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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.

January 21, 2015

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services agreed to pay $77M to settle fraud charges relating to its ratings of certain commercial mortgage-backed securities.  According to the Director of the SEC Enforcement Division Andrew J. Ceresney, “Standard & Poor’s elevated its own financial interests above investors by loosening its rating criteria to obtain business and then obscuring these changes from investors.  These enforcement actions, our first-ever against a major ratings firm, reflect our commitment to aggressively policing the integrity and transparency of the credit ratings process.”  SEC

January 15, 2015

The SEC announced charges against attorneys, auditors, and others allegedly involved in a microcap scheme under which fake mining companies were used for sham offerings of stock to investors.  According to the SEC, Canada-based attorney and stock promoter John Briner orchestrated the scheme with the assistance of Colorado-based attorney Diane Dalmy, Nevada-based audit firm De Joya Griffith LLC and Texas-based audit firm M&K CPAS PLLC.  SEC

January 15, 2015

UBS subsidiary UBS Securities LLC agreed to pay more than $14.4M, including a $12M penalty that is the SEC’s largest against an alternative trading system (ATS), to settle charges of disclosure failures and other securities law violations related to the operation and marketing of its dark pool.  SEC

January 12, 2015

Two exchanges formerly owned by Direct Edge Holdings and since acquired by BATS Global Markets (the EDGA Exchange and EDGX Exchange) have agreed to pay a $14M penalty to settle charges that their rules failed to accurately describe the order types being used on the exchanges.  The penalty is the SEC’s largest against a national securities exchange, and the case is the SEC’s first principally focusing on stock exchange order types.  SEC

December 29, 2014

The SEC charged New York-based VERO Capital Management and its president Robert Geiger, general counsel George Barbaresi, and chief financial officer Steven Downey with secretly diverting investor money for their own benefit to prop up a fledgling side business. SEC

December 23, 2014

The SEC charged stock promoter Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos with fraudulently raising nearly $3.5 million from investors purportedly to purchase Facebook and Twitter shares prior to their initial public offerings.  According to the SEC, instead of purchasing the shares in the secondary market as promised, Argyropoulos and his firm Prima Capital Group misappropriated investor funds and used them primarily for day trading of stocks and options as well as to pay off certain investors who complained when they didn’t receive the promised Facebook or Twitter shares.  SEC

December 22, 2014

The SEC charged California-based attorney Shivbir Grewal and his wife Preetinder with insider trading on confidential information obtained from a corporate client.  According to the SEC, while serving as outside counsel to Spectrum Pharmaceuticals, Grewal learned that the company was on the brink of announcing a significant decline in expected revenue due to an unanticipated drop in orders for its top-selling drug.  Grewal sold his entire investment in Spectrum stock within 48 hours of getting the nonpublic information from company officials who sought the disclosure advice of his law firm.  The Grewals agreed to pay $90,000 to settle the SEC’s charges.  SEC

December 22, 2014

Investment management firm F-Squared Investments agreed to pay $35M and admit wrongdoing to settle charges it defrauded investors through false performance advertising about its flagship index product AlphaSector.  The SEC separately charged the firm’s co-founder and former CEO Howard Present with making false and misleading statements to investors as the public face of F-Squared.  SEC

December 18, 2014

The SEC charged Staten Island, N.Y.-based firm Premier Links, Inc., along with its former president and two sales representatives, with participating in a fraudulent boiler room scheme targeting seniors to invest in speculative start-up companies.  According to the SEC, the company along with Dwayne Malloy, Chris Damon, and Theirry Ruffin “treated vulnerable older investors as their personal ATM machines” by using high-pressure sales tactics to convince them to invest in companies purportedly on the brink of conducting initial public offerings.  But they did not disclose that only a small fraction of the money would be transmitted to the promoted companies and that Premier Links diverted the funds to other entities controlled by the sales representatives or other associates.  SEC

December 17, 2014

Global beauty products company Avon Products Inc. agreed to pay $135M to settle charges it violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by failing to put controls in place to detect and prevent payments and gifts to Chinese government officials from employees and consultants at a subsidiary.  According to the government, Avon’s subsidiary in China made $8M worth of illicit payments to Chinese officials to secure business there.  SEC
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