Articles Posted in Financial Firms

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.

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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.

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Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith, a Bank of America (BAC) unit will pay Tutor Perini Corp. $37M to settle a securities case accusing the broker-dealer of selling the construction company millions of dollars of auction-rate securities (ARS) without giving it the heads up that the market was likely to experience a “spectacular crash.” Despite settling, neither party is admitting to wrongdoing.

Tutor Perini, which brought its ARS fraud case in 2011, claims that the brokerage firm, then called Banc of America Securities LLC, purposely directed it to buy ARS in 2008 even while knowing that the investments were problematic. By December 2007, the construction company had invested about $196M in ARSs. After the market failed Tutor Perini said that it had no choice but to sell the securities at a huge discount in a secondary market.

A district judge initially granted the broker-dealer summary judgment based on the determination that the construction company did not demonstrate misconduct by the Bank of America unit when the latter sold student loan-backed ARSs. Last year, however, the First Circuit partially reversed that ruling after finding that a jury could potentially determine that at least some of the ARSs bought by the construction company were a result of assessments that proved inaccurate because the broker-dealer did not examine certain key developments. Reviving the lawsuit, the federal appeals court said that dismissing certain Massachusetts state securities fraud claims and federal claims was a mistake.

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At the yearly general meeting in Germany, Deutsche Bank AG (DB) told shareholders that the German lender is nearing an agreement with ex-executives in which they would have to help pay for the fines that the financial institution paid for their past misconduct. Deutsche Bank has been trying to determine whether it could hold these former executives liable for the different regulatory investigations to which it has been subject. An agreement is expected in the next months.

Bloomberg reports that according to Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan, former management teams made the German financial institution “too complex and inefficient” when they placed short-term earnings before long-term interest. As a result of misconduct fines that Deutsche Bank was ordered to pay, it experienced two years of losses in a row, not to mention that earlier this year, the German lender agreed to pay US regulators $7.2B because of the way it dealt with mortgage-backed securities leading up to the 2008 financial crisis.

Meantime, along with Nomura Holdings (NMR), Deutsche Bank is dealing with other fraud allegations,this time in Italy for allegedly aiding Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena S.p.A. in hiding the latter’s losses. In the use of complex derivative trades, thirteen ex-managers at all three banks have been charged with market manipulation and false accounting. The German bank also is accused of running an international crime organization during the relevant period.

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Barclays Must Pay Back Sales Charges, Advisory Fees
The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Barclays Capital (BARC) has settled securities charges accusing the firm of overbilling clients. As part of the resolution, which includes paying over $97M, Barclays must pay back advisory fees and mutual fund sales charges to clients that were affected. The firm is settling without denying or admitting to the SEC’s findings.

The SEC’s case involved three sets of violations resulting in almost $50M in client overcharges. According to the Commission, two of Barclays advisory programs charged over 2,000 clients for services that were not conducted as presented. Meantime, 63 broker-dealer clients paid too much in mutual fund sales charges or fees because Barclays recommended that they purchase more costly share classes even though there were less expensive ones available. Also, over 22K accounts paid Barclays excess fees because the firm made billing mistakes and miscalculations.

Ex-SEC Staffer Accused of Securities Fraud
The SEC has filed charges against David R. Humphrey, one of its ex-employees, for securities fraud related to trades that he made. Humphrey worked with the regulator from 1998 to 2014.

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UBS Group AG (UBS) has paid the National Credit Union Administration $445M to settle claims brought on behalf of Western Corporate Federal Credit Union and U.S. Central Federal Credit Union, which both failed after they sustained losses from residential mortgage-backed securities they purchased through the broker-dealer.The two credit unions went into conservatorship several years ago and have since shut down.

UBS settled this latest case without denying or admitting to wrongdoing. The lender had previously paid NCUA $79.3M to resolve similar allegations involving two other credit unions that also failed. With that settlement, the bank also did not deny or admit wrongdoing.

To date, NCUA has recovered nearly $5B in settlements from big banks related to the faulty securities that they sold to corporate credit unions.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission said that Barclays Capital (BARC) has agreed to pay over $16.5M as part of a settlement resolving allegations accusing the company of failing to properly supervise two of its ex-mortgage bond traders. The men are accused of lying to clients, as well as overcharging some of them. According to the regulator, Barclays did not put into place or execute the proper supervisory procedures that could have stopped or detected the alleged residential mortgage-backed securities fraud.

The two traders, David Wong and Yoon Seok Lee, are accused of making misleading or false statements to the firm’s customers about RMBS securities, how much Barclays makes for facilitating the trades, and other pertinent information. Lee and Wong also are accused of making excessive mark-ups on certain transactions without telling customers.

The SEC said that the ex-Barclays traders’ actions, which would have occurred between 6/2009 and 12/2012, caused Barclays to earn $15.5M in profits.

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Ex-Merrill Lynch Broker Pleads Guilty to Bank Fraud
Jeffrey Kluge, a longtime Merrill Lynch broker, has pleaded guilty to defrauding two banks of more than $8.7M. His bank fraud ran from 2001 through November 2016.

Kluge’s plea agreement said that he fabricated account statements under Merrill Lynch’s name and pledged fake collateral to the banks so he could set up multi-million dollar credit lines. For instance, in 2001 he was able to get a $150K credit line with Alliance Bank in Minnesota by telling the financial institution that he had enough municipal bond funds as collateral. In fake account statements he sent the bank as evidence of these bond holdings, Kluge concealed from Alliance Bank that he had already promised the assets in the accounts for loans from the firm.

In 2007, Kluge was able to get a $1M credit line from Platinum Bank, which is also in Minnesota. He defrauded Platinum Bank in similar fashion.

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Raymond James Financial Inc. (RJF) has agreed to pay $150 million to resolve all investor claims involving the Jay Peak Resort’s immigrant visa fraud. The EB-5 scam was created in 2007 by third parties and offered to foreign investors.

Although settling, the firm noted in a statement that it was never the placement agent for the fraudulent program nor did it play any other role in the scam. Raymond James also stated that it was never involved in selling the investments. The broker-dealer said that the Raymond James Financial advisor that worked with the brokerage accounts of the investment partnerships involved in the scam is no longer working the firm.

Already, investors have brought several lawsuits over this fraudulent EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. They had invested in a number of related projects at the Jay Peak ski resort. They did so to help themselves gain permanent US residency.

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The Federal Home Loan Bank of New York will pay Lehman Brothers and its Special Financing unit a $70M settlement in an interest-rate swaps case. The plaintiffs sued FHLBNY two years ago seeking over $150M that they claim they were owed related to their position on more than 350 swaps and options transactions.

Lehman filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008. The move froze the markets while spurring the end of millions of derivative transactions in which it was involved. A few days later, when FHlBNY ended its swaps with Lehman, it did so with a $16.5B notional amount.

According to Lehman, due to interest rate fluctuations after its bankruptcy filing, FHLBNY returned and “cherry picked” other end dates. As a result, claims the plaintiff, the latter “massively understate” how much it owed Lehman.

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