Articles Posted in Investment Advisers

A federal grand jury has indicted two men for their alleged involvement in a nearly $230M financial scam involving biotech companies. G. Steven Burrill, the owner and CEO of Burrill & Company, and Marc Howard Berger are the two defendants named in the criminal indictment. Burrill is charged with 26 counts of wire fraud, one count of investment adviser fraud, and one count of tax evasion. Berger is charged with multiple accounts of aiding in preparing fraudulent tax returns.

According to the criminal indictment, Burrill send letters that were false and misleading to persuade limited partners to give capital to the fund. He also allegedly moved millions of dollars in unnecessary management fees to companies under his control, as well as submitted the allegedly fraudulent tax returns.

It was in March of last year that Burrill settled civil charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission accusing him of taking funds from the Burrill Life Sciences Capital Fund III in order to maintain his expensive lifestyle and keep some of his other businesses in operation. The regulator claimed that Burrill took from the Fund III and pretended that these were management fees he was issuing to himself in advance. He then allegedly went on to spend the money on vacations, jewelry, private planes, and other expenses.

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FINRA Fines Ex-Morgan Stanley Broker, Issues 15-Day Suspension

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker $10K and ordered him to serve a 15-day suspension after he allegedly tried to resolve a client’s complaint without the firm’s consent. The regulator is charging Lewis H. Robinson, who now works with BB & T Securities in Florida, with violating Rule 2010. The rule mandates that brokers satisfy “high standards” as they pertain to commercial honor and principles of trade.

According to FINRA, Robinson wrote $12,203 in checks to resolve three complaints made by the client. Advisor Hub reports that Robinson said that he notified Morgan Stanley as soon as the client noticed that the account was overcharged a higher commission rate than what had been agreed upon but that the firm refused to give a refund because the allegedly mistaken excess fee was charged too long ago.

Ex-Adviser of Retired NBA Player Tim Duncan is Barred from the Industry

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has gotten a judgment barring former financial adviser Charles A. Banks IV from the securities industry. Banks, who pleaded guilty to wire fraud that involved bilking ex-NBA player Tim Duncan, was sentenced to 48 months in prison in criminal court and ordered to pay $7.5M in restitution.

Now, because he committed investment fraud, Banks is also banned from the industry, as well as prohibited from serving as a director or an officer of any public company. Banks also must pay a penalty, disgorgement, and pre-judgment interest.

The Moore Charitable Foundation and Kendall JMAC, which are both owned by hedge fund billionaire Louise Bacon, have filed a securities fraud lawsuit against PJT Partners over the $16M loss that they claim they sustained in the Ponzi –like scam perpetuated by former investment adviser Andrew Caspersen.

The two entities want full restitution plus interest. They also filed a securities fraud lawsuit against Caspersen, who was a partner and managing director at the PJT Partners’ Park Hill Group when he defrauded investors.

Caspersen pleaded guilty in 2016 to bilking investors of $38M. He said he had a gambling addiction that compelled him to make up bogus Wall Street deals. He is serving a four-year prison term for his crimes.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is expected to charge Navellier & Associates with fraud. The registered investment advisor, in a Form ADV brochure filing, disclosed that the regulator’s enforcement staff had preliminarily determined to recommend that the SEC file a case.

The Commission has been investigating advisory firms that marketed F-Squared Investments-related exchange-traded fund investment strategies. F-Squared Investments admitted that some of its marketing strategy performance records were inflated.

Last year, at least 13 brokerage firms and RIAs settled with the SEC for including the Boston-based firm’s claims in their own marketing collateral, including that the AlphaSector ETF strategy had been out-performing the S & P 500 for a number of years. F-Squared promoted the strategy as utilizing an algorithm that could indicate when it was time to sell.

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Ex-Visium Fund Manager on Trial for Bond Fraud
Jury selection is scheduled to begin this week in the criminal trial against Stefan Lumiere, an ex-Visium Asset Management LP portfolio manager. Lumiere, who managed the Visium Credit Opportunities Fund, is accused of falsely inflating the value of securities in a fund and committing bond fraud.

Visium Asset Management LP is a New York based-hedge fund. The $8B investment hedge fund shut down in 2016 after a criminal investigation that led to charges against a number of people, including Sanjay Valvani, who  killed himself several months ago following allegations of insider trading.

According to prosecutors, from ’11 to ’13, Lumiere was among a number of people who conspired to bilk investors through the mismarking of securities’ values that were in a fund that invested in healthcare company-issued debt. The prosecution believes that the alleged misconduct caused the net asset value of the fund to be overstated by tens of millions of dollars monthly. Meantime, investors were fooled into thinking the bonds were very liquid even though they were illiquid.

Lumiere pleaded not guilty to securities fraud, conspiracy, and wire fraud charges last year.

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Financial Advisor Admits to Stealing $1.6M From Family’s Trusts
Brian Keenan, an ex-financial advisor, has pleaded guilty to criminal charges accusing him to stealing over $1.6M from three trusts belonging to members of the same family. Keenan had been employed with Train Babcock Advisors from about 5/2007 to 8/2012. It was during this time that the former financial adviser stole over $1.6M from the beneficiaries of three trusts.

Not only did Keenan take their money, but he also spent the funds on his own expenses. He set up a joint checking account under his name and the name of one of the beneficiaries, and he issued over 40 checks from the trust accounts to the joint account. The beneficiary under whose name he co-opened the account did not have access to it.

Issuing a statement about the financial fraud case, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance reminded the public that a financial adviser’s main duty is to act in a client’s best interest. Vance said that rather than fulfilling that obligation, Keenan took advantage of his clients. Keenan pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the First Degree.

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New Proposed Amendment Would Shorten Period for Settling Securities Transactions 
The SEC has voted to propose a rule amendment that would abbreviate the typical length of a settlement cycle period for the majority of broker-dealer securities transactions. Instead of having this period run from three business day following the trade date it would be reduced to two days. The hope is that the amendment, if approved, would lower the risks that can occur due to the value and quantity of unresolved securities transactions before a settlement is completed. 
The proposal would modify the Exchange Act’s Rule 15c6-1(a). Under the amendment, a broker-dealer would not be allowed to get into a contract for the sale or purchase of a security that provides fund payments unless it is an exempted security, municipal security, government security, banker’s acceptance, commercial paper, or commercial bill. The regulator hopes that the proposed amendment would reduce the market,  credit, and liquidity risks for all participants in the U.S. market.
 
SEC Adopts Rules Impacting Securities Clearing Agencies
The Commission has adopted rules to enhance the regulatory framework for securities clearing agencies. The improved standards would preside over the running of and overseeing of securities clearing agencies that are either systemically important or are taking part in security-based swaps and other complex transactions. The SEC also voted to propose that the enhanced standards be applied to other securities clearing agency categories.
 

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Securities and Exchange Commission to Audit RIAs Over Mutual Fund Share Classes
The SEC has announced that it will audit registered investment advisers so that it can examine the kinds of mutual fund share classes that they sell to clients. Share class recommendations and compliance are of particular interest to the regulator.

Because RIAs are fiduciaries, they have a duty to uphold their clients’ best interests. This includes selecting the lowest-cost share classes and 529 plan investments on a client’s behalf, depending on the latter’s investment goals. The Commission wants to see whether conflicts of interest exist, such as when an adviser is also the brokerage firm or is affiliated with a firm that garners fees from selling certain mutual fund share classes.

The SEC also wants to look at whether RIAs are disclosing if there is anyone getting paid compensation for the sale of either mutual fund share classes or other investment products. The fee might be a charge for the actual sale or a fee incurred according to the assets sold.

SEC Adopts Amendments to Regulation SBSR
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has adopted guidance and amendments for Regulation SBSR, which includes rules for the public dissemination and regulatory reporting of security-based swap transactions. The rules and guidance were created to enhance transparency in the market for security-based swaps. They were mandated under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Hope Advisors Inc. and owner Karen Bruton with scheming to get two hedge funds that they managed to pay them extra fees. The private hedge funds are HDB Investments LLC and Hope Investment LLC.

The purported misconduct was discovered by the regulator’s Atlanta office, which was examining the Nashville, Tennesse-based firm and Bruton. The regulator claims that Hope Advisors and Bruton sought to get around the funds’ fee structure, which lets the firm receive fees from the funds only if their profits for the month exceeds previous losses. The firm and Bruton are accused of orchestrating a number of trades that would let the funds make a bigger gain closer to the end of the month and guarantee a big loss early on at the start of the next month.

The SEC said that if it weren’t for the fraudulent trades, Hope Advisors would have earned almost no incentive fees for close to two years. Instead, claims the Commission, the firm managed to avoid realization of over $50M in losses while making millions of dollars in fees that they should have never been paid.

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