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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.

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

February 28, 2020

Cardinal Health, a pharmaceutical company in Ohio, has agreed to pay more than $8 million to resolve charges of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Between 2010 and 2016, the company's China branch allegedly made payments to government-employed healthcare professionals and retail companies on behalf of a European dermocosmetic company whose products Cardinal China distributed.  Additionally, the company took part in a profit-sharing agreement with the dermocosmetic company, and failed to maintain complete records on the affected accounts.  As part of the settlement, Cardinal Health will cease and desist and pay $5.4 million in disgorgement, $916,887 in prejudgment interest, and $2.5 million in civil penalty.  SEC

February 28, 2020

The SEC has awarded $7 million to an anonymous whistleblower whom the agency described as having provided extensive and sustained assistance in a successful enforcement action.  No other information on the underlying action was disclosed.  SEC

February 27, 2020

Wells Fargo Clearing Services and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network will pay a $35 million penalty to resolve charges that certain of Wells Fargo's investment advisors and registered representatives made unsuitable recommendations to retail clients regarding single-inverse ETF products.  The SEC charged that Wells Fargo lacked policies and procedures that would have detected such unsuitable recommendations, and failed to adequately supervise and train its financial professionals, who did not fully understand the products they were recommending.  Wells Fargo did not admit or deny the SEC's findings; the penalty will be distributed to harmed individuals.  SEC

February 21, 2020

Wells Fargo & Co. will pay a total of $3 billion in a federal settlement resolving criminal, civil, and administrative liability with respect to its “cross-selling” sales practices between 2002 and 2016 that led to the opening of millions of checking, savings, credit card, and other accounts on behalf of individual customers under false pretenses or without the customers’ consent.  As part of the settlement, Wells Fargo admitted that it collected millions of dollars in fees and interest to which the Company was not entitled, harmed customer credit ratings, and unlawfully misused customers’ personal information.  Wells Fargo entered into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement requiring the bank to take certain compliance steps and cooperate with ongoing investigations.  Of the $3 billion settlement, $500 million resolves SEC claims that the bank, knowing about the underlying violations, mislead investors about the success of its business; the SEC settlement will be distributed to harmed investors.  The federal settlement is in addition to a $575 million 2018 settlement Wells Fargo entered into with 50 states and the District of Columbia and a $100 million 2016 fine from the CFPB arising from the same conduct.  DOJ; SEC; WD NC; CD Cal

January 13, 2020

San Francisco-based fund advisor Michael Rothenberg has been ordered to pay more than $31 million for misappropriating millions of dollars in client funds.  Instead of investing clients funds in emerging technology, the head of Rothenberg Ventures LLC allegedly funneled it toward personal business ventures and events, in violation of the antifraud provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.  As part of the settlement, Rothenberg has also agreed to be barred from the securities industry for five years.  SEC

December 18, 2019

MetLife, Inc. has agreed to pay $10 million to settle charges of violating internal accounting control provisions of federal securities laws.  Of the two errors that resulted from these violations, one ran for 25 years and involved the improper release of reserves for annuitants presumed dead after minimal attempts to make contact.  A second error involved the overstating of reserves and understating of income related to a subsidiary's variable annuity guarantees.  In 2017, Metlife increased reserves by $510 million to correct the first error, and reduced reserves by $896 million to correct the second.  SEC

December 16, 2019

A Goldman Sachs executive charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has been permanently banned from the securities industry and ordered to pay disgorgement of $43.7 million.  In order to secure lucrative business for Goldman Sachs, managing director Tim Leissner had allegedly directed a third party intermediary to bribe government officials in Malaysia and the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.  SEC

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
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