Articles Posted in Whistleblowers

A jury in Manhattan federal court found that UBS Group (UBS) owes ex-commercial mortgage-backed securities strategist Trevor Murray $903K after he turned whistleblower on the Swiss lender. Murray contends that he was fired after reporting that CMBS traders had tried to affect his research reports, which were supposed to be independent.

Murray claims that UBS CMBS bond trading head and managing director David MacNamara insisted on screening drafts of the strategist’s reports in advance, which violates firm policy. The former UBS strategist accused Kenneth Cohen, his former boss, of being the one to instigate the pre-clearance process and calling his reports “off message.”

Testifying about one instance, Murray spoke about how Cohen instructed him not to put down anything negative regarding the hotel sector since UBS was engaged in financing for a Miami Beach hotel. The ex-UBS strategist said that he disregarded Cohen’s alleged instructions and notified clients about his worries.

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SEC Awards Whistleblower $4.1M
A company insider who notified the US Securities Exchange Commission about a “widespread, multi-year securities law violation” involving the employer, is getting a $4.1M whistleblower award. The individual, who is a foreign national employed abroad, also provided information and help during the regulator’s probe. Further details about the case have been kept confidential so as to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the whistleblower.

This is the third whistleblower award issued this month by the SEC. The regulator awarded two other people $8M each for their help in another successful enforcement action.

To date, the SEC whistleblower program has awarded 50 whistleblowers over $179M.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commision has awarded $16M to two whistleblowers—$8M each—for the crucial information and help they provided in bringing a successful securities enforcement action. If you consider that a whistleblower may be eligible for 10-30% of funds collected when the monetary sanctions of the SEC action that the individual helped to bring is greater than $1M, the sanctions imposed in this latest case must have been significant.

According to the regulator, one whistleblower reported a “particular misconduct” that became central to the SEC’s enforcement action. The other whistleblower provided additional key information and continued to cooperate with the agency during its probe. The latter’s contributions reportedly saved the Commission time and resources.

These latest awards bring the amount awarded to SEC whistleblowers—49 of them—to over $175M. Alleged wrongdoers accused in the regulators’ cases have been ordered to pay $1B in financial remedies, including over $671M in disgorgement.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering Wells Fargo & Co.’s (WFC) wealth management unit to pay $3.5M for alleged anti-money laundering reporting violations. Wells Fargo Advisors agreed to pay the penalty. It is settling the charges but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

According to the SEC, starting in early 2012, new bank managers started pressing compliance officials to cease in their submission of suspicious activity reports. The failure to file these SARs reports, or delay them, reportedly occurred 50 times in a little over a year and involved accounts for international customers who were previously named in such reports.

Federal law mandates that broker-dealers notify the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network about any transactions of at least $5K that they believe may involve illegal activity. The regulator blames a “new senior manager” that was hired in the brokerage firm’s compliance group and placed in charge of the anti-money laundering program.

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Latest Whistleblower Award Raises Total Granted to $162M
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has awarded a whistleblower over $1M for providing “new information and substantial corroborating documentation” that allowed the regulator to bring a successful enforcement action. The securities violation involved a registered entity and had affected retail investors.

This latest award means that the SEC has now awarded over $162M to 47 whistleblowers since the awards program went into effect in 2013. Whistleblowers who give the Commission unique and “credible” information resulting in a successful enforcement case are eligible to receive 10-30% of the funds collected when the monetary sanction imposed is over $1M.

Attorneys Accused of Involvement in Microcap Fraud Scam
The SEC is accusing James M. Schneider and Andrew H. Wilson of involvement in a microcap fraud that involved more than 20 blank check companies that were sold in reverse mergers. Now, the regulator wants ill-gotten gains, civil penalties from the two lawyers, and other relief. A related criminal fraud case has also been brought against Schneider.

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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 has awarded almost $4M to an individual who gave the regulator specific details regarding “serious misconduct” and provided help, including “specialized” expertise and knowledge, during the agency’s probe into the allegations. In its release announcing the award, the SEC did not provided more details about the case because to do so might give away the identity of the whistleblower, which it always seeks to protect.

Since the SEC Whistleblower Program was established in 2011, the agency has awarded 43 individuals about $153M for voluntarily giving the agency useful and original information that ended up rendering a successful enforcement action Already, such actions stemming from whistleblower-provided information has resulted in over $953M in financial remedies imposed against those found to be have engaged in misconduct or other wrongdoing. Whistleblowers can be awarded anywhere from 10-30% of the money collected if that sum is $1M or greater.

As we mentioned, typically the identities of SEC whistleblowers are kept confidential. One of the reasons for this is so that the whistleblower is protected from professional or financial retaliation, especially if the individual blew the whistle on an employer.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is awarding $7M, to be split between the three whistleblowers who helped the regulator go after an investment scam. This latest whistleblower award, the second issued this year, ups the collective total that the SEC has granted to 41 whistleblowers to $149M.

Of the $7M, about $4M will go to the whistleblower who gave the SEC information that helped start the regulator’s investigation. The other two whistleblowers, who provided additional new information during the probe, will split the $3M.

To date, SEC enforcement actions resulting from whistleblower tips have led to over $935M in financial remedies. Whistleblowers who provide the tips that lead to successful enforcement actions resulting in at least a $1M remedy are eligible to receive 10-30% of the money collected. Because the SEC is committed to protecting the identity and confidentiality of whistleblowers, details from these enforcement cases that could reveal their identities are kept confidential.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has announced that BlackRock Inc. (BLK) will pay $340K to settle civil charges accusing the New York-based asset manager of improperly utilizing separation agreements to get employees leaving the firm to waive their ability to receive an award as a whistleblower. BlackRock consented to the order brought by the regulator but did not deny or admit to the findings that it was in violation of any rules.

The SEC claims that over 1,000 BlackRock employees who exited the firm signed separation agreement that included language declaring that they were waiving any right to incentives that could be gained from reporting misconduct. The employees were required to sign these agreements if they wanted to receive any separation payments that BlackRock would owe them after their departure.

This waiver provision was added to BlackRock’s separation agreement in 2011 after the Commission had already put in place its Whistleblower Program rules. The firm continued to use the waiver with the agreements until early last year.

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In its first whistleblower award this year, the Securities and Exchange Commission is awarding a tipster who worked for a company accused of wrongdoing and had gone directly to the agency with what he knew with $5.5M.

According to The National Law Journal, This is the first time since the SEC began granting whistleblower awards in 2013 that a whistleblower did not have to abide by rules established by the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act. Under those rules, whistleblower tips need to be submitted in writing by fax, mailed, or submitted through the regulator’s website in order for the person providing the information to be eligible for an award. This whistleblower, however, had started working with the Commission on the case before the tip could be eligible for the awards authorized under Dodd-Frank. This latest award means that the SEC has now awarded 38 whistleblowers a total of $142M.

Meantime, the Commission continues to take action against companies that retaliate against whistleblowers. Last month, the regulator announced that SandRidge Energy Inc. settled charges accusing it of using illegal separation agreements and taking retaliatory action against a whistleblower who had brought concerns to the oil and gas company’s attention regarding the way that reserves were calculated. SandRidge is not denying or admitting to the SEC’s findings. It will, however, pay a $1.4M penalty.

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