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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 13, 2021

GTV Media Group Inc., Saraca Media Group Inc., and Voice of Guo Media Inc. will collectively pay more than $539 million to resolve SEC claims related to their alleged unregistered offering of GTV common stock and a digital asset security referred to as G-Coins or G-Dollars.  The SEC found that the respondents publicized the two offerings on their websites and social media platforms, raising approximately $487 million from more than 5,000 investors.  No registration statements were filed, and no registration exemption applied.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, respondents agreed to pay disgorgement of $486 million plus interest, and penalties totaling $35 million.  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 9, 2021

Cryptocurrency trading platform Poloniex LLC has agreed to pay more than $10 million in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to settle charges that it operated an unregistered online digital asset exchange.  The SEC found that between 2017 and 2019 the Poloniex trading platform met the criteria of an “exchange” as defined by the securities laws but was neither registered as a national securities exchange nor subject to an exemption from registration. 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

August 2, 2021

Ernst & Young LLP and three of its audit partners, along with William Stiehl, who was serving as the chief accounting officer of a public company, collectively agreed to pay more than $10 million to resolve SEC claims of wrongdoing with respect to EY’s pursuit of audit business from the public company.  EY and its partners were alleged to have solicited and received confidential competitive intelligence and confidential audit committee information from Stiehl during the issuer’s auditor’s selection process, in violation of auditor independence rules.  EY agreed to pay $10 million and comply with a detailed set of undertakings for a period of two years; the individual auditors agreed to pay civil monetary penalties between $15,000 and $50,000 and to be suspended from appearing or practicing before the Commission for times ranging from one to three years; Stiehl agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $51,000 and to be suspended from appearing or practicing before the Commission for two years.  SEC
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