Articles Posted in Financial Firms

FINRA Fines LPL Financial $900K

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined LPL Financial (LPLA) for either not sending or failing to create records showing that it had sent over 1.6 million mandatory account notices to customers over a 36-month period. Under industry rules, account notices have to be sent to customers at three-year intervals which is when determination of suitability is evaluated. FINRA said that LPL did not send more than 25% of such written notices over a period of seven years.

The financial firm accepted the self-regulatory organization’s settlement but is not denying or admitting to the findings. However an LPL spokesperson said in an email that the firm had self-reported the matter and was committed to “enhancing” structures for compliance and risk management.

In London, six traders have pleaded not guilty to charges accusing them of trying to rig Euribor, which is the Brussels-based equivalent of the London Interbank Offered Rate (Libor). Euribor is key in establishing the rates on financial contracts, loans, and other financial products around the world.

The defendants include former Deutsche Bank (DB) trader Christian Bittar, current Deutsche trader Achim Kraemer, and former Barclays (BARC) traders Philippe Moryoussef, Colin Bermingham, Carlo Palombo, and Sisse Bohart. They are charged with one count of conspiracy to defraud through the making or obtaining of false or misleading Euribor rates in order allegedly enhance trading profits.

The criminal charges are related to a probe by the Serious Fraud Office. Five other traders from Deutsche Bank and Societe Generale were previously charged.

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Deutsche Bank AG will pay UK and US regulators $630M in fines to settle allegations that it did not stop approximately $10B in suspect trades that may have involved laundering money out of Russia. The trades at issue were mirror trades between the German lenders offices in New York, London, and Moscow. They took place between ’11 and ’15.

It was during this time that Russian blue chip stocks were purchased in rubles for clients and sold in the same amount of stocks at the equivalent price through Deutsche Bank’s London office soon after. As a result, reports The Guardian, funds were transferred through the bank to accounts abroad, including in Latvia, Estonia, and Cyprus.

Deutsche Bank is accused of not getting information about customers that took part in the mirror trades. As a result, the bank’s DB Moscow executed over 2400 pairs of mirror trades. Sellers were registered in locations offshore. Shares in Russian companies were paid for in rubles, the sellers were paid in dollars.

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Another Jury Finds Ex-Jefferies Group Trader Guilty of RMBS Fraud
A federal jury has convicted Jesse Litvak of one count of securities fraud. The ex-Jefferies Group LLC (JEF) bond trader was tried again on allegations that he bilked customers of $2M when he inflated the prices that he claimed he paid for residential mortgage-backed securities. As a result of his claims, professional investment managers and hedge funds paid too much for bonds.

Another jury had found Litvak guilty of fraud two years ago. However, in 20015, a federal appellate court dismissed parts of the RMBS fraud case against him. The securities fraud charges were retried before a new jury.

During this trial, prosecutors claimed that Litvak’s customers had totally relied on him for bond pricing information. His legal team, however, argued that his customers were sophisticated investors and did what they wanted regardless of his advice.

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Participants in <a href=”https://www.stockbroker-fraud.com/jp-morgan-chase-background-information.html”>JPMorgan Chase &amp; Co.’s (JPM)</a> $21B 401(K) plan are suing the bank. The plaintiffs, who have filed a proposed class-action securities case, claim that the firm caused employees to pay excessive fees of millions of dollars.

According to the complaint, JPMorgan and a number of committee and board members were in breach of their fiduciary duties when they purportedly kept proprietary mutual funds that came from affiliate companies and the bank in the retirement plan for several years even though these options were almost identical to less expensive funds that were not only available but also were performing better.

The plaintiffs contend that during the class period at issue—from ’10-’15—about half of the investment choices in the retirement plan consisted of proprietary funds. They are accusing JPMorgan of keeping up business deals that were lucrative for the firm with BlackRock Institutional Trust Co. , which allowed BlackRock to inundate the 401(k) plan with its funds.

In a deal reached with the US Justice Department, Société Générale will pay $50M to settle civil charges accusing the bank of hiding that the residential mortgaged-backed securities (RMBS) that it promoted and sold were of poor quality. According to the government, the French bank made false representations involving the SG Mortgage Securities Trust 2006-OPT2, a $780M debt issue that it organized more than a decade ago. As part of the settlement, Société Générale admitted that it hid how many of the loans underlying the RMBS shouldn’t have been securitized or were not properly underwritten.

In a statement of facts, Société Générale took responsibility for its conduct. The bank admitted that it falsely represented that loans underlying the residential mortgage-backed security had been originated according to the underwriting guidelines of the loan originator. It also represented to investors that when the SG 2006-OPT2 was originated, no loans in the RMBS had a combined loan-to-value ratio or loan-to-value greater than 100%–this is a claim that Societe General is now admitting was false.

As a result of the bank’s actions, said the DOJ, investors lost “significant” amounts of money and they may lose more. Investors that were impacted include a number of financial institutions that are federally insured.

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The mortgage securities fraud deal arrived at between Deutsche Bank (DB) and the Department of Justice is now final. As part of the settlement, the German lender will pay a $3.1B civil penalty and $4.1B in relief to borrowers, homeowners, and others that were impacted because it purportedly misled investors about the mortgage securities it was selling before the housing market failed.

Although the agreement was announced last month, the details of the resolution have just been released to the public. This includes information that as far back as May 2006, a Deutsche Bank supervisor had cautioned one of the firm’s senior traders about one mortgage lender that had become too lax with its underwriting practices.

In a Statement of Facts that was part of the agreement, Deutsche Bank acknowledged that it was aware that it was not fully disclosing the risks involved with the loans that it was bundling and selling. Deutsche Bank CEO John Cryan issued a written statement apologizing “unreservedly” for the bank’s conduct. Cryan said that Deutsche Bank now has better standards in place.

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News that President-Elect Donald Trump has nominated Wall Street defense attorney Jay Clayton as the next of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair is causing worries that a person who has legally represented big banks may soon be in charge of the agency of the federal government that is tasked with regulating the securities industry.

For example, Clayton was the attorney for Goldman Sachs (GS) when billionaire Warren Buffet gave the firm a $5B capital infusion during the financial crisis of 2008. He also represented Barclays (BARC) when it acquired Lehman Brothers’ assets and he was the attorney for Bear Stearns when JPMorgan (JPM) bought the firm in a fire sale.

Clayton’s wife Gretchen is a Goldman Sachs wealth management advisor and broker. This means that Goldman, one of the firms that he is in charge of regulating, is also providing income to his family through her salary and any bonuses. Although Clayton will have to recuse himself when there are any enforcement rulings involving Goldman, he won’t have to in rulemaking decisions of “general application” that could impact the bank as long as other banks are also affected.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory has barred a broker who worked at Merrill Lynch for almost half a century from the securities industry. Louise J. Neale left the broker-dealer and voluntarily ended her registration with the firm last year during an internal probe about her supervisory performance involving fund transactions. She later refused to testify about her resignation before FINRA. This is a violation of the self-regulatory organization’s rules and was immediate grounds for the industry bar. Although Neale worked at Merrill since 1968, it wasn’t until 2003 that she became a registered representative and later a supervisor.

In an unrelated case, FINRA barred another ex-broker for violating firm policies after he, too, refused to testify about the allegations in front of the SRO. John Simpson worked at RBC Capital Markets from 3/2009 to 2/2016. He was let go by the firm for violating its policies about discretion related to client accounts.

Meantime, FINRA has barred two ex-JP Morgan (JPM) brokers. One of the brokers, Brian Alexander Torres, had only been in the securities industry for two months when he was fired by the broker-dealer. Torres admitted that he misappropriated funds from the firm’s affiliate bank. Finra asked Torres for information and documents, but he would not provide them nor would he testify.

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US District Court Judge William Pauley III has approved a $335M settlement in a securities fraud case against Bank of America (BAC). This one of the largest class action settlements involving securities buyer claims related to the 2008 financial crisis. Among the investors that will be able to avail of the settlement are the Pennsylvania Public School Employees’ Retirement System (PSERS), the Anchorage Fire and Police Retirement Fund, the Arkansas Teacher Retirement Fund, a number of asset managers, and two trade unions.

PSERS served as lead plaintiff for those that purchased the bank’s common stock or common equivalent securities on a US public exchanges and later sustained losses between 2/27/09 through 10/19/10. According to a PSERS Spokesperson, the Pennsylvania retirement plan lost approximately $8M of its holdings with Bank of America.

The mortgage-backed securities case accused Bank of America of misleading investors about the position it took in MBSs and of hiding debt. They also claim that the bank compelled them to purchase Bank of America stock that was sold to pay back $45B of federal bailout funds from TARP. The plaintiffs alleged that the bank was aware that it could not raise enough capital to avoid TARP restrictions on executive salaries if it were to disclose that it might have to buy back billions of dollars of securities that were backed by high-risk loans.

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