Institutional Investment Roundup: FINRA Lets Ex-UBS Broker Keep $1M Signing Bonus, Court Approves Settlement Reached By Ex-Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Managers & SEC, Madoff Investors’ Securities Suit Against the Govt. is Dismissed

A Financial Industry Arbitration panel has decided that ex-UBS Financial Services broker Pericles Gregoriou can keep $1 million of the signing bonus he was given when he joined the financial firm even though he left the company earlier than what the terms of the hiring agreement stipulated. Gregoriou worked for the UBS AG (UBS) unit from ’07 to ’09.

This is an unusual victory for a broker. They usually find it very challenging to contest demands by a financial firm to give back unpaid bonus money. However, the FINRA panel said that Gregoriou was not liable for the $1 million damages. Also, the
panel denied Gregoriou’s counterclaim against UBS and a number of individuals. He had sought $3.24 million.

In a securities fraud case involving two former Bear Stearns employees against the SEC, “reluctantly,” the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved a settlement deal involving Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi. The defendants are accused of making alleged representations about two failing hedge funds.

The ex-Bear Stearns managers faced civil and criminal charges in 2008 for allegedly misleading bank counterparties and investors about the financial state of the funds, which ended up failing due to subprime mortgage-backed securities exposure in 2007. Cioffi and Tannin were acquitted of the criminal allegations in 2009.

Senior Judge Frederic Block approved the agreement wile noting that the SEC has limited powers when it comes to getting back the financial losses of investors. He asked Congress to think about whether the government should do more to help victims of “Wall Street predators.”

Per the terms of the securities settlement, Tannin will pay $200K in disgorgement and a $100K fine. Meantime, Cioffi will also pay a $100K fine and $700K in disgorgement. Although both are settling without denying or admitting to the allegations, they also have agreed to not commit 1933 Securities Act violations in the future and consented to temporary securities industry bars—Tannin for two years and Cioffi for three years.

In other securities law news, the U.S. District for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit that investors in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scam had filed against the government. The reason for the dismissal was lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The investors blame the SEC for allowing the multibillion dollar scheme to continue for years and they have pointed to the latter’s alleged gross negligence” in not investigating the matter. The plaintiffs contend that the Commission breached its duty to them. Judge Paul Friedman, however, sided with the government in its argument that the investors’ claims are not allowed due to the Federal Tort Claims Act’s “discretionary function exception,” which gives the SEC broad authority in terms of when to deciding when to conduct probes into alleged securities law violations.

While recognizing the plaintiffs’ “tragic” financial losses, the court found that investors failed to identify any “mandatory obligations” that were violated by SEC employees that executed discretionary tasks. The plaintiffs also did not adequately plead that the SEC’s activities lacked grounding in matters of public policy.

Meantime, the SEC has named ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) executive Thomas J. Butler the director of its new Office of Credit Ratings. The office is in charge of overseeing the nine nationally recognized statistical rating organizations that are registered, and it was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The office will conduct a yearly exam of each credit rating agency and put out a public report.

UBS loses case to recoup bonus from ex-broker, Reuters, February 6, 2012

Court Clears SEC Deal With Former Bear Execs Tannin, Cioffi, Bloomberg/BNA, June 20, 2012

Strike Four: Another Federal Court Dismisses Madoff Investor Lawsuit Against SEC, Compliance Week, June 20, 2012

Former Exec to Head Office of Credit Ratings, The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012

More Blog Posts:
SEC Wants Proposed Securities Settlements with Bear Stearns Executives to Get Court Approval, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 28, 2012

AARP, Investment Adviser Association, Among Groups Asking the SEC to Make Brokers Abide by 1940 Investment Advisers Act’s Fiduciary Duty
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 14, 2012

Investor Groups, Securities Lawyers, and Business Community Comment on the JOBS Act Reg D’s Investor Verification Process, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 24, 2012

Contact our securities fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP today.