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September 24, 2021

London-based advertising company WPP plc, which has ADRs registered in the US, will pay $19 million in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to resolve allegations that it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  The SEC charged that WPP acquired advertising agencies in high-risk markets and failed to insure that these subsidiaries implemented appropriate internal controls or respond to repeated warning signs and internal complaints about activities including payments to government officials in India, China, Brazil, and Peru.  SEC

September 15, 2021

Two unnamed whistleblowers received awards totaling $114 million for recoveries in an SEC enforcement action and two related actions.  The first whistleblower, who received an award of $110 million, provided independent analysis of publicly-available information about an unnamed company, as well as a witness list and substantial ongoing assistance during investigations by the SEC and another unidentified agency.  The second whistleblower, who received an award of $4 million, provided more limited information after the SEC had already undertaken significant investigative steps.    SEC

September 14, 2021

App Annie Inc. will pay $10 million to resolve claims of securities fraud arising from the company’s alleged misuse of mobile app “alternative data” shared by companies about the performance of their mobile apps with the promise that such data would be aggregated and anonymized.  In fact, App Annie used non-aggregated and non-anonymized data to develop models that it sold to customers to make investment decisions and trade ahead of upcoming earnings announcements.  The company’s co-founder and former CEO will also pay a fine of $300,000.  SEC

September 3, 2021

The Kraft Heinz Company and two of its former executives will pay $62 million to resolve charges that between 2015 and 2018 the company falsely reported cost savings, including by recognizing unearned discounts from suppliers and maintaining false and misleading supplier contracts. In 2019, Kraft Heinz restated its financials, correcting a total of $208 million in improperly-recognized cost savings.  The SEC alleged that the company did not have effective internal accounting controls in its procurement division, and that former COO Eduardo Pelleissone and former Chief Procurement Officer Klaus Hoffman ignored red flags that expenses were not being accurately reported.  Pelleissone and Hoffman will pay civil penalties of $300,000 and $100,000, respectively.  SEC

August 24, 2021

Healthcare Services Group, Inc., which provides housekeeping, dining, and other services to healthcare facilities, will pay $6 million to resolve charges of improper accounting.  The SEC alleged that the company failed to comply with GAAP in 2014 and 2015 by failing to timely accrue for and disclose material loss contingencies related to litigation against the company despite evidence that liability was probable and reasonably estimable.  As a result, the company was able to report earnings per share that matched market expectations.  The SEC investigation resulted from its “EPS Initiative,” which uses data analytics to identify improper accounting and disclosure practices.  HCSG's former CFO John C. Shea and its controller, Derya Warner, will pay penalties of $50,000 and $10,000, respectively.  SEC

August 17, 2021

Investment advisor Murchinson Ltd., together with associated individuals Marc Bistricer and Paul Zogala, will pay restitution, interest, and penalties totaling nearly $9 million to resolve allegations that they caused a hedge fund client to violate Regulation SHO regarding uncovered short sales and other problematic trading practices.  Respondents allegedly provided erroneous order-marking information, thereby causing the hedge fund brokers to mismark the hedge funds’ sales as “long,” and resulting in their failure to borrow or locate shares prior to executing the sales.  SEC

August 6, 2021

Blockchain Credit Partners, which did business as DeFi Money Market, and its principals, Gregory Keough and Derek Acree, have agreed to disgorge $12.85 million and cease and desist from the unregistered sale of securities using smart contracts and so-called “decentralized finance” (DeFi) technology.  The SEC found that defendants offered and sold mTokens and DMG governance tokens purporting to pay interest and profits, and told purchasers that that DeFi Money Market would pay them those amounts by using investor assets to buy “real world” income-generating assets like car loans. However, these income-generating assets did not generate enough income to cover appreciation of the investors’ principal, largely as a result of the price volatility of the digital assets used to purchase the tokens.  Rather than disclose this to investors, defendants used other funds, including personal funds, to make principal and interest payments for mToken redemptions. Keough and Acree have each also agreed to pay penalties of $125,000.  SEC

August 6, 2021

Colorado resident Wayde McKelvy was sentenced to 18 years in prison and ordered to pay $37 million in restitution following conviction on charges related to his operation of a Ponzi scheme.  McKelvy and others operated Mantria Corporation, which they claimed offered huge returns by investing in real estate and green energy projects.  Through these misrepresentations, defendants obtained more than $54 million in funds from duped investors.  USAO ED PA
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