This is a photo of the National Register of Historic Places listing with reference number 7000063

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Beginning to Shine a Light on the Opaque Derivatives Market: Defining Dealers and Major Participants in the Cross-Border Context

Beginning to Shine a Light on the Opaque Derivatives Market: Defining Dealers and Major Participants in the Cross-Border Context

Strengthening Money Market Funds to Reduce Systemic Risk

Strengthening Money Market Funds to Reduce Systemic Risk


The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former bank executive in Massachusetts and his friend with insider trading in advance of the bank’s acquisition of another financial institution.

The SEC alleges that Patrick O’Neill, then a senior vice president at Eastern Bank, learned through his job responsibilities that his employer was planning to acquire Wainwright Bank & Trust Company.  O’Neill tipped Robert H. Bray, a fellow golfer with whom he socialized at a local country club.  In the two weeks preceding a public announcement about the planned acquisition, Bray sold his shares in other stocks to accumulate funds he used to purchase Wainwright securities.  Bray had never previously purchased Wainwright stock.  After the public announcement of the acquisition caused Wainwright’s stock price to increase nearly 100 percent, Bray sold all of his shares during the next few months for nearly $300,000 in illicit profits.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Boston, regulators began requesting information from Eastern Bank and others about trading in Wainwright stock a few months after the trades occurred, and O’Neill quit his job at Eastern Bank rather than respond to such inquiries.  O’Neill and Bray each were subpoenaed to testify in the SEC’s investigation but asserted their Fifth Amendment privileges against self-incrimination for every question asked of them, including whether they know one another.

“Country clubs or similar venues may give people a false sense of security that leads them to think they can get away with trading on unlawful stock tips,” said Paul G. Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office. “But as in any social setting, people who trade securities based on confidential information they receive are taking a huge risk that their illegal tipping and trading will be identified by the SEC.”

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts today announced criminal charges against O’Neill.

The SEC’s complaint charges O’Neill, who lives in Belmont, Mass., and Bray, who lives in Cambridge, Mass., with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and the SEC’s antifraud rule.  The complaint seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest and financial penalties as well as permanent injunctions against future violations of the antifraud provisions.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by J. Lauchlan Wash of the Boston Regional Office and David London and Michele Perillo of the Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit.  The SEC’s litigation will be led by Mr. London and Mr. Wash.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the Boston field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Monday, August 18, 2014



SEC Charges California-Based Broker with Stealing Money from Accounts
AUGUST 4, 2014

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged a California-based broker with stealing $4.4 million from two trust brokerage accounts at his firm and diverting it to a pair of friends for uses ranging from gambling to chartering a private jet.

The SEC alleges that John T. Thornes of Redlands, Calif., formerly the sole owner of Thornes & Associates, Inc., diverted funds out of a brokerage account for a trust established for the health and welfare of an 80-year-old dementia patient who has been living at home for several years with 24-hour nurse care. Thornes also siphoned money out of a brokerage account for a trust set up to fund college scholarships for local high school graduates.

According to the SEC's complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Thornes stole money from the two accounts from November 2010 to April 2013 primarily to benefit two of his friends, Christopher Burnell of Highland, Calif., and Kyle Larick of Redlands, Calif. Thornes has tried to pass off the payouts as loans, however there were no loan documents, no stated interest, and no collateral for the funds given. None of the money was ever repaid.
The SEC alleges that Thornes deceived his own mother with respect to the educational trust. She served as trustee, and he periodically asked her to sign blank checks that he then used in his misappropriation scheme. Thornes never informed his mother about trades he made, and he converted the brokerage account to a margin account even though it was designated as a low or minimal-risk tolerance account. He used the margin debt in his scheme and later sold securities from those accounts to avoid the margin calls. Thornes did the same thing with the brokerage account for the elderly dementia patient.

According to the SEC's complaint, after Thornes liberally transferred money from the brokerage accounts to his friends, they used it to charter a private jet, buy a luxury car, and purchase a vacation home. Burnell also used the funds to gamble at a nearby casino or pay gambling debts. Thornes paid his mother about $84,000 in excess trustee fees.

Thornes has agreed to settle the charges and consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering him to pay disgorgement of $4,366,790, prejudgment interest of $278,540, and a penalty of $4,366,790. Without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations, he agreed to be permanently enjoined from future violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 as well as Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. Thornes also has agreed to consent to a collateral industry bar and a penny stock bar.

The SEC's complaint also names Thornes' friends Burnell and Larick as well as his mother Doreen Thornes as relief defendants for the purposes of recovering any illicit funds in their possession.
The SEC's investigation was conducted by John Britt of the Los Angeles Regional Office. The litigation will be led by David Van Havermaat. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Internal Revenue Service, and Secret Service.

Sunday, August 17, 2014


CFTC Charges North Carolina Resident Edwin A. Vasquez and His Company Vasquez Global Investments, LLC with Commodity Pool Fraud
Court Grants Restraining Order Freezing Defendants’ Assets and Protecting Books and Records

Washington, DC – The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced the filing of an enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on July 30, 2014, charging Defendants Edwin A. Vasquez of Arden, North Carolina, and Vasquez Global Investments, LLC (VGI), a North Carolina company, with misappropriation, solicitation fraud, and issuing false statements in connection with the operation of an unregistered commodity trading pool.

On August 1, 2014, Federal District Judge Martin Reidinger issued a restraining Order that freezes Vasquez’s and VGI’s assets, protects books and records, and schedules a hearing on August 15, 2014, to consider the CFTC’s request that the court preliminarily enjoin Vasquez and VGI from future violations of the federal commodity laws, as alleged.

According to the CFTC Complaint, beginning in August 2011, Vasquez, acting individually and through VGI, defrauded and deceived at least 19 participants who invested at least $583,491 in a commodity pool commonly known as the VGI pool.

Specifically, the Complaint alleges that Vasquez told prospective pool participants that he was a successful trader and that the VGI pool was a “no risk” investment.  The Complaint further alleges that, of the $583,491 solicited and accepted from pool participants, Vasquez and VGI lost $65,374 trading commodity futures and returned $186,561 to pool participants as purported profits in the manner of a Ponzi scheme. In addition, Vasquez and VGI allegedly misappropriated the remaining $331,556 by using those funds to pay for VGI’s operating costs and for Vasquez’s personal expenses, including travel, restaurants, rent, cash withdrawals, and retail purchases.

Vasquez did not disclose his trading losses and misappropriation and, instead, issued false statements to the pool participants regarding the profitability and value of their shares of the pool, according to the Complaint. Vasquez and VGI are also charged with commingling pool participant funds and with registration violations.

In its continuing litigation against the Defendants, the CFTC seeks a civil monetary penalty, payment of restitution of losses to customers, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, trading and registration bans, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State, Securities Division.

The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Elizabeth N. Pendleton, Joseph Patrick, Scott Williamson, and Rosemary Hollinger.

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