Articles Posted in Institutional Investors

Michael L. Cohen, the ex-head of Och-Ziff Capital Management Group in Europe, has pleaded guilty to one criminal count of lying to authorities. The guilty plea comes a year after he was accused of defrauding a client, a biomedical research charity, of millions of dollars. Although prosecutors have not identified the charity, sources have told various media that it was Wellcome Trust, which backs research in health, science, and other fields.

Cohen, who was based in the UK at the time while working for the hedge fund management firm, is the one who brokered the sale of shares in an African mining company to the charity. The company belonged to one of his business associates.

Cohen made $4M from the sale of the shares. He allegedly failed to tell the charity that he himself owned shares in the mining company.

Morgan Stanley (MS) has agreed to a $150M settlement with the California State Teachers’ Retirement System (CalSTRS) and the California Public Employees’ Retirement System (CalPERS) to resolve claims that it misled investors about the risks involved in mortgage-backed securities, which both pension funds purchased from 2003 to 2007. CalSTRS and CalPERS lost millions of dollars from investing in these MBSs prior to the 2008 financial crisis.

In a news release, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra accused Morgan Stanley of placing profits over the pension funds’ public employees and teachers when the firm didn’t fully disclose the MBSs’ risks. These complex investments package together thousands of mortgage loans, and not all of the loans share the same level of quality.

Mr. Becerra’s office, which conducted a probe into Morgan Stanley’s handling of MBS sales, found that the brokerage firm did not “accurately” portray many of the underlying mortgages’ “true” traits. Meanwhile, the broker-dealer allegedly overstated the quality of certain subprime loans, including those from New Century Financial, which eventually went bankrupt. Morgan Stanley is accused of knowing about these misrepresentations but doing nothing to remedy the matter.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is accusing Abraaj Investment Management Ltd., a Dubai-based investment advisory firm, with misappropriating money from the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund. The regulator said that the fraud has resulted in losses for US investors, including charitable organizations that invested over $100M in the Fund. Also facing civil fraud charges is Abraaj founder Arif Navqi. In total, the investment adviser and Navqi are accused of misappropriating more than $230M from the fund between at least 9/2016 and 6/2018.

According to the regulator’s civil complaint, investors were told that their money would go into businesses related to healthcare in emerging markets. Instead, Abraaj Investment Management allegedly used the money to pay for cash shortfalls at the firm and at parent company Abraaj Holdings, Ltd., both of which Navqi controlled. Meantime, investors were allegedly sent financial statements and quarterly reports that were materially misleading or false.

Registered in the Cayman Islands, the Abraaj Growth Markets Health Fund’s investors had committed $850M. Additionally, the SEC stated that one of the fund’s investors was a US government entity that had committed an additional $150M debt investment.


Jury Convicts Investment Manager for Defrauding Lenders and Clients

A federal jury has convicted Shawn Baldwin, a Chicago investment manager, on seven counts of wire fraud. Baldwin is accused of fraudulently obtaining over $10M from at least 15 investors and lenders between 2006 and 2017. They thought that their money would go into investment products. Instead, he spent their money on his own personal bills. Meantime, his victims were given fake account statements with false information about their funds’ value so he could hide the fraud.

Individual and corporate lenders were among those that gave Baldwin their money to invest. He is accused of “exaggerating” his successful track record and professional ties, as well as mispresenting and minimizing past disciplinary action brought against him, including the revocation of his certifications with FINRA and that in 2013, the State of Illinois permanently barred Baldwin from offering investment advice or selling securities.

The City of Birmingham Retirement and Relief System and the Electrical Workers Pension System Local 103 have filed a proposed class action securities fraud lawsuit accusing a number of big banks of colluding with one another to rig the prices of Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. (Freddie Mac) and Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae) unsecured bonds. The defendants in the case include JP Morgan (JPM), Bank of America (BAC), Citigroup (C), Barclays Bank (BARC), Deutsche Bank (DB), Credit Suisse (CS), UBS (UBS), Merrill Lynch, BNP Paribas Securities Corp., FTN Financial Securities, Goldman Sachs (GS), and First Tennessee Bank.

According to Law360, the plaintiffs contend that the bank took advantage of the dark market nature of the “private, ‘over the counter’ (OTC) market” where these bonds are bought and sold to get investors to buy the Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae bonds at prices that were “artificially high.”

Fannie and Freddie are both government-backed mortgage-finance companies. They are typically known for converting mortgages into mortgage-backed securities. This investor fraud lawsuit, however, is focused on their unsecured bonds. The proposed class contends that investors purchased the bonds because they thought they were safe, liquid, low risk, and likely to make returns. Their complaint states that the plaintiffs and other investors had not expected the “overcharges and underpayments” that resulted because of the banks’ alleged collusion.

$20M Ponzi Scam Results in Guilty Plea for Kiddar Capital Founder

Todd Hitt, Kiddar Capital’s founder and a member of a prominent commercial real estate family in Virginia, has pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges accusing him of operating a $20M Ponzi fraud that involved several schemes. According to prosecutors, Hitt solicited about $30M from investors and then proceeded to use most of the money to fund his lavish lifestyle while using newer investors’ funds to pay older investors. He also allegedly made “false statements and material omissions” to investors when he didn’t tell them that their money was comingled with unrelated projects and not just the real estate and venture capital investments for which their funds were supposedly designated.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia contends that because of Hitt’s “fraudulent conduct,” investors lost about $20M. He is facing up to 20 years behind bars and is expected to pay a fine of millions of dollars. He previously settled related civil fraud charges filed against him by the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

The city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania is suing Bank of America (BAC), Goldman Sachs (GS), Citigroup (C), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), Barclays Plc (BAR), JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) for allegedly rigging rates for variable-rate demand obligations (VRDOs). Philadelphia had issued over $1.6B of these bonds.

VRDOs are tax-exempt municipal securities that can be redeemed by investors early because they are tendered to banks. The banks can then remarket the bonds to other investors while charging issuers a fee.

According to InvestmentNews, the city is looking to represent a number of hospitals, municipalities, and universities with its lawsuit. The complaint contends that the banks worked with each other to manipulate the VRDO rates in secret so they could make hundreds of millions of dollars in unearned fees. The alleged rigging occurred between 2/2008 and 6/2016. The collusion purportedly involved the banks agreeing not to compete against each other for re-marketing services.

Virginia Regulator Fines UBS Financial After Its Broker Makes Unsuitable Recommendations

To settle charges brought by Virginia’s State Corporate Commission accusing a UBS (UBS) broker of making unsuitable recommendations involving gold and precious metals securities to 18 clients, UBS Financial Services will pay $319K—$289K to the clients and $30K to the state.

Virginia’s regulator contends that unsuitable recommendations were made in 2013 and 2014 and caused UBS clients to hold an overconcentration of these securities, which were not even suitable for some of them. The state said that this violated its securities rules.

According to Bloomberg, market woes have left Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Barclays Plc (BARC), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), and other Wall Street banks unable to get rid of at least $1.6B of “unwanted leveraged buyout debt” as investors continue to run from high-risk assets in the wake of fears about the global economy. A leveraged buyout (LBO) involves the acquiring of a company using borrowed funds. The assets of the company that is acquired, as well as the acquiring company’s assets, usually serve as collateral. LBOs make it possible for companies to get involved in big acquisitions without having to use a lot of capital.

Bloomberg reports that as of the 22nd of December, at least four loan sales involving acquisitions and buyouts had yet to “clear the market” leaving banks with no choice but to retain the debt on their books, including:

· A group led by Goldman Sachs in charge of the financing for First Reserve’s acquisition of pipeline operator Blue Racer was expected to end the year holding a $516M loan.

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