Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has settled with 45 US states and will now pay $220M to resolve allegations that it engaged in rigging the London Interbank Offered (LIBOR) rate and other benchmark interest rates. According to the settlement, the bank admitted that its managers and traders took part in benchmark rigging from ’05 to ’09.

A press release issued by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman states that Deutsche Bank “acted unlawfully,” including that:

· The bank defrauded counterparties when it didn’t disclose that it was making LIBOR submissions that were “false or misleading.”

· Its traders tried to influence the LIBOR submissions of other banks so that Deutsche Bank would benefit.

· The bank knew that other banks were rigging LIBOR, too.

· Deutsche Bank didn’t disclose that the other banks’ LIBOR submissions were not accurate reflections of their borrowing rates or that the published rates were not accurate to the submitting banks’ real borrowing costs.

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A federal jury in New York has found Mark Johnson guilty on criminal charges accusing him of front-running involving a $3.5B currency trade. HSBC’s ex-foreign-exchange cash trading global head is the first banker that the US Justice Department charged over forex rate rigging.

Johnson was convicted on eight counts of wire fraud and one count of wire fraud conspiracy, and he reportedly will appeal the verdict. Johnson maintains that he was acting in the best interest of the client involved and he did not do anything wrong or irregular.

According to acting US Attorney in Brooklyn Bridget M. Rohde, Johnson used confidential information given to him by an HSBC client to make trades in an attempt to earn millions of dollars for the bank and himself while costing the client money. He and ex-HSBC European currency trading head Stuart Scott allegedly engaged in front running, which involves making trades based on advanced information about a big market order, with the advanced trades rendering huge profits once the bigger transaction has upped the price. Scott is currently in the UK battling extradition efforts to bring him back to the US.

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Deutsche Bank AG (DB) has consented to pay $190M to resolve an investor fraud lawsuit accusing the German lender of manipulating prices in the foreign exchange market. Despite settling, however, the bank maintains that it did not engage in wrongdoing.

Investors accused Deutsche bank and 15 other banks of conspiring to rig key currency benchmark rates by coordinating strategies and sharing confidential trade information and orders. The bank’s traders are accused of meeting in chat rooms to engage in numerous tactics to make more profits regardless of whether or not this meant losses for investors.

Regulator probes into currency rigging have led to $10B in fines imposed against a number of big banks, including the most recent one by the Federal Reserve, which ordered HSBC to pay a $175M fine for not properly monitoring its currency traders. With the investor lawsuits, Credit Suisse Group AG (CS) is the only one of the banks sued by investors that has not settled.

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In New York, a federal judge has approved a $31M shareholder fraud settlement reached in the class action securities case filed by investors that purchased stock in former broker-dealer RCS Capital. The plaintiffs, including lead plaintiffs the City of Providence, Rhode Island and the Oklahoma Police Pension Fund, had sued the brokerage firm, its head Nicholas Schorsch, and other ex-executives in 2014 claiming that that RCAP and the other defendants misled investors with “false and misleading statements and omissions” about RCAP’s business prospects.

The investors contend that they purchased RCS Capital stock at prices that were artificially inflated because of these statements. They are claiming massive shareholder losses.

RCAP, once controlled by Schorsch and others, was a privately held brokerage firm that wholesaled American Reality Capital nontraded REITs. Schorsch also owned ARC, which set up and managed the real-estate investment trusts.

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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.

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A federal grand jury has indicted two men for their alleged involvement in a nearly $230M financial scam involving biotech companies. G. Steven Burrill, the owner and CEO of Burrill & Company, and Marc Howard Berger are the two defendants named in the criminal indictment. Burrill is charged with 26 counts of wire fraud, one count of investment adviser fraud, and one count of tax evasion. Berger is charged with multiple accounts of aiding in preparing fraudulent tax returns.

According to the criminal indictment, Burrill send letters that were false and misleading to persuade limited partners to give capital to the fund. He also allegedly moved millions of dollars in unnecessary management fees to companies under his control, as well as submitted the allegedly fraudulent tax returns.

It was in March of last year that Burrill settled civil charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission accusing him of taking funds from the Burrill Life Sciences Capital Fund III in order to maintain his expensive lifestyle and keep some of his other businesses in operation. The regulator claimed that Burrill took from the Fund III and pretended that these were management fees he was issuing to himself in advance. He then allegedly went on to spend the money on vacations, jewelry, private planes, and other expenses.

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Investment Firm and Its CEO Are Expelled and Barred for Inflating the Price of Shares Before Selling Them

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has expelled Hallmark Investments and barred Steven G. Dash, who is the firm’s CEO, over a securities scam that involved selling stocks at inflated prices. According to the self-regulatory organization, Hallmark, Dash, and firm representative Stephen P. Zipkin used an outside broker-dealer and engaged in manipulative trading, as well as in trade confirmations that were misleading, to sell almost 40,000 shares of stock to 14 customers at prices that were fraudulently inflated. Zipkin has been suspended by FINRA for two years and he will have to pay over $18K in restitution.

Hallmark purportedly employed a trading scam to sell the Avalanche shares that they owned at $3/share. Meantime, the prices for Avalanche were selling at the public offering price of $2.05/share and Hallmark sold other Avalanche shares to other customers for as low as 80 cents/share. Also, the investment firm, Zipkin, and Dash failed to tell customers that Hallmark owned the shares they were buying or that it was marking up the transactions (or that the shares could be bought for less on the open market) even as it sold the shares to others at lower prices.

A jury has found former pharmaceutical CEO and hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli guilty of securities fraud in connection with his two hedge funds, MSMB Capital and MSMB Healthcare, as well as of conspiracy to commit securities fraud involving shares of the drug company Retrophin, which he founded.

Prosecutors had said that Shkreli misled investors, losing their money on bad stock picks while scheming to try recover millions of dollars of these losses. At one point, Shkreli claimed he had $40M in one hedge fund when it had only $300 in the bank.

That said, prosecutors experienced some challenges in proving their criminal case against the ex-hedge fund manager. For example, during the trial, a number of rich Texan financiers admitted that Shkreli’s scam made them money, sometimes even double or triple of what they invested, when Retrophin’s stock went public.

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Ex-Gerova Financial Group Head is Sentenced in $72M Fraud

Gary Hirst, the former president of Gerova Financial Group who was convicted of securities fraud and wire fraud last year, has been sentenced to six years behind bars. Hirst defrauded Gerova shareholders when he secretly gave away almost $72M of company stock to co-conspirators and himself.

He and his co-conspirators are accused of issuing huge quantities of stock and bilking stockholders and the investing public in order to earn millions of dollars in ill-gotten gains. Hirst and one of the co-conspirators, Jason Galanis, had gained enough control of Gerova that they could engage in transactions to enrich themselves and others even as they worked to conceal the scam.

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.