Articles Posted in Financial Firms

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin is probing whether there are brokers who are getting paid kickbacks by exchanges in return for investor trades. The investigation comes in the wake of an op-ed article published in The New York Times last month alleging that there are financial representatives who have been sending orders to specific exchanges for these kickbacks, referred to as “rebates,” even if it means poorer results for their institutional investors.

The op-ed was written by Yale Law Professor Jonathan Macey and Yale University Chief Investment Officer David Swensen. Already, the state regulator has sent inquiry letters to Morgan Stanley & Co. (MS), E*TRADE Securities, Charles Schwab & Co. (SCHW), and Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC.

According to the article, because of these “rebates,” brokers are frequently selecting less favorable trades for their institutional investors clients to use these exchanges. If this is true, then it would be distressing considering that institutional brokers are legally bound to make trades on the exchange that has the terms that are most favorable for a client. Failure to do so could be grounds for a securities case. Meantime, it is supposed to be up to the exchanges, all 12 of them, to compete to provide the best trading opportunities.

Continue reading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has brought insider trading charges against seven people who made millions of dollars while insider trading on dozens of upcoming acquisitions and mergers involving 30 corporate deals. The regulator’s complaint contends that Daniel Rivas, who used to be a bank IT employee, misused the access he had to a computer system by tipping four people with information that they then used to trade. Some of the those whom Rivas tipped allegedly also tipped other people, who tipped others, too.

InvestmentNews identified the bank that Rivas worked for at the time of the misconduct as Bank of America (BAC). (Bank of America Merrill Lynch later fired Rivas, who was then hired by RBC Capital Markets. In the wake of the insider trading allegations against him, Rivas was suspended by RBC.)

Rivas often tipped James Moodhe, who is the father of his girlfriend, using handwritten notes. Moodhe made approximately $2M from trading on the tips and shared the information with financial adviser Michael Siva, whom InvestmentNews identifies as a former Morgan Stanley (MS) broker.

Citigroup to Pay Plaintiffs Suing Over Libor Rigging

Citigroup Inc. (C) will resolve a private US antitrust lawsuit alleging Libor manipulation by paying plaintiffs $130M. The litigation was brought by “over-the-counter” investors who engaged in direct transactions with banks that belonged to the panel that determines London Interbank Offered Rate.

As part of the proposed preliminary settlement, the bank will pay the money to a fund for future class members. It also will cooperate with the lawsuits brought against other banks also accused of involvement in Libor rigging. Despite settling the case, however, Citigroup is not admitting or denying any wrongdoing.

Four Firms Are Ordered to Pay $4.75M for Market Access Rule Violations

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, CBOE Holdings company Bats, the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and their affiliated Exchanges have fined four financial firms $4.75M collectively for violating the Securities Exchange Act of 1934’s Rule 15c3-5, which is also known as the Market Access Rule. The fines are: $2.5M for Deutsche Bank (DB), $800K for J.P. Morgan (JPM), $1M for Citigroup (C), and $450K for Interactive Brokers (IBKR).

The firms have given market access to quite a number clients that engage in millions of trades daily. However, according to FINRA, Bats, NASDAQ, and NYSE, when doing so, they purportedly did not comply with at least one of the Market Access Rule’s provisions when they did not put in place certain risk management controls and procedures so that orders that were “erroneous or duplicative,” or went beyond certain kinds of thresholds, could be detected or prevented. The firms are also accused of not having systems in place for properly supervising customer trading so that “potentially volatile and manipulative activity” could be avoided.

In the US, former London traders Rohan Ramchandani, Chris Ashton, and Richard Usher have pleaded not guilty to criminal charges accusing them of conspiring to manipulate prices in the foreign exchange market. Ashton previously worked at Barclays (BARC) as the bank’s global head of spot currency trading. Ramchandani used to be Citigroup’s (C) G-10 spot currency trading head. Usher served a similar role at JPMorgan & Chase (JPM).

Prosecutors are accusing them of conspiring with other traders in a Forex rigging scheme to share sensitive client information through an electronic chat room referred to as the “Cartel,” as well as via phone, in order to quash competitors.

The criminal charges are related to a global probe into currency market rigging. To date, seven banks have paid approximately $10B fines over this type of manipulation, including Citigroup, Barclays (BARC), JPMorgan, and Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

Continue reading

This week, Royal Bank of Scotland Group PLC (RBS) has agreed to pay the Federal Housing Finance Agency $5.5B to resolve the latter’s investigation into the UK government-controlled bank’s sale of toxic mortgage-backed securities to mortgage giants Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae leading up to the 2008 financial crisis. RBS has come under fire for the way it packaged and sold subprime mortgages. The violations allegedly involved private-label residential mortgage-backed securities (PLS) trusts that were purchased between 2005 and 2007.

RBS will pay Freddie Mac about $4.5B and approximately $975M to Fannie Mae to resolve this RMBS fraud case. However, the bank is eligible for a $754M reimbursement according to certain indemnification agreements.

RBS had previously reached, for $1.1B, separate settlements over similar MBS fraud claims that the US National Credit Union Administration had brought in Kansas and California. It remains under investigation by the US Department of Justice and several US agencies who are conducting their own mortgage-backed securities fraud probes.

Continue reading

In Oregon, a district court judge has refused to dismiss a proposed class action lawsuit accusing TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Integrity Bank & Trust, Deloitte & Touche LLP, Eisner Amper LP, and law firms Tonkon Torp and Sidley Austin of playing a part in the alleged securities fraud committed by Aequitas Management LLC, which is now defunct.

Over 1500 investors entrusted over $350M to Aequitas. They each invested amounts ranging from about $60K to over $1M in Aequitas funds, including the Aequitas Income Opportunity Fund II LLC that they now claim was a Ponzi scam.

Last year, in its civil securities case, the US Securities and Exchange Commission accused the Oregon-based investment group and three of its executives of concealing the firm’s financial woes while still raising millions of dollars. Investors thought they were backing investments involving transportation, education, and healthcare when their funds were allegedly being used to save Aequitas. Meantime, newer investors’ funds were also used to pay earlier investors in a Ponzi-like scam.
Continue reading

Former Citigroup Global Markets Traders Accused of Spoofing Arrive at Non-Prosecution Deals
The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has reached non-prosecution agreements with three ex-Citigroup Global Markets Inc.(C) traders. Daniel Liao, Jeremy Lao, and Shlomo Salant admitted to engaging in spoofing in US treasury futures markets while working for the firm. The three of them also provided information about misconduct that was committed by others.

According to the non-prosecution deals, each trader submitted big orders on the opposite of orders that were smaller with the intention of cancelling the bigger orders. They engaged in spoofing to fill their smaller orders at prices they preferred.

The agreements with the ex-Citigroup traders comes nearly six months after the bank settled with the CFTC allegations over spoofing and supervisory-related deficiencies. A number of unlawful incidents at Citigroup were identified in the non-prosecutorial deals.

Continue reading

The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office has charged Barclays (BARC) and four of its ex-executives with criminal fraud involving money used to rescue the bank during the height of the 2008 financial crisis. The government has been investigating the ways in which Barclays sought out Qatari investors to help it stay afloat during that time so that the bank wouldn’t need a bailout. Barclays is also under investigation in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over payments that Barclays made to Middle Eastern officials.

During two emergency cash calls in 2008, investors put in $15B total, with Barclays stating in filings that it paid £322 million in “advisory services” to them. Shareholders were at first not apprised of this agreement between the bank and Qatari investors. Also, in 2008, Barclays issued a $3B loan facility to Qatar.

In the UK, it is against the law for a company to give money to a party in exchange for the latter’s purchase of company shares. Barclays has denied that the $3B loan was for the purchase of shares by investors. It also has argued that payments it received for advisory services were for actual business purposes. However, the Serious Fraud Office is alleging that the $3B loan to Qatar just weeks after getting funding from investors could be considered a fraudulent capital increase in a scam by Barclays to lend itself funds.

Continue reading

Former REIT CFO’s Criminal Trial is Under Way
Brian Block, the ex-American Realty Capital Properties CFO, is on trial over his alleged involvement in accounting errors that led to the former Nicholas Schorsch-controlled real estate investment trust’s release of inaccurate financial statements during the first two quarters of 2014. As a result of the inaccuracies, ARCP overstated its adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) by about $12M for the end of that first quarter and by about $10.9M for the second quarter while understating its net losses.

This week, Lisa McAlister, a key witness and ARCP’s ex-chief accounting officer gave testimony. She suggested that Schorsch, the REIT’s CEO and chairman at the time, instructed Block on how to distort the number in the books. Block was McAlister’s boss at ARCP.

McAlister said that she was in the room when Schorsch advised Block on how to hide the fraudulent accounting. McAlister said that Schorsch, who has not been charged with wrongdoing in the accounting mistakes, was instructing Block on how to compensate for a 3-cent shortfall in ARCP’s targeted AFFO/share by fudging a certain line item.

McAlister has already pleaded guilty to fraud charges over ARCP’s accounting irregularities.

Continue reading