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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.

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

October 2, 2019

Brokerage firm Lek Securities Corp. and its CEO Sam Lek will pay almost $2 million to resolve allegations that they facilitated the manipulative trading scheme of Ukraine-based customer Avalon FA, Ltd.  Lek provided Avalon with the means to engage in "layering" and other cross-market manipulation.  Layering involves placing and canceling orders to signal inaccurate prices.  Avalon also engaged in other practices to buy and sell stocks to artificially impact options prices.  Lek Securities will pay a $1 million penalty plus $526,000 in disgorgement and interest; Sam Lek will pay a $420,000 penalty.  Defendants have admitted the facts alleged and Lek Securities has agreed to retain an independent compliance monitor.  SEC

September 30, 2019

Longfin Corporation has been ordered to pay $6.8 million in a default judgment entered in a federal court case alleging that Longfin filed fraudulent papers to qualify for a public offering under Regulation A+, misrepresenting the business as being based in the U.S.  In addition, Longfin reported fictitious revenue from sham commodities transactions and unlawfully distributed Longfin shares, including in unregistered transactions and to insiders and affiliates.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Advisory firms BMO Harris Financial Advisors Inc. and BMO Asset Management Corp. have agreed to pay over $37 million to resolve allegations that the companies violated the Investment Advisers Act by steering customers in their Managed Asset Allocation Program to more expensive investments from which the BMO advisor entities profited without disclosing this practice or the associated conflict of interest.  BMO will pay $29.73 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest, along with a civil penalty of $8.25 million.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Canadian Westport Fuel Systems, Inc., and its former CEO Nancy Gougarty will pay $4.1 million to resolve charges that they violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in making payment to Chinese government officials.  The clean fuel technology company was found by the SEC to have transferred shares in a Westport Chinese joint venture to a Chinese private equity firm in which a government official held a financial interest, misrepresented the identity of the parties involved, and circumvented internal accounting controls.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Mylan N.V. has agreed to pay $30 million to resolve SEC charges that the company failed to disclose or adequately accrue for possible losses arising from a DOJ investigation into Mylan's classification, pricing, and rebate practices regarding its EpiPen product.  In 2017, Mylan agreed to pay $465 million to resolve that DOJ investigation.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Fiat Chrysler Automobiles N.V. and its U.S. subsidiary FCA US LLC will pay $40 million to resolve SEC allegations that the automaker provided false and misleading information in press releases and regulatory filings about its monthly new vehicle sales and vehicle sales growth rate.  The SEC found that FCA US inflated new vehicle sales by paying dealers to report fake vehicle sales, but then failing to report those sales at the time.  Instead, Fiat Chrysler kept these sales in a separate database referred to internally as the "cookie jar," which the company would then dip into to report as current sales in a slow month.  SEC

September 27, 2019

Herbalife Nutrition Ltd. will pay $20 million to settle charges that it made misstatements in regulatory filings about its business in China.  While Herbalife, which has a direct sales model, claimed in filings that it did not use its customary multilevel marketing compensation model in China in order to comply with Chinese law, in fact, its compensation model in China was materially identical to its compensation model in every other country.  By failing to disclose this information, Herbalife was found to have deprived investors of valuable information regarding the risks faced by the company.  SEC

September 26, 2019

Wisconsin-based Quad/Graphics Inc., a digital and print marketing provider, has agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges of bribing government officials in Peru and China in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The alleged misconduct by Quad/Graphics’ Peruvian subsidiary, Quad/Graphics Peru S.A., occurred from at least 2011 to 2016 and involved paid or promised bribes to government officials in order to win contracts, avoid penalties, and influence the Peruvian tax authority.  From 2010 to 2015, Quad/Graphics’ Chinese subsidiary, Quad/Tech Shanghai Trading Company, Ltd., allegedly paid or promised bribes to government employees using sham sales agents.  As part of the settlement, Quad/Graphic will pay nearly $7 million in disgorgement, $1 million in prejudgment interest, and a $2 million civil penalty, as well as self-report on its compliance program for one year.  SEC
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