Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office has charged Barclays (BARC) and four of its ex-executives with criminal fraud involving money used to rescue the bank during the height of the 2008 financial crisis. The government has been investigating the ways in which Barclays sought out Qatari investors to help it stay afloat during that time so that the bank wouldn’t need a bailout. Barclays is also under investigation in the US by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice over payments that Barclays made to Middle Eastern officials.

During two emergency cash calls in 2008, investors put in $15B total, with Barclays stating in filings that it paid £322 million in “advisory services” to them. Shareholders were at first not apprised of this agreement between the bank and Qatari investors. Also, in 2008, Barclays issued a $3B loan facility to Qatar.

In the UK, it is against the law for a company to give money to a party in exchange for the latter’s purchase of company shares. Barclays has denied that the $3B loan was for the purchase of shares by investors. It also has argued that payments it received for advisory services were for actual business purposes. However, the Serious Fraud Office is alleging that the $3B loan to Qatar just weeks after getting funding from investors could be considered a fraudulent capital increase in a scam by Barclays to lend itself funds.

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Former REIT CFO’s Criminal Trial is Under Way
Brian Block, the ex-American Realty Capital Properties CFO, is on trial over his alleged involvement in accounting errors that led to the former Nicholas Schorsch-controlled real estate investment trust’s release of inaccurate financial statements during the first two quarters of 2014. As a result of the inaccuracies, ARCP overstated its adjusted funds from operations (AFFO) by about $12M for the end of that first quarter and by about $10.9M for the second quarter while understating its net losses.

This week, Lisa McAlister, a key witness and ARCP’s ex-chief accounting officer gave testimony. She suggested that Schorsch, the REIT’s CEO and chairman at the time, instructed Block on how to distort the number in the books. Block was McAlister’s boss at ARCP.

McAlister said that she was in the room when Schorsch advised Block on how to hide the fraudulent accounting. McAlister said that Schorsch, who has not been charged with wrongdoing in the accounting mistakes, was instructing Block on how to compensate for a 3-cent shortfall in ARCP’s targeted AFFO/share by fudging a certain line item.

McAlister has already pleaded guilty to fraud charges over ARCP’s accounting irregularities.

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A jury has found Michael Gramins guilty of conspiracy to lie about mortgage bond prices. Gramins was one of three ex-Nomura (NMR) residential mortgage-backed securities traders charged with fraud and accused of defrauding clients of millions of dollars.

Aside from the guilty RMBS fraud verdict for conspiracy, Gramins was found not guilty of six fraud counts. The jury did not arrive at a verdict on two other charges against him.

Meantime, ex-Nomura trader Tyler Peters was acquitted on all of the criminal fraud charges against him. Although jurors cleared former Nomura trader Ross Shapiro of eight fraud counts, they were unable to arrive at a verdict regarding one conspiracy count against him. It wll be up to prosecutors to decide whether they want to retry Gramins and Shapiro on the counts that were not resolved.

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The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System is now the lead plaintiff in the class action securities fraud case against Babcock & Wilcox Enterprises. The energy company is accused of hiding significant losses. When Babcock & Wilcox finally disclosed that it was having problems, shareholders lost $300M after the stock price fell.

Prior to that disclosure, the company had admitted to losses involving just one plant that it was constructing in Europe. However, last February 28, the company disclosed that the losses had impacted other projects.

The class action securities case alleges misrepresentation and fraud. It names Babcock & Wilcox, CFO Jenny Apker, and CEO Jim Ferland as defendants. The plaintiffs are accusing them of involvement in a scam to fool the market while engaging in conduct to artificially raise the company’s share price through the concealment of issues in its waste-to-energy business. Business Journal reports that investors are referring to B & W’s eventual admission that up to seven of its projects in Europe had collectively suffered $140M in losses last year.

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Two of the three ex-State Street Corp.(STT) executives whom US prosecutors have charged with bilking six clients via secret commissions on billions of dollars of trades have agreed to plead guilty. Edward Penning, a former State Street Sr. managing director, and Richard Boomgaardt, the former head of the transition management desk for Africa, Europe, and the Middle East, will plead guilty to securities fraud and conspiring to commit wire fraud. Ex-State Street EVP Ross McLellan, who has pleaded not guilty to the criminal charges against him, is scheduled to go on trial later this year.

State Street is a custody bank based in Boston. Its unit that was involved in the securities fraud assists institutional clients in moving investments and liquidating big portfolios.

Penning, Boomgaardt, and McLellan were charged last year in a US probe. Earlier this year, State Street agreed to settle related criminal and civil probes over the men’s alleged misconduct for $64.6M. That’s a $32.3M criminal penalty to the US Justice Department and a $32.3M civil settlement to resolve the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s case. As part of the settlement, the firm admitted that it overcharged six clients of State Street’s transition management business by secretly billing them commissions on billions of dollars in securities trades, including equity trades and fixed-income trades. In 2014, State Street also paid a $38M fine to the UK Financial Conduct Authority for charging the same clients mark-ups for certain transactions.

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Deborah Kelley, an ex-Sterne Agee managing director and broker, has pleaded guilty to honest-services wire fraud and securities fraud. Kelley, admitted that she gave perks to former NY state pension fund manager Navnoor Kang in return for him directing trading business toward her firm. She could be sentenced to up to five years in prison. A second broker, Gregg Schonhorn, has already pleaded guilty to related criminal charges against him.

Kang, who was the portfolio manager of the New York State Common Retirement Fund, is accused of awarding the two brokers’ firms over $2B of business in return for drugs, strippers, vacations, and lavish jewelry.

As a result, contend prosecutors, the retirement fund’s domestic bond transactions to her firm went from $0 at the end of March 2014 to $179M in 2016. FTN Financial, which is where Schonhorn worked, ended up garnering $2.3B of business from working with the NY pension fund. The two brokers were paid 35-40% of the millions of dollars of commissions made by their brokerage firms.

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Prosecutors have indicted a California man over his alleged involvement in an investment scam that bilked an ex-NFL player of $4.5M. Kenneth Ray Cleveland faces multiple counts of money laundering and wire fraud.

The 63-year-old money manager served as the NFL player’s financial adviser for years beginning when the ex-pro athlete, who played with the Indianapolis Colts for several years, graduated college and joined the NFL. Court documents don’t name the victim.

According to prosecutors, Cleveland used $2M of the ex-NFL athlete’s funds to pay other clients in a Ponzi scheme he allegedly ran. The money manager used another $2M of the player’s money to cover his own expenses, including his mortgage.

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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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Ex-Jefferies Trader Will Go to Prison for Mortgage-Backed Securities Fraud After All
Jesse Litvak, the ex-Jefferies (JEF) managing director, has once again been sentenced to two years in prison. Litvak was found guilty of mortgage-backed securities fraud in 2014 and sentenced to two years behind bars. The conviction at the time was for multiple securities fraud charges and for making false statements, as well as for defrauding TARP.

Claiming that expert witnesses hadn’t been able to testify for him, Litvak was able to get that sentence tossed. However, the US government continued to go after him and he was found guilty on one fraud count. Now, he has again been sentenced to two years in prions.

Litvak also must pay $2M because he lied about bond prices to a customer. (The earlier conviction had come with a $1.75M fine.) According to U.S. District Judge Janet C. Hall, Litvak’s victims only invested because he lied to them.

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