Articles Posted in Oppenheimer

Ex-Oppenheimer Stockbroker Pleads Guilty in Insider Trading Case
David Hobson, an ex-Oppenheimer Holdings (OPY) investment adviser, was sentenced to six months behind bars for insider trading using information provided to him by a friend who was employed with Pfizer Inc. at the time.

Hobson pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him. He was ordered to forfeit over $385K. His friend, Michael Maciocio, reached a plea deal with prosecutors for his part last year.

Hobson started insider trading in 2008 while employed at RBC Capital Markets and he continued with his illicit activities at Oppenheimer. He was Maciocio’s stockbroker.

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David Hobson, an ex-Oppenheimer & Co (OPY) investment adviser, has pleaded guilty to the criminal charges of securities fraud and conspiracy to commit securities fraud. The 47-year-old Rhode Island broker admitted that he engaged in insider trading using information given to him by investment client Michael Maciocio in order to make illegal profits. Maciocio has already pleaded guilty to the charges in the insider trading case against him.
According to Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, between 5/2008 to 4/2014 Hobson and Maciocio sought to trade on insider information regarding acquisitions that a particular pharmaceutical company was considering.  Although Bharara’s release doesn’t name the company, Law360 identified the company as Pfizer Inc. Bharara said that Maciocio, who was master planner in Pfizer’s active pharmaceutical ingredient supply chain group, would find out about the upcoming acquisitions and tip Hobson.
Bharara’s statement said that even though Maciocio was not given access to the acquisitions that the pharmaceutical company was targeting, he would use the code name of the acquisition, the drug indication, the dose, the clinical trial phase, and/or the drug’s chemical structure to find out the name of the company that Pfizer was considering acquiring. Maciocio would trade based on this information and share the information with Hobson. The two men have been friends since childhood.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission said that Scott A. Einsler, Arthur W. Lewis, and Robert Okin, three former Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) employees, have settled charges involving the unregistered sales of billions of shares of penny stocks for a customer. The actions are related to part of an enforcement action that the brokerage firm settled with the regulator, as well as with the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Under that agreement, the firm paid $20 million to resolve those claims.

In this latest order instituting administrative proceedings that have been resolved, Eisler, who used to be a registered representative at an Oppenheimer Florida branch, is accused, along with former supervisor and branch manager Lewis, of executing the penny stock shares in illegal unregistered distributions. While securities laws grant exemption liability for brokers who make a reasonable inquiry into the facts involving the proposed sale of a customer, the SEC said that the two men did not make the required inquiry even though there were significant warning signs. Also, according to the regulator, Lewis and Okin, previously the head of the private client division, committed supervisory failures when they did not address the warnings.

To resolve the proceedings against him, Eisler consented to pay $50,000 and he will be barred from the securities industry and penny stock sales for a year. Lewis also will pay a penalty for the same amount and his bar from the industry in a supervisory capacity is also for a year. Okin will pay $125,000 and also serve a yearlong supervisory bar from the industry. All three men agreed to settle without denying or admitting to the SEC’s findings.

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SEC Commissioners Luis Aguilar and Kara Stein, both Democrats, say that they were among those that voted to grant Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) special benefits even after the brokerage firm committed rules violations. It was just last month that the broker-dealer consented to pay a $20 million penalty while admitting to failures and resolving charges related to its failure to detect money laundering.

In that case, also settle with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the firm did not properly identify and report suspicious penny stock trades, even though numerous Oppenheimer customers reportedly were involved in such activities. The broker-dealer admitted that it failed to establish a suitable anti-money laundering program and did not perform proper due diligence on a foreign correspondent account.

Yet, the regulator overturned the automatic disqualification that should have come with the violation. That happened when SEC Chairman Mary Jo White and the other two members (both Republicans) outvoted the Democratic member. Now, Oppenheimer is allowed to continue selling hedge funds to rich individuals. As part of the condition for the leniency, the broker-dealer will retain a law firm and consultant to make sure that its procedures and policies fall in compliance.

JPMorgan Ordered to Face $10B Mortgage-Backed Securities Case

A federal judge said that JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) must face a class action securities fraud lawsuit filed by investors accusing the bank of misleading them about the risks involved in $10B of mortgage-backed securities that they purchased from the firm prior to the financial crisis.

U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken certified a class action as to the bank’s liability but not for damages. He said it wasn’t clear how investors were able to value the certificates they purchased considering that the market hadn’t been especially liquid. He did, however, say that the plaintiffs could attempt again to seek class certification on class damages.

Brian Williamson, a former Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) portfolio manager, has consented to a securities industry bar and will pay $100,000 as a penalty to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The settlement resolves private equity fund fraud charges accusing him of making misrepresentation about one the value of one fund. In March, Oppenheimer paid over $2.8 million to settle SEC charges related to this matter.

According to the SEC, Williamson allegedly put out information that falsely claimed that the reported value of the largest investment of one of the funds came from the underlying fund’s portfolio manager when actually, Williamson as the manager of the funds, was the one who gave value to the investment. He purportedly marked up the value significantly higher than what the portfolio manager of the underlying fund had estimated. Williamson then gave prospective fund investors marketing collateral that included a misleading internal return rate that failed to subtract the fund’s expenses and fees. The Commission says Williamson made statements that were misleading and false to different parties to conceal the fraud.

The SEC’s order says that Williamson was in willful violation of sections and rules of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Securities Act of 1933, and the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The industry bar against him will run for at least two years. The ex-Oppenheimer fund manager consented to settle without deny or admitting to the securities charges.

According to Investment News, along with the much publicized-UBS Puerto Rican Bond Funds, the municipal bond funds of OppenheimerFunds appear to have also been hit by Puerto Rico’s financial problems. The Oppenheimer Rochester Virginia Municipal Bond Fund (ORVAX), valued at $125 million, is down by over 15%, which places it last in the lineup of single-state municipal bond funds.

Such losses could prove an unpleasant surprise for investors in Virginia. The media publication blames the fund’s poor performance on the huge bet it placed on the Puerto Rico bond funds, which have not done very well in the wider municipal bond market because of the territory’s financial issues and the bonds’ low rating.

Investment research firm Morningstar Inc. says that the single-state municipal bond funds with over 25% of assets in the beleaguered bonds are The Oppenheimer Rochester North Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, and Maryland funds, with each fund down through last week by over 11%. A median single-state municipal bond fund usually holds no more than 2.38% of assets in the bonds from Puerto Rico.

The SEC is charging Oppenheimer Alternative Investment Management and Oppenheimer Asset Management, which are two Oppenheimer & Co. investment advisers, with misleading customers about the valuation policies and performance of a private equity fund under their management. To settle the allegations, Oppenheimer will pay over $2.8M. It has also resolved the related action that was filed by Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley.

According to the SEC, from 10/09 to 6/10, the two Oppenheimer investment advisers put out marketing collaterals and quarterly reports that were misleading and claimed that Oppenheimer Global Resource Private Equity Fund I L.P.’s holdings in private equity funds had values that were determined according to the estimated values of the underlying manager. In truth, contends the regulator, Oppenheimer’s portfolio manager actually valued the largest investment of the fund, Cartesian Investors-A LLC, at a markup that was considerable to the underlying manager’s estimated value. This discrepancy made it appear as if the fund’s performance was much better, per its internal rate of return. For example, at the conclusion of the quarter ending on June 30, 2009, the markup of the investment upped the internal return rate from 3.8% to 38.3%

Among the alleged misrepresentations made by ex-OAM employees to potential investors were:

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel says that Oppenheimer & Co. has to pay US Airways Group Inc. (LCCC) $30 million for losses that the latter sustained in auction-rate securities. The securities arbitration case is related to the airline group’s contention that the financial firm and one of its former brokers misrepresented certain ARS that were structured and private placement.

US Airways had initially sought $110M in compensatory damages and $26 million in interest and legal fees. The FINRA panel, however, decided that Oppenheimer and its ex-broker, Victor Woo, owed $30 million—Woo’s part will not be greater than what he made in commissions. Oppenheimer is now thinking about whether to submit a motion to vacate the arbitration panel’s order.

The financial firm is, however, going to go ahead with the arbitration it had filed against Deutsche Bank (DB) to get back the award money and associated costs from this case. Oppenheimer’s claim against Deutsche Bank is linked to the US Airways case but became a separate proceeding in 2010.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel has ordered Oppenheimer & Co. to repurchase the $5.98 million in New Jersey Turnpike ARS that it sold Nicole Davi Perry in 2007. The investor reportedly purchased the securities through Oppenheimer Holdings Inc. (OPY).

Perry, who, along with her father, filed her ARS arbitration claim against the financial firm in 2010, accused Oppenheimer of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. She and her father, Ronald Davi, were reportedly looking for liquidity and safety, but instead ended up placing their funds in the auction-rate securities. They contend that they weren’t given an accurate picture of the risks involved or provided with a thorough explanation of the securities’ true nature.

Oppenheimer disagrees with the panel’s ruling. In addition to buying back Perry’s ARS, the financial firm has to cover her approximately $134,000 in legal fees.

It was just in 2010 that Oppenheimer settled the ARS securities cases filed against it by the states of New York and Massachusetts. The brokerage firm consented to buy back millions of dollars in bonds from customers who found their investments frozen after the ARS market collapsed and they had no way of being able to access their funds.

Oppenheimer is one of a number of brokerage firms that had to repurchase ARS from investors. These financial firms are accused of misrepresenting the risks involved and inaccurately claiming that the securities were “cash-like.” A number of these brokerage firms’ executives allegedly continued to allow investors to buy the bonds even though they already knew that the market stood on the brink of collapse and they were selling off their own ARS.

Auction rate securities are usually corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and preferred stock with long-term maturities. Investors receive interest rates or dividend yields that are reset at each successive auction.

ARS auctions take place at regular intervals—either every 7 days, 14 days, 28 days, or 5 days. The bidder turns in the lowest dividend yield or interest rate he or she is willing to go to purchase and hold the bond during the next auction interval. If the bidder wins at the auction, she/he must buy the bond at par value.

Failed auctions can happen when there are not enough bidding buyers available to acquire the entire ARS block being offered. A failed auction can prevent ARS holders from selling their securities in the auction.

There are many reasons why an auction might fail and why there is risk involved for investors. It is important that investors are notified of these risks before they buy into the securities and that they only they get into ARS if this type of investment is suitable for their financial goals and the realities of their finances.

Panel Says Oppenheimer Must Buy Back $6M In Auction-Rate Securities, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2012

Oppenheimer settles with Massachusetts, NY, Boston, February 24, 2010

More Blog Posts:
Oppenheimer Funds Investors Can Proceed with Their Securities Fraud Lawsuit, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 19, 2011

Investors in Oppenheimer Mutual Funds Considering Opting Out of $100M Class Action Settlement Have Until August 31, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 6 2011

Raymond James Settles Auction-Rate Securities Case with Indiana Securities Division for $31M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 27, 2011

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