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February 23, 2023

Back to Green Mining, LLC and its two managing members, José Jiménez Cruz and Manuel Portalatin, have been ordered to pay about $2 million in disgorgement, $411,000 in prejudgment interest, and $1 million and $207,000 in civil penalties respectively, after the SEC charged them with offering and selling unregistered securities for a so-called “green” mining venture in Colombia.  While soliciting investors, Jiménez and Portalatin allegedly advertised exorbitant returns and falsely represented that permits necessary to mine gold had already been procured.  SEC

March 8, 2023

A registered introducing broker, Coquest Inc., its owners Dennis Weinmann and John Vassallo, and trading firms Buttonwood LLC and Weva Properties Ltd. have been ordered to pay almost $3 million for using block trade order information from Coquest’s brokerage customers to obtain profits for Buttonwood and Weva accounts in which Weinmann had a financial interest.  The misconduct ran between 2015 and 2019 and involved more than 2,000 instances where Weinmann traded against his own customers’ interests.  CFTC

March 15, 2023

Ohio-based LCA-Vision, doing business as LasikPlus and Joffe MediCenter, have been ordered to pay $1.25 million for using deceptive bait-and-switch advertising to lure customers into getting laser eye surgery.  LCA-Vision allegedly ran ads that led customers to believe they could get both eyes corrected for less than $300, when in fact, only 6.5% were eligible for that price, and for many, the price was for one eye only.  Once customers came in for their consultation, LCA-Vision would then quote them rates of between $1,800 and $2,295.  FTC

March 13, 2023

Evoqua Water Technologies Corp. and its former finance director, Imran Parekh, have been ordered to pay an $8.5 million civil monetary penalty for materially misstating the company’s reported revenues by nearly $12 million in 2017 and 2018.  According to the SEC, Parekh inflated Evoqua’s reported quarterly and year-end revenue by improperly including uncompleted sales numbers from earlier periods.  SEC

March 9, 2023

A former Malaysia-based Goldman Sachs investment banker has been sentenced to 10 years in prison for being involved in a massive bribery and money-laundering scheme involving Malaysia’s state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  In order to obtain and retain lucrative business for Goldman Sachs, Roger Ng and co-conspirators at Goldman Sachs misappropriated billions of dollars from 1MDB, which they used to pay bribes to 12 government officials in Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates.  Proceeds from the scheme were then laundered through the U.S. financial system.  DOJ

March 9, 2023

Blackbaud Inc., which provides donor data management software to non-profits, has agreed to pay $3 million for allegedly failing to maintain internal disclosure procedures and for omitting material information about the scope of a 2020 ransomware attack in a publicly-filed report.  Although company employees learned that sensitive information affecting 13,000 customers were accessed within days of the attack, they failed to inform senior management, resulting in the company downplaying the effects of the attack.  SEC

March 2, 2023

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“Ericsson”) has agreed to pay $206 million for breaching a 2019 Deferred Prosecution Agreement that was signed to settle allegations that the Swedish telecommunications company used third-party agents to bribe government officials in China, Djibouti, Indonesia, Kuwait, and Vietnam, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Under the terms of the 2019 DPA, Ericsson agreed to pay a $520 million criminal penalty and comply with certain conditions.  However, Ericsson was found to have failed to disclose additional information relating to its conduct in China and Djibouti, as well as promptly report conduct in Iraq that may constitute another violation of the FCPA.  USAO SDNY

March 2, 2023

Online counseling service BetterHelp, Inc. has been ordered to pay $7.8 million for selling its clients’ confidential information to Facebook, Snapchat, and other third parties for targeted advertising, despite repeatedly representing to clients that it would not, and despite denying news reports in 2020 that it was doing so.  In order to be matched with a counselor, BetterHelp required potential clients to answer questionnaires about sensitive mental health information, including whether they had suicidal ideations or used medications.  The company then sold that information, along with client email and IP addresses, without informing clients and without placing limits on how other companies used that information.  Under the proposed order, clients who signed up between 2017 and 2020 will be provided partial refunds, and BetterHelp must take corrective action to better protect client privacy.  FTC

February 24, 2023

Energy & Environmental Investments, LLC (“EEI”) and Energy & Environment, Inc. (“E&E”) have agreed to pay $3.4 million in disgorgement, nearly $1 million in prejudgment interest, and over $1 million in civil monetary penalty to settle SEC charges of conducting a fraudulent securities offering.  A parallel criminal case was filed in California Superior Court in 2021 against EEU’s CEO, Amir Sardari, and former Vice President of Investor Relations, Narysa Luddy, which both have pleaded guilty to.  According to the SEC, EEI employed high-pressure tactics to solicit investments, then misappropriated about 47% of the $9.3 million raised from over 200 investors to cover payroll, marketing, Luddy’s personal expenses, and payments to prior investors.  SEC

February 22, 2023

In the FTC and DOJ’s first enforcement action under the Health Breach Notification Rule, online prescription drug discount provider GoodRx Holdings Inc.—which does business as GoodRx Gold, GoodRx Care, and Hey Doctor—has been ordered to pay $1.5 million in civil penalties and take corrective action, after it was found to have disclosed the personal health information of millions of its users without their knowledge or consent, despite assuring users it would not.  The disclosure involved personally identifying information, including health conditions and medications used, which were shared with Facebook, Google, and other third parties for advertising purposes.  FTC, DOJ
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