Articles Posted in Securities and Exchange Commission

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering Wells Fargo & Co.’s (WFC) wealth management unit to pay $3.5M for alleged anti-money laundering reporting violations. Wells Fargo Advisors agreed to pay the penalty. It is settling the charges but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC, starting in early 2012, new bank managers started pressing compliance officials to cease in their submission of suspicious activity reports. The failure to file these SARs reports, or delay them, reportedly occurred 50 times in a little over a year and involved accounts for international customers who were previously named in such reports.

Federal law mandates that broker-dealers notify the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about any transactions of at least $5K that they believe may involve illegal activity. The regulator blames a “new senior manager” that was hired in the brokerage firm’s compliance group and placed in charge of the anti-money laundering program.

Continue reading

UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) has agreed to settle US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the brokerage firm of not ensuring that certain charitable brokerage accounts and retail retirement accounts received the sales charge waivers or reduced fee share classes to which they were entitled when they purchased certain mutual funds. However, despite settling, including agreeing to pay a $3.5M penalty, the firm did not admit to or deny the SEC’s findings.

The regulator’s order states that from at least 1/2010 through 6/2015, UBS did not confirm certain customers’ eligibility to purchase from a less costly mutual fund share class and instead recommended that they buy more expensive ones. The customers that were affected purportedly did not have enough information at their disposal to understand that UBS had a conflict of interest when recommending the costlier share classes, such as Class A shares that came with an upfront sales fee and Class B/C shares that charged contingent deferred sales fees at the back-end plus came with costlier ongoing expenses and fees. All of the customers affected had been eligible to buy either no-load Class R shares or load-waved Class A shares.

As a result, claims the Commission, 15,250 customer accounts paid more than $18.5M in excess fees and expenses, upfront sales fees, and “contingent deferred sales charges.” Also, by selling investors the more expensive share classes, UBS earned higher compensations. The brokerage firm is accused of not disclosing to these customers that buying the costlier share classes would hurt their investments’ returns.

Continue reading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against John Rogicki. The New York-based financial adviser, who is the chief compliance officer and managing director of Train, Babcock Advisors, LLC, is accused of defrauding a non-profit charitable foundation of $9M. The founder of the Foundation had named Rogicki, who had been her husband’s financial adviser, as the trustee and trust president in her will.

She and Rogicki became friends in the 1990’s when she was already an elderly woman. She died at 97 in 2001. Just a few years before that, it was Rogicki who introduced her to a trusts and estate attorney. This lawyer executed a trust and will that made all the designations to Rogicki.

Rogicki was also the non-profit’s investment adviser and he was tasked with making all investment decisions for the Foundation, including directing all securities transactions in the latter’s advisory account. The Commission believes that Rogicki committed the alleged fraud between 2004 and 2016.

Continue reading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Rio Tinto and its ex-CFO Guy Robert Elliot and former CEO Thomas Albanese. The defendants are accused of hiding the Mozambique coal business’s swift and steep drop in value soon after they acquired it for $3.7B. The mining company later would go on to sell Rio Tinto Coal Mozambique for $50M—a much lower figure than the buying price.

The SEC contends that following the acquisition of the coal assets in 2011, the project experienced problems right away because there was “less coal and of lower quality” than what Rio Tinto, Elliot, and Albanese had anticipated. Also, the country of Mozambique, which is where the acquisition occurred, had turned down the barge application. This means that there was no infrastructure to transport the assets. All of this “significantly eroded” the acquistion’s value.

Rio Tinto and the two ex-executives purportedly knew that publicly disclosing the acquisition as a failure, after a previous acquisition of Canadian company Alcan had rendered big losses, would create doubts over their ability to identify and develop mining assets that were “long-term, low cost, and highly profitable.” This purportedly compelled them to hide the problems that arose with the Mozambique acquisition and issue misleading financial statements prior to a number of US debt offerings.

Continue reading

A federal jury in Boston has found Howard Present, the ex-CEO of F-Squared Investments Inc., liable in the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s civil lawsuit alleging exchange-traded fund fraud. The ruling determined that Present was in violation of the Investment Advisers Act.

According to the regulator, Present sought to defraud investors and acted recklessly in the way he marketed the history of the AlphaSector, which was F-Squared’s flagship product.

The SEC filed its securities fraud lawsuit against Present in 2014. That was when the regulator announced a $35M settlement reached with F-Squared, in which the firm admitted wrongdoing over claims that it misled investors in the way that it falsely marketed AlphaSector as having a lengthy and successful track record that utilized a strategy that a multibillion-dollar wealth manager had developed.

Continue reading

Latest Whistleblower Award Raises Total Granted to $162M
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded a whistleblower over $1M for providing “new information and substantial corroborating documentation” that allowed the regulator to bring a successful enforcement action. The securities violation involved a registered entity and had affected retail investors.

This latest award means that the SEC has now awarded over $162M to 47 whistleblowers since the awards program went into effect in 2013. Whistleblowers who give the Commission unique and “credible” information resulting in a successful enforcement case are eligible to receive 10-30% of the funds collected when the monetary sanction imposed is over $1M.

Attorneys Accused of Involvement in Microcap Fraud Scam
The SEC is accusing James M. Schneider and Andrew H. Wilson of involvement in a microcap fraud that involved more than 20 blank check companies that were sold in reverse mergers. Now, the regulator wants ill-gotten gains, civil penalties from the two lawyers, and other relief. A related criminal fraud case has also been brought against Schneider.

Continue reading

According to The Wall Street Journal, news that the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s electronic filing system was hacked is raising concerns of what rogue traders may do if they gained market-moving information before the news went public. This week, the SEC disclosed that that its Electronic Data Gathering, Analysis, and Retrieval System (EDGAR), which stores public company filings, was hacked last year.

While the breach was noticed in 2016, regulators were not made aware that illicit trading could become a repercussion until last month. The majority of the commissioners reportedly didn’t know the hack had occurred until “recent days.” It wasn’t until SEC Chairman Jay Clayton launched a review of the agency’s “cybersecurity vulnerabilities” this Spring that the extent of the hack became clear.

The WSJ reports that according to market veterans, there are several ways in which intruders could trade using the nonpublic information available through Edgar. Companies usually submit earnings filings in advance of them become public knowledge and it is during this time, before market release, when a rogue trader could strike. Another potential target for hackers might be the 8-K form, used by companies to disclose big events, including acquisitions, not yet disclosed medical trials, and other potentially market moving information. 13-D filings submitted by investors with a greater than 5% position in a company—this is information that could generate investor interest—could also be a target.

Continue reading

Ex-Amazon Employee and Former College Schoolmate Accused of Insider Trading
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has brought civil insider trading charges against Brett Kennedy and Maziar Rezakhani. Kennedy, an ex- Amazon financial analyst, is accused of leaking confidential information to Rezakhani, who was a former fraternity brother, prior to a company earnings announcement for Amazon being disclosed to the public. Kennedy is also facing criminal charges.

According to the regulator, Kennedy shared the 2015 first quarter earnings information without authorization while employed at Amazon. Rezakhani then allegedly illegally traded on the information in advance of the information’s release to the public and he made over $116K in illicit profits.

Also, on two online communications platforms involving trading, Rezakhani accurately predicted Amazon’s first quarter performance. He is accused of paying Kennedy $10K for the tip and sharing the money with Sam Sadeghi, who gave him trading advice. Sadeghi also faces civil charges.

Continue reading

Michael Siva, a former Morgan Stanley broker (MS), has pleaded not guilty to criminal charges accusing him of insider trading. Siva is one of several people charged over their alleged participation in a group of “tipping chains” and trading on tips about upcoming acquisitions and mergers. The information were provided by Bank of America (BAC) consultant Daniel Rivas. Siva is said to have gotten the tips from the James Moodhe, who is the father of Rivas’ girlfriend.

Rivas and Moodhe have both pleaded guilty to the criminal charges accusing them of insider trading. They are cooperating with the government’s probe.

Moodhe is said to have shared Rivas’s tips with Siva from at least 2015 up through earlier this year. Siva allegedly used the information so he could make successful trades for clients as well as for himself. Moodhe and Siva allegedly met at eating places outside NYC during which time the former would read details about upcoming deals to Siva, including the value of the deals and when news about them was expected to go public. The two men allegedly made over $3M trading prior to and after the announcement of the deals.
Continue reading

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.