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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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In New York federal court, Barclays PLC (BAC) is trying to get the US government’s civil residential mortgage-backed securities fraud lawsuit against it dismissed. Prosecutors went after the British bank, a number of its affiliates, and two ex-employees—former mortgage securitizations head Paul Menefee and former subprime loan acquisitions head trader John T. Carroll.

The government contends that the defendants misrepresented the loans packaged in 36 securitizations from 2005 through 2007 were doing well when, in fact, thousands of them had been deemed defective during the vetting process, with hundreds more in default or delinquent.

The RMBS fraud lawsuit is accusing Barclays of letting the loans be packaged into the securitizations despite knowing they were faulty, and even, on occasion, adding in faulty loans that had already been removed from other deals. According to the government, the securitizations failed badly, over half of the mortgages underlying them defaulted, and investors, including banks that were investors, lost billions of dollars.

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Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has consented to pay $190M to resolve an investor fraud lawsuit accusing the German lender of manipulating prices in the foreign exchange market. Despite settling, however, the bank maintains that it did not engage in wrongdoing.

Investors accused Deutsche bank and 15 other banks of conspiring to rig key currency benchmark rates by coordinating strategies and sharing confidential trade information and orders. The bank’s traders are accused of meeting in chat rooms to engage in numerous tactics to make more profits regardless of whether or not this meant losses for investors.

Regulator probes into currency rigging have led to $10B in fines imposed against a number of big banks, including the most recent one by the Federal Reserve, which ordered HSBC to pay a $175M fine for not properly monitoring its currency traders. With the investor lawsuits, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) is the only one of the banks sued by investors that has not settled.

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Robert Pena, the president and founder of Mortgage Securities Inc., has pleaded guilty to bilking Government National Mortgage Association (Ginnie Mae) of about $2.5M. The now defunct mortgage company was contracted by the government-run corporation, which guarantees mortgage-backed bonds that have been guaranteed by a US government agency, to pool and service eligible residential mortgages. This included collecting principal and interest payments and depositing the money into accounts that Ginnie Mae-held in trust. The company was then supposed to sell the Ginnie Mae-backed mortgage bonds to investors.

However, court documents state that starting in 2011, Pena allegedly diverted funds that borrowers sent his mortgage company, including big-dollar loan payoff checks, into secret, private accounts. He is accused of spending the money on his own business expenses and personal bills. He also purportedly took the escrow funds of borrowers, as well as mortgage-insurance premiums.

Pena is accused of hiding the mortgage fraud by sending Ginnie Mae false reports. The latter was forced to pay investors the about $2.5M that Pena allegedly misappropriated because it had guaranteed their investments.

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In New York, a federal judge has approved a $31M shareholder fraud settlement reached in the class action securities case filed by investors that purchased stock in former broker-dealer RCS Capital. The plaintiffs, including lead plaintiffs the City of Providence, Rhode Island and the Oklahoma Police Pension Fund, had sued the brokerage firm, its head Nicholas Schorsch, and other ex-executives in 2014 claiming that that RCAP and the other defendants misled investors with “false and misleading statements and omissions” about RCAP’s business prospects.

The investors contend that they purchased RCS Capital stock at prices that were artificially inflated because of these statements. They are claiming massive shareholder losses.

RCAP, once controlled by Schorsch and others, was a privately held brokerage firm that wholesaled American Reality Capital nontraded REITs. Schorsch also owned ARC, which set up and managed the real-estate investment trusts.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has filed fraud charges against Sandlapper Securities. According to the self-regulatory organization, the small brokerage firm created and sold private placements in saltwater disposal wells in Texas while charging undisclosed markups of up to 270% that eventually totaled over $8M on numerous deals.

Also accused of fraud are Sandlapper CEO Trevor Gordon, firm executive Jack Bixler, and two ex-brokers. FINRA contends that in 2011, the four men set up Tiburon Saltwater Reclamation Fund to invest in these wells. They also established a development company to handle the investments in the wells. However, alleges the SRO, between 12/12 and 7/13, Bixler and Gordon utilized the development company to intervene between the fund and the saltwater disposal well deals and they charged markups ranging from 161-270%. Not only were these markups excessive but also they went undisclosed. This occurred even though the fund could have directly bought interest in the wells.

Also, claims FINRA, beginning in 2013, Gordon began using the development company to obtain ill-gotten profits from investors who bought interest in the saltwater disposal wells. The company bought the interests and then resold them to investors, again at high, undisclosed markups of 67% to 376%.

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The US Federal Reserve is ordering HSBC Holdings PLC (HSBC) to pay a $175M fine, accusing the bank of engaging in practices that were “unsafe and unsound” in its foreign exchange trading business. According to the Fed, HSBC did not properly oversee chat rooms in which traders exchanged information about investment positions.

The authorities contend that the bank’s traders exchanged confidential information about client orders and coordinated trades to enhance profits. As part of the securities enforcement action, HSBC will have to improve its controls and compliance risk management as it pertains to FX Trading.

Ex-HSBC Forex Spot Trader Head Accused of Front Running
In a different case, Mark Johnson, the former head of HSBC’s foreign exchange cash trading desk, is on trial over allegations of “front-running” involving forex spot trading. He and co-conspirator Stuart Scott have been charged with wire fraud and conspiracy for allegedly defrauding Cairn Energy PLC in a multi-billion dollar transaction that occurred in 2011. Front-running involving forex markets usually refers to the making of a trade that is proprietary prior to a customer making a potentially market-moving trade in order to profit.

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In a unanimous ruling, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit panel has turned down an appeal by Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) and Nomura Holdings Inc. (NMR) to overturn an order mandating that they pay $839M for the false statements, including misrepresentations, that they are accused of making while selling mortgage-backed securities to Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA). The MBS fraud award was issued against the two banks in the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s securities lawsuit. FHFA has been the conservator for Fannie and Freddie ever since the US government took them over after the housing market failed in 2008.

Nomura sponsored $2B of securities that were sold to the mortgage companies. RBS was the underwriter on four of the deals. In a filing submitted to US securities regulators last month, RBS said it is looking to be indemnified by Nomura for the losses.

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FINRA is ordering Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (MS) to pay about $9.8M in restitution to and a $3.25M fine for purportedly not properly supervising hundreds of financial representatives who sold short-term trades of UITs. The firm settled without denying or admitting to the regulator’s charges.

According to the self-regulatory organization, from 2/2012 through 6/2015, the brokerage firm’s representatives effected short-term UIT rollovers, including a number of them more than 100 days prior to maturity, in customer accounts. FINRA said that the firm did not properly supervise these reps, when they engaged in the UIT sales, nor did it properly train them regarding the investments. It also purportedly failed to give supervisors adequate guidance about how to study transactions for signs of unsuitable short-term trading. Morgan Stanley is accused of failing to put into effect a system “adequate” enough to identify short-term UIT rollovers and of not providing supervisory assessment for UIT rollovers before execution.

UITs
Unit investment trusts are investment companies that offer units in a securities of a portfolio. They are subject to termination on a certain maturity date, usually after 15 months or 24 months. They typically come with certain fees, including a creation fee and a deferred sales charge. According to FINRA, when a new UIT compels a customer to be pay higher sales charges over time, this could be a red flag indicating suitability issues.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, news that the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s electronic filing system was hacked is raising concerns of what rogue traders may do if they gained market-moving information before the news went public. This week, the SEC disclosed that that its Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (EDGAR), which stores public company filings, was hacked last year.

While the breach was noticed in 2016, regulators were not made aware that illicit trading could become a repercussion until last month. The majority of the commissioners reportedly didn’t know the hack had occurred until “recent days.” It wasn’t until SEC Chairman Jay Clayton launched a review of the agency’s “cybersecurity vulnerabilities” this Spring that the extent of the hack became clear.

The WSJ reports that according to market veterans, there are several ways in which intruders could trade using the nonpublic information available through Edgar. Companies usually submit earnings filings in advance of them become public knowledge and it is during this time, before market release, when a rogue trader could strike. Another potential target for hackers might be the 8-K form, used by companies to disclose big events, including acquisitions, not yet disclosed medical trials, and other potentially market moving information. 13-D filings submitted by investors with a greater than 5% position in a company—this is information that could generate investor interest—could also be a target.

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