Articles Posted in Uncategorized

In Manhattan appeals court, a panel for the Appellate Division, First Department ruled that Ambac Assurance Corp. must prove all common law fraud elements in its mortgage-backed securities case against Countrywide Home Loans. The insurer, which underwrote 17 residential mortgage-backed securitizations, filed its RMBS fraud lawsuit against Bank of America’s (BAC) Countrywide in 2010.

Bank of America purchased Countrywide in 2008. That same year, the bank settled civil fraud charges related to questionable mortgage practices from before the 2008 financial crisis by agreeing to pay $16.65B to state and federal authorities.

According to the RMBS fraud case, Ambac put out insurance policies that were irrevocable and without conditions when it guaranteed a number of principal payments plus interest to investors that backed Countrywide RMBSs. The financial guaranty insurer is now accusing Countrywide of breaking warranties and contractual representations involving securitizations and its business practices, as well as of putting out false statements about its loans and operations and, as a result, fraudulently compelling Ambac to issue certain policies.

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Bloomberg reports that according to sources, the US Securities and Exchange Commission has launched a probe into Statim Holdings. Inc., an Atlanta, Georgia-based financial firm, after the latter told investors in its main hedge fund that there was no risk of financial losses for investing. The regulator’s investigation comes in the wake of a state probe by the Georgia Securities Division. Statim is helmed by Joseph A. Meyer.

Meyer told investors in the Arjun fund’s main share class that they would never sustain financial losses. However, they have to commit their funds for a decade or lose 50% of their principal should they decide for early redemption.

The hedge fund manger has said that he uses a computerized system that he designed and he invests the bulk of clients’ funds in Treasury bonds. In 2015 Bloomberg News placed Arjun at number eight in its list of hedge funds that had assets ranging from $250M and $1B. BarclaysHedge has given 17 awards to Arjun.

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The US Supreme Court said that it will hear a securities fraud lawsuit accusing Leidos Inc. (LDOS) of leaving out key information, as well as misstating other important ones, in securities filings. The lead plaintiff in the case is the Indiana Public Retirement System, which brought its complaint in 2012.

The investor fraud lawsuit is related to a kickback scam that took place when Leidos, it was called Science Applications International Corp (SAIC) at the time, was constructing a computerized payroll system for New York City. The scam resulted in fraud charges being brought against two SAIC employees. The government contractor ended up paying over $500M in fines to settle related charges.

The Indiana retirement fund contends that SAIC failed to dislose its liability connected to the fraud when it submitted its filings to the US Securities and Exchange Commission and that it only made the necessary disclosures in June 2011, which was months after the scam collapsed. Under SEC provision Item 303, companies must disclose uncertainties and trends that may impact their business. The retirement fund also is accusing SAIC of misstatements regarding ethics and internal controls, including the alleged misstatement that the contract with NY was immaterial to its operations.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments (PKS) to pay almost $3.4M in restitution to a Native American tribe. The tribe had paid excessive sales fees for the purchase of Business Development Companies (BDCs) and non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).

Gopi Vungarala was the Purshe Kaplan Sterling registered representative for the tribe from 7/2011 through at least 1/15/15. He was also the tribe’s Treasury Investment Manager at the same time. It was his job was to oversee the group’s investment portfolio.

FINRA’s case against Vungarala in this matter has yet to be resolved. However, Purshe Kaplan Sterling must also pay $750K for its purportedly inadequate supervision of nontraded REIT and BDC sales.

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A 401(K) participant is suing Aon Hewitt for its purported involvement in a kickback scam involving Financial Engines. Aon Hewitt is not the first company to be subject to such allegations involving the 401(K) advice provider.

According to a participant in the Caterpillar 401(k) Retirement Plan, the alleged “covert kickback operations” cost retirement savers millions of dollars as a result of the excessive fees paid to Financial Engines for managed-account services. The complaint contends that the service fees were much higher than needed because of an agreement between Aon Hewitt and Financial Engines in which the latter paid the former kickbacks.

The kickbacks were purportedly a substantial percentage of the fees that Financial Engines charged, even though Hewitt and its sister companies, which are also defendants in the 401(K) lawsuit, didn’t provide any investment advisory services in exchange for the payments. According to plaintiff Cheryl Scott, Aon Hewitt received a 20-25% kickback.

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IT Specialist Accused of Hacking Expedia Executives and Insider Trading

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil insider trading charges against Jonathan Ly, who worked as a technology specialist for online travel company Expedia. According to the regulator, Ly hacked senior company executives and traded on company secrets ahead of nine announcements between 2013 and 2016.

As a result of his alleged insider trading, Lyn made almost $350K in profits. To settle the SEC case against him, Ly will pay over $348K of disgorgement and more than $27K in interest. This is a deal that still has to be subject to court approval.

Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington has filed parallel criminal charges against Ly.

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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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The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has revived the lawsuit brought by a whistleblower who accused JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) of firing her for cautioning that a client might be engaging in money laundering and fraud. Jennifer Sharkey was a private wealth manager and vice president at the firm when she was let go in August 2009.

Sharkey claims that she was terminated a week after telling JPMorgan that they needed to pay attention to “red flags” and let go of the client who was responsible for about $600K of yearly billings. She sued her former employer after she was fired.

Last year, U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet in Manhattan threw out the case. Sweet said that the firm may have let Sharkey go for other reasons, including allegations that she lied about communications with another client or her performance was poor. Sharkey has countered that she did not lie.

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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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The Wall Street Journal is reporting that JP Morgan Chase & Co., in its yearly Securities and Exchange Commission filing, said it may be facing up to $4.5 billion in legal losses over the losses it accounts for in its established litigation reserves. The SEC had asked for this additional disclosure in the wake of the economic crisis that has left many investment banks contending with securities fraud complaints from investors.

JP Morgan Chase’s $4.5 billion figure is a worst-case estimate. This means that additional losses could be anywhere from 0 to much higher than $4.5 billion. The investment bank is unable to make estimates at this time on over 10,000 legal proceedings.

JP Morgan also included a disclosure that it had received informal requests and subpoenas for information regarding its mortgage business. Many of the investors who have made securities fraud claims sustained their losses from their purchase of mortgage-backed securities during the housing market collapse. The investment bank said that some of the investigations came about following its announcement of a foreclosure moratorium because of issues with its foreclosure practices.

Other investment banks have also provided their worst-case scenarios:

• Citigroup Inc. estimated its worst-case scenario at $4 billion
• Wells Fargo & Co. estimated $1.2 billion
• Bank of America Corp. estimates about $1.5 billion

Related Web Resources:
J.P. Morgan Faces $4.5 Billion in Worst-Case-Scenario Losses, The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2011

JP Morgan Chase and Co, SEC FIlings, Yahoo Finance

More Blog Posts:
Insurer Claims that JP Morgan and Bear Stearns Bilked Clients Of Billions of Dollars with Handling of Mortgage Repurchases, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, February 3, 2011

JPMorgan Chase & Co. CEO Warns Municipal Bond Investors to Expect More Bankruptcies, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, January 18, 2011

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