Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

The head of Massachusetts’ state securities regulatory body, Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin, issued a public statement announcing an inquiry into the practices of some of the top local broker-dealers related to private placement investments.

These funding rounds of securities, which are not sold through a public offering, but rather, presented to a select group of investors, commonly involve a higher risk of fraud.

The list of companies that have already received an inquiry letter from Galvin’s office includes, among others, Arthur W. Wood, Bolton Global Capital, Advisory Group, Santander Securities, LPL, U.S. Boston Capital, and BTS Securities.

Wells Fargo will pay $480 million to resolve fraud and insider trading allegations brought in a class action in California.

According to the plaintiffs, top executives at the bank engaged in insider trading after employees were directed to create millions of accounts under customer names, without the customers’ consent.

While litigation in California state court continues, the settlement will end the federal lawsuit.

Jehu Hand, a California-based attorney has been found guilty of securities fraud and is now awaiting sentencing. Following his trial, which took place in Boston, the defendant could be facing  up to eight years in prison.

The federal jury found that Hand conspired with his two brothers to run a pump-and-dump scheme by falsifying documents. According to the evidence presented during trial, the defendant and his co-conspirators fraudulently obtained $1.5 million through the scheme.

Hand and his brothers allegedly misrepresented Greenway Technology Inc. as a company with tremendous potential, which was about to acquire lucrative gay-friendly hotels in California and Nevada.

On January 16th, a settlement was reached to create new fiduciary committees to handle a complex transition at the bankrupt Woodbridge firm, following a SEC lawsuit over a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme run by Woodbridge founder Robert Shapiro, who will now be totally excluded from the restructuring process.

Upon approval of the settlement, Judge Kevin Carey said, “As a condition for approval I require that that if any services beyond transition services are to be desired by the debtor, you need court approval with or without SEC consent.”

After Woodbridge filed for bankruptcy, Shapiro allegedly continued having access to company offices, and was paid a monthly $175,000 consulting fee. By designing a new team with no links to Shapiro to facilitate the transition, the settlement ensures decisions will now be made in the defrauded investors’ best interest.

In line with its expressed intent to increase its oversight over the cryptocurrency market, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed three related fraud suits in a single week.

The third lawsuit targets the creators of “My Big Coin,” who allegedly used $6 million dollars received from buyers to pay off early investors and shop for luxury items. The allegations caused the freezing of all assets belonging to the creators of the supposed next-big-cryptocurrency.

The Nevada-based company, My Big Coin Pay Inc.; was founded by Randall Crater. The suit, filed in January, also named one of its salesmen, Mark Gillespie. According to the allegations, between 2014 and mid-2017, the defendants defrauded 28 investors out of six million dollars.

According to former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White, the SEC insufficient examination of registered investment advisors is a “disaster waiting to happen.”

Without adequate oversight, misconduct at small advisory firms could be building up for years. While FINRA and state regulators vet half of all registered broker-dealers annually, the SEC only manages to examine 12% of RIAs every year.

Speaking at the Practicing Law Institute in New York, White expressed her concern about the SEC’s failing oversight of the independent space. “It’s a real problem that keeps me up at night,” she commented.

At a recent Securities Enforcement Forum in Washington DC, Stephanie Avakian, co-director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, discussed the agency’s future priorities.

Avakian emphasized that the mission of the Enforcement Division, to protect investors, will remain unchanged, but she announced a slight shift in focus areas and resource allocation.

The Division of Enforcement official referred to retail investors as the “most vulnerable market participants,” and confirmed that the SEC will continue to focus on:

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) has just released its yearly Enforcement Report. Although NASAA is an international association of all state, provincial and territorial securities regulators in the United States, Canada, and Mexico, the annual report is focused on US jurisdictions.

According to data included in the document, there were more enforcement actions against registered members than against non-registered individuals in 2016.

2,017 (or 46%) of the 4,341 investigations conducted by state regulators in the securities industry resulted in enforcement actions. Resulting fines amounted to $682 million, while $231 million were returned to investors. The combined total between fines and restitutions, surpassing $900 million, constitutes a 5-year high.

The SEC has accused two former Alexander Capital LP brokers, William Gennity and Rocco Roveccio of engaging in unlawful trading and deception that caused their customers to lose hundreds of thousands of dollars, while they earned a comparable amount in fees.

Gennity and Roveccio both worked at Alexander Capital from mid 2012 till October 2014.

They apparently have a long history of disciplinary action in the securities industry. In 2016, Gennity reached a settlement to resolve allegations of unauthorized trading and in 2014, he reached another settlement over churning and unsuitability. Roveccio has reached settlements over allegations of unauthorized trading and suitability in 2002, unauthorized trading in 2006, and a FINRA customer arbitration in 2013.

FINRA announced it has just fined C.L. King & Associates $750,000. According to the Regulatory Authority´s decision, the broker-dealer has negligently made “material misrepresentations and omissions to issuers in connection with the firm’s redemptions of debt securities on behalf of a hedge fund customer.”

This was allegedly done in connection with the hedge fund customer´s scheme to profit from the death of terminally ill individuals.

A FINRA hearing panel also found that the Albany-based broker dealer and its Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer failed to “implement a reasonable AML program and failed to adequately respond to red flags related to the liquidation of billions of shares of penny stocks indicative of potentially suspicious activity by two customers.”

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