Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

FINRA Fines LPL Financial $900K

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined LPL Financial (LPLA) for either not sending or failing to create records showing that it had sent over 1.6 million mandatory account notices to customers over a 36-month period. Under industry rules, account notices have to be sent to customers at three-year intervals which is when determination of suitability is evaluated. FINRA said that LPL did not send more than 25% of such written notices over a period of seven years.

The financial firm accepted the self-regulatory organization’s settlement but is not denying or admitting to the findings. However an LPL spokesperson said in an email that the firm had self-reported the matter and was committed to “enhancing” structures for compliance and risk management.

Brian J. Ourand, a former Live Nation Entertainment and SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprise executive, has pleaded guilty to wire fraud. Ourand admitted to embezzling almost $1M from heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, NBA basketball stars Glen Rice and Dikembe Mutombo, and another athlete.

According to prosecutors, Ourand began defrauding clients in 2003. They say that he used the funds to pay for hotel stays, tanning sessions, gambling activities, private school tuition for a girlfriend’s relative, and other expenses.

Ourand was charged in 2015 with multiple criminal counts, including wire fraud, mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft. As part of his plea agreement, the former financial adviser will repay the money he stole from the athletes.

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State Street Corp. (STT) will pay $32.3M to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and $32.3 to the federal government to resolve probes accusing the firm of bilking six clients on billions of dollars of trades by charging them secret commissions. As part of the settlement, the Massachusetts-based bank agreed to a deferred prosecution deal and admitted to conspiring to include these secret commissions on the trades conducted. State Street reportedly made at least $20M in commissions without these clients knowing they were paying.

According to prosecutors, from ’10 to ’11, former State Street executive Ross McLellan and ex-senior managing director Edward Pennings conspired to charge the secret commissions involving equity and fixed income trades that were conducted for these clients.

These commissions were in addition to fees that clients had consented to pay even though there had been written instructions given to State Street traders noting that these six customers didn’t have to pay these fees. The clients had been working with a State Street unit that supports institutional customers in liquidating big investment portfolios or moving investments between asset managers.

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News that President-Elect Donald Trump has nominated Wall Street defense attorney Jay Clayton as the next of Securities and Exchange Commission Chair is causing worries that a person who has legally represented big banks may soon be in charge of the agency of the federal government that is tasked with regulating the securities industry.

For example, Clayton was the attorney for Goldman Sachs (GS) when billionaire Warren Buffet gave the firm a $5B capital infusion during the financial crisis of 2008. He also represented Barclays (BARC) when it acquired Lehman Brothers’ assets and he was the attorney for Bear Stearns when JPMorgan (JPM) bought the firm in a fire sale.

Clayton’s wife Gretchen is a Goldman Sachs wealth management advisor and broker. This means that Goldman, one of the firms that he is in charge of regulating, is also providing income to his family through her salary and any bonuses. Although Clayton will have to recuse himself when there are any enforcement rulings involving Goldman, he won’t have to in rulemaking decisions of “general application” that could impact the bank as long as other banks are also affected.

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Financial Advisor Admits to Stealing $1.6M From Family’s Trusts
Brian Keenan, an ex-financial advisor, has pleaded guilty to criminal charges accusing him to stealing over $1.6M from three trusts belonging to members of the same family. Keenan had been employed with Train Babcock Advisors from about 5/2007 to 8/2012. It was during this time that the former financial adviser stole over $1.6M from the beneficiaries of three trusts.

Not only did Keenan take their money, but he also spent the funds on his own expenses. He set up a joint checking account under his name and the name of one of the beneficiaries, and he issued over 40 checks from the trust accounts to the joint account. The beneficiary under whose name he co-opened the account did not have access to it.

Issuing a statement about the financial fraud case, Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance reminded the public that a financial adviser’s main duty is to act in a client’s best interest. Vance said that rather than fulfilling that obligation, Keenan took advantage of his clients. Keenan pleaded guilty to Grand Larceny in the First Degree.

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A British day trader has pleaded guilty to spoofing and wire fraud involved the 2010 Flash Crash. Navinder Singh Sarao was accused of making $40M while spoofing the stock futures market of CME Group Inc. (NASDAQ: CME)  for more than five years. He also will forfeit $12.9M of the ill-gotten gains that he made from trading. Sarao is facing a maximum of 30 years in prison. It was during the 2010 Flash Crash that a trading frenzy briefly took down nearly $1 trillion from American equities.

To face the 22 criminal charges against him for market manipulation and fraud, Sarao had to be extradited from the United Kingdom to the United States. US prosecutors accused him of rigging the futures on the S & P 500 Index.

Spoofing involves manipulating prices by placing trade orders but with no plans of executing them. The purpose is to send prices moving in one direction but then canceling the trades prior to execution in order to make money off the prices going back to where they originally were before the manipulation.

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IB Capital FX, Two Dutch Citizens to Pay Over $35M to Customers
IB Capital FX, LLC, Emad Echadi, and Michel Geurkink must pay, severally and jointly, a $420K civil penalty and $35M in restitution for soliciting at least $50M from 1,850 customers internationally and in the US even though they lacked the required registration for trading that involved off-exchange margined retail foreign (forex) currency. Also, the firm should have been registered with the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

It was the CFTC that obtained the consent order, which permanently prevents the defendants from violating CFTC Regulations and the Commodity Exchange Act further. They also are now subject to permanent registration and trading bans.

$21.8M Default Judgment Issued is in Ponzi Scam
In a default judgment, Puerto Rico resident Alvin Guy Wilkinson and his Wilkinson Financial Opportunity Fund, LP and Chicago Index Partners, LP—both are Connecticut-based financial firms—will jointly and severally pay $21.8M for misappropriating commodity pool funds in a purported Ponzi scam. According to the CFTC’s order, the defendants committed fraud, did not register with the SEC, engaged in misappropriation, and made misrepresentations to the National Futures Association.

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A class action securities case brought by stockholders is accusing American Capital Agency Corp. of charging excessive management fees that were given to directors and executive officers as compensation. The real estate investment trust invests in agency mortgaged backed securities “on a leveraged basis.” Because of this, American Capital must pay 90% of profits to investors as dividends.
However, according to William Wall, the lead plaintiff in the REIT case, a number of the individual defendants  “improperly funneled” millions of dollars that should have gone to AGNC stockholders. He said that the REIT’s board allegedly forced the company to pay the AGNC Manager “exorbitant” fees in light of the management agreement between the AGNC Manager and AGNC. The fees went to the defendants. 
Noting that the REIT’s dividend is a key metric for its success, the class action securities complaint said that in 2012 the board cut AGNC’s dividend by over 50%. The plaintiff said that the board had the contractural right to either end the unfair management agreement or make the AGNC Manager charge fees that were fairer. Instead,  AGNC allegedly kept paying the manager over $100M annually even though results were “abysmal.”

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is awarding over $4M to a whistleblower for providing original information that led to a successful fraud case. This is individual is the 34th whistleblower that the SEC’s program has awarded since 2011, upping the total amount granted in such awards to over $111M.
In what was the second biggest award issued by the regulator to date, he SEC awarded $22M to an to an ex- Monsanto Co. financial executive last month. The individual had reported alleged accounting violations involving Roundup, the company’s weed killer. According to media reports, Monsanto offered distributor rebates to raise sales but moved the costs into the following fiscal year. As a result, the company moved up its revenue while postponing the reduction that resulted from the costs. 
Under the SEC Whistleblower program, individuals who voluntarily give the regulator unique information that leads to a successful enforcement case are entitled to 10-30% of the sanctions collected when that amount is over $1M. Since the program’s inception five years ago, the Commission has received over 14,000 tips. 

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Andrew Caspersen is now permanently barred from the investment industry. The Securities and Exchange Commission announced the ban.

Caspersen, who used to be the managing principal at Park Hill Group and is the son of financier and philanthropist Finn M. W. Caspersen, had pleaded guilty to criminal charges of securities fraud and wires fraud. He admitted to bilking investors of over $38M and misappropriating over $8M. Park Hill fired him earlier this year.

The ex-Wall Street executive admitted to having a “gambling addiction” and his involvement in a scam to raise $95M. His fraud victims included family and friends. According to his attorney, Caspersen lost $123M by speculating on put options in the S & P index. His sentencing hearing is in November.

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