraudulent practices involving electronic trading services. According to a press release issued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, the bank admitted that over five years, it “systematically” hid from clients that it was “secretly routing” their equity securities orders to electronic liquidity providers, including Knight Capital, Citadel Securities, Two Sigma Securities, D.E. Shaw, and Madoff Securities, which then executed the transactions.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch, which is Bank of America’s corporate investment banking division, had “undisclosed” agreements with these providers. Its “masking” strategy was used in more than 16 million client orders that involved over 4 billion shares that were traded.

According to the probe by Schneiderman office, and Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s own admission, starting in 2008, the corporate investment banking division purposely took steps to hide that it was sending a number of equity securities orders made by clients to the electronic liquidity providers. Bank of America Merrill Lynch told investors that the orders were executed “in-house.” Meantime, it committed fraud by modifying its electronic trading systems to “automatically doctor” the trade confirmation that clients received after these other firms executed the transactions. Internally, Bank of America Merrill Lynch called this action “masking,” which consisted of replacing the electronic liquidity provider’s identity with a code to make it appear is if a trade execution had taken place through the bank instead.

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Howard Present, the ex-CEO and cofounder of F-Squared Investments, must pay more than $13M—nearly $11M of disgorgement, almost $1.4M of interest and a nearly $1.6M penalty. The final judgement, issued by U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin in Boston, comes after a federal jury found Present liable for the false and misleading statements made to investors.

It was in 2014 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Present and his investment management firm with misleading investors about its AlphaSector strategy. At the time, F-Squared was the biggest market of index products that use exchange-traded funds.

The SEC accused F-Squared of false advertising related to its touting of a “successful seven-year track records” for its AlphaSector strategy that it claimed was based on real investments, real clients, and real performances, when, in fact, the algorithm that the company claimed to use didn’t even exist during that time period of this supposed success. Instead, the data that the F-Squared marketed was a product of backtesting—not real testing—even though Present and his firm specifically stated that their AlphaSector strategy had not been backtested.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded two whistleblowers almost $50M and another over $33M in the largest whistleblower awards that the regulator has issued to date. This ups the total of SEC whistleblower awards granted to $262M to 53 individuals in the last six years.

According to the SEC Office of the Whistleblower Chief Jane Norberg, these latest awards show that whistleblowers can offer information that is “incredibly significant,” making it possible for the regulator to go after serious violations that could have gone “unnoticed. “ Until these latest awards, the largest SEC whistleblower award granted was $30M in 2014.

Whistleblowers who provide quality, unique information involving securities law violations that lead to a successful enforcement action rendering over $1M in monetary sanctions may be eligible to receive an award that is 10-30% of the funds collected.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Theranos Inc., its CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes, and its ex-President Ramesh Balwani. The regulator contends that they engaged in a years-long fraud that raised over $700M from investors.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the three of them made statements that were false, exaggerated, and/or misleading regarding the company’s business, finances, and technology. They purportedly did this in presentations to investors, media articles, and product demos.

Because of these erroneous, deceptive, and inflated statements, investors thought that Theranos’s main product, which is a portable blood analyzer, could perform comprehensive blood tests with minute blood samples. Also, Theranos claimed that the company had the technologies needed to transport a finger stick sample of blood, place the sample in a specialized device that would go into an analyzer, and the analyzer could determine the results. The findings could then be sent to the care provider or patient. Theranos’ technology was supposedly able to offer cheaper, speedier, and more accurate results than any other blood testing labs—not to mention that it was portable.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed insider trading charges against Jun Ying, the ex-chief information officer of an Equifax US business unit. The regulator contends that Ying engaged in insider trading in 2007 before the consumer credit reporting agency announced that there had been a major data breach exposing personal information of approximately 148 million customers in the US. Among the information that was disclosed were social security numbers, names, addresses, and birth dates.

The Commission’s complaint accuses Yin of using confidential information to determine that Equifax had experienced a major breach. The SEC said that before the company disclosed the information breach, Ying exercised all the Equifax stock options he had vested and made almost $1M when he sold the shares. The regulator claims that Ying was able to avoid losing over $117K by selling the shares when he did.

Now, the SEC, which has filed charges against Ying accusing him of violating federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions, is pursuing ill-gotten gains, interest, injunctive relief, and penalties against him. Ying resigned from Equifax after the company found out about his trades and reportedly made plans to let him go. US prosecutors have filed a parallel criminal case against Ying.

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Martin Shkreli to Go to Prison for Seven Years
A federal judge has sentenced former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli to seven years behind bars. Shkreli was found guilty of defrauding investors of his MSMB Capital Management hedge fund while manipulating the stock of his drug company Retrophin.

His defense team had fought for a lower sentence—12 to 18 months. They pointed out that ultimately none of the investors that Shkreli bilked lost money and he didn’t profit from his fraud. Prosecutors countered that, in fact, Shkreli had caused anywhere from $9M to $20M in losses.

A few days before his criminal sentence was issued, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto ordered that about $7.36M of the ex-hedge fund manager’s assets be surrendered, including a rare Wu-Tang Clan album that he purchased for $2M. Shkreli’s legal team plans to appeal the sentence.

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In yet another mortgaged securities-related resettlement, Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) has agreed to pay $500M to settle New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman’s case accusing the bank of misrepresentations and deceptive practices related to it sale residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS). $400M of the payment is consumer relief, while $100M is a fine that will go to the state.

NY’s probe concentrated on 44 mortgage securitizations that RBS issued leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. The NY AG said that during that time, due diligence vendors cautioned the bank that a lot of the loans it was buying were not in compliance with underwriting guidelines. Still, the bank bundled the loans and touted them as secure to investors, many of whom bought the RMBSs.

Schneiderman’s probe found that some of the mortgages backing the bonds at issue had over 100% loan to value ratios, meaning that “they were ‘underwater’.” Now, RBS is admitting that it sold mortgage bonds backed by loans that failed to abide by underwriting guidelines even as the bank maintained that they were, in fact, in compliance. The bank also acknowledged that it had limited how much diligence it performed on mortgages, resulting in a lot of the loans being securitized even though no due diligence was conducted at all.

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