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Articles Posted in CFTC

State Street To Pay More Than $88M After Overcharging For Mutual Funds

State Street Bank and Trust Company will pay over $88M to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing it of overcharging investment advisory clients, including mutual funds, for expenses related to its custody of client assets. From 1998 to 2015, State Street allegedly collected $170M in overcharges involving out-of-pocket custodial costs that it paid on behalf of clients. While the clients had consented to pay for these costs, they did not agree to being overcharged for them.

Of the $170M in excessive charges, $110M was for a concealed markup added to the charge for transmitting financial messages via the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. As part of the settlement, State Street will pay almost $49M of disgorgement plus prejudgment interest and a $40M penalty.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whistleblower case that resulted in a company probe and two successful enforcement actions, the regulator has awarded $4.5M to the individual who stepped forward to provide the key information. This person is the 62nd one to receive an SEC whistleblower award since the Commission began granting them in 2012.

According to the regulator, the whistleblower provided an anonymous tip internally to the company about the alleged wrongdoing, as well as a similar tip to the SEC within 120 days. The information compelled the company to conduct its probe into the misconduct allegations and then report them to the Commission and to a second agency. After the company concluded its investigation, it notified both agencies of the outcome.

While the SEC didn’t provide specifics about the whistleblower case—it refrains from doing so in order to protect the confidentiality of any informants/claimants—The Wall Street Journal identified the claimant as an ex-Brazilian orthopedic surgeon who brought up concerns about an alleged kickback scam run by a subsidiary of Zimmer Biomet Holdings.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has awarded $50M to two individuals who acted as whistleblowers, helping the regulator to render a successful enforcement action because of the quality information they provided. Details of the enforcement action and the identity of the whistleblowers are not disclosed so as to protect their identities. However, the SEC did announce that one of the whistleblower awards is for $37M and the other is for $13M.

The SEC awards individuals that voluntarily share unique, credible, timely, and relevant information that then leads to a successful enforcement action when the resulting monetary sanctions imposed is more than $1M. 10-30% of that may then be awarded to the SEC whistleblower , or in some case, the whistleblowers.

Since the inception of the SEC whistleblower program in 2012, the regulator has awarded 61 individuals about $376M. All whistleblower awards come out of an investor protection fund set up by Congress. Money in the funds come out of monetary sanctions that have been paid to the Commission. Whistleblower awards are never taken out of any funds that investors who sustained losses from fraud might be able to recover.

The CFTC is ordering Lawrence/Laurence Hong, his wife Grace Hong, and their Pishon Holding LLC to pay over $1.25M in restitution for the misappropriation and fraudulent solicitation of futures contracts. The couple already pleaded guilty to related criminal charges last year, with Laurence sentenced to 180 months in prison and Grace to 72 months behind bars.

According to the CFTC’s complaint, which it brought against the couple in 2017, the Hongs defrauded investors of more than $11M. They allegedly did this by fraudulently soliciting people at a church gathering, through a YouTube video, and via misrepresentations that a Pastor made about Laurence’s supposed record as a successful trader and how much money he oversaw. The couple is accused of giving these misrepresentations to the Pastor before the church gathering.

The self-regulatory authority (SRO) also accused the Hongs of making false statements in solicitation materials, including that:

In multiple federal civil complaints alleging binary options fraud, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing a number of marketers of defrauding at least 75,000 investors—including retired investors and other retail investors, through the use videos that made false promises that they could make money fast. Investors were allegedly bilked of tens of millions of dollars.

The regulator is charging All In Publishing, LLC, Berry Media Works, LLC, and 10 individuals. The regulator SEC that the marketers sought to “trick” their targets into setting up brokerage accounts and trading in binary options, which are high risk securities.

The marketing campaigns promised investors they would make a lot of money if they set up the binary options account via “free or secret software systems” and then traded in these securities. Meantime, every time an investor set up and put money in a brokerage account, the marketers made money.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission announced this month that it is granting $55.5M in whistleblower awards to three people—two of them over the same enforcement action. These latest awards means that 58 whistleblower have been collectively awarded $322M since the regulator began issuing these in 2012.

In the same enforcement action, the SEC awarded $15M to one whistleblower and $39M to another. The latter award is the second largest award that the agency’s whistleblower program has granted to one person to date.

Under the SEC’s program, individuals who voluntarily provide unique, timely, and true information to the Commission, with said information resulting in a successful enforcement action and sanctions of over $1M, may be eligible to receive 10-30% of the funds collected. All awards are taken out of an investor protection fund set up by Congress. The money in the fund comes from sanctions paid by securities law violators.

In its first customer protection advisory regarding pump-and-dump scams involving virtual currencies, tokens, or digital coins, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission cautioned that even seasoned investors could be targeted. The regulator recommended that customers do a good job of researching prospective investments, learn the signs of possible investment fraud, and stay away from investments that “they don’t fully understand.”

Pump-and-dump scams typically involve raising the demand for a stock, and as a result, its share price, before dumping whatever shares are left so that the stock price drops. Remaining investors are left with practically worthless stock while the fraudsters usually have made a profit from dumping (selling) their shares when the stock price was still high. The CFTC is cautioning that this same fraud is now being used with virtual currencies.

Online message boards, mobile messaging applications, and other new technologies are now taking the place of boiler rooms to handle the solicitation of money from prospective investors, with some chat rooms holding thousands of members. It is also that fake news about these virtual investments is being published.

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In a settlement reached with the CFTC, Deutsche Bank Securities (DBSI) will pay a $70M civil penalty to resolve allegations that it attempted to rig the ISDAFIX benchmark. The regulator contends that from 1/2007 through 5/2012, the firm had a number of its traders try to rig the USD ISDAFIX, which is the benchmark used globally for interest rate products.

According to the CFTC’s order, Deutsche bank Securities would make bids, offers, and execute transactions in certain interest rate products such as US Treasuries and swap spreads at the 11am fixing time– or, if not, then close to that hour– to impact the rates seen on the electronic interest rate swap screen. They purportedly did this to lower or raise the reference rates of the swaps broker and influence the USD ISDAFIX when it was published.

Recordings of phone conversations and electronic communications show firm traders talking about taking actions in order to benefit their employer. Also, some Deutsche Bank Securities employees are accused of turning in misleading or fake submissions, again in an attempt to influence the final USD ISDAFIX rates that were published. The CFTC said that such actions were more about the traders’ attempts to manipulate USD ISDAFIX to their benefit rather than an honest assessment of the actual costs associated with going into a certain interest rate swap.

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Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) will pay a $30M civil penalty to resolve charges brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accusing them of spoofing. According to the regulator, from at least 2/2008 through 9/2014, DB AG, with the help of a number of precious metal traders, sought to rig the price of precious metals futures contracts that were traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc.

The CFTC’s order said that the traders worked alone and with each other to buy or sell these contracts while planning all along to cancel them before they were executed after a smaller offer was made on the opposite side of the market. The spoof orders were purportedly made to give the impression of market depth in order to generate trading interest.

The regulator found that through the traders’ actions, Deutsche Bank AG sought to not only rig the price of precious metals futures contracts but also to profit from these manipulations. The CFTC said the firm worked with one trader in Singapore who made orders and trades to “trigger customer stop-loss orders.”

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The US Commodity Futures Trading Commission has filed civil cases against virtual currency operators CabbageTech, Entrepreneurs Headquarters Ltd., and My Big Coin Pay Inc. The regulator is alleging fraud, misappropriation, misrepresentation, and other unregistered securities allegations. It wants disgorgement, fines, restitution, injunctions, and other remedies.

In the case against CabbageTech, doing business as Coin Drop Markets, and its owner Patrick K. McDonnell, the Defendants are accused of participating in a virtual currency scam to solicit investor for funds and virtual money, supposedly in exchange for real-time trading advice and the sale and trading of virtual currency under McDonnell’s guidance.

Instead, claims the CFTC, investors received no such advice and they never saw their money again because McDonnell and CabbageTech misappropriated their funds. The regulator believes that the defendants sought to hide their scam by eliminating their online and social media presence and ending communications with customers.

The CFTC’s civil action against McDonnell and his company was announced the same day as its case against The Entrepreneurs Headquarters Limited, which is a company registered in the UK, and founder Dillon Michael Dean. The regulator believes that beginning in April 2017 through now, the defendants solicited at least $1.1M of Bitcoin from over 600 investors, with the promise that the Bitcoin would be turned into fiat currency and invested in a pooled investment vehicle to trade commodity interests.
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