Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

In a civil settlement reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Deutsche Bank Securities will repay commercial mortgage-backed securities customers more than $3.7M over allegedly false and misleading statements related to their purchase of these investments. The firm and its ex-CMBS trading desk head trader Benjamin Solomon agreed to resolve the charges against them but without denying or admitting to regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC’s probe, when selling the CMBSs, Deutsche Bank (DB)’s salespeople and traders made statements that were false and misleading. This caused customers to pay too much for the securities because they were not given accurate information about how much the firm had paid for them. Deutsche Bank also is accused of not having properly designed procedures for surveillance and compliance that could stop and identify the types of wrongful behaviors that would cause commercial mortgage-backed securities buyers financial harm while allowing the firm to profit.

To resolve the CMBS fraud charges, Deutsche Bank will pay customers back all profits on the securities’ trades in which a misrepresentation was made. That figure is over $3.7M, including $1.48M of disgorgement. The bank will also pay a $750K penalty.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against Nicholas Joseph Genovese. The regulator contends that the purported hedge fund manager and his Willow Creek Advisors LLC misappropriated at least six investors’ money to pay for securities trading in his own brokerage account. Now, the SEC wants a temporary restraining order to freeze assets and stop further alleged violations.

According to the Commission’s complaint, Genovese misrepresented his previous experience in the securities industry and as a money manager, as well as the size of his business, including, that he:

· Oversaw $4B of the assets belonging to the Genovese Drug Store family.

· Ran Willow Creek Investments LP with $30B-$39B of assets under management when that figure was closer to less than $10M.

· Falsely stated that he and Willow Creek Advisors employed up to 60 people when the reality was closer to under 10.

· Claimed that his hedge fund made 30-40% investment gains annually when losses where what were actually incurred.

· Hid is criminal history, including, according to news sources, past convictions for forgery and grand larceny.

· Did not tell investors he previously filed for bankruptcy.

· Touted an education and professional history that he’d fabricated, including that he was a former Goldman Sachs (GS) partner and an ex-Bear Stearns portfolio manager, as well as had earned an MBA from Dartmouth.

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to hear the appeal of an investment adviser who is challenging the liability findings against him in a securities fraud case presided over by a US Securities and Exchange Commission administrative law judge (ALJ). Raymond Lucia, also a former radio host, was accused of misleading prospective investors about his “Buckets of Money” investment strategy by claiming the methodology he used was back-tested when that was not the case. This created a false sense of security especially among retirees who were told that their money would grow.

An SEC ALJ found him liable for fraud, including that he violated the Investment Advisers Act. Lucia was not only barred from the securities industry but also ordered to pay a $300K fine. He appealed the ruling.

Lucia also questioned whether it was constitutional for the SEC to hire administrative law judges and if they should instead by appointed rather than brought in through human resources. In 2016, The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit turned down Lucia’s appeal, finding that contrary to his contention, SEC judges are not officers with the power to make decisions but are, in fact, employees. Also, the Commission has to approve their rulings.

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In its complaint, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has submitted a civil junctive action accusing Malachi Financial Products, Inc. and its principal Porter B. Bingham, of municipal bank fraud targeting Rolling Fork, Mississippi. According to the regulator, Malachi and Bingham charged the city too much for municipal advisory services involving a muni bond offering from October 2015.

Rolling Fork had hired Malachi in the capacity of municipal adviser in 2015 because of a proposed bond offering to pay for a number of improvement projects in the city. The SEC contends that after the closing of the offering, the firm and its principal submitted two invoices to the bond trustee, one—for $33,000—was for services that were never rendered and had never been authorized by the Mississippi city. The other, for $22K, was in line with what Malachi and Rolling Fork had agreed upon.

Bingham purportedly did not disclose to Rolling Fork that he had received $2,500 from Anthony Stovall, who worked for Bonwick Capital Partners. LLC, prior to Malachi recommending to the city that it retain Stovall’s firm as an underwriter for the bond offering. Rolling Fork went on to hire the underwriting firm because of the recommendation.

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Ex-Och Ziff Hedge Fund Executive Indicted in NY Over Alleged Africa Investment Fraud
A grand jury in Brooklyn, NY has indicted Michael Cohen, the ex-head of Och Ziff Capital Management’s European operations on fraud, conspiracy, and other criminal charges. According to prosecutors, Cohen hid a conflict of interest involving a mining company investment and defrauded an institutional client.

The ex-Och Ziff hedge fund executive and his former company are accused of making representations to a UK foundation that then agreed to invest up to $200M in a joint African venture in 2008. Cohen, who allegedly used the joint venture fund to purchase stock from someone who had borrowed money from him for a yacht, is accused of failing to disclose his own stake in the investment. Meantime, the person whom, CNBC reports, owed Cohen money, allegedly used funds from the stock purchase to pay him back $4M.

Cohen is accused of trying to conceal the investment scam by generating a bogus letter and making statements to the SEC, IRS, and FBI that were “materially false.”

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The US Securities and Exchange Group announced that Khaled Bassily, the ex-head of ConvergEx Groups’ transition management business, has settled institutional investor fraud charges accusing him of taking part in a scam to hide from certain clients, which included religious organizations, retirement funds, and charities, that they were paying substantially more than they thought for trading orders. Bassily, who agreed to pay more than $988K in disgorgement, prejudgment interest, plus a civil penalty, settled the case without denying or admitting to the charges.

The regulator brought the case against him in 2016. According to its complaint, over five years, Basily hid from transition management customers that their brokerage orders were being directed to an offshore affiliate where concealed charges were put into the price that they paid for selling and purchasing securities. These secret charges were an add on and frequently much higher than the commissions that customers paid for their orders. For example, stated the SEC’s complaint, one customer who paid $699K in commissions also paid $9.6M in these hidden fees.

Meantime, Bassily allegedly engaged in deceptive practices, including “false and misleading statements” to customers, working with traders to maximize theses hidden charges, and taking steps to hide these unauthorized charges from customers.

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Provectus Accused of Disclosure and Accounting Controls Violations Related to Executive Perks
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against the biopharmaceutical company Provectus. According to the regulator, the Tennessee-based company committed violations related to disclosures and accounting controls. Among the alleged failures was that Provectus did not properly report that its then-CFO and former CEO made millions of dollars in perks as compensation.

The SEC contends that Provectus did not have “sufficient controls” in place regarding the reporting and disclosure of entertainment and travel expenses of executives. Ex-CEO Dr. H. Craig Dees is accused of using fabricated, limited or “non-existent expense documentation” for millions of dollars of benefits of which investors were not informed. Then-CFO Peter R. Culpepper is accused of receiving more than $199K in undisclosed and unauthorized benefits and perks.

The Commission has filed a separate securities fraud case against Dees. Not only did he allegedly get $3.2M in reimbursements and cash for business travel that he didn’t go on, but also, he is accused of hiding these perks, which personal expenses, including restaurant tips and cosmetic surgery for women friends.

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Ex-Philadelphia Eagles Player Who Bilked Former Coaches is Sentenced to 40 Years
Merrill Robertson Jr., a former Philadelphia Eagles football player, will serve 40 years in prison for a $10M fraud that bilked investors. Among his investor fraud victims were coaches he knew from when he played football at the University of Georgia and the Fork Union Military Academy.

The SEC also filed a case against him in a parallel civil case. According the regulator, Robertson, Sherman C. Vaughn Jr., and their Cavalier Union Investments diverted almost
$6M of investors’ money to pay for their own expenses and repay earlier investors.

Investment Advisers Accused of Mislead Investors About Conflicted Transactions
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against Mohlman Asset Management, LLC, Mohlman Asset Management Fund, LLC, and Louis G. Mohlman, accusing them of misleading investors and engaging in conflicted transactions. Mohlman and the two investment advisers managed two private funds.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed a $1.75M penalty on Ameriprise (AMP) related to its sale of F-Squared Alpha Sector strategies. The financial firm must also disgorge $7.3M.

According to the regulator, F-Squared Investments made mistakes when calculating the historical performance of its Alpha Sector investment strategies. These sector rotation strategies were predicated upon the use of an algorithm that gave off a “signal” noting whether to sell or purchase certain exchange-traded funds that collectively comprised the industries in the S & P 500 Index.

However, claimed the regulator, F-Squared erred when it implemented these signals prior to when they could have happened. The Commission accused the firm of employing back-tested and hypothetical historical performance data that was inflated, rather than using what the AlphaSector’s performance would have been if there hadn’t been any signal-related errors, to come up with the investment’s track record.

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SEC Awards Whistleblower $4.1M
A company insider who notified the US Securities Exchange Commission about a “widespread, multi-year securities law violation” involving the employer, is getting a $4.1M whistleblower award. The individual, who is a foreign national employed abroad, also provided information and help during the regulator’s probe. Further details about the case have been kept confidential so as to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the whistleblower.

This is the third whistleblower award issued this month by the SEC. The regulator awarded two other people $8M each for their help in another successful enforcement action.

To date, the SEC whistleblower program has awarded 50 whistleblowers over $179M.

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