Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

Financial Firm and Its CEO Settle Life Settlement Fraud Charges
The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced that Verto Capital Management and its CEO William Schantz III have settled civil charges accusing them of running a Ponzi-like scam involving life settlements. As part of the settlement, Verto Capital and Schantz will pay over $4M.

According to the regulator’s complaint, the two of them raised about $12.5M through promissory note sales that were supposed to pay for the firm’s purchase and sale of life settlements. The notes were sold mostly through insurance brokers in Texas.

Investors who were religious were the main target of the alleged fraud.They were allegedly told that that the securities were short-term investments that were at low risk of defaulting.

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Former UBS Broker is Barred form the Securities Industry

Ronald Broadstone, an ex-UBS (UBS) broker, has agreed to be barred from the securities industry. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is the one that brought the ban, accusing him of misusing and misappropriating customer monies, settling a customer case without telling his firm, and taking part in unauthorized trading.

According to the self-regulatory organization, Broadstone’s attorney testified that the former broker would not respond to more questions. His refusal to speak violated FINRA rule 8210.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against broker Demitrios Hallas accusing him of making unsuitable investments in five clients accounts and misappropriating over $170K from these customers. The regulator is seeking a permanent injunction and the return of ill-gotten gains, along with interest and penalties.

According to the SEC, Hallas repeatedly traded investments that were not appropriate for these customers. In just over a year, the broker allegedly traded 179 daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs. both of which are generally “risky, complex, and volatile.” The net loss involving all positions was about $150K.

His customers were not experienced or sophisticated investors and they could not handle the degree of volatility and risk to which he exposed them. Meantime, Hallas made about $128K in fees and commission.

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Federal Reserve Imposes First Fine to a Bank Over A Volcker Rule Violation
For violating the Volcker Rule’s ban on making risky market bets, Deutsche Bank (DB) must pay a $157M fine for not making sure its traders didn’t make such bets and for allowing its currency desks to engage in online chats with competitors, during which time they allegedly disclosed positions. It was just last year that the German lender admitted that it did not have sufficient systems in place to keep track of activities that could violate the ban.

Under the Volcker Rule, banks that have federal insured deposits are not allowed to bet their own funds. They also are supposed to makes sure that when their traders help clients sell and buy securities, they aren’t engaging in bet making.

For the system lapses, the Federal Reserve fined Deutsche Bank $19.7M. The remaining $136.9M fine is for the chats and because the bank purportedly did not detect when currency traders were revealing positions or trying to coordinate strategies with competitors.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Matthew Fox and his Wayne Energy LLC with securities fraud. The regulator brought its Texas securities case in federal district court in the city of Sherman.

According to the Commission’s complaint, Fox raised about $950K for a joint venture that was supposedly involved in reworking and recompleting an oil and gas well. However, contends the SEC, Fox raised the funds by recycling offering documents from another oil and gas company that he previously ran (that company failed) rather than customizing the paperwork to this new venture and its specific risks.

Prior to setting up Wayne Energy in 2015, Fox had run Frisco Exploratory Company and it is the latter’s offering documents that he used. The Commission claims that the offering documents made a false statement, which was that Wayne Energy would not commingle its own money with the joint venture’s funds. The documents also falsely stated that the oil and gas company was licensed as an operator with the Texas Railroad Commission.

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Former Wells Fargo and LPL Financial Broker Receives 41-Month Prison Term for Elder Financial Fraud
Robert N. Tricarico, an ex-broker for both Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) and LPL Financial (LPLA), will serve 41 months behind bars and pay restitution of over $1.2M after he pleaded guilty to elder financial fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission, which brought a civil case against Tricarico, has barred him from the securities industry.

Court documents note that from 1/2010 to 6/2013, Tricarico was the financial adviser for a sick and elderly investor. He misappropriated over $1.1M from her by writing a number of checks to himself without the client’s consent, misappropriated checks written to her, liquidated her coin collection, and used her funds for his own expenses.

He has also admitted to bilking two other victims of $20K when he falsely represented that their money would go toward a business venture. He kept their money for himself.

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Credit Suisse Unit and Ex-Investment Adviser Settle SEC Charges, Pay $8M Fine
Credit Suisse AG (CS) unit Credit Suisse Securities and Ex-investment adviser Sanford Michael Katz have settled SEC charges accusing them of improperly investing the funds of clients in “Class A” mutual fund shares instead of “institutional” shares that were less costly. According to the regulator, the firm and Katz did not adequately disclose the conflict of interest presented by choosing the Class A investment, which allowed them to profit more at investors’ expense. They are accused of breaching their fiduciary duties.

The SEC’s orders state that Credit Suisse made about $3.2M in 12b-1 fees that could have been avoided. According to the Commission, about $2.5M of those fees came from Katz’s clients. The regulator said that the firm did not put into place policies and procedures to prevent fiduciary breaches.

Both Credit Suisse and Katz settled the SEC charges without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings. Together, they have to pay over $3.2M of disgorgement, over $577K of prejudgment interest, and an over $4.1M penalty. A fair fund has been set up to compensate clients.

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A bipartisan bill introduced in the US Senate wants to let the US Securities and Exchange Commission order violators of securities laws to pay much higher sanctions. If turned into law, the legislation would allow the regulator impose up to $1M as a penalty on individuals for every violation of the most serious offenses. The per penalty violation maximum for financial firms would be raised to $10M. 

Currently, individuals cannot be ordered to pay a more than $181,071 penalty and the maximum for firms is $905,353. The SEC would have the option of tripling the cap on the maximum for repeat offenders who have been held civilly or criminally liable for securities fraud within the last five years. 

At the moment, the SEC can calculate penalties that are the equivalent of the gross amount that were the ill-gotten gains only if the case is heard in federal court. The regulator cannot do so if it deals with the case administratively. The bipartisan bill would allow the regulator to assess such penalties in-house. 

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing investment adviser Daniel H. Glick and his unregistered firm, Financial Management Strategies, of bilking older investors of millions of dollars. The regulator issued a temporary restraining order against the Chicago-based investment adviser, as well as an emergency asset freeze.

According to the Commission, Glick and his firm gave false account statements to clients to conceal his use of their money, which included paying for his own personal and business expenses. He allegedly raised millions of dollars from older investors by saying he would do their taxes, pay their bills, and make investments for them. After investors would give Glick huge sums of money to invest, he either obtained power of attorney or took over control of their bank accounts.

In its complaint, the SEC stated claims that Glick not only took advantage of seniors who trusted him with their retirement funds but also he allegedly exploited these clients’ family members. Most of his investors, said the regulator, belonged to two distinct families.

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Registered Investment Adviser and Broker Convicted in $15M Pump-and-Dump Scam
A federal jury has found Sheik F. Kahn, a Nevada RIA, and Christopher Cervino, a New Jersey broker, guilty of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy to commit wire fraud in an over $15M stock scam that targeted 100 investors. Kahn also was convicted of aggravated identity theft crimes and investment adviser fraud. Both she and Cervino were previously affiliated with New York-based firm Primary Capital.

According to the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the pump-and-dump scam involved VGTEL (VGTL), a publicly traded over-the-counter company. The securities scam was led by Edward Durante, who pleaded guilty last year to a number of crimes, including securities fraud, conspiracy, perjury, and money laundering involving VGTL.

Cervino and Kahn are accused of artificially inflating the stock price of VGTel from 25 cents/share to up to $1.90/share in 2012 and they also inflated trading volume, raising their ability to bring in private investments in the stock.

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