Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

In a securities fraud case, the SEC has brought charges against Beaufort Securities Ltd., which is a UK-based brokerage firm, and investment manager Peter Kyriacou accusing them of engaging in manipulative trading involving shares of HD View, which is a CCTV company located in Florida. The regulator’s case is part of an undercover operation involving the FBI.The Commission claims that Kyriacou’s scam sought to create the fake impression of liquidity.

The SEC’s complaint contends that Beaufort and Kyriacou became involved in a pump-and-dump scam with a man that they didn’t know was working for the FBI. With him, they purportedly spoke about using promotions to raise stock prices, engaging in matched trades to affect the stock price, and selling the shares to make a profit.

The SEC filed another complaint contending that in recorded phone calls, HD View CEO Dennis Mancino and CEO of WT Consulting Group LLC William T. Hirschy consented to manipulate the company’s stock by utilizing the undercover agent’s broker network to create a “fraudulent” demand. The two of them were supposed to “manipulate HD View stock” so that its price would go up prior to having the brokers in the agent’s network liquidate their positions. In return, there would be a kickback paid from the money made from trading. The regulator has also filed civil charges against Mancino, Hirschy, and the entities TJM Investments Inc., WT Consulting Group, and DJK Investments 10 Inc.

Continue reading

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against “repeat securities law violator” Steven J. Muehler, who it has barred from associating with any broker-dealer since 2016. Once again, the regulator is accusing him of defrauding small businesses.

Muehler and his companies Altavista Capital Markets LLC, Alta Vista Securities, LLC, and Alta Vista Private Client, LLC—all unregistered brokerage firms— offered broker-dealer services to a number of small business clients. Services include finding investors and raising money from them through an online securities change that was supposedly proprietary. In exchange, fees were paid to Muehler and his brokerage firms, as well as rights to a percentage of the funds raised and equity in each business.

Muehler and his firms claimed that they have been successful in raising millions of dollars on clients’ behalf. However, in a previous SEC case, he admitted defrauding small businesses.

Continue reading

Four ex-Georgeson LLC employees are now on trial for fraud. Michael Sedlak, Charles Garske, Donna Ackerly, and Richard Gottcent are accused of bribing an Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) employee for information about the way Georgeson’s investor clients vote on shareholder proposals. Georgeson is a proxy solicitation firm. ISS is registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment adviser.

According to prosecutors, the ISS employee, Brian Bennett, was given $14K in bribes in the form of tickets to different events, including a U2 concert and Boston Red Sox baseball game, as well as for meals and an airline ticket. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told a federal jury that the purpose of procuring the information was to obtain an illegal advantage in their work, which involved representing companies when there are shareholder votes. Rosen said that the defendants were “not entitled” to these “secrets” that they purchased.

It is the job of proxy advisory firms to give information and recommendations to institutional investors about proposals that publicly traded company shareholders are expected to vote on. These firms collect information about institutional investors’ holdings and public votes and they share that information with publicly traded companies. This allows proxy solicitors and their clients to assess how certain shareholder votes on proposals will likely go, which can help clients figure out how they might affect certain shareholder votes.

Continue reading

Medical Products Executives Settle Insider Trading Charges
The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that insider trading settlements have been reached with two ex-In Home Medical Solutions LLC officers, who are also board members. Todd M. Lavelle and Ara Chackerian are accused of illegally trading in Emeritus Corp. based on inside information.

The regulator contends that LaVelle and Chackerian purchased Emeritus securities after learning about the upcoming merger between the company and Brookdale Senior Living Inc. However, they did this before the deal was disclosed to the public. On the day of the announcement of the merger, they sold their Emeritus shares, allegedly making more than $25K and $157K, respectively, in illegal profits.

LaVelle, who is settling the case but without denying or admitting to the allegations, will pay over $25K in disgorgement, more than $2,600 in prejudgment interest, and an over $25K civil penalty. Chackerian, who is also settling without denying or admitting to the findings, will pay over $157K of disgorgement, the same amount as a civil penalty, and more than $18,600 of prejudgment interest.

Continue reading

Rabobank NA Admits to Anti-Money Laundering Deficiencies, Will Pay Nearly $369M
Rabobank National Association, a subsidiary of Rabobank UA (RABO), has pleaded guilty to felony conspiracy for obstructing the Department of the Treasury’s Office of the Comptroller of the Currency’s examination of the bank while hiding that its anti-money laundering program had certain deficiencies. Now, the firm will pay almost $369M for not preventing illicit funds from going through the bank.

With its guilty plea, Rabobank is admitting that it conspired with a number of its ex-executives to try defrauding the US by “unlawfully impeding” the OCC’s efforts to regulate the California subsidiary, including obstruction of an OCC examination of the bank’s branches throughout the state. Rabobank acknowledged that because of deficiencies in its AML program, the bank made it possible for hundreds of millions of dollars from Mexico and other places to be deposited in its rural bank branches and then allowed to money to move via checks, wire transfers, and withdrawals. Federal regulators were not notified even though they should have been.

During a 2012 OCC examination, Rabobank executives purposely tried to “hide and minimize” its AML program deficiencies so as to avoid new sanctions. Rabobank was already sanctioned in ’06 and ’08 for failures that were “nearly identical” to the ones at issue now. Late last year, ex-Rabobank VP George Martin reached a deferred prosecution deal with the US government for aiding and abetting the bank in not having an AML program that met Bank Secrecy Act requirements.

Continue reading

BNP Paribas USA (BNP), A BNP Paribas unit, will pay $90M to settle a criminal case alleging foreign currency price manipulation. It also pleaded guilty by admitting that it conspired to fix prices for Eastern European, Central European, African, and Middle Eastern (CEEMEA)currencies between 9/2011 and 7/2013.

According to the US Justice Department, the BNP Paribas unit engaged in rigging prices through fake trades, orchestrated trades, and by quoting specific prices to certain customers, all on an electronic trading platform. The settlement also settles investigations conducted by the New York State Department of Financial Services and the US Federal Reserve.

In a statement, BNP Paribas USA said that it regretted “the past misconduct” that resulted in this case. The unit will now cooperate with the US government’s ongoing investigation into currency rigging involving the FX market. The bank joins Barclays Plc (BARC), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JP), Citigroup (C), UBS Group AG (UBS), and Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) in pleading guilty to currency rigging in US probes. Together, the six banks have agreed to pay over $2.8B in fines.

Continue reading

Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) will pay a $30M civil penalty to resolve charges brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accusing them of spoofing. According to the regulator, from at least 2/2008 through 9/2014, DB AG, with the help of a number of precious metal traders, sought to rig the price of precious metals futures contracts that were traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc.

The CFTC’s order said that the traders worked alone and with each other to buy or sell these contracts while planning all along to cancel them before they were executed after a smaller offer was made on the opposite side of the market. The spoof orders were purportedly made to give the impression of market depth in order to generate trading interest.

The regulator found that through the traders’ actions, Deutsche Bank AG sought to not only rig the price of precious metals futures contracts but also to profit from these manipulations. The CFTC said the firm worked with one trader in Singapore who made orders and trades to “trigger customer stop-loss orders.”

Continue reading

After backing Outcome Health, an advertising company, Goldman Sachs Investment Partners (GS) and other investors are among those suing the startup for fraud and to get their money back. The lawsuit, filed a couple of months ago, comes in the wake of allegations that investors were fooled by inflated information financial performances and were charged for ad space that they never received. Outcome denies any wrongdoing.

It wasn’t too long ago that the company was generating high profits and revenue, while investors were told that their returns were guaranteed. Just last spring, institutional investors, including Goldman, infused $478M into the ad company, which streams pharmaceutical advertising onto tablets and flatscreens at doctor offices.

According to the Wall Street Journal, there had been red flags even back then. The newspaper noted how even the “savviest investors” can miss or ignore warnings. For example, Outcome already had a lot of debt, including $325M for a loan. It also lacked an independent board to conduct oversight and its co-founders were poised to make an “unusually large payout.”

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Meyers Associates is Fined by FINRA Over Misleading Sales Literature
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Meyers Associates, now called Windsor Street Capital, to pay a $75K fine for a number of securities violations, including sending sales literature that was misleading via email and not supervising books and records preparations. The firm’s principal, Bruce Meyers, is now barred from working as a firm supervisor or principal.

According to the regulator’s National Adjudicatory Council, Meyers Association has been named in 16 disciplinary actions this century. It paid about $390K in sanctions for different issues, including issuing false statements, supervisory deficiencies, omissions related to a securities offering, improper review of emails, inadequate maintenance of books and records, and not reporting customer complaints in a timely manner. Last year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission turned down Meyers’ appeal of a FINRA securities ruling that prevented him from serving as firm CEO.

Ex-RBS Trader Banned and Fined £250,000 for Manipulating Libor
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has banned ex-Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) trader Neil Danzinger from the securities industry and ordered him to pay a $338,000 over allegations that he rigged the London interbank offered rate (Libor). According to the regulator, Danziger, a former RBS interest rate derivatives trader, “routinely” asked RBS Libor submitters to modify the rate to benefit his trading positions. He also allegedly factored in certain trading positions when serving as a submitter and on more than one occasion got a broker to help him to rig other banks’ yen Libor submissions.

Continue reading