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April 20, 2020

A company that markets rent-to-own payment plans in retail stores nationwide has agreed to pay $175 million to settle FTC charges of intentionally misleading customers.  By hiding payment terms, Progressive Leasing allegedly led customers to believe the payment plans had no interest when in fact, the company did charge an interest rate that resulted in customers paying as much as double the true price of products.  The settlement proceeds will go toward refunds for affected customers, and under the terms of the proposed settlement, Progressive Leasing will be prohibited from engaging in similar conduct and required to disclose full payment costs to its customers.  FTC

April 16, 2020

The SEC has announced that its largest whistleblower award so far this year and sixth largest overall since the inception of its whistleblower program has been awarded to an individual who alerted the agency to fraud that was partly committed overseas.  The whistleblower, who will receive $27 million, reportedly contributed significantly to the agency’s enforcement efforts by providing critical investigative leads.  SEC

April 14, 2020

Importer Blue Furniture Solutions, LLC, its successor XMillennium, LLC, and former executives Yingqing Zeng and Alex Cheng have agreed to pay more than $5.2 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act in conspiring to evade customs duties and fees on furniture imported from China.  In a qui tam complaint by whistleblower University Loft Company, which the United States elected to intervene in, the defendants were accused of declaring wooden bedroom furniture as “metal” or “non-bedroom”, manipulating packing lists and invoices, and directing manufacturers to mislabel boxes and falsify invoices to help defendants evade U.S. customs officials.  USAO WDTX

April 6, 2020

Cantor Fitzgerald & Co. has agreed to pay $3.2 million to settle charges of willfully providing the SEC with incomplete and inaccurate securities trading information, also known as “blue sheet data,” for approximately 35 million transactions, over the course of five years.  Because the SEC uses that information to investigate insider trading and other fraudulent activity, Cantor Fitzgerald’s actions prevented the SEC from carrying out its duty to protect investors.  Cantor Fitzgerald has since retained an outside consultant and adopted new policies and procedures relating to the proper submission of blue sheet data.  SEC

April 3, 2020

The SEC has announced that an anonymous whistleblower who provided information to the agency, despite implied threats from the wrongdoer, has been awarded $2 million.  According to the SEC, the information provided would have been difficult for the agency to obtain otherwise and significantly aided in an ongoing investigation.  SEC

April 1, 2020

A Christian concert promoter and his business have settled with the SEC over charges of defrauding 145 investors of $3 million.  According to a press release, Jeffrey Wall of Maine and his business, The Lighthouse Events LLC, had promised investors that investments intended to promote Christian music concerts were “secured” and “guaranteed,” when in fact they were being used to pay off debt and make payments to earlier investors.  Each of the defendants have since been ordered to pay nearly $1.6 million each in civil penalties, $1.6 million in disgorgement, and over $200,000 in prejudgment interest.  SEC

March 30, 2020

A whistleblower working in compliance and internal audits has been awarded $450,000 by the SEC.  After efforts to report misconduct internally failed to make a positive impact, the whistleblower reported the same misconduct to the SEC, which helped focus an ongoing investigation and ultimately led to a successful enforcement action.  SEC

March 24, 2020

Two whistleblowers have received awards totaling over $570,000 for their roles in recent enforcement actions by the SEC.  According to the press release, the first whistleblower received approximately $478,000 and the second whistleblower received approximately $94,000.  In keeping with agency practices, the whistleblowers’ identities have not been revealed.  SEC

March 23, 2020

The SEC has announced that it has awarded a whistleblower over $1.6 million for informing the agency of a possible securities violation and providing critical assistance during the investigation.  Because of the whistleblower’s actions, the SEC was able to successfully enforce securities laws while preserving time and resources.  SEC
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