Securities Law Roundup: Ex-Morgan Stanley’s SEC Settlement Over Alleged FCPA Violations Gets Court Approval, Corruption Probe Into Wal-Mart’s Mexico Activities Continue, and Sentry Global Securities Principal Gets 20-Years for Pump-and-Dump Scam

A district court has approved ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) executive Garth Peterson’s civil settlement with the Securities and Exchange Commission over alleged Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. In SEC v. Garth Peterson, the plaintiff agreed to pay $241,589 in disgorgement and give up his interest in an apartment building in China. He is to work with an SEC-appointed receiver. Peterson has entered a guilty plea to related criminal charges.

According to the Commission, while working at Morgan Stanley’s real estate investment and fund advisory business, Peterson secretly obtained real estate investments worth millions of dollars from the financial firm’s funds not just for himself but also for others, including the ex-chairman of a Chinese state-owned entity that could influence Morgan Stanley’s real estate business in that country. Peterson, the official, and a Canadian lawyer are accused of acquiring a direct interest in the Jin Lin Tiandi Serviced Apartments. The Commission has said that Peterson violated the FCPA’s anti-bribery and internal control provisions, as well as aided and abetted violations of the 1940 Investment Advisers Act’s antifraud provisions.

In other allegations of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations, Wal-Mart (WMT) is accused of not just committing them but also of covering up its alleged misconduct. An investigation into the accusations was opened up in April.

Wal-Mart executives are accused of concealing possible corruption (including bribery) by company executives and officials in Mexico, where the retail chain has been working to build its presence. Now, House Energy and Commerce Committee ranking member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and House Oversight Committee ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) want the store’s CEO Michael Duke to let a former general counsel cooperate with their investigation.

In a letter to Duke, the two lawmakers said that there are several hundred internal documents that seem to confirm early reports of the scandal. At the time of the alleged cover up, then-Wal-Mart general counsel Maritza Munich had tried to get company’s board to expand its probe into the accusations and put into place a tough anticorruption policy. However, when she left Wal-Mart in 2006, Albert Mora, the person who replaced her, chose not to investigate further. Now, Waxman and Cummings want Wal-Mart to allow Munich to get involved in the current probe. They also are once more putting forward an earlier request that the retail giant give them a “substantive briefing” about the specific bribery allegations related to Mexico.

Meantime, Sentry Global Securities and Red Sea Management principal Jonathan Curshen has been sentenced to two decades behind bars for his conviction in a pump and dump stock manipulation scheme. He was found guilty of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, mail fraud, and conspiracy to commit international money laundering. He also has to forfeit about $7.3 million.

Curshen, stock promoter Nathan Montgomery, and their co-conspirators are accused in taking part in coordinated trades while with issuing false statements to the press. According to the US Department of Justice, the alleged misconduct, which is said to have occurred in 2007, was committed to raise the price of C02 Technologies stock. While co-conspirators “pumped,” Curshen and others “dumped” by selling the shares through his two Costa Rica brokerage companies. The shares then virtually lost all their value.

SEC v. Garth Peterson

Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, US DOJ
Read the letter to lawmakers’ Wal-Mart CEO Duke, BNA, (PDF)

CO2 Tech’s Curshen receives 20 years in jail, Stockwatch, May 14, 2012

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SEC Issues Alert for Broker-Dealers and Investors Over Municipal Bonds, Man Who Posed As Investment Adviser Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud, and Citigroup Settles FINRA Claims of Excessive Markups/Markdowns, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 10, 2012

UBS Puerto Rico Settles SEC Action for $26M, Morgan Keegan’s Bid to Get $40K Award Over Marketing of RMK Advantage Income Fund Vacated is Denied, and SEC Settles with Attorney Involved in $1B Viaticals Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 11, 2012

SEC Seeks Approval of Settlement with Ex-Bear Stearns Portfolio Managers, Credits Ex-AXA Rosenberg Executive for Help in Quantitative Investment Case; IOSCO Gets Ready for Global Hedge Fund Survey, Institutional Investor Fraud, March 29, 2012
Our securities law attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP represent investors in the US, as well as those with financial fraud claims and lawsuits against brokerage firms, investment advisers, and brokers in this country.