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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering Wells Fargo & Co.’s (WFC) wealth management unit to pay $3.5M for alleged anti-money laundering reporting violations. Wells Fargo Advisors agreed to pay the penalty. It is settling the charges but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC, starting in early 2012, new bank managers started pressing compliance officials to cease in their submission of suspicious activity reports. The failure to file these SARs reports, or delay them, reportedly occurred 50 times in a little over a year and involved accounts for international customers who were previously named in such reports.

Federal law mandates that broker-dealers notify the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about any transactions of at least $5K that they believe may involve illegal activity. The regulator blames a “new senior manager” that was hired in the brokerage firm’s compliance group and placed in charge of the anti-money laundering program.

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UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) has agreed to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the brokerage firm of not ensuring that certain charitable brokerage accounts and retail retirement accounts received the sales charge waivers or reduced fee share classes to which they were entitled when they purchased certain mutual funds. However, despite settling, including agreeing to pay a $3.5M penalty, the firm did not admit to or deny the SEC’s findings.

The regulator’s order states that from at least 1/2010 through 6/2015, UBS did not confirm certain customers’ eligibility to purchase from a less costly mutual fund share class and instead recommended that they buy more expensive ones. The customers that were affected purportedly did not have enough information at their disposal to understand that UBS had a conflict of interest when recommending the costlier share classes, such as Class A shares that came with an upfront sales fee and Class B/C shares that charged contingent deferred sales fees at the back-end plus came with costlier ongoing expenses and fees. All of the customers affected had been eligible to buy either no-load Class R shares or load-waved Class A shares.

As a result, claims the Commission, 15,250 customer accounts paid more than $18.5M in excess fees and expenses, upfront sales fees, and “contingent deferred sales charges.” Also, by selling investors the more expensive share classes, UBS earned higher compensations. The brokerage firm is accused of not disclosing to these customers that buying the costlier share classes would hurt their investments’ returns.

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In New York Court of Appeals, MBIA Insurance Corp. and Credit Suisse Securities USA LLC (CS) presented arguments over whether to resuscitate part of the $235M mortgage-backed securities case brought by the insurer against the financial firm. NY Supreme Court Judge Shirley Werner Kornreich previously took out the fraud claim in MBIA’s case after finding that bond insurer wanted the same damages from both that claim and its contract claim. MBIA has since appealed, arguing that Kornreich misread the facts presented, as well as the applicable case law.

The bond insurer contends that both the contract and fraud claims are separate and valid. Credit Suisse, meantime, maintains that contract and fraud claims are “duplicative.”

In addition to cutting the insurer’s fraud claim from the lawsuit, Kornreich rejected MBIA’s request that she find that Credit Suisse breached its warranties regarding the mortgages’ quality in about 29% of instances. The judge also called MBIA to task for not doing its own due diligence regarding the loans’ quality.

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Royal Bank of Scotland Settles DOJ RMBS Fraud Probe for $44M
Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) has agreed to a non-prosecution deal with the US Justice Department to resolve a criminal probe accusing traders of defrauding residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and collateralized loan obligation (CLO) customers. As part of the settlement, RBS will pay a $35M fine. It will also pay at least $9M to over 30 customers, including affiliates of Barclays (BARC), Goldman Sachs (GS), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C) and Morgan Stanley (MS), as well as to the Soros Fund Management and Pacific Investment Management Co. RBS admitted to the misconduct.

The bank’s fraud involved mortgage-backed securities, asset-backed securities, and commercial mortgage-backed securities. The group that handled these securities for the bank is no longer in operation.

According to prosecutors, from ’08 to ’13, RBS lied about bond prices, charged unwarranted commissions, and hid the fraud, all the while enhancing its own profits and costing customers money. In a joint press release, the DOJ and the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program said that the bank’s employees were encouraged to engage in the wrongful behavior, including misrepresenting material facts to customers, lying about the seller’s asking price to the buyer and lying about the buyer’s asking price to the seller, pocketing the difference between what the buyer paid and what the seller received, and misrepresenting that a non-existent third party was involved in the bond sales so that the bank could charge the extra, unwarranted commission. RBS is also accused of training its CLO and RMBS traders to engage in the fraudulent practices, lying to customers that suspected the fraud, and disregarding its employees who complained about the fraud.

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Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has settled with 45 US states and will now pay $220M to resolve allegations that it engaged in rigging the London Interbank Offered (LIBOR) rate and other benchmark interest rates. According to the settlement, the bank admitted that its managers and traders took part in benchmark rigging from ’05 to ’09.

A press release issued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman states that Deutsche Bank “acted unlawfully,” including that:

· The bank defrauded counterparties when it didn’t disclose that it was making LIBOR submissions that were “false or misleading.”

· Its traders tried to influence the LIBOR submissions of other banks so that Deutsche Bank would benefit.

· The bank knew that other banks were rigging LIBOR, too.

· Deutsche Bank didn’t disclose that the other banks’ LIBOR submissions were not accurate reflections of their borrowing rates or that the published rates were not accurate to the submitting banks’ real borrowing costs.

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A federal jury in New York has found Mark Johnson guilty on criminal charges accusing him of front-running involving a $3.5B currency trade. HSBC’s ex-foreign-exchange cash trading global head is the first banker that the US Justice Department charged over forex rate rigging.

Johnson was convicted on eight counts of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and he reportedly will appeal the verdict. Johnson maintains that he was acting in the best interest of the client involved and he did not do anything wrong or irregular.

According to acting US Attorney in Brooklyn Bridget M. Rohde, Johnson used confidential information given to him by an HSBC client to make trades in an attempt to earn millions of dollars for the bank and himself while costing the client money. He and ex-HSBC European currency trading head Stuart Scott allegedly engaged in front running, which involves making trades based on advanced information about a big market order, with the advanced trades rendering huge profits once the bigger transaction has upped the price. Scott is currently in the UK battling extradition efforts to bring him back to the US.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against John Rogicki. The New York-based financial adviser, who is the chief compliance officer and managing director of Train, Babcock Advisors, LLC, is accused of defrauding a non-profit charitable foundation of $9M. The founder of the Foundation had named Rogicki, who had been her husband’s financial adviser, as the trustee and trust president in her will.

She and Rogicki became friends in the 1990’s when she was already an elderly woman. She died at 97 in 2001. Just a few years before that, it was Rogicki who introduced her to a trusts and estate attorney. This lawyer executed a trust and will that made all the designations to Rogicki.

Rogicki was also the non-profit’s investment adviser and he was tasked with making all investment decisions for the Foundation, including directing all securities transactions in the latter’s advisory account. The Commission believes that Rogicki committed the alleged fraud between 2004 and 2016.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Rio Tinto and its ex-CFO Guy Robert Elliot and former CEO Thomas Albanese. The defendants are accused of hiding the Mozambique coal business’s swift and steep drop in value soon after they acquired it for $3.7B. The mining company later would go on to sell Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique for $50M—a much lower figure than the buying price.

The SEC contends that following the acquisition of the coal assets in 2011, the project experienced problems right away because there was “less coal and of lower quality” than what Rio Tinto, Elliot, and Albanese had anticipated. Also, the country of Mozambique, which is where the acquisition occurred, had turned down the barge application. This means that there was no infrastructure to transport the assets. All of this “significantly eroded” the acquistion’s value.

Rio Tinto and the two ex-executives purportedly knew that publicly disclosing the acquisition as a failure, after a previous acquisition of Canadian company Alcan had rendered big losses, would create doubts over their ability to identify and develop mining assets that were “long-term, low cost, and highly profitable.” This purportedly compelled them to hide the problems that arose with the Mozambique acquisition and issue misleading financial statements prior to a number of US debt offerings.

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A federal jury in Boston has found Howard Present, the ex-CEO of F-Squared Investments Inc., liable in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil lawsuit alleging exchange-traded fund fraud. The ruling determined that Present was in violation of the Investment Advisers Act.

According to the regulator, Present sought to defraud investors and acted recklessly in the way he marketed the history of the AlphaSector, which was F-Squared’s flagship product.

The SEC filed its securities fraud lawsuit against Present in 2014. That was when the regulator announced a $35M settlement reached with F-Squared, in which the firm admitted wrongdoing over claims that it misled investors in the way that it falsely marketed AlphaSector as having a lengthy and successful track record that utilized a strategy that a multibillion-dollar wealth manager had developed.

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Latest Whistleblower Award Raises Total Granted to $162M
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded a whistleblower over $1M for providing “new information and substantial corroborating documentation” that allowed the regulator to bring a successful enforcement action. The securities violation involved a registered entity and had affected retail investors.

This latest award means that the SEC has now awarded over $162M to 47 whistleblowers since the awards program went into effect in 2013. Whistleblowers who give the Commission unique and “credible” information resulting in a successful enforcement case are eligible to receive 10-30% of the funds collected when the monetary sanction imposed is over $1M.

Attorneys Accused of Involvement in Microcap Fraud Scam
The SEC is accusing James M. Schneider and Andrew H. Wilson of involvement in a microcap fraud that involved more than 20 blank check companies that were sold in reverse mergers. Now, the regulator wants ill-gotten gains, civil penalties from the two lawyers, and other relief. A related criminal fraud case has also been brought against Schneider.

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