Massachusetts claims that Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MS) ran a high-pressure sales contest to give its financial advisers incentive to get clients to borrow funds against their brokerage accounts. Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin filed the complaint against the firm.According to the state, from 1/14 through 4/15, Morgan Stanley conducted two contests in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that involved 30 advisers. The object of the contests were to convince customers to take out loans that were securities-based. It involved them borrowing against the value of securities found in their portfolio. The securities were to be collateral.Galvin’s office said that the contests urged Morgan Stanley advisers to cross-sell loans that were backed by investment accounts in order to enhance lending business, as well as banking, and stay competitive with other firms. Galvin claims that advisers were told to get clients to establish credit lines even if they had no plans of using them. The state’s complaint said that clients would be targeted after they’d mention certain key “catalysts” including graduations, weddings, and tax liabilities.
Former Stockbroker Raises Over $1.2M from Customers to Remodel His Home
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging ex-stockbroker Bernard M. Parker with Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 violations, as well as violations of Rule 10b-5. The regulator says that Parker raised over $1.2M from long-term brokerage customers and others by getting them to think they were buying real estate tax client certificates and would make up to 9% yearly interest.
Instead, says the SEC, Parker only used a small part of that money to buy the liens. He used their other funds to remodel his house, pay his father-in-law’s bills, and make car payments. The agency also claims that the ex-broker conducted the unregistered and fraudulent investment offering using his Parker Financial Services from ’08 to ’14. He also purportedly failed to notify the investment advisory firm and broker-dealer where he was dually registered about his side business.
The Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania has filed criminal charges against Parker in a parallel case over the alleged broker fraud.
Political Intelligence Firm Admits to Compliance Failures
Marwood Group Research LLC has admitted to compliance failures and will settle the SEC’s case against it by paying a $375,000 penalty. According to the Commission, the firm did not properly notify compliance officers about the times that analysts received potential material nonpublic data from government employees.
The firm’s own written policies and procedures are supposed to play a key part in Marwood Group’s efforts to stop nonpublic and confidential data from reaching its clients so as not to influence their decisions regarding securities trading. Yet its misconduct happened in 2013 when analysts were looking for information about pending regulatory approvals and policies at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.
SEC Accuses Pennsylvania Attorney of Insider Trading
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Herbert K. Sudfeld with insider trading ahead of the announcement that Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company and Harleysville were about to merge in a $760 million deal. The regulator contends that the Pennsylvania attorney illegally traded on the information, which caused Harleysville’s stock price to rise 87% when the announcement went public.
Sudfeld, who was a real estate partner at a law firm that gave Harleysville counsel on the merger, learned about the impending deal from a conversation involving a lawyer and the legal assistant they shared. That attorney was involved in the deal.
Sudfeld is accused of stealing the information and buying Harleysville stock. After the merger was announced, he purportedly sold the share he had bought, making about $79,000 in illegal profits. Prosecutors in Pennsylvania have filed a parallel criminal action against him.
San Diego Investment Adviser Accused of Stealing Client Money, Running Ponzi Scam
Paul Lee Moore and his now defunct investment advisory firm are charged with bilking client funds and operating a Ponzi scheme. According to the complaint filed by the SEC, Moore and Coast Capital Management raised $2.6 million from clients, and he allegedly siphoned almost $2 million for his personal spending.
The regulator said that Moore took the rest of the money and, in Ponzi scam-fashion, paid earlier clients with funds brought in by new clients. He is accused of sending out bogus account statements to clients, as well as sharing these statements with prospective clients. The California investment adviser purportedly lied about his educational background, employment history, as well as about how much Coast Capital managed in assets.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging three men with insider trading in the stock and options of Ardea Biosciences Inc. Those charged included the company’s senior director of information technology Michael J. Fefferman, his brother in-law Chad E. Wiegand, and Akis C. Eracleous. Wiegand and Eracleous are stockbrokers.
According to the regulator, Fefferman had knowledge of material nonpublic data and tipped Wiegand prior to public announcements about two pharmaceutical trials, the acquisition of Ardea Biosciences by AstraZeneca PLC, and a licensing agreement for a cancer drug.
The Commission said that the insider trading happened from 4/09 to 4/12. SEC Philadelphia Regional Office Director Sharon B. Binger said that Fefferman breached his duty to his company’s shareholders when he shared confidential information about the important corporate events before the news was made public. She accused Eracleous and Wiegand of taking unfair advantage of the investing public by using this information to trade before others had access to the same knowledge.
Wiegand purportedly used the tip to buy stock in Ardea using different customer accounts. He then allegedly tipped Eracleous so he could do the same. The alleged insider trading generated about $530K in profits.
“The Financial Coach” Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud
Bryan C. Binkholder, also known as the “The Financial Coach,” will serve nine years in prison for bilking clients. Binkholder used books, a talk show, and YouTube videos to market his “hard money lending” program.
According to prosecutors, he touted himself as serving real estate developers that wanted to flip houses but he only made limited number of loans. Instead, he used investors’ funds to pay for his personal spending, give his wife a salary, and pay interest to other investors.
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging former VP of The Shaw Group’s construction operations Scott Zeringue and his brother-in-law Jesse Roberts III with insider trading. Zeringue has already agreed to settle the regulator’s charges by consenting to pay disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus a penalty.
The SEC says that the insider trading took place in 2012 when Zeringue, while working at The Shaw Group, became privy to confidential data about the company’s upcoming acquisition by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company. Prior to the announcement of the deal, he bought 125 shares of Shaw stock and asked Roberts to buy for him, too. Roberts went on to tip others and they collectively made close to $1 million in illicit profits.
Meantime, parallel criminal charges have been filed against Roberts. Zeringue has already pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him.
The Securities and Exchange Commission says that former Barclays Capital (ADR) analyst John Gray, his friends Christian Keller and Kyle Martin, and Aaron Shephard committed California insider trading, making close to $750K in illegal profits. They did this by allegedly trading right before four corporate news announcements were made. To settle the securities fraud case, the four men will pay $1.6 million in total.
According to the SEC, Gray, who was an analyst for Barclays at the time, and Kelly traded on confidential merger data that the latter obtained during his job as a trader for two Silicon Valley-based public companies. They purportedly tried to hide the trades by putting them in a brokerage account held under Martin’s name. Gray also tipped Shephard, so that he too could make trades before the announcements.
The first acts of inside trading purportedly occurred when Gray and Keller traded on confidential merger data that Keller found out about while working as an Applied Materials Inc. financial analyst. The traded prior to that company’s acquisition of Semitool Inc. as well as before the one for Varian Semiconductor. When Keller left Applied Materials, their insider trading scam continued while he worked for Rovi Corporation, where he learned to profitably trade in the company’s securities before negative news about Rovi would be announced.
Ex-Capital Data One Analysts Are Defendants in SEC Insider Trading Lawsuit
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Nan Huang and Bonan Huang, two former Capital One data analysts, for insider trading. The regulator contends that the two of them used nonpublic data to trade in consumer retail companies’ shares before earnings and sales reports were issued. They allegedly used sales information that the credit card company had collected from millions of customers.
According to the SEC lawsuit, from 11/13 to 1/15 the two analysts made hundreds, perhaps thousands of keyword searches for sales information on at least 170 companies that are publicly traded. They had access to this data because part of their job was to serve as fraud investigators.
SEC Investigating Ex-Oppenheimer Executive for Securities Law Violations
According to Bloomberg.com, Robert Okin, Oppenheimer & Co.’s (OPY) former retail brokerage head, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In October, the agency’s enforcement division notified Okin that, based on a preliminary determination, it intended to file charges against him for securities law violations, including failure to supervise.
Okin is no longer with Oppenheimer. He resigned earlier this month to pursue “other interests.” Okin denies violating the Securities Exchange Act.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is asking a district judge to authorize a fair fund to pay back people shareholders who didn’t participate in an insider trading scam involving shares of Wyeth LLC and Elan Corp. PLC. The regulator is seeking to reimburse people who traded the stocks over a seven-day period in July 2008, which is the week when SAC Capital Advisors LP liquidated a $700 million position in both companies because of illicit tips obtained by former fund manager Mathew Martoma. The SEC is suggesting that the $602 million it collected from SAC Capital over the matter should be used to repay the shareholders.
SAC Capital, now known as Asset Management LP, had agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle a criminal indictment for the insider trading allegations. Of that money, $616 million was a penalty to the SEC over related charges. However, not all SEC commissioners are on board with the regulator’s fair fund recommendation. Commissioners Michael Piwowar and Daniel Gallagher have expressed their dissent.
Meantime, Martoma has just lost a bid to stay out of jail while he appeals his conviction. Martoma was sentenced to nine years behind bars after he was found guilty of three counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.