Articles Posted in Microcap Market Fraud

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.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed civil fraud charges accusing 15 people of either “acting as unregistered brokers” or “aiding-and-abetting” this kind of activity related to the solicitation of microcap issuer Intertech Solution’s “unregistered and fraudulent securities offerings.” Already, 11 of the defendants have consented to the entry of final judgments but without denying or admitting to wrongdoing.

The 15 individuals are:

    • Daniel Broyles

Steele Financial is Accused of Investor Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisory firm Steele Financial Inc. and its owner Tamara Steele. According to the regulator, they allegedly sold $13M of risky securities to over 120 advisory clients. A lot of these clients are teachers, ex-teachers, or other public education employees. The SEC contends that Steele and her investment advisory firm did not tell them that Steele Financial would be making up to 18% in commissions in sales.

According to the Commission’s investment advisory fraud complaint, from 12/2012 to 10/2016, Stele Financial and Steele sold over $15M of Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc. securities. BRS is a company that the SEC has charged with fraud in the past. Meantime, Stele and her firm made over $2.5M of commissions.

Stock Promoters Accused in Pump-and-Dump Scam
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against James M. Farinella, his Integrated Capital Partners Inc., Anthony Amado, and his Equity Awareness Group with fraud over the alleged inflation and manipulation of a microcap company’s share price. As a result of the alleged pump-and-dump scam, the fraud made over $1M.

According to the regulator, Farinella and his consulting firm controlled almost the whole public float of stock in Pazoo Inc. Farinella paid Amado’s company to promote the microcap issuer and take part in matched trading to make it appear as if there was market activity for the stock. Amado and one of his employees, Carlo Palomino, are accused of enacting the scam, which allowed Farinella to make over $1M when dumping the Pazoo shares.

New Jersey prosecutors have filed criminal charges against Farinella over the microcap fraud allegations.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is barring a number of market participants from the penny stock industry for their involvement in a number of purportedly fake initial public offerings of microcap stocks. The regulator says that investors were bilked because of these schemes.

Among those barred is Newport Beach, CA securities attorney Michael J. Muellerleile. He is accused of authorizing misleading and bogus registration statements that were employed in fake IPOs for several microcap issuers. The statements were generated to purportedly move unrestricted penny stock shares to offshore market participants. Muellerleile’s firm, M2 Law Professional Corp, attorney Lan Phuong Nguyen, and American Energy Development Corp. CFO Joel Felix are also charged in this microcap fraud case.

Nguyen allegedly signed misleading and false legal opinion letters. Felix is accused of making misleading and false statements. Earlier this month, the regulator suspended trading in American Energy Development.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is ordering Cantor Fitzgerald to pay $7.3 million for selling billions of unregistered microcap shares in 2011 and 2012. The firm is also facing sanctions for not having the proper supervisory /anti-money laundering programs in place to identify suspect activity or red flags related to microcap activity.

According to the self-regulatory organization, the Cantor Fitzgerald’s supervisory system was not designed in a reasonable enough manner to fulfill its obligation to assess whether the microcap securities it was liquidating for clients were SEC-registered or, if not, then were subject to a registration exemption. FINRA said that after Cantor Fitzgerald decided to broaden its microcap liquidity business in 2011, it did not make sure its supervisory system had a meaningful and reasonable way to determine whether the sales of these securities occurred in compliance with the law. Also, said the regulator, the firm did not provide proper guidance and training about how or when to look into whether a sale was exempt from SEC registration, and supervisors were not given the tools that they needed to identify when red flags were an indicator of unregistered, illegal distributions.
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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against California Attorney Richard Weed, Coleman Flaherty, and Thomas Brazil. The regulator contends that Weed facilitated a pump and dump scam involving CitySide Tickets Inc. stock that allowed Flaherty and Brazil to get millions of supposedly unrestricted shares.

Investors were barraged with a misleading and false promotional campaign presenting CitySide Tickets as a company in the verge of expansion and success. As the stock price went up, Flaherty and Brazil sold their shares to investors, causing the two of them to make about $3 million in illicit proceeds. Weed purportedly was well compensated for the role that he played.

The Commission charges the three men with violating federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions and related rules. The agency wants disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, interest, penalties, permanent injunctions against further violations, and penny stock bars. Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has filed a parallel criminal case against Flaherty, Brazil, and Weed.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a Risk Alert reminding brokerage firms about their duties when they take part in unregistered transactions for customers. The guidance came, along with the announcement that the agency had filed an enforcement action against former and current E*TRADE Financial Corporation (ETFC) brokerage subsidiaries that did not successfully act as gatekeepers and improperly engaged in the unregistered sales of microcap stock for customers.

According to the SEC, E*TRADE Capital Markets and E*TRADE Securities sold billions of penny stock shares for customers between 2007 and 2011. During this time, there were numerous occasions when they disregarded red flags indicating that the offerings were taking place without an applicable exemption from federal securities laws’ registration provisions.

The two brokerage firms consented to repay over $1.5 million in disgorgement plus prejudgment interest from commissions they made on the improper sales. They also have to pay a $1 million combined penalty.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against microcap company Natural Blue Resources Inc. and four persons for purportedly hiding from investors that two of them had previously broken the law. The regulator has suspended trading in Natural Blue stock.

Natural Blue’s mission was to acquire, establish, or invest in companies that are environmentally friendly. However, investors weren’t told that Joseph Corazzi and James E. Cohen were running the operations.

Cohen had previously served time for financial fraud and Corazzi was charged with federal securities law violations. He is permanently barred from acting as a director or officer of a public company.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that as part of Operation Shell-Expel, its initiative to fight microcap fraud, it is suspending trading in 255 dormant shell companies that it says are “ripe for abuse in the over-the-counter market.” The regulator’s Office of Market Intelligence in its Enforcement Division has been looking through penny stocks and finding inactive companies.

Already, several hundred dormant shell companies have been suspended to protect them from fraudsters and from pump-and-dump scams, which is common with microcap companies. Schemers will use misleading and false statements to talk up a company’s thinly traded microcap stock. They will then buy the stock at a low figure to inflate the price to make it appear as if there is market activity. The next step involves getting rid of the stock by selling at that higher price and making huge profits.

These latest suspensions involve companies in two foreign countries and 26 US states. If a stock gets suspended from trading, relisting is not possible unless the company gives current financial data to show that it is still in business. Because many dormant shell companies are unlikely to do this, the shells become worthless to fraudsters.

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