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

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

FORMER GATEWAY, INC. CEO SETTLES FRAUD SEC CHARGES

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

On January 25, 2012, final judgments were entered against Jeffrey Weitzen, former CEO of Gateway, Inc., and Robert D. Manza, former controller of Gateway. Weitzen and Manza consented to entry of the final judgments without admitting or denying the allegations made by the Securities and Exchange Commission that they engaged in fraud and other violations of the federal securities laws in connection with Gateway’s recognition of revenue in the third quarter of 2000.

The SEC alleged that the defendants falsely represented Gateway’s financial condition in the third quarter of 2000 in order to meet financial analysts’ earnings and revenue expectations. Among other transactions, the SEC alleged that the defendants caused Gateway to record $47.2 million in revenue from a one-time sale of fixed assets to Gateway’s third-party information technology services provider in violation of Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and that Manza and defendant John J. Todd, then Gateway’s CFO, caused Gateway to recognize an additional $21 million in revenue from an incomplete sale of computers to a second entity, also in violation of GAAP. The SEC alleged that absent either of these transactions, Gateway would not have met analysts’ expectations with regard to its third quarter revenue.

Weitzen consented to a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and payment of a $110,000 civil penalty. Manza consented to a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violations of the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and from violations of SEC Rule 13b2-2, which prohibits making misrepresentations and omissions of material fact to company auditors, as well as from aiding and abetting the issuer reporting provisions of Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1 and 13a-13 thereunder. Manza further consented to be barred for five years from acting as an officer or director of a public company, and to pay disgorgement of $85,150, constituting his salary and bonus for the relevant quarter, together with prejudgment interest thereon of $75,551.43 totaling $160,701.43, and a $110,000 penalty.

Previously, on March 7, 2007, a jury had rendered a unanimous verdict finding Manza and defendant Todd liable for fraud, making false representations to auditors, aiding and abetting issuer reporting violations and other violations following a three week trial. On May 30, 2007, the Honorable Roger T. Benitez overturned the jury verdict as to the fraud and certain other claims. The SEC appealed that ruling, as well as the District Court’s prior August 1, 2006, grant of summary judgment to Weitzen dismissing the SEC’s case as to Weitzen. On June 23, 2011, the Ninth Circuit reversed those rulings and remanded the matter to the District Court.

The case remains pending as to defendant Todd.


SEC CHARGES TWO BROTHERS WITH NAKED SHORT SELLING

The following excerpt is from a Securities and Exchange Commission e-mail:

"Washington, D.C., Jan. 31, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two brothers living in Chicago and New York with naked short selling for failing to locate and deliver shares involved in short sales to broker-dealers.

Short sellers sell borrowed shares in hopes of profiting from declining prices. While short selling is legal, SEC rules require short sellers to locate shares to borrow before selling them short, and they must deliver the borrowed securities by a specified date. Market makers are excepted from the locate requirement when selling short in connection with bona-fide market making activities in the security for which the exception is claimed. Naked short selling occurs without having borrowed the securities to make delivery.

According to the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings against Jeffrey A. Wolfson and Robert A. Wolfson, they generated more than $17 million in ill-gotten gains from naked short selling transactions involving such stocks as Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc., Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., Novastar Financial Inc., and NYSE Group. As Jeffrey Wolfson stated in a recorded telephone conversation, “What I sell them is not guaranteed, it never gets delivered, it’s funny paper.”

The SEC’s Division of Enforcement alleges that Jeffrey Wolfson engaged in illegal naked short sales while working as a broker-dealer himself and later as the principal trader at a Chicago-based broker-dealer that is no longer in business. He also taught his brother and others how to do it. Robert Wolfson conducted illegal naked short sales while trading through an account at New York-based broker-dealer Golden Anchor Trading II LLC, which also has been charged in the SEC’s enforcement action. The firm has changed its name to Barabino Trading LLC.
“By engaging in naked short selling, the Wolfsons had a major advantage over competitors who complied with the law and incurred the costs associated with actually borrowing the securities,” said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “The SEC is committed to recovering substantial ill-gotten proceeds made by traders who seek to circumvent important short selling regulations.”
According to the SEC’s order, the Wolfsons engaged in two types of transactions from July 2006 to July 2007 in violation of Regulation SHO. The first type of transaction – a “reverse conversion” or “reversal” – involves selling stock short and simultaneously selling a put option and buying a call option on the stock. The Wolfsons did not locate the stock before the sale, nor did they deliver the shares when sold or make a bona fide purchase of the stock when required to close out their resulting fail-to-deliver position. They were not entitled to the market maker exception to Regulation SHO because the short sales were not made in connection with bona-fide market making activities.

The SEC's order states that the second type of transaction was a stock and option combination that created the illusion that the party subject to a close-out obligation had satisfied that obligation by buying the same kind and quantity of securities it had sold short. However, the stock was always sold back either the next day or within several days, and the Wolfsons knew or had reason to know that the shares ostensibly purchased in these sham transactions would never be delivered because they were purchased from another naked short seller who did not have the stock either. The Wolfsons entered into a significant number of these sham "reset" transactions with each other and also took the other side of the "reset" trades done by each other as well those done by other market participants.

The SEC's Division of Enforcement alleges that by engaging in the misconduct described in the order, Jeffrey Wolfson willfully violated and willfully aided and abetted and caused BMR's violations of Rule 203(b)(1) of Regulation SHO, and willfully violated and willfully aided and abetted and caused others' violations of Rule 203(b)(3) of Regulation SHO. It further alleges that Golden Anchor willfully violated, and Robert Wolfson willfully aided and abetted and caused Golden Anchor's violations of Rules 203(b)(1) and 203(b)(3) of Regulation SHO. The administrative proceedings will determine what relief, if any, is in the public interest against Jeffrey Wolfson, Robert Wolfson and Golden Anchor, including disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, financial penalties, a censure or a suspension or bar from association with any broker-dealer.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Steven Rawlings, Peter Altenbach, Daniel Marcus and Layla Mayer and the litigation effort will be led by Kevin McGrath. They work in the New York Regional Office. The SEC’s investigation into violations of Regulation SHO is continuing.

The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Chicago Board Options Exchange and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority in this matter."

SEC ALLEGES A $14,380,000 PROMISSORY NOTE FRAUD

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 30, 2012
"The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that on January 25, 2012 U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo entered judgments against Arthur Lin (“Lin”) and his wife, Relief Defendant Gloria Lin. The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that from at least September 2006 through at least January 2009, Defendants Marcin Malarz (“Malarz”), Jacek Sienkiewicz (“Sienkiewicz”), and Lin raised at least $14,380,000 from at least 43 investors through the fraudulent unregistered offer and sale of promissory notes issued by entities owned and controlled by Malarz and/or Sienkiewicz. Malarz Equity Investments, LLC (“Malarz Equity”) was the primary entity through which the scheme was perpetrated. Gloria Lin was a member of Malarz Equity, and Lin was an officer of Malarz Equity. The complaint alleges, among other things, that investors were told that their funds would be used to purchase apartment complexes and rehabilitate and convert the individual apartment units for sale as condominiums. The complaint alleges that contrary to these representations, Malarz used substantial sums of the Malarz Equity investors’ funds for his personal benefit and to make ponzi-type “interest” and principal payments to previous investors. Further, Lin received at least $436,000 in undisclosed commission payments, which were transmitted to Relief Defendant Gloria Lin.

To resolve the Commission’s charges, without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint, Lin consented to the entry of a judgment permanently enjoining him from violating Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and ordering disgorgement of $436,000 and prejudgment interest of $49,583, but waiving payment of all but $158,240 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest and not imposing a civil penalty, based upon Lin’s representations in his sworn statement of financial condition dated August 16, 2011. Without admitting or denying the allegations of the complaint, Gloria Lin consented to the entry of a judgment ordering her jointly and severally liable for the disgorgement amount owed by Lin. The Lins are required to pay $43,500 within 14 days of the entry of the final judgments and the remaining $114,740 within 1 year of the date of entry of the final judgments plus post-judgment interest thereon.”
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DIRECTOR OF THE SEC’S DIVISION OF ENFORCEMENT ROBERT KHUZAMI SPEAKS

Remarks at SEC and Department of Justice joint news conference.
The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 27, 2012
“Good morning. Mortgage products were in many ways ground zero in the financial crisis.
Individual mortgages were pooled and sliced and diced into sophisticated securities that were a world away from the house, on a street, in a town somewhere in America where a family had realized their dream – the dream of buying a house they could call a home.

A few invested directly in these sophisticated securitized mortgage products, called Residential Mortgage Backed Securities (RMBS).

Many more had exposure to the performance of these investments, even if they did not own them directly, or had the performance of their other investments tied to these products.

Regardless of how they were connected to these products, many shared the belief that these investments were safe and secure, the right investment to protect their financial security, fund their retirement, and pay for their kids' education.

That turned out to be terribly wrong. These mortgage products suffered unprecedented losses, and the pain and loss that followed is known all too well.

The job of the SEC and my fellow law enforcement colleagues is to hold accountable those persons, those institutions who lied, who cheated and who misled investors in the sale of these products.
Every failure does not mean that the law was broken, but all of us are committed to identifying the violations that did occur and prosecuting them.

That is why I am so pleased to help lead the RMBS Working Group.
Now each of us here today may have different jurisdiction or different expertise but one thing unites us: a drive to do what it takes to make sure that our efforts leave no stone unturned, no dark corner unexposed to the light.

At the SEC, we have been incredibly busy in the pursuit of financial crisis cases.
We have focused on misconduct by those at the highest corporate levels and by institutions with the greatest involvement in the products, transactions and practices that gave rise to the financial crisis.
So far, we have filed actions against nearly 90 such individuals and entities involving public companies that failed to disclose the increasing risks in their mortgage businesses such as Countrywide, New Century, and IndyMac; against funds and investment advisers that made misleading disclosures when offering funds holding mortgage and other financial products such as Morgan Keegan, State Street Bank and Trust, Charles Schwab and Reserve Fund; against top executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac for failing to accurately disclose subprime exposure; and against banks making misleading disclosures about subprime exposure and the structure of even more complex mortgage products called CDOs such as Goldman Sachs, JPMorganChase and Wachovia.

In these actions, we have named approximately 45 CEOs, CFOs and other senior corporate officers.
The SEC’s expertise and experience in mortgage products will be greatly enhanced by our participation in the RMBS Working Group.

We have a long history of successful collaboration with our law enforcement colleagues, including the Department of Justice, FBI, U.S. Attorney Offices, State Attorney’s General, and other authorities around the country. Many of us are on the phone with each other weekly, if not daily, moving our investigations forward.

And through the leadership of the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force, which we have co-chaired since its creation in November 2009, we have strengthened these ties – sharing knowledge and leveraging skills and resources in a way that helps all of us to hold violators accountable.
Today’s announcement is another positive step in this direction.

The Working Group will enhance coordination, efficiencies and the sharing of expertise. It will ensure that we pool the different capabilities, resources, legal theories and remedies that each of us bring to the effort.
Information sharing and collaboration among the widest group of partners, including the State Attorneys General that are part of the Working Group, is in everyone’s interest.
To be clear, investigations into RMBS offerings have been ongoing at the SEC. Along with experts across the agency, we have a specialized unit dedicated to the effort.

We already have issued scores of subpoenas, analyzed more than approximately 25 million pages of documents, dozens and dozens of witnesses, and worked with our industry experts to analyze the terms of these deals and the accuracy of the disclosures made to investors.

We are looking for evidence that a firm failed to disclose important information when selling these securities – for example, misleading disclosures about the credit quality, conformity with underwriting guidelines, underlying property valuations, and delinquency and defects of mortgages in the RMBS pools.
These efforts will be greatly aided by the contributions from my fellow Working Group members.

Thank you.”

Monday, January 30, 2012

FOUR FORMER EXECS. AT MANUFACTURING COMPANY CHARGED WITH ACCOUNTING FRAUD BY SEC

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

01/30/2012 03:18 PM EST
“Washington, D.C., Jan. 30, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged four former senior executives and accountants at the British subsidiary of an Indiana-based manufacturer of medical devices and aerospace products for their roles in an accounting fraud that was so pervasive that it distorted the financial statements of the parent company.

The SEC also reached settlements with the company’s former CEO and current CFO, who were not involved or aware of the scheme at the subsidiary, to recover bonus compensation and stock profits they received while the fraud was occurring and inflating company profits.

The SEC alleges that vice president for European operations Richard J. Senior, finance director Matthew Bell, controller Lynne Norman, and management accountant Shaun P. Whiteley orchestrated and carried out the fraud at Thornton Precision Components (TPC), which is the Sheffield, England-based subsidiary of NYSE-listed Symmetry Medical Inc. The accounting scheme involved the systematic understatement of expenses and overstatement of assets and revenues at TPC, and materially distorted Symmetry’s financial statements for a three-year period.

The four executives and accountants, as well as Symmetry in a separate administrative proceeding, agreed to settle the SEC’s charges, and the subsidiary’s two outside auditors formerly of Ernest & Young LLP UK agreed to suspensions for their deficient audits.
“The accounting fraud orchestrated by TPC executives had a ripple effect right up to the financials of the parent company. Symmetry shareholders were investing their money – and Symmetry and TPC executives were collecting their bonuses – based in part on inflated numbers,” said Stephen Cohen, Associate Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “We also found significant failures by two outside auditors, which helped this fraud to continue undetected. Accountants who practice before the SEC, including those who audit foreign subsidiaries of U.S. registrants, need to make sure their audits conform to U.S. auditing standards or they won’t be allowed to practice before the SEC.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in South Bend, Ind., Symmetry’s annual financial statements for 2005 and 2006 as well as other reporting periods were materially misstated as a result of misconduct in the reporting of TPC’s financials. Senior, Bell and Norman made false certifications as to the accuracy of the financial information reported to Symmetry by TPC, and lied to TPC’s outside auditors. Meanwhile, Senior and Bell each received bonuses and sold Symmetry stock at prices they knew or recklessly disregarded were fraudulently inflated by the accounting fraud taking place at TPC.
In a separate complaint also filed in the same federal court, the SEC is seeking reimbursement for bonuses and other incentive-based and equity-based compensation received by Symmetry’s former CEO Brian S. Moore under Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act. Under the settlement, subject to court approval, Moore agreed to reimburse $450,000 to Symmetry.
The SEC also instituted separate settled administrative proceedings against Symmetry and its CFO Fred L. Hite. The SEC finds that Hite failed to provide an internal audit status report concerning TPC to Symmetry’s Audit Committee in July 2006. Although the internal audit status report had not uncovered the fraud at TPC, it did raise the potential for deeper problems there. Hite also failed to reimburse Symmetry for bonuses, other compensation, and Symmetry stock-sale proceeds he received while the fraud occurred at the subsidiary (as required by SOX Section 304). Hite agreed to pay a $25,000 penalty and reimburse $185,000 to Symmetry. For its part, Symmetry agreed to a cease-and-desist order against future financial reporting, books-and-records and internal controls violations.
The SEC separately instituted and settled administrative proceedings against two associate chartered accountants in the United Kingdom – Christopher J. Kelly and Margaret Hebb née Whyte – who were the former audit partner and audit manager on Ernest & Young LLP UK’s audits of TPC for its 2004 to 2006 fiscal years (in the case of Kelly) and its 2005 and 2006 fiscal years (in the case of Hebb). The SEC’s order finds that Kelly and Hebb engaged in improper professional conduct by, among other things, failing to properly audit TPC’s accounts receivable balances and inventory. The order suspends both Kelly and Hebb from appearing or practicing before the SEC as accountants, with the opportunity to seek reinstatement after two years.
The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority in this matter.”

CFTC FILES AND SETTLES CHARGES AGAINST CENTURION GLOBAL CAPITAL MANAGEMENT LLC

The following excerpt is from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission website:

January 23, 2012
“Washington, DC - The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that it filed and simultaneously settled charges against Timothy Michael Murphy of Redding, Conn., and his New York-based company, Centurion Global Capital Management LLC (CGCM), for fraudulently soliciting at least 40 customers to participate in a commodity pool.

The CFTC’s order requires Murphy and CGCM jointly and severally to pay both a $140,000 civil monetary penalty and restitution of $220,000. The order also permanently prohibits CGCM and prohibits Murphy for a five-year period from trading on a CFTC-registered entity and from registering or seeking exemption from CFTC registration.

The order finds that between about May 2009 and January 2010, CGCM, through Murphy, used a promotional sheet to solicit participants for their commodity pool, Centurion Multi-Strategy LP, that Murphy knew contained false and/or misleading information regarding the trading performance history of one of the two Commodity Trading Advisors that were to trade the pool’s futures accounts. Murphy sent and/or caused this fraudulent promotional sheet to be sent by email and other means to at least 40 pool participants, the order finds. From about September 2009 through July 2010, Murphy received approximately $220,000 from CGCM from the fees and commissions generated by the Centurion pool, according to the order. The Centurion pool was liquidated in or about July 2010, and the remaining funds were returned to pool participants, the order further finds.

The CFTC thanks the National Futures Association (NFA) and the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (FINMA) for their assistance.
CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Joseph Rosenberg, Mark A. Picard, Sheila Marhamati, Philip Rix, Steven I. Ringer, Lenel Hickson, Stephen J. Obie, and Vincent A. McGonagle.”

Sunday, January 29, 2012

GOVERNMENT GOING AFTER MORTGAGE FRAUDSTERS

The following excerpt is from the Department of Justice website:

“Friday, January 27, 2012U.S. Attorney General Holder, State and Federal Officials Announce Collaboration to Investigate Residential Mortgage-backed Securities Market

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Eric Holder along with Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Director of Enforcement Robert Khuzami and New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today announced the formation of the Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group under President Obama’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force (FFETF).

At the direction of the President, this Working Group brings together the Department of Justice (DOJ), several state attorneys general and other federal entities to investigate those responsible for misconduct contributing to the financial crisis through the pooling and sale of residential mortgage-backed securities.  This effort will be in coordination with and in addition to the ongoing efforts and investigations by the Justice Department, FFETF members and state and federal law enforcement investigating and prosecuting other types of financial fraud.

Attorney General Holder announced that the new Working Group will consist of at least 55 Department of Justice attorneys, analysts, agents and investigators from around the country.  Currently, 15 civil and criminal attorneys are part of the Working Group, along with 10 FBI agents and analysts who will be assigned to the Working Group efforts.  An additional 30 attorneys, investigators and other staff around the country will join the Working Group efforts in the coming weeks.  This team will join existing state and federal resources investigating similar misconduct under those authorities.

The goals of this collaboration will be: to hold accountable any institutions that violated the law; to compensate victims and help provide relief for homeowners struggling from the collapse of the housing market, caused in part by this wrongdoing; and to help Americans finally turn the page on this destructive period in our nation’s history.

“This Working Group brings together federal and state partners to strengthen current and future efforts to investigate and prosecute instances of wrongdoing in the residential mortgage-backed securities market,” said Attorney General Holder.  “With this focus on collaboration – and by bringing our government’s full enforcement resources to bear – I have no doubt that we will improve our ability to recover losses, to prevent fraud, to bring abuses to light, and to hold those who violate the law accountable.  That’s what the challenge before us demands, and that’s what the American people deserve.”
The working group will be co-chaired by senior officials at the Department of Justice and SEC, including Lanny Breuer, Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division, DOJ; Robert Khuzami, Director of Enforcement, SEC; John Walsh, U.S. Attorney, District of Colorado; and Tony West, Assistant Attorney General, Civil Division, DOJ.
The working group will also be co-chaired by New York Attorney General Schneiderman, who will lead the effort from the state level.  Other state Attorneys General have been and will be joining this effort.

“I am pleased to co-chair this important effort.  Each of us offers different tools and talents, but we are all united by a common and continuing desire to identify misconduct in the mortgage securitization process,” said SEC Enforcement Director Khuzami.  “The SEC has issued scores of subpoenas, obtained millions of documents, and interviewed dozens and dozens of key witnesses related to mortgage-backed securities.  This collaborative effort will enable us pool our knowledge and leverage our resources.”
“Millions of American families have been harmed by the foreclosure crisis,” said HUD Secretary Donovan.  “These families deserve justice.  They deserve relief.  That is why this investigation is so important.  With a new Residential Mortgage-Backed Securities Working Group led by Attorney General Holder and state leaders like New York Attorney General Schneiderman, we will build on the work of the President’s Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force by investigating misconduct we know led directly to the financial crisis.  And I’m proud that the Office of the HUD Inspector General David Montoya —which over the past year has been central to uncovering wrongdoing with respect to faulty foreclosure servicing practices—will play a critical role in the mortgage origination component of this review.”

“I would like to thank President Obama and Attorney General Holder for their leadership in combating financial fraud in this country and I look forward to co-chairing this working group that marshals state and federal resources to build on those efforts by bringing justice on behalf the victims of the misconduct that caused the mortgage crisis,” said Attorney General Schneiderman.  “In coordination with our federal partners, our office will continue its steadfast commitment to holding those responsible for the mortgage crisis accountable, providing meaningful relief for homeowners commensurate with the scale of the misconduct, and getting our economy moving again.  The American people deserve a thorough investigation into the global financial meltdown to ensure nothing like it ever happens again, and today’s announcement is a major step in the right direction.”
The Obama Administration is committed to ensuring that justice and relief are provided for the millions of American families harmed by the financial crisis.

President Obama created the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force by executive order in November 2009 to wage an aggressive, coordinated and proactive effort to investigate and prosecute financial crimes.  With more than 20 federal agencies, 94 U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and state and local partners, it is the broadest coalition of law enforcement, investigatory and regulatory agencies ever assembled to combat fraud and bring to bear a powerful array of criminal and civil enforcement resources.

Since its formation, the Task Force has made great strides in facilitating increased investigation and prosecution of financial crimes; enhancing coordination and cooperation among federal, state and local authorities; addressing discrimination in the lending and financial markets and conducting outreach to the public, victims, financial institutions and other organizations.  Task Force members have charged a record number of  mortgage fraud cases in the past two years, trained more than 100,000 professionals responsible for awarding and overseeing Recovery Act funds and held regional summits around the country to discuss strategies, resources and initiatives as well as to meet with communities most affected by the financial crisis.”
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Saturday, January 28, 2012

SEC ALLEGES HYPING STOCK PRICE SCHEME IN FLORIDA

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

Washington, D.C., Jan. 26, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Fort Lauderdale-based firm and its founder with conducting a fraudulent boiler room scheme in which they hyped stock in two thinly-traded penny stock companies while behind the scenes they sold the same stock themselves for illegal profits.

The SEC alleges that First Resource Group LLC and its principal David H. Stern employed telemarketers who fraudulently solicited brokers to purchase stock in TrinityCare Senior Living Inc. and Cytta Corporation. While recommending the securities in these two microcap companies, Stern sold First Resource’s shares of TrinityCare and Cytta stock unbeknownst to investors who were purchasing them – a practice known as scalping. As Stern was selling the stocks, he also purchased small amounts in order to create the false appearance of legitimate trading activity and induce investors to purchase shares in both companies.
“First Resource and Stern used a telephone sales boiler room to make inflated claims and defraud investors while simultaneously manipulating the price of the stocks and making profits for themselves,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “The SEC will continue to aggressively pursue perpetrators of microcap stock fraud schemes that hound potential investors to buy stock.”
Since the beginning of fiscal year 2011, the SEC has filed more than 50 enforcement actions for misconduct related to microcap stocks, and issued 63 orders suspending the trading of suspicious microcap issuers. Microcap stocks are issued by the smallest of companies and tend to be low priced and trade in low volumes. Many microcap companies do not file financial reports with the SEC, so investing in microcap stocks entails many risks.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed against Stern and First Resource in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, they violated federal securities laws by acting as unregistered broker-dealers. Stern hired and trained First Resource’s salespeople and gave them information about TrinityCare to prepare sales scripts and pitch the stock to potential investors. Stern reviewed the draft scripts, made edits, and approved the scripts before the salespeople were allowed to use them.
The SEC alleges that Stern gave the salespeople a list of potential investors to cold call and pitch the stocks. First Resource’s salespeople falsely claimed TrinityCare stock “is going to be $5-7 in 6-12 months” and the company “is going to be a half-a-billion dollar company in five years or roughly a $40 stock.” Stern also disseminated a research report on Cytta to investors and falsely touted: “Sales projections for 2010-2014 should exceed $500 million with a pre-tax net of over $400 million.”
The SEC’s complaint alleges that First Resource Group and Stern violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The SEC is seeking permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, and financial penalties as well as a penny stock bar against Stern.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Jorge L. Riera under the supervision of Elisha L. Frank in the SEC’s Miami Regional Office in coordination with an examination of First Resource conducted by Anson Kwong, Michael J. Nakis, George Franceschini, and Nicholas A. Monaco of the SEC’s Miami office. Edward D. McCutcheon will lead the SEC’s litigation efforts.
The SEC’s investigation is continuing."

SEC OBTAINS FINAL JUDGMENTS AGAINST BARAI CAPITAL MANAGEMENT AND OTHERS

 


The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 25, 2012

"The SEC announced that the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff, United States District Judge, United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, entered a Final Judgment on Consent as to Noah Freeman on December 23, 2011, and entered Final Judgments on Consent as to Bob Nguyen, Samir Barai and Barai Capital Management on January 23, 2012, in the SEC's insider trading case, SEC v. Mark Anthony Longoria, et al., 11-CV-0753 (SDNY) (JSR).


This case alleges insider trading by ten individuals and one investment adviser entity, all of whom are consultants, employees, or clients of the so-called "expert network" firm, Primary Global Research LLC ("PGR"). The SEC filed its Complaint on February 3, 2011, charging two PGR employees and four consultants with insider trading for illegally tipping hedge funds and other investors. On February 8, 2011, the SEC filed an Amended Complaint, charging a New York-based hedge fund and four hedge fund portfolio managers and analysts who illegally traded on confidential information obtained from technology company employees moonlighting as expert network consultants. The scheme netted more than $30 million from trades based on material, nonpublic information about such companies as Advanced Micro Devices, Seagate Technology, Western Digital, Fairchild Semiconductor, and Marvell Technology Group Ltd. The charges were the first against traders in the SEC's ongoing investigation of insider trading involving expert networks.

The SEC alleged that Nguyen was a PGR employee who facilitated the transfer of material nonpublic information from PGR consultants to PGR clients and, in certain instances, acted as a conduit by receiving material nonpublic information from PGR consultants and passing that information directly to PGR clients. The SEC also alleged that Freeman, Barai and Barai Capital were among the recipients of the material nonpublic information supplied by PGR consultants and employees, and either traded on the information or directly or indirectly caused hedge funds they managed or were otherwise affiliated with to trade based on the information.
The Final Judgment entered against Freeman: (1) permanently enjoins him from violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act") and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5; and (2) orders him liable for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains of $833,480, together with prejudgment interest of $180,548, for a total of $1,014,028. Based on Freeman's agreement to cooperate with the SEC, the Commission did not seek a civil penalty. In addition, on January 20, 2012, the Commission issued an order on consent in a related administrative proceeding that bars Freeman from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer or transfer agent.

The Final Judgment entered against Nguyen: (1) permanently enjoins him from violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5; and (2) orders him liable for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains of $190,890.04, together with prejudgment interest of $11,449.16, for a total of $202,339.20. Based on Nguyen's agreement to cooperate with the SEC, the Commission did not seek a civil penalty. In addition, Nguyen has agreed to be barred in a separate administrative proceeding from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer or transfer agent, and from participating in any offering of a penny stock.

The Final Judgment entered against Barai: (1) permanently enjoins him from violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act"), 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5; and (2) orders him liable for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains of $3,000,000, together with prejudgment interest of $434,225.47, for a total of $3,434,225,47. Based on Barai's agreement to cooperate with the SEC, the Commission did not seek a civil penalty. In addition, Barai has agreed to be barred in a separate administrative proceeding from association with any broker, dealer, investment adviser, municipal securities dealer or transfer agent.
The Final Judgment entered against Barai Capital: (1) permanently enjoins it from violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act, 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5; and (2) orders it liable, jointly with Barai, for disgorgement of ill-gotten gains of $3,000,000, together with prejudgment interest of $434,225.47, for a total of $3,434,225,47."

SEC ANNOUNCES TEMPORARY SUSPENSION OF TRADING IN "ONYX" SECURITIES

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

"UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
Before the
SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SECURITIES EXCHANGE ACT OF 1934

Release No. 66262 / January 27, 2012
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) announced the temporary
suspension, pursuant to Section 12(k) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange
Act”), of trading in the securities of Onyx Service & Solutions, Inc. (“ONYX”), of Greenwood
Village, CO commencing at 9:30 a.m. on January 27, 2012, and terminating at 11:59 p.m. on
February 9, 2012.

The Commission temporarily suspended trading in the securities of ONYX because of questions
that have been raised about the accuracy and adequacy of publicly disseminated information
concerning, among other things, the company’s business projects and prospects.
The Commission cautions broker-dealers, shareholders, and prospective purchasers that they
should carefully consider the foregoing information along with all other currently available
information and any information subsequently issued by the company.

Further, brokers and dealers should be alert to the fact that, pursuant to Rule 15c2-11 under the
Exchange Act, at the termination of the trading suspension, no quotation may be entered unless
and until they have strictly complied with all of the provisions of the rule. If any broker or dealer
has any questions as to whether or not he has complied with the rule, he should not enter any
quotation but immediately contact the staff in the Division of Trading and Markets, Office of
Interpretation and Guidance, at (202) 551-5777.  If any broker or dealer is uncertain as to what is
required by Rule 15c2-11, he should refrain from entering quotations relating to ONYX
securities until such time as he has familiarized himself with the rule and is certain that all of its
provisions have been met.  If any broker or dealer enters any quotation which is in violation of
the rule, the Commission will consider the need for prompt enforcement action. “

Friday, January 27, 2012

BOTH FIRMS AND INDIVIDUALS CHARGED IN ALLEGED HIJACKED BROKERAGE ACCOUNT SCHEME

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 26, 2012
“The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a trader in Latvia for conducting a widespread online account intrusion scheme in which he manipulated the prices of more than 100 NYSE and Nasdaq securities and caused more than $2 million in harm to customers of U.S. brokerage firms.

The SEC also instituted related administrative proceedings today against four electronic trading firms and eight executives charged with enabling the trader’s scheme by allowing him anonymous and unfiltered access to the U.S. markets.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in San Francisco, Igors Nagaicevs broke into online brokerage accounts of customers at large U.S. broker-dealers and drove stock prices up or down by making unauthorized purchases or sales in the hijacked accounts. This occurred on more than 150 occasions over the course of 14 months. Nagaicevs – using the direct, anonymous market access provided to him by various unregistered firms – traded those same securities at artificial prices and reaped more than $850,000 in illegal profits.

According to the SEC’s orders instituting administrative proceedings against the four electronic trading firms, they allowed Nagaicevs to trade through their electronic platforms without first registering as brokers. Each of the trading firms provided him online access to trade directly in the U.S. markets through an account held in the firm’s name. These firms gave Nagaicevs a gateway to the U.S. securities markets while circumventing the protections of the federal securities laws, including requirements for brokers to maintain and follow adequate procedures to gather information about customers and their trading.

The electronic trading firms and individuals named in the SEC’s administrative proceedings are:
Alchemy Ventures, Inc. of San Mateo, Calif.
Mark H. Rogers, the firm’s president, who lives in San Carlos, Calif.
Steven D. Hotovec, the firm’s vice president, who lives in Redwood City, Calif.
KM Capital Management, LLC of Philadelphia
Joshua A. Klein, the firm’s founder and co-owner, who lives in Philadelphia
Yisroel M. Wachs, the firm’s co-owner, who lives in Philadelphia
Zanshin Enterprises, LLC of Boise, Idaho
Frank K. McDonald, managing member of the firm, who lives in Boise
Richard V. Rizzo, an associate of the firm, who lives in Oceanside, N.Y.
Mercury Capital of La Jolla, CA
Lisa R. Hyatt, the firm’s president, who lives in Escondido, Calif.
Douglas G. Frederick, an associate of the firm, who lives in Brighton, Mich.
Mercury Capital, Hyatt, and Rizzo each agreed to a settlement in which they consented to SEC orders finding that they willfully committed or aided and abetted and caused violations of Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”). Hyatt and Rizzo each agreed to pay a $35,000 penalty.
The SEC’s administrative action will determine whether the non-settling trading firms and principals willfully violated Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, or whether the non-settling principals willfully aided and abetted and caused violations of Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, and what sanctions, if any, are appropriate as a result. The SEC’s complaint alleges that Nagaicevs violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act, and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, and financial penalties.”

Thursday, January 26, 2012

ALLEGED FAMILY TIPS HAS LED TO INSIDER TRADING CHARGES


January 24, 2012

"The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged three people with insider trading in the securities of Oak Hill Financial, Inc. (“Oak Hill”) ahead of a July 20, 2007 announcement that Oak Hill would be acquired by WesBanco, Inc. (Nasdaq: WSBC). The Commission alleges Dale Shafer, who at the time was Oak Hill’s interim CFO, shared information with his cousin, Jason Gonski, about the anticipated merger. Gonski purchased Oak Hill stock in his account and another account and made approximately $35,500 in illicit profits. In addition, Gonski tipped his friend Joseph Mroz, and the two men together made approximately $15,099 from illegal trading in Oak Hill stock.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. The complaint alleges that:

Shafer learned of the planned merger on May 14, 2007, and told Gonski about it. Gonski misappropriated the information by trading on it. He later told Shafer that he bought Oak Hill stock. Shafer did not tell Gonski to stop trading and did not tell anyone at Oak Hill what had happened. Over the next several weeks, Shafer continued to provide material, nonpublic information about the merger to Gonski and during this time period, Gonski substantially increased his position in Oak Hill. Gonski also tipped his friend Mroz, and they both bought shares of Oak Hill using Mroz’s brokerage account. Total profits in the accounts Gonski traded in were approximately $50,000, which includes $15,099 in profits from trading in the account of Mroz.
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, Shafer, Gonski and Mroz have offered to settle the case by consenting to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining them from violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5. The three settling defendants have agreed to pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and penalties totaling more than $150,000, as follows:

Gonski will pay disgorgement and prejudgment interest totaling $59,565.24 for which Shafer is jointly and severally liable for $38,957.81 of that amount and Mroz is jointly and severally liable for $8,766.74. Gonski will pay a civil penalty of $50,686.38. Shafer will pay a civil penalty of $33,484.08. Mroz will pay a civil penalty of $7,459.95. In addition, Shafer has agreed to be barred for five years from serving as an officer or director of a publicly traded company. Shafer has also consented to the issuance of an order under Rule 102(e)(3) suspending him from appearing or practicing before the Commission as an accountant with a right to apply for reinstatement after five years. The proposed settlements are subject to the court’s approval.
The Commission acknowledges the assistance of FINRA in this matter."

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

SEC FILES CIVIL INJUNCTION IN ALLEGED STOCK INFLATION SCHEME

 The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 25, 2012
“On January 25, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) filed a civil injunctive action against a former senior vice president and a vendor of InPhonic, Inc., a now-bankrupt online retailer of cellular phones that was headquartered in Washington, D.C. According to the Commission’s complaint, from late 2005 through early 2007, Len A. Familant, then an InPhonic senior vice president, and Paul V. Greene, president of telephone supplier Americas Premiere Corporation (“APC”), engaged in a fraudulent scheme involving a series of “round-trip transactions” to artificially inflate InPhonic’s financial results.

The Commission’s complaint, filed in federal court in the District of Columbia, alleges:
After the end of the third quarter of 2005 and each quarter in 2006, but before InPhonic reported its financial results, Familant obtained a total of almost $10 million in sham credits from APC and Greene. Familant and Greene entered into an unwritten, undisclosed agreement that InPhonic would repay APC by purchasing cellular telephones and repair services from APC at inflated prices and by paying for fake repairs.

InPhonic improperly recorded the false credits from APC as a decrease in cost of goods sold. InPhonic subsequently made repayments to APC in the form of overpayments for cellular telephones, repair services and fake repairs.

The round-trip scheme agreed to and implemented by Familant and Greene resulted in material understatements of InPhonic’s net loss (between 7% and 55%) in quarterly and annual filings with the Commission and material overstatements of InPhonic’s adjusted EBITDA in earnings releases from 2005-2007.

Familant and Greene concealed the fraudulent round-trip scheme. For instance, together they identified particular telephone models APC could provide to InPhonic at inflated prices without raising suspicion.

Greene hid the round-trip scheme from InPhonic’s independent auditors even after APC’s accountant had informed Greene that APC’s sham credit transactions with InPhonic were illegal.

Familant encouraged APC to hide its billing for phony services after Familant learned that APC’s accountant had told Greene, “[w]e cannot do that. That is fraud. . . .”

In October 2007, as InPhonic’s business was failing and after APC had been unable to fully recoup the credits, Greene sent an email to himself outlining a proposed lawsuit against InPhonic. Greene referred to “the fake credits that were negotiated with INPC that they were using to hit certain quarterly numbers.”
Greene is charged with violating, and aiding and abetting InPhonic’s and Familant’s violations, of the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c). Greene is also charged with violating the books and records provision of Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1, and with aiding and abetting InPhonic’s violations of the reporting and books and records provisions of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction, disgorgement, civil penalties and prejudgment interest against Greene.

Familant has agreed to settle the Commission’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations against him. Familant has consented to a final judgment enjoining him from violating the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5(a) and (c), and the books and records provision of Exchange Act Rule 13b2-1, and from aiding and abetting InPhonic’s violations of the reporting and books and records provisions of Sections 13(a) and 13(b)(2)(A) of the Exchange Act and Rules 12b-20, 13a-1, 13a-11 and 13a-13. Familant also has agreed to pay a $50,000 civil penalty and to be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company. The proposed settlement with Familant is subject to the approval of the District Court.”

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

HEDGE FUND ADVISER TO PAY $9 MILLION TO SETTLE INSIDER-TRADING CHARGES

The following excerpt is from a SEC e-mail: 

01/23/2012 10:33 AM EST
"Washington, D.C., Jan. 23, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Diamondback Capital Management LLC has agreed to pay more than $9 million to settle insider-trading charges brought by the Commission on Jan. 18. The proposed settlement is subject to the approval of Judge Paul G. Gardephe of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. As part of the proposed settlement, the Stamford, Conn.-based hedge fund adviser also has submitted a statement of facts to the SEC and federal prosecutors, and entered into a non-prosecution agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York.

Under the proposed settlement, Diamondback will give up more than $6 million of allegedly ill-gotten gains and pay a $3 million civil penalty. In addition, Diamondback consented to a judgment that permanently enjoins it from future violations of federal anti-fraud laws. The proposed settlement would resolve charges of insider trading by Diamondback in shares of Dell Inc. and Nvidia Corp. in 2008 and 2009.

“We are pleased to have reached a prompt resolution of the charges against Diamondback,” said George S. Canellos, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “If approved by the court, we believe that the proposed settlement appropriately sanctions the misconduct while giving due credit to Diamondback for its substantial assistance in the government’s investigation and the pending actions against former employees and their co-defendants.”

Last week, the SEC filed insider-trading charges against Diamondback, a second hedge fund advisory firm, and seven individuals, including a former Diamondback analyst and former Diamondback portfolio manager. In reaching the proposed settlement announced today, the SEC considered the substantial cooperation that Diamondback provided, including conducting extensive interviews of staff, reviewing voluminous communications, analyzing complex trading patterns to determine suspicious trading activity, and presenting the results of its internal investigation to federal investigators."

Monday, January 23, 2012

JUDGEMENT ANNOUNCED AGAINST PERMAPAVE ENTITIES

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

January 23, 2012
“The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that, on January 19, 2012, the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York entered a default judgment that imposes a permanent injunction against future violations of the registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws against PermaPave Industries, LLC, PermaPave USA Corp., PermaPave Distributions, Inc., and Verigreen, LLC (the PermaPave Entities) and that also imposes a permanent injunction against future violations of the reporting and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws against Interlink-US-Network, Ltd.

As to monetary relief, the judgment orders the PermaPave Entities to pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties and orders Interlink to pay civil penalties. The judgment also orders relief defendants DASH Development, LLC, Aron Holdings, Inc., PermaPave Construction Corp., Dymoncrete Industries, LLC, Dymon Rock LI, LLC, and Lumi-Coat, Inc. to disgorge the ill-gotten gains they received from defendants.

This judgment resolves the Commission’s claims and grants all relief sought against the PermaPave Entities, Interlink, DASH, Aron Holdings, PermaPave Construction, Dymoncrete Industries, Dymon Rock, and Lumi-Coat in a civil action filed on October 6, 2011.

The Commission’s Complaint alleged that, from 2006 to 2010, the PermaPave Entities raised more than $26 million from the sale of promissory notes and “use of funds” agreements to over 140 investors. Their management told investors that there was a tremendous demand for the product that the PermaPave Entities ostensibly sold – permeable paving stones – and that investors would be repaid by the profits generated by the guaranteed sales of this product. In reality, however, there was little demand for the product, and defendants used investor proceeds to make “interest” and “profit” payments to earlier investors and to fund management’s lavish lifestyles. The management of the PermaPave Entities also caused Interlink to issue a Form 8-K stating that a company that had never heard of Interlink had agreed to invest $6 million in Interlink.

The judgment (i) permanently enjoins the PermaPave Entities from future violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5, (ii) permanently enjoins Interlink from future violations of Sections 10(b) and 13(a) of the Exchange Act and Exchange Act Rules 10b-5, 12b-20, and 13a-11, (iii) orders the PermaPave Entities to pay $7,734,983 in disgorgement, $281,268 in prejudgment interest, and $7.7 million in civil penalties, (iv) orders Interlink to pay $375,000 in civil penalties, and (v) orders relief defendants DASH, Aron Holdings, PermaPave Construction, Dymoncrete Industries, Dymon Rock, and Lumi-Coat to disgorge ill-gotten gains received from defendants totaling $4,236,252 and prejudgment interest totaling $214,233.

The Commission’s civil action continues against Defendants Eric Aronson, Vincent Buonauro, Robert Kondratick, Fredric Aaron, and Permeable Solutions, Inc. and Relief Defendants Caroline Aronson and Deborah Buonauro.”

Friday, January 20, 2012

SEC CHARGES BIG HEDGE FUNDS WITH INSIDER TRADING SCHEME INVOLVING DELL AND NVIDIA CORPORATION

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:

“On January 18, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York charging two multi-billion dollar hedge fund advisory firms as well as seven fund managers and analysts involved in a $78 million insider trading scheme based on nonpublic information about Dell’s quarterly earnings and other similar inside information about Nvidia Corporation.

The charges stem from the SEC’s ongoing investigation into the trading activities of hedge funds. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against the same seven individuals.

The SEC alleges that a network of closely associated hedge fund traders at Stamford, Conn.-based Diamondback Capital Management LLC and Greenwich, Conn.-based Level Global Investors LP illegally obtained the material nonpublic information about Dell and Nvidia. Investment analyst Sandeep “Sandy” Goyal of Princeton, N.J., obtained Dell quarterly earnings information and other performance data from an insider at Dell in advance of earnings announcements in 2008. Goyal tipped Diamondback analyst Jesse Tortora of Pembroke Pines, Fla., with the inside information, and Tortora in turn tipped several others, leading to insider trades on behalf of Diamondback and Level Global hedge funds.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the illicit gains in the Dell insider trades exceeded $62.3 million, and the illicit gains in the Nvidia insider trades exceeded $15.7 million. For his role in the scheme, Goyal was paid $175,000 in soft dollar payments that were deposited in a brokerage account of an individual affiliated with him.
The SEC alleges that after obtaining the inside information from Goyal in advance of Dell’s first and second quarter earnings announcements in 2008, Tortora tipped his portfolio manager at Diamondback, Todd Newman of Needham, Mass. Newman traded on the information on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds he controlled. Tortora also tipped Spyridon “Sam” Adondakis, an analyst at Level Global. Adondakis tipped his manager Anthony Chiasson, who then traded on the inside information on behalf of Level Global hedge funds. During this time period, both Adondakis and Chiasson lived in New York City.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Tortora also tipped two others at firms other than Diamondback or Level Global with the Dell inside information: Jon Horvath of New York City and Danny Kuo of San Marino, Calif. Horvath caused insider trades at his firm that resulted in approximately $1.4 million of illicit gains. Kuo similarly caused the firm where he worked to execute profitable insider trades in Dell securities.
The SEC further alleges that Kuo also obtained inside information about Nvidia Corporation’s calculation of its revenues, gross profit margins, and other financial metrics in advance of the company’s first quarter 2010 earnings announcements, which was made in May 2009. Kuo again caused his firm to trade on inside information. Kuo’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $270,000 in ill-gotten gains. Kuo also tipped Tortora at Diamondback and Adondakis at Level Global with the nonpublic information about Nvidia. Tortora again tipped Newman, who made more insider trades on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds. The illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia securities resulted in $3.9 million in illicit gains for Diamondback. At Level Global, Adondakis tipped Chiasson who made the insider trades on behalf of those hedge funds. Chiasson’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $72.6 million of illicit gains for the Level Global hedge funds.

The SEC’s complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and, additionally, charges Goyal, Tortora, Newman, Adondakis, Chiasson, Horvath and Kuo with aiding and abetting others’ violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint seeks a final judgment ordering the defendants to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, ordering them to pay financial penalties, and permanently enjoining them from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws.”

DIRECTOR OF SEC ENFORCEMENT DIVISION SPEAKS

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:


Speech by SEC Staff:
News Conference Remarks

by

Robert Khuzami

Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York
New York, N.Y.
January 18, 2012

Good afternoon. My name is Robert Khuzami, and I’m the Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.
Once again, so-called white collar professionals who enjoy so many advantages break the law in a likely craving for more money, more celebrity, and the mirage of success.
Once again, so-called white-collar professionals who should know better disregard the most basic wisdom that we teach our children – to do right and not wrong.
Once again, in a new year, I find myself here alongside our criminal law enforcement partners announcing new but troublingly familiar charges of insider trading by hedge fund firms, fund managers, and analysts.
The SEC today has filed civil charges against seven individuals, and additionally has charged two prominent hedge fund advisory firms, Diamondback and Level Global.
Why is this action so significant?
First, today’s action lays bare an organized network of analysts and fund traders who set up and used a corrupt network to obtain insider information.
This is very different from – and far more disturbing than – cases where we see opportunistic trading by someone who happens to come into possession of valuable inside information, such as a once-in-a-lifetime takeover of other extraordinary corporate announcement, and succumbs to the temptation of illegal profits.
Rather, this involves professionals who illegally obtain routine business information, such as quarterly earnings and profit margin estimates.
They then use their sophisticated trading skills to analyze the likely impact of the discrepancy between actual and expected financial results.
And then they put on trades using large amounts of capital and increasingly liquid options markets to magnify their illegal profits.
To put this last point in perspective, we allege these defendants obtained $78 million in illegal profits and avoided losses based on insider information from only three quarterly earnings reports.
This is systemic dishonesty, and it exposes a deeply embedded level of corruption.
Second, but perhaps the most worrisome, the illegal conduct alleged in today’s action was not perpetrated by fringe players in the investment adviser industry, but rather by some of the largest and most sophisticated hedge funds in the country, including Level Global and Diamondback.
There is nothing wrong with hedge funds, which can and do provide valuable services for clients and liquidity for markets.
But hedge funds are also characterized by a lack of transparency in trading practices, market power that can give them influence over those who possess insider information, access to leverage and enormous amounts of capital, and the techniques to trade extremely quickly.
These characteristics, if put to use for illicit purposes, present a grave threat to the integrity of the markets and the level playing field that is the foundation for those markets.
In closing, I’d like to thank Preet Bharara and Janice Fedarcyk and their teams from the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI.
Their work, as always, has been outstanding and represents the very best in public service.
Lastly, I want to recognize the hard work and dedication of the SEC staff that conducted this investigation with thoroughness and tireless enthusiasm. Their effort has been exceptional, and I could not be more proud of what they have accomplished.

$9 MILLION ALLEGED MISAPPROPRIATION PROMPTS SEC TO FILE CHARGES

The following excerpt is from the SEC website:


January 18, 2012
"The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that it has filed charges and obtained emergency relief, including an asset freeze and the appointment of a receiver, against several St. Louis, Missouri private investment funds and management companies. The SEC alleges that Burton Douglas Morriss, the principal of these entities, misappropriated over $9 million of investor assets.

The SEC alleges that Morriss told investors that his private investment funds and management companies would invest their money in a portfolio of financial services and technology companies. However, investors were unaware that for the past several years, Morriss had been misappropriating their money to the tune of millions of dollars through a series of fraudulent transfers to himself and another entity he controlled. To conceal his fraud, Morriss later disguised these fraudulent transfers as personal loans.

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in St. Louis, Missouri, at various times between approximately 2003 and 2011, Morriss, his two private investment funds, MIC VII, LLC and Acartha Technology Partners, LP, and his management firms, Gryphon Investments III, LLC and Acartha Group, LLC, raised at least $88 million from at least 97 investors to invest in preferred shares or membership interests in the defendant entities. The defendants represented to investors that the investment funds would invest in early to mid-stage companies in the financial services and technology sectors.

The SEC alleges that unbeknownst to investors, for the past several years, Morriss has misappropriated investor funds through transfers from his companies to himself and another entity he controlled, Morriss Holdings, LLC, to pay for personal expenses, including, mortgage and alimony payments, payment of personal loans, pleasure trips, and household expenses. In an attempt to conceal his scheme, the fraudulent transfers that Morriss made to himself were recorded as “loans” on the defendant entities’ books. In fact, these transfers were never truly loans because Morriss did not intend to repay them at the time of his misappropriation. Moreover, the funds transferred to Morriss for his personal use were inconsistent with the disclosures contained in the offering materials provided to investors.

The SEC’s complaint also alleges that Morriss concocted a scheme to recruit new investors to purchase membership interests in one of his private investment funds without the unanimous consent of existing investors, as required. This diluted the investments of the fund’s existing investors.

On January 17, 2012, the Honorable Carol E. Jackson granted the SEC’s request for asset freezes, the appointment of a receiver over the entity defendants, and other emergency relief to prevent further dissipation of investor assets. The SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief and financial penalties against Morriss and the entity defendants, as well as disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains from them and the relief defendant Morriss Holdings, LLC. The SEC also seeks an officer-and-director bar against Morriss. In addition, the SEC’s action names Morriss Holdings, LLC as a relief defendant.
The SEC’s complaint charges:
  • Morriss with violations of Section 17(a)(1), (2), and (3) of the Securities Act of 1933 (“Securities Act”) and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (“Exchange Act”) and Rule 10b-5(a) and (c) thereunder, his aiding and abetting violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5(b) thereunder, and his violations or, in the alternative, aiding and abetting violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) and Rule 206(4)-8(a)(2);
  • Acartha Group and Gryphon III with violations of Section 17(a)(1), (2), and (3) of the Securities Act, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5(a),(b), and (c) thereunder, and Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8(a)(2), thereunder; and
  • MIC VII and ATP with violations of Section 17(a)(1), (2), and (3) of the Securities Act, and Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5(a), (b), and (c) thereunder."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

FDIC SAYS IT CAN SUE PROFESSIONALS WHO PLAYED ROLE IN THE FAILURE OF AN INSTITUTION

The following excerpt is from the FDIC website:

As receiver for a failed financial institution, the FDIC may sue professionals who played a role in the failure of the institution in order to maximize recoveries. These individuals can include officers and directors, attorneys, accountants, appraisers, brokers, or others. Professional liability claims also include direct claims against insurance carriers such as fidelity bond carriers and title insurance companies.

The FDIC follows the policies adopted by the FDIC Board in 1992, Statement Concerning the Responsibilities of Bank Directors and Officers, require Board approval before actions are brought against directors and officers.

Professional liability suits are only pursued if they are both meritorious and cost-effective. Before seeking recoveries from professionals, the FDIC conducts a thorough investigation into the causes of the failure. Most investigations are completed within 18 months from the time the institution is closed. Prior to filing the claim, staff will attempt to settle with the responsible parties. If a settlement cannot be reached, however, a complaint will be filed, typically in federal court.

As receiver, the FDIC has three years for tort claims and six years for breach-of-contract claims to file suit from the time a bank is closed. If state law permits a longer time, the state statute of limitations is followed.

Professionals may be sued for either gross or simple negligence. The The Supreme Court has ruled that the FDIC may pursue simple negligence claims against directors and officers if state law permits (Atherton v. FDIC)."

BANK AND TOP EXECUTIVE CHARGED BY SEC WITH MISLEADING INVESTORS

The following excerpt is from an SEC e-mail: 

"Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2012 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the holding company for one of Florida’s largest banks and its top executive with misleading investors about growing problems in one of its significant loan portfolios early in the financial crisis.

The SEC alleges that BankAtlantic Bancorp and its CEO and chairman Alan Levan made misleading statements in public filings and earnings calls in order to hide the deteriorating state of a large portion of the bank’s commercial residential real estate land acquisition and development portfolio in 2007. BankAtlantic and Levan then committed accounting fraud when they schemed to minimize BankAtlantic’s losses on their books by improperly recording loans they were trying to sell from this portfolio in late 2007.

“BankAtlantic and Levan used accounting gimmicks to conceal from investors the losses in a critical loan portfolio," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. "This is exactly the type of information that is important to investors, and corporate executives who fail to make that required disclosure will face severe consequences."

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, BankAtlantic and Levan knew that a large portion of the loan portfolio — which consisted primarily of loans on large tracts of lands intended for development into single family housing and condominiums — was deteriorating in early 2007 because many of the loans had required extensions due to borrowers’ inability to meet their loan obligations. Some loans were kept current only by extending the loan terms or replenishing the interest reserves from an increase in the loan principal. Levan knew this negative information in part from participating in the bank’s Major Loan Committee that approved the extensions and principal increases. BankAtlantic and Levan also were aware that many of the loans had been internally downgraded to non-passing status, indicating the bank was deeply concerned about those loans.

“BankAtlantic and Levan publicly minimized the risks in the bank’s commercial residential loan portfolio when in reality, they had significant concerns about the borrowers’ ability to pay,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Miami Regional Office Director. “Investors had a right to know this key information.”

The SEC alleges that despite this knowledge, BankAtlantic’s public filings in the first two quarters of 2007 made only generic warnings of what may occur in the future if Florida’s real estate downturn continued. BankAtlantic failed to disclose the downward trend already occurring in its own portfolio. The steady deterioration of this portfolio constituted a known trend that should have been disclosed in the Management’s Discussion and Analysis (MD&A) section of BankAtlantic’s filings, which were signed by Levan. During earnings calls in the same time period, Levan made further misleading statements to investors about the portfolio. BankAtlantic finally acknowledged the problems in the third quarter of 2007 by announcing a large unexpected loss. The investing public did not expect a loss of that magnitude, and BankAtlantic’s share price immediately dropped 37 percent.
According to the SEC’s complaint, BankAtlantic and Levan attempted to sell some of the deteriorating loans after this announcement. However, they failed to account for them properly as being “held for sale,” which is required by Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP). BankAtlantic concealed the attempted sales from auditors and investors alike, because proper accounting would have required BankAtlantic to write them down and incur immediate additional losses. Instead, BankAtlantic schemed to understate its net loss by more than 10 percent in its 2007 annual report.
The SEC’s complaint seeks financial penalties and permanent injunctive relief against BankAtlantic and Levan to enjoin them from future violations of the federal securities laws. The complaint also seeks an officer and director bar against Levan.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Senior Counsel Brian P. Knight and Senior Accountant Fernando Torres under the supervision of Assistant Regional Director Thierry Olivier Desmet in the Miami Regional Office. C. Ian Anderson and Adam L. Schwartz will lead the SEC’s litigation efforts."

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

BILLION DOLLAR HEDGE FUNDS CHARGED BY SEC WITH INSIDER TRADING

The following excerlt is from an SEC e-mail:

"Washington, D.C., Jan. 18, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two multi-billion dollar hedge fund advisory firms as well as seven fund managers and analysts involved in a $78 million insider trading scheme based on nonpublic information about Dell’s quarterly earnings and other similar inside information about Nvidia Corporation.

The charges stem from the SEC’s ongoing investigation into the trading activities of hedge funds. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against the same seven individuals.

The SEC alleges that a network of closely associated hedge fund traders at Stamford, Conn.-based Diamondback Capital Management LLC and Greenwich, Conn.-based Level Global Investors LP illegally obtained the material nonpublic information about Dell and Nvidia. Investment analyst Sandeep “Sandy” Goyal of Princeton, N.J., obtained Dell quarterly earnings information and other performance data from an insider at Dell in advance of earnings announcements in 2008. Goyal tipped Diamondback analyst Jesse Tortora of Pembroke Pines, Fla., with the inside information, and Tortora in turn tipped several others, leading to insider trades on behalf of Diamondback and Level Global hedge funds.

“These are not low-level employees succumbing to temptation by seizing a chance opportunity. These are sophisticated players who built a corrupt network to systematically and methodically obtain and exploit illegal inside information again and again at the expense of law-abiding investors and the integrity of the markets,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan, the illicit gains in the Dell insider trades exceeded $62.3 million, and the illicit gains in the Nvidia insider trades exceeded $15.7 million. For his role in the scheme, Goyal was paid $175,000 in soft dollar payments that were deposited in a brokerage account of an individual affiliated with him.

The SEC alleges that after obtaining the inside information from Goyal in advance of Dell’s first and second quarter earnings announcements in 2008, Tortora tipped his portfolio manager at Diamondback, Todd Newman of Needham, Mass. Newman traded on the information on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds he controlled. Tortora also tipped Spyridon “Sam” Adondakis, an analyst at Level Global. Adondakis tipped his manager Anthony Chiasson, who then traded on the inside information on behalf of Level Global hedge funds. During this time period, both Adondakis and Chiasson lived in New York City
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According to the SEC’s complaint, Tortora also tipped two others at firms other than Diamondback or Level Global with the Dell inside information: Jon Horvath of New York City andDanny Kuo of San Marino, Calif. Horvath caused insider trades at his firm that resulted in approximately $1.4 million of illicit gains. Kuo similarly caused the firm where he worked to execute profitable insider trades in Dell securities.

The SEC further alleges that Kuo also obtained inside information about Nvidia Corporation’s calculation of its revenues, gross profit margins, and other financial metrics in advance of the company’s first quarter 2010 earnings announcements, which was made in May 2009. Kuo again caused his firm to trade on inside information. Kuo’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $270,000 in ill-gotten gains. Kuo also tipped Tortora at Diamondback and Adondakis at Level Global with the nonpublic information about Nvidia. Tortora again tipped Newman, who made more insider trades on behalf of the Diamondback hedge funds. The illegal trades in Dell and Nvidia securities resulted in $3.9 million in illicit gains for Diamondback. At Level Global, Adondakis tipped Chiasson who made the insider trades on behalf of those hedge funds. Chiasson’s insider trades in Dell and Nvidia resulted in approximately $72.6 million of illicit gains for the Level Global hedge funds.
The SEC’s complaint charges each of the defendants with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and, additionally, charges Goyal, Tortora, Newman, Adondakis, Chiasson, Horvath and Kuo with aiding and abetting others’ violations of Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The SEC’s complaint seeks a final judgment ordering the defendants to disgorge their ill-gotten gains plus prejudgment interest, ordering them to pay financial penalties, and permanently enjoining them from future violations of these provisions of the federal securities laws.

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by Joseph Sansone, Daniel Marcus and Stephen Larson – members of the SEC’s Market Abuse Unit in New York – and Matthew Watkins, Neil Hendelman, Diego Brucculeri and James D’Avino of the New York Regional Office. The SEC thanks the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York and the Federal Bureau of Investigation for their assistance in the matter."
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