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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 11, 2022

A whistleblower was awarded $14 million by the SEC in a decision that departed from the recommendation of the Claims Review Staff to deny the award.  A report about a fraud committed by a company and its CEO was published online; two individuals claimed to be authors of the report, which contained analysis derived from a large number of publicly-available and non-public sources.  Neither submitted a TCR to the SEC at the time the report was published, although the whistleblower who received the award provided the report directly to Commission staff and provided additional information during the course of the enforcement action that the SEC initiated based on the report’s allegations.   The whistleblower did submit a TCR two months after the SEC posted a Notice of Covered Action, more than four years after the report was publicly released.  The Commission found that it would be in the public interest and consistent with the protection of investors to exercise its discretionary authority and grant an award despite the individual’s failure to initially file a TCR.  The second claimant, who did not submit a TCR at any time, and who did not communicate with enforcement staff, was denied an award.  SEC

March 8, 2022

The SEC has awarded more than $3.5 million to a whistleblower whose information significantly contributed to two successful enforcement actions by prompting staff to further investigate securities violations, saving time and resources, and helping to advance settlement discussions.  SEC

March 4, 2022

Venture capital fund adviser Alumni Ventures Group, LLC and its CEO Michael Collins have agreed to pay civil penalties totaling $800,000, and have returned $4.8 million to affected funds to resolve claims that they made misleading representations about AVG’s fees, and made inter-fund loans and transfers in violation of the funds’ respective operating agreements.  The SEC alleged that while AVG told customers that its management fee was the “industry standard ‘2 and 20.,” its practice was different from the industry standard in that it assessed the entire 20 percent in management fees – that is, 10 years’ worth of management fees of two percent per annum – upfront at the time an investor made the capital contribution.  SEC

March 3, 2022

City National Rochdale, LLC agreed to a civil penalty just over $30 million to resolve SEC allegations that the registered investment adviser failed to disclose to discretionary account clients that it invested their assets in proprietary mutual funds that generated fees for CNR and its affiliates, rather than in competitor funds whose fees may be lower.  The government also alleged that CNR failed to fully inform certain prospective customers of fees with respect to its proprietary funds.  The disclosure failures resulted in an undisclosed conflict of interest according to the SEC.  SEC

February 28, 2022

The Income Collecting 1-3 Months T-Bills Mutual Fund and one of its principals, Victor Chilelli, have consented to judgments ordering the return $77 million to investors; litigation against other defendants continues.  The SEC alleges that defendants, including Ofer Abarbanel, defrauded investors by misrepresenting the planned use of their funds, directing customer funds to shell companies under their control in uncollateralized loan transactions, and misappropriating investor funds for high-risk trading. SEC

February 22, 2022

Healthcare company Baxter International Inc. and two of its former executives have settled claims with the SEC related to reporting of its intra-company foreign exchange transactions.  Baxter agreed to pay a penalty of $18 million; the company’s former treasurer and assistant treasurer will pay penalties of $125,000 and $100,000, respectively.  The SEC alleged that in recording foreign currency transactions recognized by its subsidiaries, Baxter used a foreign exchange rate convention that was not in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles; the company then leveraged this FX convention by engaging in intra-company transactions for the sole purpose of generating FX gains or avoiding FX losses, resulting in material misstatements of its net income.  SEC

February 17, 2022

South Korean telecommunications company KT Corporation will pay $6.3 million to resolve charges that the company and its executives engaged in multiple improper payment schemes in Korea and Vietnam in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company allegedly failed to have adequate accounting controls, resulting in the creation of slush funds used for gifts and illegal political contributions to government officials who had influence over KT Corp.’s business.  SEC

February 14, 2022

BlockFi, Inc. will pay a total of $100 million to resolve SEC and state claims arising from its sale to retail customers of cryptocurrency lending products, including its BlockFi Interest Accounts.  Through the “BIAs,” investors lent cryptocurrency assets to BlockFi in exchange for the company’s promise to provide a variable monthly interest payment.  The SEC alleged that the BIAs were securities, offered without registration, that BlockFi operated as an unregistered investment company, and made false and misleading statements about risk levels.  SEC

February 11, 2022

Defendants Seyed Taher Kameli and his companies, Chicagoland Foreign Investment Group, LLC and American Enterprise Pioneers, Inc., will pay jointly and severally $1.6 million after entering into a judgment for defrauding EB-5 immigrant investors. Kameli is an immigration attorney, some of whose clients were victims of the fraud. He promised at least 226 foreign investors that their $500,000 investments would finance construction of a senior living project and pave the way for at least 10 permanent full-time jobs, as well as qualifying each investor for a path to permanent U.S. residency. Instead, he commingled and misused some of the $88.7 million raised. Defendants are enjoined from further violations of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. Kameli also agreed administratively to a 5-year suspension from practicing before the SEC as an attorney. SEC

January 21, 2022

A whistleblower received an award of $1.5 million, with the SEC finding that the individual voluntarily provided new and original information as well as substantial assistance during the course of the government’s investigation.  The information helped Commission staff formulate their investigative strategy, saved government time and resources, and significantly contributed to the success of a government investigation.   SEC
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