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May 13, 2021

Financial services company State Street Corporation will pay a $115 million criminal penalty and enter into a deferred prosecution agreement following its voluntary disclosure to authorities that, over the course of 17 years, the bank defrauded its clients out of $290 million.  State Street  admitted that it secretly marked up “out-of-pocket” (OOP) expenses charged to clients, despite telling clients that OOP expenses were passed through without markups. State Street executives took steps to conceal the mark-ups from clients, including by misleading clients when they inquired about what they were being charged for OOP expenses. As part of the settlement, defendant agreed to cooperate with ongoing investigations, to enhance its compliance program, and to retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for a period of two years. DOJ

May 12, 2021

Registered broker-dealer GWFS Equities Inc. will pay a penalty of $1.5 million to settle allegations that it failed to respond appropriately when it detected external bad actors gaining, or attempting to gain, access to the retirement accounts of participants in the employer-sponsored retirement plans it serviced, including through the use of improperly obtained electronic login information, user names, email addresses, and passwords. There was no allegation that this personal identifying information was disclosed in a breach of GWFS systems. However, the bad actors used this information to request distributions from plan participant accounts. While GWFS detected and blocked many of these attempts, the SEC charged that GWFS failed to file suspicious activity reports, or filed incomplete SARs, with respect to the account takeovers. SEC

April 29, 2021

Following a self-disclosure, software company SAP SE will pay penalties totaling over $8 million and disgorge over $5 million to resolve claims that it violated Export Administration Regulations and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. Between 2010 and 2017, SAP and its partners and subsidiaries released U.S-origin software to users located in Iran and permitted Iranian users to access U.S.-based cloud services from Iran.  In both cases, SAP executives were aware of the issues but did not take steps to remedy or stop them.  SAP also entered into a non-prosecution agreement setting forth specific compliance procedures.  DOJ; USAO Mass; OFAC; Commerce

April 9, 2021

The Alista Group, LLC, and Luis M. Pineda Palacios, a/k/a Luis Pineda, have been ordered to pay civil monetary penalties and restitution in an action initiated by the CFTC alleging that they engaged in precious metals fraud and illegal, off-exchange precious metals sales to retail customers.  In addition, the government alleged that defendants misappropriated customer funds to trade on their own account, pay business expenses, and make payments to customers to sought to cash out.  Alista was ordered to pay a total of $2.2 million, and Pineda was ordered to pay $448,000. CFTC

April 7, 2021

A default judgment was ordered against Negus Capital Inc. and its principal Aaron Butler, based on charges of commodity pool fraud in connection with binary options trading.  The order finds that defendants unlawfully solicited  the public to trade binary options contracts on the North American Derivatives Exchange, defrauded 70 customers who sent in nearly $300,000, misappropriated customer funds, and operated as an unregistered commodity pool operator. In addition to restitution, defendants were ordered to pay civil penalties of nearly $900,000.  CFTC

March 4, 2021

Sohrab Sharma, a co-founder of Centra Tech, which claimed to offer products including a debit card that would allow users to make retail purchases using cryptocurrency, has been sentenced to eight years in prison following his guilty plea to charges arising from Centra’s fraudulent representations to participants in its unregistered initial coin offering of “Centra Tokens” or “CTR tokens,” which raised more than $25 million from victims.  Sharma and his co-defendants falsely claimed that Centra Tech had an experienced executive team, agreements with card issuers, and licenses to operate in 38 states when, in fact, Centra Tech had none of these things.  USAO SDNY

February 23, 2021

Cryptocurrency trading platform Bitfinex, operated by iFinex, and Tether were ordered to end all trading activity for NY customers and agreed to pay $18.5 million in penalties following an investigation into their handling of customer deposits and withdrawals that resulted in the loss of hundreds of millions of customer assets.  Tether was found to have falsely represented that each of its stablecoins was backed one-to-one by U.S. dollars in reserve when, in fact, they were not.  NY

February 12, 2021

Registered investment advisor and broker-dealer Winslow, Evans & Crocker, Inc. will pay $1.9 million in disgorgement, interest, and penalties to resolve allegations regarding its mutual fund share class and cash sweep selection practices.  Winslow allegedly recommended mutual fund share classes and money market funds to its customers without adequately disclosing that it received 12b-1 fees and revenue-sharing payments in connection with those shares and funds, when lower-cost share classes and options were available.  SEC

January 15, 2021

Capital One, N.A. will pay a $390 million civil penalty following its admission that it violated the Bank Secrecy Act including by failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering program, and failing to file thousands of suspicious activity reports (SARs) and currency transaction reports (CTRs) including transactions in its high-risk Check Cashing Group.  As a result, from at least 2008 to 2014, millions of dollars of transactions were unreported, allowing funds connected with organized crime, tax evasion, and other financial crimes to be laundered through the U.S. financial system.  FINCEN

January 8, 2021

Deutsche Bank Aktiengesellschaft entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay over $130 million to resolve charges that the financial services company violated the FCPA and engaged in a commodities fraud scheme.  The SEC charged that Deutsche Bank made payments to individuals including foreign officials, their relatives, and their associates as third-party intermediaries and consultants to obtain and retain global business, and lacked sufficient internal accounting controls related to the use and payment of such intermediaries, resulting in millions in bribe payments or payments for unknown, undocumented, or unauthorized services that were inaccurately recorded as legitimate business expenses with documentation falsified by Deutsche Bank employees. The agreed payment represents a $79.6 million criminal penalty and $43.3 million in disgorgement in prejudgment interest to the SEC.   Separately, in connection with a spoofing scheme undertaken by Deutsche precious metals traders in New York, Singapore, and London the bank agreed to a total of $7.5 million in criminal penalties, disgorgement, and restitution, the penalty amount of which will be credited against a 2018 $30 million CFTC civil penalty for substantially the same conduct.   SEC; DOJ
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