Articles Posted in Securities and Exchange Commission

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.

Penn West Petroleum is Accused of Accounting Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Penn West Petroleum Ltd., now called Obsidian Energy Ltd., and three of its ex-finance executives with involvement in an alleged accounting fraud. According to the regulator, the Canadian-based oil and gas company fraudulently transferred hundreds of millions of dollars in expenses to capital expenditure accounts from its operating expense accounts. As a result, Penn West was able to artificially lower operating expenses by up to 20% during some periods, as well as falsely enhance the metrics having to do with profitability and oil extraction efficiency. These metrics are important for selling barrels of oil.

The SEC is accusing ex-Penn West CFO Todd Takeyasu, ex-VP of Accounting and Reporting Jeffery Curan, and ex-Operations Controller Waldermar Grab of running the accounting fraud. The regulator claims that the three men violated federal securities laws related to antifraud, books and records, reporting, and internal controls provisions.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is charging two-ex Nomura (NMR) head traders with fraud. Kee Chan and James Im ran Nomura Securities International Inc.’s commercial mortgage-backed securities desk. The regulator claims that they purposely lied to customers to inflate profits for themselves and the firm. As a result, said the SEC, the two of them made an additional over $750K in trading profits for the desk. They received healthy bonuses as a result.

Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities
CMBSs are asset-backed securities that have commercial real estate loans as their underlying assets. These debt obligations are often called bonds. CMBSs are illiquid securities.

According to the Commission, while serving as trade intermediaries with customers seeking to sell and buy CMBSs on the secondary market, Im and Chan made it seem as if they were working out bond purchases with a third-party seller at more than what Nomura paid to obtain the bonds. Im even allegedly told a customer that he had sought to deceive on purpose. Meantime, Chan is accused of modifying a customer email to protect his lie regarding a bond’s bid price.

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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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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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Asset Manager Accused of Operating ETF Without Necessary Exemption

The US Securities and Exchange Commission said that BlackRock Fund Advisors (BLK) will pay $1.5M to resolve charges accusing the asset manager of advising an exchange-traded fund to violate the Investment Company Act. BlackRock ran the Russia Fund ETF with out the necessary exemptive order from 12/2010 to 1/2015. The exemptive order is necessary because there are some ETF traits that would cause the fund and dealers to violate the Act were it not for having an order.

According to the Commission, BlackRock was notified in 2011 that the exemptive relief that had been issued to other investment companies that it advised could not be applied to funds that were organized separately. Despite knowing this, BlackRock is said to have kept running the ETF without the necessary exemption. It wasn’t until 2015 when, after more talks with the SEC, that the asset manager merged the Russia Fund ETF with another investment company that it advised. It could then apply another acquired exemptive relief to the Russia Fund ETF.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission case linked to parallel criminal charges, the regulator has filed insider trading charges against Avaneesh Krishnamoorthy, the risk management VP of a New York-based investment bank. Krishnamoorthy is accused of trading on confidential information prior to the acquisition of a publicly-traded tech company by a private equity firm. He allegedly made about $48K in illicit profits. Also charged as a relief defendant is his wife Shreya Achar.

According to the SEC, Avaneesh Krishnamoorthy began trading in Neustar Securities after learning that Golden Gate Capital was going to buy the company. He used two brokerage accounts that his employer didn’t know about. Golden Gate Capital had approached the investment bank about financing the acquisition.

Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has filed its own case against Krishnamoorthy. He faces one criminal securities fraud charge.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded almost $4M to an individual who gave the regulator specific details regarding “serious misconduct” and provided help, including “specialized” expertise and knowledge, during the agency’s probe into the allegations. In its release announcing the award, the SEC did not provided more details about the case because to do so might give away the identity of the whistleblower, which it always seeks to protect.

Since the SEC Whistleblower Program was established in 2011, the agency has awarded 43 individuals about $153M for voluntarily giving the agency useful and original information that ended up rendering a successful enforcement action Already, such actions stemming from whistleblower-provided information has resulted in over $953M in financial remedies imposed against those found to be have engaged in misconduct or other wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can be awarded anywhere from 10-30% of the money collected if that sum is $1M or greater.

As we mentioned, typically the identities of SEC whistleblowers are kept confidential. One of the reasons for this is so that the whistleblower is protected from professional or financial retaliation, especially if the individual blew the whistle on an employer.

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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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is charging the partner of a Hong Kong-based private equity firm with securities fraud. The regulator claims that Shaohua (Michael) Yin of Summitview Capital Management Ltd. obtained over $56M of DreamWorks Animation SKG stock by using the US brokerage accounts of five Chinese nationals, including his parents.

When DreamWork’s stock price went up 47.3% after news that Comcast was acquiring it went public, the five accounts made $29M from the DreamWorks trades.

The SEC claims that Yin tried to conceal that he was in charge of the five accounts, which had addresses in Palo Alto and Beijing, but the regulator was still able to identify him as the one behind the suspect trading. Prior to becoming a partner at Summitview Capital, Yin worked for UBS (UBS) and private equity firm Warburg Pincus Asia LLC.

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