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

Friday, August 31, 2012

MANAGER OF HEDGE FUNDS CHARGED WITH MAKING MISREPRESENTATIONS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Charges Former Sky Bell Hedge Fund Manager With Making Misrepresentations In Selling And Recommending His Hedge Funds

On August 27, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a settled civil action in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California against Gary R. Marks. The Commission’s complaint alleged that Marks managed and recommended various fund of funds hedge funds through Sky Bell Asset Management, Inc. (an investment adviser formerly registered with the Commission), including the Agile Sky Alliance Fund that was co-managed with the Agile Group, PipeLine Investors, Night Watch Partners, and Sky Bell Offshore Partners (collectively "Sky Bell Hedge Funds"). The Commission’s complaint alleged that between at least 2005 and September 2007, Marks negligently misrepresented the level of correlation and diversification among certain Sky Bell Hedge Funds. Furthermore, the Complaint alleged that between at least 2005 and 2008, Marks also: a) made unsuitable investment recommendations to certain advisory clients to invest most of their investment portfolio in Sky Bell Hedge Funds, b) negligently failed to disclose that PipeLine Investors invested significantly in a purported subadviser’s fund, and c) negligently provided misleading information to certain investors about the liquidity problems at the Agile Sky Alliance Fund.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the Commission’s complaint, Marks consented to the entry of a proposed Final Judgment enjoining him from future violations of Sections 206(2) and 206(4) of the Advisers Act and Rule 206(4)-8 promulgated thereunder, and Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933. The proposed Final Judgment also orders Marks to pay disgorgement of $321,702, a penalty of $100,000, and prejudgment interest. The proposed settlement is subject to the approval of the district court.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

SEC Issues Financial Literacy Study Mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act

SEC Issues Financial Literacy Study Mandated by the Dodd-Frank Act

Increasing the Vulnerability of Investors

Increasing the Vulnerability of Investors

SEC COMMISSIONERS ATTACK CHAIRMAN'S STATEMENT ON MONEY MARKET REFORM

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Statement on the Regulation of Money Market Funds
by Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher; Commissioner Troy A. Paredes
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
Washington, D.C.
August 28, 2012
We were dismayed by the Chairman’s August 22, 2012, statement on the proposal she advanced to restructure money market funds. The current discourse about the Commission’s regulation of money market funds is rife with misunderstandings and misconceptions. This joint statement is intended as one step in setting the record straight. Our colleague, Commissioner Luis Aguilar, has already responded separately, and we respect the views presented in his response. We also commend Commissioner Aguilar for his efforts to engage in a constructive dialogue on money market fund reform.

The Chairman has recommended that the Commission approve a regulatory proposal that would have altered several fundamental features of money market funds. After careful consideration, we determined that the changes the Chairman advocated were not supported by the requisite data and analysis, were unlikely to be effective in achieving their primary purpose, and would impose significant costs on issuers and investors while potentially introducing new risks into the nation’s financial system.

As an initial matter, the Chairman’s statement creates the misimpression that three Commissioners — a majority of the Commission — are not concerned with, or are somehow dismissive of, the goal of strengthening money market funds. This is wholly inaccurate.

The truth is that we have carefully considered many alternatives, including the Chairman’s preferred alternatives of a "floating NAV" and a capital buffer coupled with a holdback restriction, and we are convinced that the Commission can do better. Our view of the complex issues involved has been informed by the input of a range of market participants, including the many retail and institutional investors who have implored the Commission not to deprive them of the choice to invest in money market funds, as well as the interests of states, municipalities, and businesses that rely on money market funds as a key source of financing. We have also considered various pronouncements by other regulators on the topic.

Our decision not to support the Chairman’s proposal, based on the data and analysis currently available to us, has also been informed by our concern that neither of the Chairman’s restructuring alternatives would in fact achieve the goal of stemming a run on money market funds, particularly during a period of widespread financial crisis such as the nation experienced in 2008. The Reserve Primary Fund did not "break the buck" in a vacuum, but rather in the midst of a financial crisis of historic proportions.

Since the Commission adopted Rule 2a-7, the principal rule that governs money market funds, the Commission on multiple occasions has reviewed the efficacy of the rule and has adopted amendments to make improvements. Most recently, in 2010, the Commission adopted changes to Rule 2a-7 that have improved the liquidity and transparency of money market funds and decreased the credit risk of their portfolios with the objective of making such funds more resilient.

We want to emphasize that, just as the Chairman’s proposal reflects the Chairman’s good faith view as to what is best, our inability to support her proposal reflects what we believe is best for investors, issuers, the financial system, and the nation’s economy at this time. In our judgment, the Chairman’s proposal is flawed because it is premised on an incomplete perspective on the 2008 financial crisis — the effects of which both of us confronted directly at the SEC at the time and continue to grapple with today — and on the drivers of a financial run occurring in the midst of a crisis. Although there is a great deal to say about this, we will touch on just two points in this statement.

First, the Commission’s 2010 money market fund reforms have not been shown to be ineffective in enabling money market funds to satisfy large redemptions and to remain resilient in the face of a sharp increase in withdrawals. In fact, the empirical evidence we have so far, such as the performance of money market funds during the ongoing Eurozone crisis and the U.S. debt ceiling impasse and downgrade in 2011, suggests just the opposite — that money market funds can meet substantial redemption requests, in large part, we have heard, because of the 2010 reforms. Second, the necessary analysis has not been conducted to demonstrate that a floating NAV or capital buffer coupled with a holdback restriction would be effective in a crisis. Indeed, both alternatives disregard the predominant incentive of investors in a crisis to flee risk and move to safety. Reason indicates that such behavior — the "flight to quality" — is likely to overwhelm the buffer proposed by the Chairman and swamp the effect of a holdback. As for the floating NAV proposal, even if there is no stable $1.00 NAV — i.e., even if, by definition, there is no "buck" to break — investors will still have an incentive to flee from risk during a crisis period such as 2008, because investors who redeem sooner rather than later during a period of financial distress will get out at a higher valuation. Thus, if neither the floating NAV proposal nor the capital-buffer-with-holdback proposal will solve the money market fund run problem, then neither proposal will foreclose the possibility that policymakers might once again face the prospect of supporting the commercial paper market in response to a widespread financial crisis.

Furthermore, we are concerned that the Chairman’s proposal would, at a minimum, severely compromise the utility and functioning of money market funds, which would inflict harm on retail and institutional investors who have come to rely on money market funds for investing and as a means of cash management and on states, municipalities, and businesses that borrow from money market funds. Such adverse outcomes would undercut the SEC’s mission.

There is no consensus of support among stakeholders for what the Chairman has offered. Instead, there is a serious debate over the appropriateness of those measures and the extent to which they would even achieve their primary objective. We agree with Commissioner Aguilar that even just proposing rule amendments that advance the Chairman’s alternatives at this time could have harmful consequences.

Although we cannot support the Chairman’s specific proposals, we are not opposed to further improvements to the Commission’s oversight and regulation of money market funds. But further action must be advanced on the basis of data and rigorous analysis showing that any such changes to our existing rules would be workable, would be effective in achieving their purpose, and would not unwisely disrupt the functioning of money market funds and short-term credit markets. Ultimately, there must be a reasonable basis to conclude that the benefits of any new initiatives justify their costs, a straightforward premise that the Chairman herself espoused when committing the SEC to a thoughtful standard of economic analysis earlier this year.

We believe we share a common goal with other members of the Commission and other financial regulators. We have urged that the Chairman take a different way forward for strengthening the resiliency of money market funds. This approach would (i) empower money market fund boards to impose "gates" on redemptions; (ii) mandate enhanced disclosure about the risks of investing in money market funds; and (iii) conduct a searching inquiry into, and a critical analysis of, the issues raised by the questions we pose below.

In particular, it would be useful to receive comment on a proposal that would permit money market fund boards, as they deem appropriate and consistent with their fiduciary obligations to investors and without having to seek an exemptive order from the Commission, to "gate" redemptions to stave off a run and to allow the fund manager time to mitigate the concerns of investors who otherwise may be inclined to redeem. The Commission’s 2010 amendments allowed boards to unilaterally suspend redemptions if the fund is put into liquidation. At that time, the Commission received input recommending that the Commission allow boards to impose a gate when they deemed appropriate, consistent with the boards’ fiduciary duties to the fund’s shareholders.

Discretionary gating directly responds, we believe, to run risk, both as to an individual fund and across multiple funds, as well as to the potential disparate treatment between retail and institutional investors. This should have the effect of addressing the conditions that gave rise to certain forms of governmental support in 2008, when money market funds had to sell portfolio assets to meet redemptions and scaled back their participation in short-term credit markets. These significant benefits of discretionary gating could be achieved by a straightforward amendment to the Commission’s rules to expand a money market fund board’s authority to impose gates, a change that would build on the 2010 reforms.

Such a proposal would, of course, require enhanced disclosures to investors that would clearly explain the liquidity and principal reduction risks that could accompany a fund board’s discretionary gating authority. Beyond that, we would recommend other disclosure enhancements that may be warranted to clear up any misunderstandings investors may have as to the riskiness of their money market fund holdings.

Regrettably, the Chairman dismissed this approach. Instead, the draft release presented to the Commission relegates gating to a limited discussion of options that are implied to be inferior to the Chairman’s preferred alternatives. Gating is never considered as a standalone proposal, but instead is coupled with a capital buffer.

Before the Commission intervenes in a way that threatens to jeopardize a $2.5 trillion sector of the economy — one that has efficiently facilitated capital formation for governmental and corporate issuers, as well as proven to be an attractive investment for investors and means of cash management — it is only reasonable to ask that the Commission have the best possible understanding of what is likely to happen. We have consistently stressed that we should obtain the required data and undertake a rigorous analysis to determine whether any remaining risks associated with money market funds warrant fundamental structural changes like the ones the Chairman has urged. At present, we lack satisfactory answers to many crucial questions, including, but not limited to, the following:
During the peak of the financial crisis, in September 2008, investors redeemed assets from prime money market funds and, to a great extent, reinvested those assets into Treasury money market funds with the same structural features as prime money market funds. Do the sizeable inflows into Treasury money market funds during this period belie the claim that investors fled prime money market funds because of any structural flaws of money market funds? Did investors instead behave this way for another reason, such as a general aversion to risk or a "flight to quality" during the crisis? Did investors redeem from prime money market funds primarily in response to a single event, specifically the "breaking of the buck" by the Reserve Primary Fund? Or did other events, such as the failure and, in some cases government-sponsored rescue, of prominent financial institutions Lehman Brothers and AIG, as well as Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and Bear Stearns, contribute to the conditions that resulted in the run? If a money market fund were to break the buck outside a period of financial distress, would it cause a systemic problem, or only a problem limited to that particular fund?
What have been the effects of the money market fund regulatory reforms that the SEC promulgated in 2010? To what extent have those reforms improved the liquidity of money market funds? Reduced the credit risk of money market funds? Reduced the interest rate risk of money market funds? Has the increased transparency into the portfolio holdings of money market funds made funds less susceptible to runs? Has the establishment of an orderly wind-down procedure mitigated the risk of a run? If so, to what degree? What do the available data tell us about how money market funds performed following the implementation of the 2010 reforms, considering, for example, the performance of funds during the European sovereign debt crisis and the 2011 U.S. debt ceiling impasse and ratings downgrade? How would money market funds have performed during the events of September 2008 had the 2010 reforms been in place at the time?
If money market funds were to be fundamentally restructured and investors were then to shun such funds, to where would those assets migrate? What would be the implications of such a reallocation of capital for investors, financial institutions, systemic risk, and the overall economy?
If substantial assets were to flow out of money market funds, what impact would that have on the commercial paper market and the market for municipal debt? What would be the impact on corporate borrowers, municipalities, and states that sell their debt to money market funds?

A searching inquiry to answer these questions must be undertaken. Had the staff been directed to perform this crucial work when the Chairman first announced her views in November 2011, we might now have the information required to determine what further action is necessary.

Regulatory intervention into a $2.5 trillion industry — an industry that is integral to meeting the funding needs of major American institutions, both public and private — must not be done on the basis of incomplete data and analysis, including a less than up-to-date understanding of the efficacy of the Commission’s 2010 money market fund reforms. To date, no convincing evidence has been produced demonstrating that the fundamental restructuring of money market funds that the Chairman urges would be the appropriate means for addressing any remaining risks. To the contrary, what we have been shown tells us that the Chairman’s proposal risks effectively ending prime money market funds as we know them, a result that cannot be justified given the significant doubt that the Chairman’s alternatives would be effective in halting a run during another financial crisis and our present view that targeted reforms, such as the approach we outline above, would strike a better balance between costs and benefits.

The Chairman’s approach would deprive investors of two fundamental benefits of money market funds: stability and liquidity. Regarding the capital buffer, which would be mandated along with the holdback, we understand, based on the discussions we have had and our consideration of the Chairman’s proposal, that it could result in prime money market funds yielding to fund investors a return similar to that provided by Treasury money market funds. If this were to occur, one has to wonder why investors would invest in prime money market funds as opposed to investing in Treasury money market funds. In other words, the capital buffer, even by itself, would seem to risk substantially crowding out the prime money market fund sector at the expense of both corporate borrowers and investors.

We wish to stress that money market funds are squarely within the expertise and regulatory jurisdiction of the SEC. We do not intend to abdicate our responsibility to regulate money market funds, which would be unjustified and at the expense of our mission to oversee the securities markets. Accordingly, in the spirit of moving the agenda forward so that there can be constructive dialogue and engagement in this area, we ask that the Commission’s staff of economists conduct detailed research and analysis on money market funds, including the staff’s best efforts to answer the questions we have listed above, as well as others that are germane.

We look forward to reviewing the results of the work of the Commission staff in response to our request and to a constructive dialogue with the staff, our fellow Commissioners, and other regulators and stakeholders on what additional measures might warrant further consideration.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Ameriwest Energy Corp., Clyvia, Inc., and Crown Oil & Gas, Inc.

Ameriwest Energy Corp., Clyvia, Inc., and Crown Oil & Gas, Inc.

CONVICTED PONZI SCHEMER ORDERED TO PAY OVER $18,000,000

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSIONThe Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that the United States District Court for the District of Utah entered a final judgment against Jeffrey L. Mowen, ordering Mowen to disgorge $8,041,779 in ill-gotten gains and $1,964,203.67 in prejudgment interest. The Court also ordered Mowen to pay a civil penalty of $8,041,779, for a total of $18,047,761.67. The Court further enjoined Mowen from future violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933.

The SEC Complaint alleged that Mowen operated a Ponzi scheme that was fed through investor funds raised by another defendant, Thomas Fry. Fry, in turn, raised funds through other defendants, Fry’s promoters, via the unregistered offer and sale of high-yield promissory notes. According to the Complaint, the scheme raised over $40 million from over 150 investors in several states, over $18 million of which was funneled to Mowen. Mowen never invested the funds, instead misappropriating over $8 million to support a lavish lifestyle.

On May 4, 2011, Mowen pled guilty to committing wire fraud in a related criminal action and is currently serving a ten year prison sentence. United States of America v. Mowen, Case No. 2:09-cr-00098-DB (D. Utah).

A final judgment ordering disgorgement and penalties against Fry and several of his promoters was entered on June 15, 2012.

Monday, August 27, 2012

ALLEGED INSIDER TRADING USING NONPUBLIC INFORMATION


FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION,
SEC Charges Eric Martin, former Vice President of Investor Relations of Carter’s Inc. with Insider Trading
On August 23, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action against Eric Martin, a 42 year old resident of Roswell, Georgia. The Commission alleges that Martin, who served from 2003 through March 2009 as the Director and, later, Vice President of Investor Relations for Carter’s Inc., repeatedly traded Carter’s shares during blackout periods while in possession of material, nonpublic information regarding the company’s financial results. According to the complaint, Martin obtained Carter’s preliminary financial results while preparing Carter’s senior management for Carter’s quarterly earnings calls, and then bought or sold Carter’s stock depending on whether the preliminary information here received was positive or negative. As the result of his illegal trading, Martin realized profits and avoided losses in excess of $170,000.

The Commission’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, charges Martin with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws during at least 8 quarters between January 2007 and April 2009 in advance of the company’s quarterly earnings releases. The Commission seeks a permanent injunction, disgorgement with prejudgment interest and civil monetary penalties Act against Defendant Martin and seeks disgorgement with prejudgment interest from his wife, Relief Defendant Robin Martin, for trading Martin did through her accounts.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

CFTC CHARGES INDIVIDUAL AND COMPANY WITH RUNNING FRAUDULENT ALLOCATION SCHEME

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

CFTC Charges Illinois Resident Donald A. Newell and his Company, Quiddity, LLC, with Running a Fraudulent Allocation Scheme, Making Material False Statements to the CFTC, and Recordkeeping Violations

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today filed a federal civil enforcement action charging defendants Donald A. Newell of Glenview, Ill., and his Chicago-based company, Quiddity, LLC, with engaging in a scheme that fraudulently allocated commodity futures and options trades to benefit a corporate proprietary account, at the expense of customer accounts managed and traded by Quiddity. Newell owns and controls Quiddity and is a registered Associated Person of Quiddity, which is a registered Commodity Pool Operator and Commodity Trading Advisor.

The CFTC complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, alleges that since at least October 15, 2008, and continuing through at least March 19, 2009, Newell’s fraudulent scheme to allocate profitable trades to his corporate proprietary account resulted in a net profit of over $1.1 million for the proprietary account to the detriment of Quiddity’s customers. The complaint also alleges that Newell and Quiddity failed to keep required records and that Newell made material false statements to the CFTC during investigative testimony in September and October of 2011.

Specifically, the complaint alleges that Quiddity, through Newell, entered orders for trades with Futures Commission Merchants without providing the specific account numbers to which the executed trades were to be allocated. Defendants allegedly waited to see whether the trades were profitable or if the market had moved favorably to an open position before allocating the trades. During the period, 85 percent of the trades that defendants allegedly allocated to their proprietary account post-execution were profitable. Newell falsely testified to the CFTC that he provided account numbers when placing orders, according to the complaint.

The defendants also allegedly failed to retain records sufficient to demonstrate that allocations of trades were fair and equitable, and to permit the reconstruction of the handling of the order from the time of placement by the account manager to the allocation to individual accounts, as required by CFTC regulations.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks restitution to defrauded customers, a return of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and permanent injunctions against further violations of federal commodities laws.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the National Futures Association.

CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Boaz Green, Brandon Tasco, Melanie Bates, Beth Meyer, Susan B. Padove, Michael Solinsky, Gretchen L. Lowe, and Vincent A. McGonagle.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

NEW SEC RULES ON RESOURCE EXTRACTION PAYMENT DISCLOSURE

FROM:  U.S. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR
FACT SHEET
Disclosing Payments by Issuers Engaged in Resource Extraction
Background
In 2010, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act, which directs the Commission to issue rules requiring the disclosure of certain payments made to the federal government or foreign governments by resource extraction issuers – companies engaged in the development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.

In particular, Section 1504 of the Act amends the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 by adding a new section, Section 13(q).

The Rules

Who Must Disclose:

The new rules require a resource extraction issuer to disclose payments made to governments if:

  • The issuer is required to file an annual report with the SEC.
  • The issuer engages in the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.

The new disclosure requirements apply to domestic and foreign issuers and to smaller reporting companies that meet the definition of resource extraction issuer.

In addition, the issuer is required to disclose payments made by a subsidiary or another entity controlled by the issuer. A resource extraction issuer needs to make a factual determination as to whether it has control of an entity based on a consideration of all relevant facts and circumstances.

What Must Be Disclosed:


Under the new rules, a resource extraction issuer is required to disclose certain payments made to a foreign government (including subnational governments) or the U.S. government.

Resource extraction issuers need to disclose payments that are:

  • Made to further the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals.
  • “not de minimis”
  • Within the types of payments specified in the rules.

The rules define commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals to include exploration, extraction, processing, and export, or the acquisition of a license for any such activity. The rules define “not de minimis” to mean any payment (whether a single payment or a series of related payments) that equals or exceeds $100,000 during the most recent fiscal year.

The types of payments related to commercial development activities that need to be disclosed include:

  • Taxes
  • Royalties
  • Fees (including license fees)
  • Production Entitlements
  • Bonuses
  • Dividends
  • Infrastructure Improvements

The new requirements clarify the types of taxes, fees, bonuses, and dividends that are required to be disclosed. These types of payments generally are consistent with the types of payments that the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative suggests should be disclosed. Congress specifically referenced the EITI in defining “payment” in the law.

The rules require a resource extraction issuer to provide the following information about payments made to further the commercial development of oil, natural gas, or minerals:

  • Type and total amount of payments made for each project.
  • Type and total amount of payments made to each government.
  • Total amounts of the payments, by category.
  • Currency used to make the payments.
  • Financial period in which the payments were made.
  • Business segment of the resource extraction issuer that made the payments.
  • The government that received the payments, and the country in which the government is located.
  • The project of the resource extraction issuer to which the payments relate.

The new rules leave the term “project” undefined to provide resource extraction issuers flexibility in applying the term to different business contexts. However, the rule release provides some guidance on the Commission’s view of what a project would be.

How It Must Be Disclosed:


The new rules require a resource extraction issuer to disclose the information annually by filing a new form with the SEC (Form SD). The information must be included in an exhibit and electronically tagged using the eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) format.

When It Must Be Disclosed:


A resource extraction issuer would be required to file the form on the SEC public database EDGAR no later than 150 days after the end of its fiscal year.

A resource extraction issuer would be required to comply with the new rules for fiscal years ending after Sept. 30, 2013. For the first report, most resource extraction issuers may provide a partial report disclosing only those payments made after Sept. 30, 2013.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Statement of SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro on Money Market Fund Reform

Statement of SEC Chairman Mary L. Schapiro on Money Market Fund Reform

ALLEGED ILLEGAL SALE OF STOCK SHARES IN THE PUBLIC MARKET

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

 

Washington, D.C., Aug. 22, 2012
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a New York-based firm and its owner with conducting a penny stock scheme in which they bought billions of stock shares from small companies and illegally resold those shares in the public market.

 

The SEC alleges that Edward Bronson and E-Lionheart Associates LLC reaped more than $10 million in unlawful profits from selling shares they bought at deep discounts from approximately 100 penny stock companies. On average, Bronson and E-Lionheart were able to generate sales proceeds that were approximately double the price at which they had acquired the shares. No registration statement was filed or in effect for any of the securities that Bronson and E-Lionheart resold to the investing public, and no valid exemption from the registration requirements of the federal securities laws was available.

 

"By violating the registration provisions of the securities laws and dumping billions of unregistered shares into the over-the-counter market, Bronson deprived investors of important information about the companies in which they were investing," said Andrew M. Calamari, Acting Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.

 

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Bronson lives in Ossining, N.Y. E-Lionheart, which also does business under the name Fairhills Capital, is located in White Plains. Acting at Bronson’s direction, E-Lionheart personnel systematically "cold called" penny stock companies quoted on the OTC Link to ask if they were interested in obtaining capital. If the company was interested, E-Lionheart personnel would offer to buy stock in the company at a rate that was deeply discounted from the trading price of the company’s stock at that time. Typically, Bronson and E-Lionheart immediately began reselling the shares to the investing public through a broker within days of receiving the shares from the company.

 

Bronson and E-Lionheart purported to rely on an exemption from registration under Rule 504(b)(1)(iii) of Regulation D, which exempts transactions that are in compliance with certain types of state law exemptions. However, no such state law exemptions were applicable to these transactions. Bronson and E-Lionheart claimed to rely on a Delaware state law registration exemption, but the transactions in fact had little or no connection to the state of Delaware. The particular Delaware state law exemption claimed by Bronson and E-Lionheart is not an exemption that meets the specific requirements of Rule 504(b)(1)(iii). As a result, investors purchasing these shares did not have access to all of the information that a registration statement would have provided, including in many instances important information concerning the issuance of millions of new shares by the company to Bronson and E-Lionheart.

 

The SEC’s complaint charges E-Lionheart and Bronson with violations of the registration provisions of the federal securities laws, and seeks disgorgement of more than $10 million in ill-gotten gains, penalties. The SEC also seeks penny stock bars against E-Lionheart and Bronson. The complaint also names another entity owned and controlled by Bronson – Fairhills Capital Inc. – as a relief defendant for the purpose of recovering the illegal proceeds it received.

 

The SEC’s investigation was conducted in the SEC’s New York Regional Office by Senior Attorney William Edwards and Assistant Regional Director Wendy B. Tepperman. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Senior Trial Counsel Kevin McGrath.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

SEC SUES PENNY STOCK DISTRIBUTOR

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Sues New York Penny Stock Distributor
The Commission announced today that on Aug. 14, 2012, it sued Jossef Kahlon, a/k/a/ Yossef Kahlon and TJ Management Group, LLC, of New York, New York, for selling the stock of several penny stock issuers into the public market in violation of the registration provisions of the federal securities laws.

According to the complaint, Kahlon and TJ Management Group, LLC abused and misused a federal securities law to buy hundreds of millions of shares of stock at steep discounts and to quickly resell all of the shares to the public at market rates, generating at least $7.7 million in profit. The SEC alleges that this conduct deprived investors of important business information to which they were legally entitled for at least the following issuers: My Vintage Baby, Inc., Lecere, Corporation, Landstar, Inc., Hard to Treat Disease, Inc., Good Life China Corporation, VIPR Industries, Inc., ChromoCure, Inc., Atlantis Internet Group Corp, Biocentric Energy Holdings, Inc., Skybridge Technology Group, Inc., and RMD Entertainment Group, Inc.

The SEC alleges that, by these activities, Kahlon and TJ Management Group, LLC violated Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933. The Commission is seeking permanent injunctions, civil penalties, penny stock bars and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains.

Monday, August 20, 2012

NEW CHARGES IN INSIDER TRADING CASE

FROM: SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced a second round of charges in an insider trading case involving former professional baseball players and the former top executive at a California-based medical eye products company that was the subject of the illegal trading.
 
The SEC brought initial charges in the case last year, accusing former professional baseball player Doug DeCinces and three others of insider trading on confidential information ahead of an acquisition of Advanced Medical Optics Inc. DeCinces and his three tippees made more than $1.7 million in illegal profits, and they agreed to pay more than $3.3 million to settle the SEC’s charges.
 
Now the SEC is charging the source of those illegal tips about the impending transaction – DeCinces’s close friend and neighbor James V. Mazzo, who was the Chairman and CEO of Advanced Medical Optics. The SEC also is charging two others who traded on inside information that DeCinces tipped to them – DeCinces’ former Baltimore Orioles teammate Eddie Murray and another friend David L. Parker, who is a businessman living in Utah.
 
The SEC alleges that Murray made approximately $235,314 in illegal profits after Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories Inc. publicly announced its plan to purchase Advanced Medical Optics through a tender offer. Murray agreed to settle the SEC’s charges by paying $358,151. The SEC’s case continues against Parker and Mazzo, the latter of whom was directly involved in the tender offer and tipped the confidential information to DeCinces along the way.
 
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, the total unlawful profits resulting from Mazzo’s illegal tipping was more than $2.4 million. Once Mazzo began tipping DeCinces with confidential information about the upcoming transaction, DeCinces soon began to purchase Advanced Medical Optics stock in several brokerage accounts. DeCinces bought more and more shares as the deal progressed and as he continued communicating with Mazzo. DeCinces tipped at least five others who traded on the inside information, including Murray, Parker, and the three traders who settled their charges along with DeCinces last year – physical therapist Joseph J. Donohue, real estate lawyer Fred Scott Jackson, and businessman Roger A. Wittenbach.
 
According to the SEC’s complaint, Mazzo and DeCinces had been close friends for quite some time and lived in the same exclusive gated community in Laguna Beach, Calif. They socialized together with their wives, belonging to the same Orange County country club and vacationing together overseas. They also communicated frequently by e-mail and through phone calls. Mazzo invested in the restaurant business of DeCinces’ son, and DeCinces’ daughter provided interior decorating services for Mazzo and his wife. Mazzo was directly involved in the impending Advanced Medical Optics/Abbott transaction from its inception in October 2008. With knowledge of confidential information about the deal and his duty not to disclose it, Mazzo illegally tipped DeCinces, who made significant purchases of Advanced Medical Optics shares on Nov. 5, 2008, and continuing up until and near the time of the public announcement of the acquisition.
 
The SEC alleges that Parker and DeCinces had been friends and business associates at the time of the illegal trading. Between Jan. 6 and Jan. 8, 2009, Parker bought 25,000 shares of Advanced Medical Optics stock on the basis of confidential information received from DeCinces about the impending transaction. Parker made approximately $347,920 when he sold the stock on the same day as the public announcement. Meanwhile on January 7, Murray used all of the available cash in his self-directed brokerage account to purchase 17,000 shares of Advanced Medical Optics stock on the basis of the confidential information that DeCinces communicated to him. Murray sold all of his shares following the public announcement.
 
Murray agreed to settle the charges against him without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations by consenting to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining him from violating Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3 thereunder. Murray agreed to pay disgorgement of $235,314, prejudgment interest of $5,180, and a penalty of $117,657 for a total of $358,151. The settlement is subject to final approval by the court.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

SEC CHARGES HOME AND CONSTRUCTION LOAN COMPANIES AND THEIR PRINCIPAL WITH OFFERING FRAUD

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
On August 13, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil injunctive action against Ivan Wade Brown (Brown) and two companies he wholly owns and solely controls: Highland Residential, LLC (Highland) and Avanti Capital Partners, LLC (Avanti).
 
In its Complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Utah, the Commission alleges that Brown raised over $27 million from at least 93 investors through the fraudulent and unregistered sale of promissory notes in Highland and Avanti. Brown started selling unregistered promissory notes for Highland in 2004, and he formed Avanti in 2007 after the Utah Division of Securities investigated his and Highland’s conduct.
 
Brown represented to investors that Highland and Avanti would use investor funds to make secured bridge loans to individuals buying or building a residence under circumstances that he represented to investors would involve little-to-no risk. Instead of using investor funds as represented, Brown used a significant portion of investor funds for his personal use, to make Ponzi payments, to invest in properties other than the ones he had identified, and to invest in other suspected frauds, including a mineral refiner, a movie production, and a dubious contract scheme where he attempted to insure real estate above market value. By engaging in this conduct, Brown, Highland, and Avanti violated Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Rule 10b-5(b) thereunder.

Friday, August 17, 2012

CFTC DISSENTING COMMISSIONERS MAKE STATEMENT


FROM:  COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
Joint Statement of Dissent by Commissioners Jill Sommers and Scott O’Malia
Clearing Exemption for Swaps Between Certain Affiliated Entities

 
We respectfully dissent from the notice of proposed rulemaking to exempt swaps between certain affiliated entities from the clearing requirement. While we wholly support a clearing exemption for swaps between affiliated entities within a corporate group, we cannot support the proposal before the Commission today because in certain instances it imposes an unnecessary requirement for variation margin on corporate entities that engage in inter-affiliate trades.

Inter-affiliate swaps enable a corporate group to aggregate risk on a global basis in one entity through risk transfers between affiliates. Once aggregated, commercial risk of various affiliates is netted, thereby reducing overall commercial and financial risk. This practice allows for more comprehensive risk management within a single corporate structure.

Another benefit to this practice is that it allows one affiliate to face the market and hedge the risk of various operating affiliates within the group. Notably, inter-affiliate swaps between majority owned affiliates do not create external counterparty exposure and therefore do not pose the systemic risks that the clearing requirement is designed to protect against. The practice actually reduces risk and simply allows for more efficient business management of the entire group.

We believe it is entirely appropriate that the Commission exempt inter-affiliate swaps from the clearing mandate. Unfortunately, this proposal inserts a requirement that most financial entities engaging in inter-affiliate swaps post variation margin to one another. It is not clear that this requirement will do anything other than create administrative burdens and operational risk while unnecessarily tying up capital that could otherwise be used for investment.

The variation margin requirement is also largely inconsistent with the requirements included in the European Market Infrastructure Regulation. As we have both made clear during the implementation process, we believe coordination with our global counterparts is critical to the success of this new framework.

Finally, the legislative history on this issue is clear. During the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act many Members’ statements directly addressed the concerns regarding inter-affiliate swaps. Additionally, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by an overwhelming bi-partisan majority, an inter-affiliate swap exemption that does not include a variation margin requirement.

We believe this proposal may have the unintended consequence of imposing substantial costs on the economy and consumers. With this in mind, we welcome comments from the public as to the costs and benefits of the variation margin requirement and hope that we incorporate those views in adopting the final rule.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

COURT ENTERS FINAL JUDGMENT AGAINST ALERO ODELL MACK, JR.


FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that on August 7, 2012, the United States District Court for the Central District of California granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment and entered a Final Judgment against defendant Alero Odell Mack, Jr. ("Mack") in a pending civil action. The Final Judgment enjoins Mack from violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, and Sections 206(1), (2), and (4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. In addition, the Court ordered Mack to pay disgorgement of $1,079,879, prejudgment interest of $58,905.32, and a civil penalty of $150,000.

According to the complaint, from 2007 through as late as March 2010, Mack, Steven Enrico Lopez, Sr., and various entities under Mack’s control, obtained approximately $4 million in investor funds through various fraudulent investment schemes that primarily involved the offer and sale of investments in various purported hedge funds, as well as in an investment adviser to a hedge fund. The Commission previously obtained judgments against defendants Steven Enrico Lopez, Sr., Easy Equity Asset Management, Inc., Easy Equity Management, L.P., Easy Equity Partners, L.P, Alero Equities The Real Estate Company, L.L.C., and Alero I.X. Corporation.

SEC CHARGES INDIVIDUALS WITH SELLING AT LEAST 15 SHELL COMPANIES


FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
SEC Charges Six Individuals in $6 Million "Shell-Factory" Scheme

 
On August 13, 2012, the SEC filed suit in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas against Thomas D. Coldicutt, Jr., Elizabeth L. Coldicutt, Robert C. Weaver, Jr., Christopher C. Greenwood, Linda S. Farrell, and Susana Gomez. According to the complaint, between 2006 and 2011, Defendants engaged in an elaborate scheme to create and sell at least 15 public shell companies, from which they derived nearly $6 million in ill-gotten gains. The SEC alleges that the husband and wife team of Thomas and Elizabeth Coldicutt installed nominee officers and directors in corporations that they secretly funded and controlled, and that they directed and helped the corporate nominees, including Farrell, Weaver, Greenwood, and Gomez, submit materially false and misleading registration statements and reports to the SEC. These false documents gave the companies the appearance of legitimacy and permitted their securities to be quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board.

In the present case, the SEC alleges that the shell companies filed registration statements and reports with the SEC that misrepresented that the companies were formed to pursue mining activities, when in fact they neither conducted nor were intended to conduct any real mining activities. The SEC further contends that these companies' SEC filings failed to disclose that the Coldicutts controlled and funded the companies. In addition, the SEC alleges that the Coldicutts obtained nominees to purchase stock in the companies, and then provided these nominees with all or most of the funds to purchase the stock. Farrell, Weaver, Greenwood, and Gomez each substantially assisted the scheme by, among other things, acting as corporate nominees, recruiting other nominees to hold stock in the shells, and signing materially false and misleading SEC filings. In addition, Weaver, Greenwood, and Farrell each formed, registered, marketed, and ultimately sold at least one shell, together with the Coldicutts.

The complaint alleges that the Coldicutts, Farrell, Weaver, Greenwood, and Gomez violated, or aided and abetted violations of, the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws including Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The complaint further alleges that the Coldicutts are liable as control persons under Section 20(a) of the Exchange Act for the other Defendants' violations of Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5. The complaint further charges the Coldicutts, Farrell, Weaver, and Gomez with aiding and abetting violations of Exchange Act 15(d) and Rules 12b-20, 15d-1, and 15d-13 thereunder, and charges Greenwood with aiding and abetting violations of Section 15(d) and Rules 12b-20 and 15d-13 thereunder. Finally, the complaint alleges that Farrell, Weaver, Greenwood, and Gomez each aided and abetted violations of Exchange Act Rule 15d-14. The SEC seeks permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest, the assessment of civil penalties, permanent officer and director bars, and permanent penny stock bars as to each of the Defendants.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

CFTC SETTLES ACTIONS AGAINST DOUGLAS ELSWORTH WILSON AND THREE COMPANIES

FROM: U.S.COMMOITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
CFTC Settles Action against Douglas Elsworth Wilson and Three California Companies for Solicitation Fraud, Misappropriating Customer Funds, and Issuing False Statements in Commodity Futures and Forex Scheme Federal court orders defendants to pay over $5.4 million in restitution and civil monetary penalties

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that on August 9, 2012, a federal court in California entered a consent order that requires defendants Douglas Elsworth Wilson of Poway, Calif., and three companies he controls and manages, Elsworth Berg Capital Management LLC (EBCM), Elsworth Berg Inc., and Elsworth Berg FX LLC (collectively, Elsworth Berg) jointly and severally to pay $3,965,670.71 in restitution to customers as well as a $1.5 million civil monetary penalty. The order also imposes permanent trading and registration bans and permanent injunctions against further violations of federal commodities law, as alleged.

The order follows a CFTC civil complaint filed on July 27, 2011, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California . The order finds that the defendants solicited over $4.4 million from over 60 customers to trade commodity futures contracts and foreign currency (forex). According to the order, the defendants misappropriated customer funds, committed solicitation fraud, and issued false statements in the commodity futures and forex scheme.

Specifically, the order finds that defendants misrepresented to customers and prospective customers that regardless of Elsworth Berg’s commodity futures or forex trading results, the return of customers’ investment principal was guaranteed at the end of a five-year period through use of a purportedly innovative "Collateral Reserve" structure, which owned life insurance policies on third parties.

The order further finds that Wilson and EBCM issued false statements to some customers that overstated the value of their investments. Wilson and EBCM misappropriated approximately $72,000 in customer funds and used the money for purposes other than trading, according to the order.

The CFTC appreciates the assistance of the California Department of Corporations and the United Kingdom Financial Services Authority (FSA).

The CFTC Division of Enforcement staff members responsible for this case are Theodore Z. Polley III, Melissa Glasbrenner, William P. Janulis, Scott Williamson, Rosemary Hollinger, and Richard B. Wagner.

Monday, August 13, 2012

SEC CHARGES INDIVIDUALS AND ENTITIES IN BOILER ROOM SCHEME

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

SEC Charges Participants in $5 Million Boiler Room Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it has charged Edward M. Laborio and others for their roles in a boiler room scheme that used high-pressure sales tactics to raise up to $5.7 million from approximately 150 investors through the fraudulent sale of five unregistered securities offerings involving a group of related entities. The scheme ran from approximately December 2006 to August 2009. Laborio, formerly of Boston, Massachusetts, is now a resident of Boca Raton, Florida. The SEC also charged Jonathan Fraiman of Lantana, Florida; Matthew K. Lazar of Westerville, Ohio; and seven entities controlled by Laborio: Envit Capital Group, Inc. (“Envit Group”); Envit Capital, LLC (“Envit LLC”); Envit Capital Holdings, Inc. (“Envit Holdings”); Envit Capital Private Wealth Management, LLC (“Envit Wealth”); Envit Capital Multi Strategy Mixed Investment Fund I LP (“Envit Fund”); Aetius Group PLC (“Aetius PLC”); and Aetius Group LLC (“Aetius LLC”) (collectively, the “Envit Companies”).

According to the Commission’s complaint, filed in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Laborio and Fraiman made multiple misrepresentations and misleading statements to investors about the Envit Companies’ businesses, revenues, financial projections, uses of investor funds, and historical returns generated by Envit Fund, a purported hedge fund that in reality never conducted any operations. According to the complaint, Laborio also created scripts with sales pitches containing fabricated information. For example, one of Laborio’s scripts allegedly included unfounded claims that investors would receive quarterly dividends and “2-3x return on money.” Laborio also allegedly used investor proceeds to cover gambling losses, to make direct payments to himself, and to cover personal expenses. Fraiman allegedly represented to an investor that Envit Fund, the purported hedge fund, returned 42.9% in 2006 and 43.7% in 2007, even though the hedge fund was not launched until mid-2007 and never conducted any operations. The complaint further alleges that Lazar raised $585,000 from approximately 10 investors through the sale of a PIPE (private investment in public equity) in Envit Group (one of the five unregistered securities offerings) by misrepresenting that the PIPE guaranteed an annual 8.5% dividend, and that it was safe, like a fixed annuity or a CD.

As a result of the conduct described in the complaint, the Commission alleges that all defendants violated Section 17(a) 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 thereunder; that Laborio, Fraiman, Lazar and Envit Wealth violated Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”); that Laborio, Fraiman, and Envit Wealth violated Advisers Act Section 206(4) and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder; that Laborio, Fraiman, and Lazar violated Exchange Act Section 15(a)(1); that Laborio, Envit LLC, Envit Group, Envit Holdings, and Aetius PLC violated Securities Act Sections 5(a) and 5(c); that Laborio violated Exchange Act Section 16(a) and Rule 16a-3 thereunder; and that Envit Fund and Aetius LLC violated Section 7(a) of the Investment Company Act of 1940. The SEC seeks in its action permanent injunctions, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, civil penalties, penny stock bars against Laborio, Fraiman, and Lazar, and an officer and director bar against Laborio.

The Commission previously suspended trading in the securities of Envit Group in May 2009 and subsequently revoked the registration of the securities of Envit Group in September 2009.

In conducting its investigation, the Commission acknowledges assistance from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation.

For further information, see Exchange Act Release No. 34-59900 (May 12, 2009) [Order suspending trading in Envit Group securities]; Initial Decision Release No. 385 (August 13, 2009) [Initial decision revoking registration of Envit Group securities]; Exchange Act Release No. 60658 (September 11, 2009) [Notice of final decision revoking registration of Envit Group securities].

Sunday, August 12, 2012

CHARGES BROUGHT AGAINST INVESTMENT MANAGER FOR FAILURE TO TURN OVER RECORDS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., Aug. 10, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a Florida-based investment manager and his firm for failing to provide SEC examiners with records of a mutual fund advisory business that invested in NASCAR-related stocks.

The SEC examiners sought records from David W. Dube and Peak Wealth Opportunities LLC while examining a mutual fund they advised called the Stock Car Stock Index Fund. Despite repeated requests, Dube and Peak Wealth failed to furnish certain records to the SEC.

"After promising multiple times to provide the requested records, Dube failed to live up to his regulatory obligations and turn over the records," said Bruce Karpati, Chief of the Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit. "When financial professionals fail to cooperate with SEC exams, they force the agency to expend greater resources to pursue investigations."

According to an SEC order initiating administrative proceedings, Peak Wealth was the adviser to the Stock Car Stock Index fund from 2008 to June 2010. SEC examination staff requested records from Peak Wealth and Dube in 2010 while examining Peak Wealth’s advisory business and the operations of the fund.

The SEC further alleges that Dube and Peak Wealth:
Failed to make and keep certain required financial records.
Failed to withdraw Peak Wealth’s registration with the SEC and make other required filings.
Failed to provide the fund’s board of directors with information reasonably necessary to assess Peak Wealth’s advisory fees.


Simultaneously with the SEC’s examination in 2010, the fund’s board requested information from Peak Wealth and Dube as part of the fund’s required annual evaluation of its advisory agreements. The annual evaluations are required under Section 15(c) of the Investment Company Act of 1940, which also requires advisers to provide their boards with information reasonably necessary to conduct those evaluations. Despite requesting additional time to respond to the board, Peak Wealth and Dube failed to provide any of the requested documents. The board subsequently terminated Peak Wealth’s advisory agreement and liquidated the fund by returning the money to investors.

"A fully-informed board is crucial to the advisory fee setting process, yet Dube failed to provide the board with the most basic of information," said Chad Alan Earnst, an Assistant Regional Director in the Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit.

Under the relevant rules, the SEC could seek to permanently bar Dube from association with an SEC registered investment adviser or broker dealer. The SEC alleges that Peak Wealth willfully violated Sections 203A and 204 of the Advisers Act of 1940 and Rules 203A-1(b)(2), 204-1(a)(1), 204-2(a)(1), (2), (4), (5), and (6) thereunder, and Section 15(c) of the Investment Company Act. The SEC charged Dube with willfully aiding and abetting and causing Peak Wealth’s violations.

The SEC’s investigation was handled by Chad Alan Earnst and Christine Lynch, members of the Asset Management Unit in the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. The related examination was conducted by John Mattimore, Faye Chin, Roda Johnson, Luisa Lipins, and Victor Pedroso. Robert Levenson is leading the SEC’s litigation.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Investor Bulletin: Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

Investor Bulletin: Exchange-Traded Funds (ETFs)

FORMER DELOITTE PARTNER PLEADS GUILTY TO CRIME

FROM: U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT
Former Deloitte Partner Pleads Guilty to Insider Trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced that on August 8, 2012, Thomas P. Flanagan, a former Deloitte and Touche LLP partner, pleaded guilty to one count of criminal securities fraud for engaging in insider trading after he obtained material, nonpublic information about several Deloitte clients. Flanagan, 64, of Chicago, used that information himself and shared it with a relative to make illegal trading profits. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois filed criminal charges against Flanagan on July 11, 2012 in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. Flanagan is scheduled to be sentenced on October 25, 2012.

The criminal charges arose out of the same facts that were the subject of a civil action that the SEC filed against Flanagan and his son, Patrick T. Flanagan, on August 4, 2010. The SEC’s complaint alleged that Thomas Flanagan, a certified public accountant, worked at Deloitte for 38 years and rose to the level of Vice Chairman of Clients and Markets. The complaint alleged that Flanagan traded on nine occasions between 2005 and 2008 in the securities of multiple Deloitte clients and a company acquired by a Deloitte client while in possession of nonpublic information that he learned through his duties as a Deloitte partner. The information had not yet been disclosed to the public and concerned material, market-moving events such as earnings results, earnings guidance, and acquisitions. Thomas Flanagan’s illegal trading resulted in profits of over $430,000. On four occasions, Thomas Flanagan relayed the nonpublic information to his son Patrick Flanagan who then traded based on that information. Patrick Flanagan realized profits of more than $57,000.

The SEC also instituted related administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings on August 4, 2010, finding that Flanagan violated the SEC’s auditor independence rules on 71 occasions between 2003 and 2008 by trading in the securities of nine Deloitte audit clients. The SEC’s settled administrative order found that during the time Flanagan owned or controlled these securities, Deloitte issued audit reports to the nine audit clients in which it stated that the financial statements contained in the reports had been audited by an independent auditor. However, due to Flanagan’s ownership of the audit clients’ securities, Deloitte was not independent. The companies then filed with the SEC annual reports and proxy statements which included the false audit reports. As a result, the SEC’s administrative order found that Flanagan caused and willfully aided and abetted Deloitte’s violations of the SEC’s auditor independence rules under Regulation S-X and also caused and willfully aided and abetted the companies’ violations of the reporting and proxy provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

As alleged in the SEC’s complaint, Thomas Flanagan concealed his trades in the securities of Deloitte’s clients and circumvented Deloitte’s independence controls. According to the SEC’s complaint, he failed to report the prohibited trades to Deloitte, lied to Deloitte about his compliance with its independence policies, and provided false information to Deloitte’s personal income tax preparers about the identity of the companies whose securities he traded.

As a result of their conduct, the SEC’s complaint charged Thomas and Patrick Flanagan with violations of Sections 10(b) and 14(e) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5 and 14e-3. The SEC’s administrative action found that Thomas Flanagan caused and willfully aided and abetted Deloitte’s violations of Rule 2-02(b)(1) of Regulation S-X, and caused and willfully aided and abetted the clients’ violations of Sections 13(a) and 14(a) of the Exchange Act, and Rules 13a-1, 13a-13, and 14a-3 thereunder. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations in the complaint and the findings in the administrative order, Thomas Flanagan consented to the entry of an order of permanent injunction, to pay disgorgement with prejudgment interest and civil penalties totaling $1,051,042, and to a denial of the privilege of appearing or practicing before the SEC as an accountant. Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations in the complaint, Patrick Flanagan consented to the entry of an order of permanent injunction and to pay disgorgement with prejudgment interest and a civil penalty totaling $123,270.

Friday, August 10, 2012

SEC FREEZES AN ADDITIONAL $6 MILLION IN NEXEN INSIDER TRADING CASE

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COIMMISSIOIN
On August 6, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained an emergency court order in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York to freeze more than $6 million in assets of additional unknown traders who made approximately $2.3 million in illegal profits by trading in advance of the July 23, 2012 announcement that China-based CNOOC Ltd. had agreed to acquire Canada-based Nexen Inc. for approximately $15.1 billion.

On Friday, July 27, 2012, just days after the acquisition announcement, the SEC filed an initial complaint in federal district court in Manhattan alleging that Hong Kong-based Well Advantage Limited and other unknown traders had traded Nexen stock based on nonpublic information about CNOOC’s impending acquisition of Nexen and reaped a total of more than $13 million in illicit trading profits. That same day, the SEC obtained a court order freezing the assets of the initial defendants valued at more than $38 million.

One week later, on Friday, August 3, 2012, the SEC filed an amended complaint adding allegations that additional unknown traders in possession of material nonpublic information purchased Nexen stock in the days leading up to the public announcement of its acquisition. According to the SEC’s First Amended Complaint, the additional unknown traders opened a U.S. brokerage account through Hong Kong-based CSI Capital Management Limited only one week before the announcement and purchased 250,000 shares of Nexen stock during the following two days at a cost of approximately $4.2 million. Immediately following the announcement, the unknown traders sold these shares for nearly $6.5 million, reaping approximately $2.3 million in illegal profits. In connection with filing the First Amended Complaint, the SEC obtained another emergency court order freezing nearly $6.5 million in the assets of these additional traders, bringing the total value of assets frozen in this case to more than $44 million.

The SEC’s complaint charges the unknown traders with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5. In addition to the emergency relief, the Commission is seeking a final judgment ordering the traders to disgorge their ill-gotten gains with interest and pay financial penalties, and permanently barring them from future violations.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

SEC SETTLES FCPA CHARGES AGAINST PFIZER INC. AND WYETH LLC

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The Securities and Exchange Commission today filed a settled enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against Pfizer Inc. for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) when its subsidiaries bribed doctors and other health care professionals employed by foreign governments in order to win business.

The SEC alleges that employees and agents of Pfizer’s subsidiaries in Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Italy, Kazakhstan, Russia, and Serbia made improper payments to foreign officials to obtain regulatory and formulary approvals, sales, and increased prescriptions for the company’s pharmaceutical products. They tried to conceal the bribery by improperly recording the transactions in accounting records as legitimate expenses for promotional activities, marketing, training, travel and entertainment, clinical trials, freight, conferences, and advertising.

The SEC filed a separate settled enforcement action in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia against another pharmaceutical company that Pfizer acquired a few years ago – Wyeth LLC – for its own FCPA violations. Pfizer and Wyeth agreed to separate settlements in which they will pay approximately $45 million combined in disgorgement and prejudgment interest to the SEC to settle their respective charges. In a related action, Pfizer H.C.P. Corporation, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Pfizer, will pay a $15 million penalty to settle FCPA charges brought against it today by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) under a deferred prosecution agreement.

The SEC’s complaint against Pfizer alleges that Pfizer’s misconduct dates back as far as 2001. According to the SEC’s complaint, employees of Pfizer’s subsidiaries authorized and made cash payments and provided other incentives to bribe government doctors to utilize Pfizer products. In China, for example, the SEC’s complaint alleges that Pfizer employees invited "high-prescribing doctors" in the Chinese government to club-like meetings that included extensive recreational and entertainment activities to reward doctors’ past product sales or prescriptions. In addition, according to the SEC’s complaint, Pfizer employees in Croatia created a "bonus program" for Croatian doctors who were employed in senior positions in Croatian government health care institutions. According to the SEC’s complaint, once a doctor agreed to use Pfizer products, a percentage of the value purchased by a doctor’s institution would be funneled back to the doctor in the form of cash, international travel, or free products.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Pfizer made an initial voluntary disclosure of misconduct by its subsidiaries to the SEC and Department of Justice in October 2004, and fully cooperated with SEC investigators. The complaint alleges that Pfizer took such extensive remedial actions as undertaking a comprehensive worldwide review of its compliance program.

The SEC further alleges that Wyeth subsidiaries engaged in FCPA violations, primarily before, but also after, the company’s acquisition by Pfizer in late 2009. For example, according to the SEC’s complaint, starting at least in 2005, subsidiaries marketing Wyeth nutritional products in China, Indonesia, and Pakistan bribed government doctors to recommend their products to patients by making cash payments or in some cases providing BlackBerrys and cell phones or travel incentives. The complaint alleges that Wyeth’s employees often used fictitious invoices to conceal the true nature of the payments.

According to the SEC’s complaint, following Pfizer’s acquisition of Wyeth, Pfizer undertook a risk-based FCPA due diligence review of Wyeth’s global operations and voluntarily reported the findings to the SEC staff. The complaint alleges that Pfizer diligently and promptly integrated Wyeth’s legacy operations into its compliance program and cooperated fully with SEC investigators.

In settling the SEC’s charges, Wyeth neither admitted nor denied the allegations. Pfizer consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering it to pay disgorgement of $16,032,676 in net profits and prejudgment interest of $10,307,268 for a total of $26,339,944. Pfizer also is required to report to the SEC on the status of its remediation and implementation of compliance measures over a two-year period, and is permanently enjoined from further violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Wyeth consented to the entry of a final judgment ordering it to pay disgorgement of $17,217,831 in net profits and prejudgment interest of $1,658,793, for a total of $18,876,624. As a Pfizer subsidiary, the status of Wyeth’s remediation and implementation of compliance measures will be subsumed in Pfizer’s two-year self-reporting period. Wyeth also is permanently enjoined from further violations of Sections 13(b)(2)(A) and 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act. The settlements are subject to court approval.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

SEC CHARGES REAL ESTATE INVESTMENT COMPANY AND ITS PRINCIPALS WITH OFFERING FRAUD

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
On July 6, 2012 the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a Complaint in federal district court against The Companies (TC), LLC ("The Companies") and its principals, Kristoffer A. Krohn ("Kris Krohn"), Stephen R. Earl ("Earl"), and former officer, Michael K. Krohn ("Mike Krohn") (collectively "Defendants").

The Companies, directly and through related companies and subsidiaries, purchases distressed real estate for investment. The Complaint alleges that to raise money to purchase real estate, The Companies or its subsidiary, Alpha Real Estate Holdings, L.P. ("Alpha LP"), initiated four unregistered offerings of securities from January 2009 to June 2011. Kris Krohn, Earl, and Mike Krohn participated in the offerings by providing content for and approval of the private placement memoranda ("PPMs") used to solicit investors and by directly offering the securities to investors. The four offerings raised a total of approximately $11.9 million from approximately 169 investors. The PPMs contained material misrepresentations and omissions related to, among other things, the value of properties to be purchased or that were owned by the Companies or Alpha LP.

In addition to containing false representations, each of the four offerings relied on the exemption to registration under Regulation D, Rule 506. The offerings did not qualify for the Rule 506 exemption because Defendants solicited investors through general solicitation at meetings that were open to the public.

The Defendants consented to entry of judgments against them without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint. Each of the Defendants consented to a judgment permanently enjoining them from violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. In addition, The Companies agreed to undertake to inform all investors in writing of the final judgment, provide audited financial statements, and offer return of consideration for investors who choose to return their securities to The Companies after receiving the written disclosures. Kris Krohn, Mike Krohn, and Earl have also agreed to pay civil monetary penalties of $75,000 each.

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Cheryl Mori and Justin Sutherland; the litigation will be led by Dan Wadley and Tom Melton.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

FINAL JUDGEMENTS ENTERED AGAINST INOFIN EXECUTIVES IN $110 MILLION UNREGISTERED NOTES CASE

FROM: SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that final judgments were entered on July 23 and 24, 2012, respectively in its civil injunctive action against Kevin Mann, Sr., and Michael J. Cuomo, filed in the United States District Court of Massachusetts.
The Commission’s complaint alleged that Inofin and its executives, Cuomo, of Plymouth, Massachusetts, Mann of Marshfield, Massachusetts, and Melissa George of Duxbury, Massachusetts, illegally raised at least $110 million from hundreds of investors in 25 states and the District of Columbia through the sale of unregistered notes. According to the SEC’s complaint, Inofin, along with Cuomo, Mann and George, materially misrepresented how the Company was using investor money and the Company’s financial performance. The SEC also charged two sales agents – David Affeldt and Thomas K. (Kevin) Keough – alleging that they promoted the offering and sale of Inofin’s unregistered securities. Keough’s wife Nancy Keough is named in the complaint as a relief defendant for the purposes of recovering proceeds she received as a result of the violations.
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, Cuomo and Mann consented to entry of a permanent injunction against violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act"), and Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Sections 5 and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 (the "Securities Act").
The final judgment as to Cuomo orders him pay disgorgement of $1,272, 914.57, representing profits he gained as a result of the conduct alleged in the Complaint, together with prejudgment interest thereon in the amount of $440,181.42 for a total of $1,713,095.90, plus a civil penalty in the amount of $150,000.
The final judgment as to Mann orders him to pay disgorgement of $733,944, representing profits he gained as a result of the conduct alleged in the Complaint, together with prejudgment interest thereon in the amount of $170,762 for a total of $904,706, plus a civil penalty in the amount of $150,000.
The SEC’s action remains pending against Inofin, George, Affeldt and the Keoughs.

Monday, August 6, 2012

MAN CHARGED WITH INSIDE TRADING ON FRIEND'S INSIDER KNOWLEDGE

FROM:  SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that it has filed a complaint against Joseph McVicker, of Wayland, Massachusetts. The complaint alleges that McVicker engaged in insider trading in shares of Cambridge-based Art Technology Group, Inc. in advance of an announcement on November 2, 2010, that Art Technology would be acquired by California-based Oracle Corporation. McVicker has agreed to settle these charges by, among other things, paying over $88,000 in disgorgement of trading profits and a civil penalty.

The Commission’s complaint alleges that on October 30, 2010, McVicker learned of the pending acquisition of Art Technology from a close friend at a social event. The complaint further alleges that McVicker understood that the information was material, nonpublic information and that he should not use it to trade. According to the Commission’s complaint, however, on November 1, 2010, McVicker used the information to purchase 24,400 shares of Art Technology. On November 2, 2010, before the market opened, Art Technology announced that Oracle had agreed to acquire Art Technology for $6 per share. Art Technology’s stock closed that day at $5.95 per share, a 45% increase from the previous trading day’s closing price, earning McVicker an ill-gotten gain of $44,268. The complaint alleges that McVicker violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b5 thereunder.

Without admitting or denying the allegations in the complaint, McVicker consented to the entry of a final judgment which enjoins him from future violations Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 10b5 thereunder. McVicker also agreed to pay disgorgement of $44,268, prejudgment interest of $365, and a civil penalty of $44,268.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

INVESTMENT MANAGER AND OTHERS CHARGED BY SEC WITH SECURITIES LAW VIOLATIONS

FROM: U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., July 30, 2012 – The Securities and Exchange Commission charged New York-based investment manager Peter Siris and two of his firms with a host of securities law violations mostly related to his activities with a Chinese reverse merger company, China Yingxia International Inc.

The SEC alleges that Siris, an active investor in Chinese companies and former newspaper money columnist, misled investors in his two hedge funds through which he invested $1.5 million in China Yingxia. Siris understated his involvement with the company particularly after it went out of business, and used his insider status to make illegal trades based on nonpublic information as he received it. In an attempt to circumvent the registration provisions of the securities laws, Siris also received shares from the China Yingxia CEO’s father and improperly sold them without any registration statement in effect. Siris further engaged in insider trading ahead of 10 confidentially solicited offerings for other Chinese issuers.

Siris and his firms agreed to pay more than $1.1 million to settle the SEC’s charges. The SEC also separately charged five individuals and one firm for securities law violations related to China Yingxia.

“Siris operated by his own set of rules in his dealings with China Yingxia and other Chinese issuers,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Acting Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office. “He was the go-to person when Chinese reverse merger companies wanted to raise capital or needed advice about operations, but he used his prominence and reputation in this area to illegally game the system to his advantage.”

According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Siris and his firms Guerrilla Capital Management LLC and Hua Mei 21st Century LLC became involved with China Yingxia in 2007 and their misconduct continued until 2010. Along with being one of three “consultants” that improperly raised money for China Yingxia, Siris and Hua Mei acted as advisers to the purported nutritional foods company.

Insider Trading and Illegal Short Selling

The SEC alleges that in February and March 2009, Siris sold China Yingxia stock while in possession of material, nonpublic information about problems at China Yingxia that he learned directly from the CEO. This confidential information included that she had engaged in illegal fundraising activities in China and that a company factory had shut down. Siris immediately began selling hundreds of thousands of shares of China Yingxia stock prior to any public disclosure by China Yingxia about these issues. Siris learned additional material, nonpublic information during the late afternoon of March 3, 2009, when he received a draft press release and notice that China Yingxia planned to publicly disclose the problems. Siris increased his orders to sell over the next couple of days before China Yingxia issued its press release publicly on March 6. Siris, through his funds, sold 1,143,660 China Yingxia shares in a matter of weeks for ill-gotten gains of approximately $172,000.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Siris and Guerrilla Capital Management also engaged in illegal insider trading ahead of 10 offering announcements for other Chinese issuers and made approximately $162,000 in ill-gotten gains. After expressly agreeing to go “over-the-wall,” which included a prohibition on trading, Siris traded ahead of the offering announcements in breach of his duty not to trade on such information.

The SEC further alleges that Siris sold short the securities of two Chinese companies prior to participating in firm-commitment offerings.

Fraudulent Representations in a Securities Purchase Agreement

The SEC alleges that in order to induce at least one issuer to sell securities to his funds, Siris falsely represented in a securities purchase agreement that his funds had not engaged in any trading after being contacted in confidence about a particular deal, when in fact his funds had effected sales in that issuer’s securities. Siris directed short sales of a Chinese issuer on Dec. 9, 2009, despite going “over-the-wall” in original solicitation discussions, and nevertheless Siris signed a securities purchase agreement later that afternoon that misrepresented he had not traded in those securities. The following morning, Siris directed additional sales of the company’s shares before the public announcement of the offering. Siris realized illegal insider trading gains.

Materially Misleading Disclosures to Fund Investors

The SEC alleges that Siris generally disclosed that he and his consulting firm Hua Mei, may provide services to Chinese issuers, but he did not disclose the depth of his involvement in China Yingxia. Investors were not informed that Siris and his firm provided drafting assistance for press releases and SEC filings, translation services, management preparation in advance of conference calls, and officer recommendations. By omitting key facts and making misrepresentations about his role with the company, Siris deprived his investors of material information that could have impacted their continued investment decisions with his funds. Furthermore, when China Yingxia later collapsed, Siris wrote to his investors and placed blame on others he claimed were responsible for the SEC filings and key hiring decisions while omitting his significant role in these very same tasks.

Acting as an Unregistered Securities Broker

The SEC alleges that Siris, who was not registered as a broker or dealer nor associated with a registered broker-dealer, acted as an unregistered broker during China Yingxia’s second securities offering, as he raised more than $2 million worth of investments. In a backdated consulting agreement, Siris through Hua Mei in fact received transaction-based fees for leading fundraising efforts for China Yingxia and not for providing consulting services. No disclosures were made to potential or actual investors concerning payments to three so-called consultants including Siris, who sold China Yingxia securities.

Improper Unregistered Sale of Securities

The SEC alleges that Siris and Hua Mei improperly sold securities that Hua Mei received from China Yingxia in a sham agreement intended to hide the fact that they were shares from a person controlled by the company. China Yingxia agreed to pay Siris for due diligence he conducted in connection with his lead investment in the company’s July 2007 PIPE offering. The company transferred shares to Siris with the appearance that they came from a shareholder to reimburse him for services performed for that shareholder. In fact, the sham agreement was simply a means for China Yingxia to provide Hua Mei with shares believed to be immediately eligible for sale, because had the company issued the shares directly to Hua Mei, they would have been restricted stock subject to holding period and other requirements for resale. The shareholder and source of the shares was later revealed to be the father of China Yingxia’s CEO – someone who was in fact a person directly or indirectly controlled by the issuer.

The SEC’s complaint against Siris and his entities alleges violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 10b-5 thereunder, Rule 105 of Regulation M, and Section 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and Rule 206(4)-8 thereunder. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Siris and his firms agreed to pay $592,942.39 in disgorgement and $70,488.83 prejudgment interest. Siris agreed to pay a penalty of $464,011.93. They also consented to the entry of a judgment enjoining them from violations of the respective provisions of the Securities Act, Exchange Act, and Advisers Act. The settlement is subject to court approval.

Also charged for securities law violations related to China Yingxia:

  • Ren Hu – the former CFO of China Yingxia made fraudulent representations in Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) certifications, lied to auditors, failed to implement internal accounting controls, and aided and abetted China Yingxia’s failure to implement internal controls.
  • Peter Dong Zhou – engaged in insider trading and unregistered sales of securities and aided and abetted unregistered broker-dealer activity while assisting China Yingxia with its reverse merger and virtually all of its public company tasks. Without admitting or denying the charges, Zhou agreed to pay $20,900 in disgorgement, $2,463.39 in prejudgment interest, and a penalty $50,000. He agreed to a three-year collateral bar, penny stock bar, and investment company bar.
  • Alan Sheinwald and his investor relations firm Alliance Advisors LLC – were retained as “consultants” to China Yingxia and acted as unregistered securities brokers while raising money for China Yingxia and at least one other issuer.
  • Steve Mazur – acted as an unregistered securities broker while selling away from his firm the securities of China Yingxia and one other issuer. Without admitting or denying the charges, Mazur agreed to pay $126,800 in disgorgement, $25,550.01 in prejudgment interest, and a penalty of $25,000. He agreed to a two-year collateral bar, penny stock bar, and investment company bar.
  • James Fuld, Jr. – involved in the unregistered sales of securities. Without admitting or denying the charges, he agreed to pay $178,594.85 in disgorgement and $38,096.70 in prejudgment interest.

Mr. Calamari said, “With these charges, the SEC continues to make good on its commitment to hold accountable those who enable some Chinese reverse merger firms to take unfair advantage of investors in the U.S. capital markets.”

The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, was conducted in the New York Regional Office by Celeste Chase, Eduardo A. Santiago-Acevedo, and Osman Nawaz, with assistance from Frank Milewski. Paul Gizzi and Osman Nawaz will lead the SEC’s litigation team. The SEC acknowledges the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in this matter.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

SEC CHAIRMAN SPEAKS ON KNIGHT CAPITAL GROUP AND THE FLASH CRASH

FROM:  U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Washington, D.C., Aug. 3, 2012 — Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro today made the following statement:

The apparent trading error by Knight Capital Group on Wednesday reflects the type of event that can raise concerns for investors about our nation’s equity markets — markets that I believe are the most resilient, efficient, and robust in the world.

Reliance on computers is a fact of life not only in markets everywhere, but in virtually every facet of business. That doesn’t mean we should not endeavor to reduce the likelihood of technology errors and limit their impact when they occur.

While Wednesday’s event was unacceptable, I would note that several of the measures we instituted following the Flash Crash helped to limit its impact. Recently-adopted circuit breakers halted trading on individual stocks that experienced significant price fluctuations, and clearly defined rules guided the exchanges in determining which trades could be broken giving the marketplace certainty.
In addition, existing rules make it clear that when broker-dealers with access to our markets use computers to trade, trade fast, or trade frequently, they must check those systems to ensure they are operating properly. And, naturally, we will consider whether such compliance measures were followed in this case.

As with every significant incident of volatility that occurs in our markets, we will continue to review what happened and determine if any, additional measures are needed. That process has already begun.

In particular, I have asked the staff to accelerate ongoing efforts to propose a rule to require exchanges and other market centers to have specific programs in place to ensure the capacity and integrity of their systems. And I have directed the staff to convene a roundtable in the coming weeks to discuss further steps that can be taken to address these critical issues.

CFTC ANNOUNCES EMERGENCY ASSET FREEZE AGAINST COMMODITY TRADING ADVISOR

FROM: U.S. COMMODITY FUTURES TRADING COMMISSION
CFTC Charges California Resident Victor Yu and His Company, VFRS, LLC, with Multi-Million Dollar Forex Fraud and Failure to Register as a Commodity Trading Advisor

Federal court issues order freezing defendants’ assets and protecting books and records

Washington, DC - The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) today announced that on July 27, 2012, The Honorable Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California entered an emergency order freezing the assets of defendants Victor Yu (Yu) of San Jose, Calif., and his company, VFRS, LLC (VFRS), based in Alameda, Calif. The court’s order also prohibits the destruction or alteration of books and records, and grants the CFTC immediate access to such documents. The judge set a hearing on the CFTC’s motion for a preliminary injunction for August 10, 2012.

The order arises out of a civil enforcement action filed by the CFTC on July 26, 2012, charging defendants Yu and VFRS with defrauding at least 100 clients in connection with off-exchange foreign currency (forex) trading. The CFTC’s complaint also charges Yu with failure to register with the CFTC as a commodity trading advisor (CTA).

According to the CFTC complaint, since at least August 2009 to the present the defendants’ clients invested more than $5 million in forex trading accounts and lost more than $2 million, while defendants received fees of more than $270,000 from their clients.

The defendants allegedly fraudulently solicited clients to open forex accounts that allowed the defendants to place trades in their accounts using trading software that Yu claimed to have developed. Further, defendants misrepresented to clients that the trading software made forex trading "extremely safe," prevented clients from ever reaching certain loss thresholds, and guaranteed that clients will not have a losing trade, according to the complaint. In addition, defendants allegedly misrepresented to some prospective customers that their trading software had shown positive returns on every trade it had ever made and has successfully predicted activity in the currency markets back to the 1920s.

To solicit new clients, Yu and VFRS, by and through Yu, held face-to-face meetings with prospective clients in various clients’ homes, obtaining leads primarily through word-of-mouth, according to the complaint. Yu allegedly promised existing clients a referral fee or a percentage of any profits earned in the new clients’ forex accounts. When opening accounts, clients signed agreements promising to pay the defendants a service fee of 30 percent of their net profits, and the defendants provided log-in and password information so that clients could "hook up" to the defendants’ trading software. The complaint alleges that by this conduct, Yu acted as a CTA and was required to register with the CFTC.

In its continuing litigation, the CFTC seeks civil monetary penalties, restitution, trading and registration bans, and preliminary and permanent injunctions against further violations of the federal commodities laws, as charged.
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