SEC Wants Proposed Securities Settlements with Bear Stearns Executives to Get Court Approval

The Securities and Exchange Commission wants the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York to approve the proposed securities settlements that it reached with Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi, two former Bear Stearns & Co. portfolio managers. The SEC says the deals are “fair, adequate, and reasonable.”

The settlements are to resolve SEC allegations that the two men misled bank counterparts and investors about two hedge funds’ financial states. Subprime mortgage-backed securities exposure caused the funds to collapse in 2007 and investors lost about $1.8 billion. (Bear Stearns’ hedge funds were some of the first to fail when the housing bubble popped.)

According to federal prosecutors, Cioffi and Tannen promoted the prospects of the funds even though they knew that their portfolio and the housing market were in dire straights. In the process, they earned millions of dollars.

A jury acquitted both of them criminal charges in these matters in 2009. This was a criminal case filed separate from the SEC’s securities fraud complaint against them. The proposed securities fraud settlement with the Commission allows Tannin and Cioffi to not have to go through a second trial.

As part of the settlement, Tannin and Cioffi have agreed to pay $1 million-Cioffi’s portion would be $700,000 in disgorgement plus a fine of $100,000 and Tannin would pay $200,000 in disgorgement and a $50,000 fine. Also, Cioffi wouldn’t be allowed to associate with any municipal securities dealers, investment advisers, or other financial industry professionals for three years. The ban for Tannin would be two years. Both of them would not have to admit wrongdoing.

Federal Judge Frederic Block, who will decide whether or not to approve the securities fraud settlement, has referred to the money the two men have agreed to pay as “chump change.” He has, however, indicated that he will likely sign off on it.

That said, as our securities fraud lawyers have reported in recent blog posts, the SEC recently came under fire for allowing parties to settle securities fraud cases by paying fines that some don’t believe reflect the true damages sustained by investors and others. Critics have also taken issue with the SEC’s practice of letting financial firms, brokers, and investment advisers settle without having to admit to any wrongdoing.

In response to Block’s concerns, the SEC noted that although courts should just approve Commission settlements, they also shouldn’t replace their own judgments with what the parties involved have agreed upon. The regulatory agency says that as long as the settlements reached don’t ignore any state or federal laws that apply and fail to create a burden on judicial resources, there is no reason why a court shouldn’t approve these agreements. The SEC pointed out that the financial settlement reached with Cioffi and Tannen is in the range of what might have been arrived at had the case gone to court.

Bear Stearns Ex-Managers to Pay $1 Million to Settle Fraud Case, New York TImes, February 13, 2012

SEC Charges Two Former Bear Stearns Hedge Fund Portfolio Managers with Securities Fraud, SEC, June 19, 2008

More Blog Posts:

Motion for Class Certification in Lawsuit Against J.P. Morgan Securities Inc. Over Alleged Market Manipulation Scam Granted in Part by Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 23, 2010
Bear Stearns Sold to JP Morgan – One Firm’s Trash Is Another Firm’s Treasure!, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 17, 2008
Insurer Claims that JP Morgan and Bear Stearns Bilked Clients Of Billions of Dollars with Handling of Mortgage Repurchases, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 3, 2011
Contact our stockbroker fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP so we can help you explore your legal options.