January 19, 2016

Securities News: Alternative Fund Manager Accused of Misleading Investors, Futures Trader Goes to Jail for Fraud, Ex-NBA Player Gets Sentence for Ponzi Scam, and 9th Circuit Upholds Investment Manager’s Conviction

Equinox Fund Management Resolves SEC Charges For Over $5.8M
A Denver-based alternative fund manager has consented to settle Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing it of misleading investors about the way certain assets were valued and for overcharging management fees. According to the regulator, Equinox Fund Management LLC determined its management fees differently from the method it described in registration statements for The Frontier Fund, which is a managed futures fund.

Although registration statements said that management fees would be calculated based on each series’ net asset value, Equinox used the assets' national trading value instead. Also, the firm is accused of straying from the valuation methodology it had disclosed for certain holdings.

The fund manager will pay back investors about $5.4M in excessive management fees that it was paid over seven years, in addition to $600K in prejudgment interest. It also will pay a $400K penalty.


Futures Trader Goes to Jail, Pays Restitution for Securities Fraud
RXM Holdings Ltd. futures trading director Robert Scott Wiens is sentenced to one year in prison after pleading guilty to securities fraudhttp://www.stockbroker-fraud.com/legal-news.html. He also will pay $260k in restitution to investors he harmed.

Wiens was an unlicensed securities professional in 2010 and 2011. He sold fraudulent investments, which he traded on the futures market.

Wiens directed investors to open bank accounts under RXM’s name for their funds. He told them that there was zero risk and returns were guaranteed. He then used the money in the accounts to pay off earlier investments and cover his own spending.

Continue reading " Securities News: Alternative Fund Manager Accused of Misleading Investors, Futures Trader Goes to Jail for Fraud, Ex-NBA Player Gets Sentence for Ponzi Scam, and 9th Circuit Upholds Investment Manager’s Conviction " »

January 15, 2016

Securities Headlines: Ohio Financial Adviser Faces Criminal Charges, Petters Ponzi Scam Investors Still Waiting for Their Money, and FINRA Recommends Disciplinary Action Against Ex-Jefferies Bond Trader

Ohio Financial Adviser is Indicted in $15M Securities Fraud
Evolution Partners Wealth Management owner Larry Werbel has been indicted on criminal charges accusing him of involvement in a securities scam to bilk at least 100 investor of over $15M. Werbel recruited investors for shares of VgTel Inc. He and other brokers purportedly promised high dividends even though the shares were sold and purchased by companies belonging to the alleged scammers so that they could artificially inflate the share price.

According to prosecutors, over $9M of investor funds were pockets by the fraudsters. Werbel, who prosecutors say got investors to purchase $3M in VgTel shares, received over $300K in kickbacks.


He is charged with securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud and wire fraud, investment adviser fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements to federal officers. Werbel claims he is innocent.

Meantime, the man accused of masterminding the securities scam, Edward Durante, was arrested in Germany and brought back to the US last month. He previously was convicted of securities fraud in 2011. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a civil case against Evolution Partners, Durante, and others.


Continue reading "Securities Headlines: Ohio Financial Adviser Faces Criminal Charges, Petters Ponzi Scam Investors Still Waiting for Their Money, and FINRA Recommends Disciplinary Action Against Ex-Jefferies Bond Trader" »

January 8, 2016

SEC Cautions Mutual Funds That They May be Misdirecting “Sub-Accounting Fees” And Impacting Investor Returns

The Securities and Exchange Commission’s Division of Investment Management has put out a guidance on its website cautioning mutual fund directors to more closely scrutinize the money that is paid to brokers and certain other intermediaries. The warning comes following a sweep exam, which found that fees that should be going toward record-keeping and other administrative services are instead being directed toward encouraging fund sales. A number of mutual funds, brokerage firms, investment advisers, and transfer agents were examined prior to the issuance of this guidance.

SEC rules stipulate that sub-accounting fees cannot go toward finance distribution. These fees should only go toward record-keeping and shareholder services. However, there is an issue with mutual fund-maintained omnibus accounts in which all the fees can be placed together. In such instances, payments made to brokers for selling certain funds may get buried in these administrative fees.

Now, the Commission wants fund directors to watch out for fees that intermediaries selling the funds are getting for account services. It wants these directors to establish processes to assess whether a sub-accounting fee is being harnessed to increase sales. It also is calling on fund service providers and advisers to explain distribution and servicing specifics to fund directors.

Continue reading "SEC Cautions Mutual Funds That They May be Misdirecting “Sub-Accounting Fees” And Impacting Investor Returns " »

January 4, 2016

FINRA Bars Ex-National Securities Broker Zachary Bader Over Investor Fraud Allegations

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is permanently barring former National Securities broker Zachary Bader from the securities industry in the wake of allegations filed by numerous investors. Bader, who was let go from the National Securities Corporation, also was previously registered with Craig Scott Capital and Brookstone Securities. According to BrokerCheck, five customer complaints and two regulatory sanctions have been brought against him.

Bader is accused of excessive trading, making unsuitable investment recommendations to at least 21 customers by advising them to put their money in the iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term Futures ETN (VXX), showing reckless disregard of clients’ interests, improper due diligence, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, providing inadequate investment advice, and breach of contract.


iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term (VXX)
The iPath S&P 500 VIX Short Term is an exchange-traded note. Many ETNs are only appropriate for short-term trading and/or institutional investors. For example, the VXX exposes investors to returns of certain futures contracts on the VIX Index and it is considered a bearish investment. It is not appropriate for certain equity positions. The VXX comes with very specific risks and over time will lose value as futures contracts on the VIX Index go down too.


Continue reading " FINRA Bars Ex-National Securities Broker Zachary Bader Over Investor Fraud Allegations " »

December 29, 2015

Securities Fraud News: Barclays to Pay $13.5M For Unsuitable Fraud Transactions, Appeals Court Upholds Asset Freeze of Wyly Brothers’ Relatives, Ex-NBA Player to Get Sentence for Ponzi Scam Conviction

Barclays Capital Gets FINRA Fine for Unsuitable Mutual Fund Transactions

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said that Barclays Capital, Inc. (BARC) must pay over $10M in restitution plus interest to customers that were impacted by violations related to unsuitable mutual fund transactions. The self-regulatory organization said that the firm did not give certain customers the breakpoint discounts that applied. Aside from the restitution, Barclays must pay a $3.75M fine.

According to the SRO, from 1/10 through 6/15, the firm’s supervisory systems were not adequate enough to make sure that unsuitable transactions didn’t happen or that the firm’s duties related to mutual fund sales to retail brokerage clients were met. FINRA said that Barclays supervisory procedures wrongly defined a mutual fund switch as warranting three transactions within a specific period of frame. Because of this erroneous definition, the firm did not act on thousands of automated alerts warning of transactions that might be unsuitable, failed to include certain transactions for suitability review, and neglected to make sure that customesr got disclosure letters about transaction costs. Over 6,100 unsuitable mutual fund switches occurred, causing r about $8.63M in customer harm.

FINRA said that the Barclays did not give its supervisors enough guidance so that they could make sure that brokerage customers were engaging in mutual fund transactions that were suitable for their investment goals, holdings, and ability to tolerate risks. The SRO, which evaluated activities over a six-month period of time, said that 39% of mutual fund transactions were found unsuitable and customers suffered financial harm, including realized losses, of over $800K.

Also, during these five years, the firm’s supervisory system did not succeed in making sure that purchases were properly aggregated so eligible customers could get breakpoint discounts, including those involved in 100 Class A share mutual fund transactions.

By settling, Barclays is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s charges. It is, however, consenting to the entry of findings.

Continue reading "Securities Fraud News: Barclays to Pay $13.5M For Unsuitable Fraud Transactions, Appeals Court Upholds Asset Freeze of Wyly Brothers’ Relatives, Ex-NBA Player to Get Sentence for Ponzi Scam Conviction" »

December 26, 2015

Man Released from Prison Faces New Fraud Charges in $11M Investor Stock Scam

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Edward Durante with bilking investors once again. Durante, who already served a 10-year sentence for a previous securities fraud conviction, is accused of using different aliases to defraud even more investors of millions of dollars and hiding his criminal past.

According to the regulator, Durante sold shares of a shell company that he was secretly in control of and told investors that stock sale proceeds would support the company’s operations. Instead, he allegedly used the funds for his own spending while the company's stock was worthless.

The Commission contends that Durante started planning this scam while in prison. He purportedly used the name Anthony Walsh to acquire VGTel Inc. He scammed at least 50 inexperienced investors of at least $11 million by selling them this shell company’s stock. (Financial Advisor magazine places the number of investors bilked at closer to 100 investors.)

Continue reading "Man Released from Prison Faces New Fraud Charges in $11M Investor Stock Scam" »

December 21, 2015

Turing Pharmaceutical Martin Shkreli is Arrested, Faces Criminal and Hedge Fund Fraud Charges

Ex-Retrophin CEO Martin Shkreli has been charged with fraud based on the time he worked as a hedge fund manager. The Securities and Exchange Commission claims the 32-year-old, who has just stepped down as the CEO of Turing Pharmaceutical, misappropriated funds from two hedge funds, made material misrepresentations, and engaged in other misconduct. His former outside counsel Evan Greebel faces SEC charges of aiding and abetting Shkreli’s alleged fraud.

According to the regulator’s complaint, the purported fraud occurred between 2009 and 2014 when Shkreli was portfolio manager for MSMB Capital Management LLP and MSMB Healthcare LP, which he both founded. The Commission claims Shkreli misappropriated about $120K from MSMB Capital Management to pay for personal expenses while misleading investors about the hedge fund and its size and performance. Shkreli said in July 2010 that the fund had returned over 35% when it actually lost about 18%.

Some of the other allegations against Shkreli are that he lied to one of the hedge fund’s executing brokers about its ability to sell a substantial short position in a pharmaceutical stock in an account. Because of this, the broker lost over $7 million, which this person then had to cover in the open market. Shkreli is also accused of misappropriating $900K in 2013 to resolve claims made by said broker from the short selling losses.

As for Greebel, he is accused of helping Shkreli to fraudulently persuade Retrophin, when he was CEO, to pay dissatisfied investors of his hedge fund who were threatening to take legal action. The two men allegedly had investors go into agreements with the pharmaceutical company by claiming that they were paying for consulting service when what they were doing was releasing Shkreli from possible claims. SEC Director Andrew Calamari said that the attorney’s purported involvement in the hedge fund fraud violated legal boundaries as well as ethical and professional duties.

Continue reading "Turing Pharmaceutical Martin Shkreli is Arrested, Faces Criminal and Hedge Fund Fraud Charges" »

December 18, 2015

Securities Fraud Cases: Investment Adviser Faces SEC Charges, Woman Pleads Guilty to $1.1M Financial Scam, and NJ Man is Accused of $13M Pump-and-Dump Scam

Connecticut Firm Accused of Conflict of Interest Involving $43M Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing fraud charges against Atlantic Asset Management LLC (AAM). The regulator says that the Connecticut-based investment advisory firm got clients involved in certain bonds that resulted in an undisclosed financial benefit to a brokerage firm whose parent company is part owner of AAM.

The firm is accused of investing over $43M of investor money in illiquid bonds that were issued by a Native American tribal corporation. The sales provided the brokerage-firm with a private placement fee.

The SEC says that investors should have been notified of the financial gain that resulted and the firm violated its obligation to them when it placed its own financial interests before client’s interests.

In its complaint the SEC says that it was a representative from BFG Socially Responsible Investing Ltd., which partially owns AAM, who suggested that the investment advisory firm buy the illiquid bonds for clients. AAM purportedly knew that the bond sale proceeds would to go toward an annuity that the parent company provided.

The Commission says that after finding out that their money had been placed in the bonds, several AAM clients demanded that the investments be unwound but their requests were unsuccessful.


Ex-Investment Adviser Pleads Guilty to Securities and Annuities Scam
Janet Fooshee has pleaded guilty to 31 charges related to a $1.178M financial scam involving securities and annuities. The 63-year-old former New Jersey investment adviser admitted to fraudulently servicing over 100 financial account statements that increased 14 client accounts by about $818K collectively. She also admitted to stealing about $151K from clients, keeping over $190K in unlawful fees, defrauding another investor of almost $81K, and stealing the identities of about eight corporations. Fooshee said that she illegally took funds from over two dozen retirees and others over a period spanning a decade.

Fooshee also used the names Janet Katz and Janet Gurley. As part of the plea deal she must pay $415K in restitution. A seven-year prison term is recommended for her.


Continue reading "Securities Fraud Cases: Investment Adviser Faces SEC Charges, Woman Pleads Guilty to $1.1M Financial Scam, and NJ Man is Accused of $13M Pump-and-Dump Scam" »

December 7, 2015

NY Man Convicted in $800K Hedge Fund Fraud

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a statement announcing the conviction of Mazzam Ifzal Malik, also known as Mark Malik, on 28 criminal charges that involved him stealing over $800,000 from investors. According to the state, the hedge fund manager set up fake hedge funds so he could take investors’ money.

During cold calls to investors in the United States and abroad, Malik claimed that he had extensive experience on Wall Street, including having managed over $5 billion in assets. Schneiderman, however, said that the 33-year-old only had been a financial consulting trainee. He also was a registered broker but for just two years.
Malik’s real job experience involved working as a traffic agent, waiter, and security guard.

Yet with this lack of experience, from ’11-’15 Malik managed the following bogus hedge funds:

• Wall Street Creative Partners
• Wolf Hedge LLC.
• American Bridge Investments L.P.
• Seven Sages Capital, L.P.

Continue reading "NY Man Convicted in $800K Hedge Fund Fraud " »

November 30, 2015

SEC Files Charges Against Traders for Options Trading Scams

The SEC has filed charges against ex-broker Richard Kenney and twin brothers Shahryar Afshar and Behruz Afshar. The regulator is accusing them of going around market structure rules and engaging in options trading scams. The regulator claims that the three men improperly traded options to garner lower fees and gain execution priority. They also purportedly took part in spoofing so they could get liquidity rebates.

SEC Enforcement Division Director Andrew Ceresney said that the men’s alleged actions fooled the options exchanges and placed other participants at a disadvantage. The regulator maintains that because of their purported wrongdoing, the two brothers and Kenney were able to get benefits that were not intended for professional traders.

Specifically, according to the SEC order: Even though the Afshars’ accounts should have gotten the “professional” designation for acting as non-broker-dealers that placed over 390 orders/day during the subsequent quarter, they were able to place orders as “customer” non-broker dealers. They did this by alternating trading between accounts. After one account became designated “professional” for the next quarter, they would use the other “customer” account and then trade off the next quarter.

The SEC says that Kenny and the Afshars were able to execute this scam through misrepresentations that made it seem as if just one of the brothers owned Fineline Trading Group, LLC while the other was supposedly the sole owner of Makino Capital, LLC.


Continue reading "SEC Files Charges Against Traders for Options Trading Scams" »

November 28, 2015

SEC Cases: Ex-Stockbroker Accused of Bilking Investor for Home Renovations, Marwood Group Admits to Wrongdoing Over Compliance Failures, and Ex-Goldman Sachs Employee Faces Insider Trading Charges

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.

Continue reading "SEC Cases: Ex-Stockbroker Accused of Bilking Investor for Home Renovations, Marwood Group Admits to Wrongdoing Over Compliance Failures, and Ex-Goldman Sachs Employee Faces Insider Trading Charges" »

November 27, 2015

NFL Linebacker Dwight Freeney is Allowed to Move Forward with Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against Bank of America

Dwight Freeney, the linebacker for the Arizona Cardinals will be able to move forward with his securities fraud case naming Bank of America Corp. (BAC). According to the National Football League player, the bank was complicit in a scam that compelled him to lose over $20M and force his restaurant to shut down. Bank of America had recruited Freeney in 2010 because they wanted to manage his assets.

Its Merrill Lynch unit had tried to have the misrepresentations and fraud claims against it dismissed. Frenzy, however, contends that the head of his financial advisory team at the bank arranged for now ex-bank employee Eva Weinberg, to act as the football player's main liaison with Bank of America. The bank also referred Freeney to Michael Stern, who was Weinberg’s “paramour.” Stern purportedly used a fake name and already had a record for fraud, forgery, and theft. He was to advise the NFL star financially.

Freeney and his company Roof Group say that the bank and its adviser Michael Bock aided and abetted the scam that bilked his accounts of over $8.5million. He says he lost over $20 million because of the fraud. He believes that Bank of America and Bock were negligent in that they did not protect him from the financial scam, which he says began in 2010 when Weinberg still worked at Merrill Lynch. Freeney also believes that Bank of America and Bock fraudulently induced him into signing with the firm by keeping information from him that could have prevented him from getting sucked into the scam.

Continue reading "NFL Linebacker Dwight Freeney is Allowed to Move Forward with Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against Bank of America " »

November 18, 2015

Securities Fraud Cases: Wedbush to Pay $813K Over Investment Fraud Allegations, SEC Files Pump-and-Dump Charges in Marley Coffee Case, and CFTC Accuses IB Capital of Soliciting $50M for Forex Trading While Unregistered

Wedbush to Pay Trusts, Family Members Over $813,000
A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Panel says that Wedbush securities and investment advisor Kevin Thomas Scarpelli must jointly and severally pay several investors over $813,000 to resolve allegations of professional negligence and failure to supervise related to investments made in Natural Resources USA Corp. The respondents denied the allegations and asked that the claims be thrown own.

After considering the pleadings, evidence, and testimony, the panel decided that Wedbush and Scarpelli must pay claimants: Mary L. Riscornia TTEE nearly $263,000, Jennifer Tiscornia over $252,313, Nicolas E. Toussaint over $55,300, Nicolas E. Toussaint TTEE over $1800, Michael J. Nicolai over $18,4000, Michael Nicolai TTEE over $156,221, Jeffrey M. Nicolai over $22,154, Katherine M. Nicolai over $22,000 and Alexandria P. Nicolai over $22,000 in damages, interest, legal fees, and costs. The FINRA panel denied Scarpelli's request to have his record expunged of this securities case.


SEC Files Charges in $78M Pump-and-Dump Scam Involving Jammin’ Java Stock, Marley Trademark
The Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing ex-Jammin’ Java CEO Shane Whittle of masterminding a $78 million pump-and-dump scam involving the company’s shares. Jammin’ Java operates Marley Coffee, which uses the late reggae legend Bob Marley’s trademark to sell products.

According to the regulator, Whittle used a reverse merger to—in secret—get control of millions of Jammin’ Java shares, which he then spread to offshore entities under the control of Michael Sun, Wayne Weaver, and René Berlinger. The shares were dumped on the public after their price rose in the wake of bogus promotional campaigns. Whittle purportedly hid the scam by making misleading omissions and statements in reports submitted to the SEC.

Continue reading "Securities Fraud Cases: Wedbush to Pay $813K Over Investment Fraud Allegations, SEC Files Pump-and-Dump Charges in Marley Coffee Case, and CFTC Accuses IB Capital of Soliciting $50M for Forex Trading While Unregistered " »

November 17, 2015

SEC Says Amish Investors Were Bilked in $3.9M Securities Fraud

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Earl D. Miller for securities fraud. According to the regulator, the Indiana man bilked investors, many of whom were Amish and new to investing, through private investment vehicles 5 Star Capital LLC and 5 Star Commercial LLC.

The SEC says Miller began recruiting investors last year. The private investment entities he created were supposed to invest in real estate property and green products with patents that one of the companies owned. However, claims the regulator, no patents were actually owned. Instead, contends the agency, the money went to companies that were supposedly developing other products, including energy-efficient washing machines and a pedal-run wheelchair. The bulk of these investments quickly failed. Most of the funds were invested in loans and were supposed to result in interest payments every month. However, such payments only were issued for five months and then they stopped completely.

Miller marketed his investment services in Amish newspapers and in Amish community meetings. He gave investors promissory notes for their money. The notes came with a fixed 8-12%/year return rate, which is a lot higher than the rates for other fixed-return investments, including bank deposits. He also purportedly said he was not paid any money for managing the fund even though he allegedly took $1M for his own spending. At least 70 investors were bilked.

Continue reading "SEC Says Amish Investors Were Bilked in $3.9M Securities Fraud" »

November 10, 2015

Securities Fraud Headlines: NBA’s Tim Duncan Sues Financial Adviser Again, JPMorgan Hackers Face Criminal Charges, and FINRA Warns Military Vets May Be Targeted by Their Own

Spurs Star Tim Duncan Says Ex-Financial Adviser Bilked Him of Millions
NBA star Tim Duncan is suing his former financial adviser again. The San Antonio Spurs player says that Charles Banks cost him millions of dollars because he persuaded him to invest $1.1 million in a cosmetics company. Banks purportedly told him that the company was profitable even though it was about to go bankrupt.

Duncan sued Banks in January in another Texas securities case accusing the latter of making unsuitable recommendations that cost him some $25 million. Banks gave financial advice to the NBA player for almost twenty years. Duncan claims that some of the recommendations made were in his former financial adviser’s best interests while detrimental to him.


JP Morgan Hackers are Indicted for Securities Fraud
US Attorney Preet Bharara says that Joshua Samuel Aaron, Gery Shalon, and Ziv Oreinstein committed “securities fraud on cyber steroids” when they stole customer data from JPMorgan (JPM) and hacked 11 other financial institutions. At least 83 million customers who trade significantly saw their personal information stolen.

Bharara said the men took a typical stock scam into cyberspace, utilizing the stolen private information to send out emails promoting penny stocks in massive pump and dump schemes. Investors would purchase stock, which would raise the price. The men would then cash out before the stock price fell.

They also allegedly conducted reverse mergers of private companies with public shell corporations under Shalon’s control. The defendants are accused of making over $100 million, using 75 shell companies, and 30 bogus passports from 17 nations to conceal their scheme. They were indicted and charged on numerous counts.

The authorities initially thought that Russian hackers were involved.


FINRA Cautions Military Vets to Watch Out for Fraud
On its website recently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority reminded military veterans that they can be targeted by investment scammers and in some instances the fraudster may be a fellow vet. This type of financial scheme, where the scammer exploits his/her financial ties to gain an investor's trust is known as affinity fraud. As FINRA Investor Education Foundation's Military Financial Readiness Program Director Bud Schneeweis warns, just because someone served with you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t check their credentials to make sure that the person has the professional experience, educational background, and proper registrations to serve as your broker or investment adviser.

That said, there are military vets who are legitimate financial advisers who are qualified to help other vets manage their money. Doing your due diligence can allow you to make sure you are picking someone who has your best interests at heart, knows how to handle your investments, and can help you meet your financial goals.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, we help investors in pursuing claims against negligent brokers, investment advisers, and financial firms. We would like to offer you a free case consultation. Contact us today.

Tim Duncan says ex-financial adviser cost him millions, USA Today, November 9, 2015

Trio Indicted in Massive JPMorgan Hack, eWeek, November 10, 2015

November 7, 2015

Securities Headlines: FINRA Seeking to Fine MetLife Over Variable Annuity Sales, SEC Accuses Scottish Trader of Sending Fake Tweets, Market Rigging, and Judge Orders Man to Stop Crowdfunding Fraud

FINRA Plans to Fine MetLife for Purported Variable Annuities Violations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is looking to impose a significant fine against MetLife’s broker-dealer unit related to possible violations involving variable annuities. The company is cooperating with the regulator’s probe, which is looking at alleged suitability, misrepresentation, and supervision issues related to the selling and replacements of variable annuities.

According to MetLife’s quarterly regulatory filing, FINRA told the insurance giant that it plans to recommend disciplinary action. InvestmentNews reports that in an e-mailed statement, MetLife spokesperson John Calagna said that the company did not agree with the conclusions reached by the regulator and plans to defend itself.

SEC Charges Scottish Trader with Over Market Rigging Involving False Tweets
The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against James Alan Craig of Scotland for allegedly filing false tweets that caused sharp declines in the stock prices of two companies, even causing one of them to experience a trading halt. The regulator said that Craig sent out false statements via Twitter on accounts that he deceptively set up to make them look like legitimate Twitter accounts of known securities research firms.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Craig’s first bogus tweets caused the share price of one company to drop 28% until Nasdaq temporarily stopped trading. The next day, he sent out false tweets about another company that led to a 16% drop in the share prices of that company. Both days he purchased and sold shares of the companies he targeted to try to profit from the sharp price changes. He was mostly successful in his efforts.

Continue reading "Securities Headlines: FINRA Seeking to Fine MetLife Over Variable Annuity Sales, SEC Accuses Scottish Trader of Sending Fake Tweets, Market Rigging, and Judge Orders Man to Stop Crowdfunding Fraud " »

November 4, 2015

Securities Cases: More Brokers Identified by SEC in Stock Rigging Case, Former Ameriprise Broker Gets Prison Term for Fraud, and Boeing Settles 401K Case for Almost $57M

SEC Names More Brokers in Penny Stock Rigging Case Filed Last Year
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging three more people related to a $300M penny stock rigging case that it filed last year. In federal court, the regulator sought to lift the stay in its civil case to submit an amended lawsuit and now also name brokers Ronald Heineman and Michael Morris, as well as lawyer Darren Ofsink.

The SEC says that Morris and Heineman executed the scam through their brokerage firm awhile Ofsink made money illegally by selling unregistered shares even though no exemption for registration was valid. Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York is fling criminal charges against Ofsink ad Morris.

Per the amended SEC complaint, in 2013 Abraxas Discala, Marc Exler, and brokers Craig Josephburg and Matthew Bell were involved in a scam to raise the price of CodeSmart Holdings stock. The men intended to make money at the expense of Josephberg’s customers and Bell’s clients. Heineman and Morris, who own Halcyon Cabot Partners—the firm where Josephberg was employed—allegedly were involved in the securities scam. The two men are accused of secretly consenting to buy shares of CodeSmart at pre-set prices so that Discala could liquidate his positions at prices that were artificially raised. Meantime, Ofsink, who played a part in the execution of the company’s reverse merger into a public shell company, made money by illegally selling securities of CodeSmart that were not registered.

Trading in CodeSmart has been suspended because the company hasn’t submitted periodic reports since late 2014 and due to purportedly suspect market activity.


Former Ameriprise Adviser Gets Prison Term for Defrauding Clients of Over $1M
Former Ameriprise (AMP) adviser Susan Elizabeth Walker wills serve more than seven years behind bars for defrauding at least 24 retirement accounts of over $1.1M. Walker was convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud. She pled guilty last year to the criminal accounts.

Walker offered financial planning services through the firm from October 2008 through March 2013. She also was registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and was a securities agent under the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Continue reading "Securities Cases: More Brokers Identified by SEC in Stock Rigging Case, Former Ameriprise Broker Gets Prison Term for Fraud, and Boeing Settles 401K Case for Almost $57M" »

October 7, 2015

SEC Case Headlines: New Jersey Fund Manager Faces Charges Over $1.1M Ponzi Scam, $32M Fraud Scam Involving Amber Mining is Halted, and Executives Face Charges for Allegedly Bilking Investor in Stock Fraud

NJ Fund Managers Faces SEC Fraud Charges
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging William J. Wells and his Promitor Capital Management LLC with bilking investors in a $1.1 million Ponzi scam. According to the regulator, Wells falsely misrepresented himself as a registered investment adviser to some investors. However, rather than invest their money in specific stock as he told them he would, Wells and his firm placed most of the funds primarily in risky options that garnered poor results. He then allegedly hid the outcomes using bogus investor account statements that recorded performance figures that were severely inflated.

Wells also allegedly tried to conceal the investment loses by making Ponzi-like payments in which he paid earlier investors using the funds of new investors. By the end of this summer, fund brokerage accounts at Promitor held under $35 while the remainder were sucked dry from the Ponzi-like payment, trading losses, or transferred into Wells’ own bank account.

Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York has filed a parallel criminal action against Wells.


Regulator Files Charges, Obtains Asset Freeze in $32M Amber Mining Scam
The SEC has gotten asset freeze and file fraud charges against Steve Chen and 13 entities based in the state of California. According to the regulator, Chen falsely promised investors they would make money in an investment venture involving amber holdings.

Continue reading "SEC Case Headlines: New Jersey Fund Manager Faces Charges Over $1.1M Ponzi Scam, $32M Fraud Scam Involving Amber Mining is Halted, and Executives Face Charges for Allegedly Bilking Investor in Stock Fraud " »

October 5, 2015

Florida Investment Adviser is Charged With Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging investment adviser Arthur F. Jacob and his Innovative Business Solutions LLC with fraud. The regulator claims that the two of them deceived clients from 2009 into 2014 and violated the federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions along with an SEC antifraud rule.

In its order instituting administrative proceedings regarding the purported investment adviser fraud, the SEC Enforcement Division contended that IBS and Jacob misrepresented the profitability and risks of investments he had bought for clients. Rather than disclosing the risks involved in certain exchange-traded funds, Jacob purportedly told clients that his investment approach was safe, presented no or little risk, and would garner predictable earnings. He also is accused of making misstatements to clients regarding their investments’ profitability.

Jacob and his Florida-based firm are not registered as an investment adviser with the regulator or any state. He is accused of telling clients that registration was not mandatory and of hiding his disciplinary history. For example, Jacob was disbarred from being an attorney because he misappropriated client moneys and engaged in other misconduct, including make false statements while under oath and to the Bar Counsel, submitting false tax returns for a client, charging unreasonable fees, and violating a court order.

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September 29, 2015

UBS Puerto Rico To Pay the SEC $15M Over Closed-End Bond Fund Sales

UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS PR) has consented to pay $15 million to resolve the Securities and Exchange Commission’s claims related to the brokerage firm’s supervision of the sale of its closed-end Puerto Rico bond funds (CEFs). The SEC contends that UBS PR did not properly supervise ex-broker Jose Ramirez, who is accused of increasing his compensation by at least $2.8 million when he allegedly had customers improperly borrow funds to invest in Puerto Rico bond funds. UBS fired Ramirez last year.

The funds came from UBS Bank USA, which is a bank affiliated with UBS PR. Under bank and UBS rule, the funds from UBS Bank are not allowed to be used to carry or purchase securities. According to the SEC, not only was using the funds from the Bank a violation, investors were placed at risk of losses while Ramirez profited. The SEC has filed a separate complaint against the ex-UBS broker.

The regulator claims that Ramirez misled customers about how safe the CEFs were, as well as misrepresented the risks involved. He purportedly lied to his branch manager when he was asked about suspect transactions.

To avoid getting caught, Ramirez allegedly told customers to move money from their credit line to an external bank account before placing the funds into their brokerage account at UBS PR and then buying the CEFs. The CEFs, which were heavily invested in Puerto Rico bonds, dropped in value when the Puerto Rican bond market started to decline in the Fall of 2013. Customers then had a choice of either paying down part of the loans or risk liquidation of their investments.

The $15 million settlement will be put into a fund for investors who sustained losses when the funds dropped in value. The Commission's order instituting a settled administrative proceeding claims that UBS PR did not have the systems and procedures to prevent or detect the misconduct that Ramirez was engaging in. Even though UBS PR was allegedly apprised at least twice that customers of Ramirez might be violating the loan policy, the brokerage firm’s policies did not provide for reasonable follow up. UBS PR also purportedly lacked a system to make sure that credit line proceeds that were moved out of firm accounts were not used to buy securities.

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