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SEC Enforcement Actions

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is the United States agency with primary responsibility for enforcing federal securities laws. Whistleblowers with knowledge of violations of the federal securities laws can submit a claim to the SEC under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, and may be eligible to receive  monetary rewards and protection against retaliation by employers.

Below are summaries of recent SEC settlements or successful prosecutions. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give  rise to an SEC enforcement action and claim under the SEC Whistleblower Reward Program, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

December 12, 2019

Two oil and gas executives have settled insider trading charges with the SEC by agreeing to pay nearly $6 million in civil penalty, disgorgement, and prejudgment interest.  The two, John Davidson and John Special, allegedly purchased shares of medical device company, Covidien PLC, upon learning non-public information about a potential merger with Medtronic PLC.  When news of the merger was officially released, investment accounts controlled by the men earned over $1 million in illicit gains.  SEC

December 9, 2019

Former U.S. Representative Christopher Collins, his son Cameron Collins, and the father of Cameron Collins’ former girlfriend, Stephen Zarsky, have settled insider trading charges with the SEC.  While serving on the board of Australian biotech company Innate Immunotherapeutics Ltd., the elder Collins learned about the impending release of negative test results for a multiple sclerosis drug.  His subsequent disclosure to his son, and his son’s disclosure to Zarsky, led the three to sell $700,000 worth of Innate shares before news hit the market.  Defendants will disgorge approximately $700,000, and have pleaded guilty to related criminal charges.  SEC

December 9, 2019

Broker-dealer Jefferies LLC has agreed to pay $4 million to settle allegations of improperly handling pre-released American Depository Receipts (ADRs), a form of securities that represent foreign shares in a foreign company.  Despite knowing that requisite corresponding foreign shares were unavailable, Jefferies improperly borrowed pre-released ADRs from other brokers and failed to properly supervise personnel about these borrowing practices.  SEC

December 6, 2019

Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“Ericsson”) has agreed to pay more than $1 billion to resolve DOJ and SEC allegations that its subsidiaries engaged in a large-scale bribery scheme, in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The alleged misconduct occurred over a span of 16 years ending in 2016 and involved approximately $45 million in bribes paid to a consulting party in Indonesia, $31.5 million paid to third parties in China, $4.8 million paid to a consulting company in Vietnam, $2.1 million paid to government officials in Djibouti, and $450,000 paid to a consulting company in Kuwait.  To settle charges, Ericsson has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and will pay a criminal penalty of over $520 million, as well as disgorgement and prejudgment interest of $540 million.  DOJ; USAO SDNY; SEC

December 5, 2019

Brand management company Iconix Brand Group Inc. and former top executives have agreed to settle SEC fraud charges by agreeing to pay at least $5.5 million.  The complaint against Iconix, former CEO Neil Cole, former COO Seth Horowitz, and former CFO Warren Clamen alleged that the executives profited off a fraudulent scheme that created fictitious revenue and concealed the company’s lackluster earnings, while Iconix failed to recognize false revenue and made false statements to the SEC.  Horowitz and Clamen have agreed to settle, while the charges against Cole remain pending.  SEC

November 15, 2019

Three whistleblowers who jointly submitted a tip to the SEC were awarded $260,000.  The information provided by the unidentified whistleblowers lead to a successful enforcement action against a fraud that targeted retail investors.  The whistleblowers were reported to be investors who were themselves harmed by the conduct.  SEC

November 14, 2019

Veritaseum, Inc. and Veritaseum, LLC, together with their owner Reginald Middleton, agreed to pay $9.5 million to resolve claims of fraudulent conduct in their VERI Initial Coin Offering. Defendants were alleged to have misrepresented the potential profitability and viability of Veritaseum's purported operations, the use of funds raised in the VERI ICO, and the amount of funds raised in the VERI ICO.  Middleton was further alleged to have engaged in conduct to manipulate the price of VERI.  Defendants will disgorge $7.9 million in gains, plus interest, and Middleton will pay a $1 million civil penalty.  SEC

October 29, 2019

The orchestrator and four promoters of a pyramid and Ponzi scheme has been ordered to pay almost $11 million for defrauding at least 1,400 Spanish and Portuguese-speaking investors.  According to an earlier press release from the SEC, ringleader Daniel Fernandes Rojo Filho’s company, DFRF Enterprises, LLC, allegedly told investors that it operated more than 50 gold mines in Brazil and Africa.  In reality, the company did not actually mine gold and its $15 million in revenues came solely from recruiting new members as investors, with earlier investors paid commissions in a Ponzi-like fashion.  Filho alone will pay over $10 million of the monetary judgment; his four associates will each pay between $100,00 and $266,000.  SEC

October 10, 2019

A Maryland-based man has been sentenced to 22 years in prison for his role in a $396 million Ponzi scheme, the largest ever charged in Maryland.  Unbeknownst to hundreds of victim investors, the consumer debt portfolios they invested in through Kevin Merrill and co-conspirators Jay Ledford and Cameron Jezierski were fake, with Merrill, Ledford, and Jezierski going to great lengths to keep up the illusion.  The trio created imposter companies and bank accounts, fake documents, and invited would-be investors to tours of their Texas “office.”  By the time they were arrested in 2018, the scheme had raked in over $396 million, with another $260 million pending.  As part of his sentence, Merrill has also been ordered to pay restitution of at least $189 millionUSAO MD; SEC

October 2, 2019

PlexCorps and its principals Dominic Lacroix and Sabrina Paradis-Royer have agreed to pay nearly $7 million to resolve charges related to their unregistered initial coin offering PlexCoin, and their false and misleading statements regarding PlexCoin, the amount of funds raised by PlexCoin, the use of funds raised in the ICO, and the size and scale of PlexCoin operations.  The SEC had obtained an emergency freeze on the ICO in 2017, and defendants will disgorge over $4.5 million in retained investor funds, plus interest; in addition, the individuals will each pay a $1 million penalty.  Defendants are enjoined from further violations, and the individuals are enjoined from participating in any digital-securities offerings.  SEC
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