Articles Posted in SEC Enforcement

Cambridge Capital Group Advisors, its president Phillip Timothy Howard, and previously barred investment adviser Don Warner Reinhard are now the subject of a Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) case accusing them of defrauding 20 investors, the majority of whom are retired National Football League players. Howard, who is also an attorney, represented the NFL retirees in a class action lawsuit over brain injuries they sustained while playing the game.

The investors invested about $4.1M in two proprietary hedge funds, the Cambridge Capital Partners and Cambridge Capital Group Equity Options Opportunities. According to the SEC, even though Howard knew that the former NFL players whom he represented lack proper brain function, employment capacity, credit, or capital, he and Reinhard still allegedly persuaded them to invest in the two funds. The regulator said that more than half of players who invested used their retirement money.

Among the false claims and misrepresentations that the defendants allegedly made while soliciting investors were that:

Investment adviser Brenda Smith has been arrested and charged with defrauding about 40 investors of $105M. The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also has filed civil fraud charges against Strong, who is based in Philadelphia, and her Broad Reach Capital, LP (also known as the Broad Reach Fund), Broad Reach Partners, and registered investment advisor Bristol Advisors, LLC. The fund and the two entities are controlled by Strong.

According to the SEC, Smith told investors their money would go into publicly traded securities and that she would employ different trading strategies that had consistently rendered high returns in the past. Instead, contends the regulator, Smith made just a few investments using said strategies and spent investors’ funds on her own expenses, to pay back other investors, and on unrelated companies.

Smith is accused of sending out false information bragging about positive returns of more than 30% annually, claiming to hold billions of dollars in assets at a company belonging to her, creating fake documents to inflate the fund’s assets to more than $180M, and fooling investors into thinking their money was safe.

Marcus Boggs, a former Merrill Lynch investment adviser, is now facing US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges accusing him of using $1.7M of client monies to pay his own credit card bills. According to the regulator, Boggs, who was a Chicago-based RIA, illegally transferred funds from the accounts of three retail advisory clients on more than 200 occasions.

The firm fired him after finding out about the alleged misconduct, which would have taken place between 2016 and December 2018. Boggs was a registered investment adviser (RIA) with Merrill for 12 years, which was the entire time that he worked in the securities industry.

His job was to offer investment advice to clients, and Boggs didn’t have the authority or permission to liquidate the assets or trade in his alleged victims’ accounts. However, he allegedly went on to sell securities in said accounts and directly take money out of them for his own use.

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 two mortgage-backed securities settlements reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nomura Securities International will collectively pay customers about $25M. The enforcement actions involve residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), respectively.

According to the SEC, Nomura failed to properly supervise its bond traders, who are accused of making statements that were false and misleading to customers by trying to get them to buy RMBS and CMBS. This purportedly included providing misleading information about:

    • How much Nomura had paid for the securities.

A $60M settlement has been reached between The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and AR Capital, the real estate investment trust (REIT) manager’s founder Nicholas Schorsch, and American Realty Capital Properties Inc. (ARCP) ex-CFO Brian Block. The three of them are accused of “wrongfully obtaining” millions of dollars related to two mergers involving REITS that AR Capital managed and sponsored.

According to the regulator’s complaint, between the latter part of 2012 and the beginning of 2014, AR Capital took steps so that ARCP, a publicly traded REIT, would merge with American Realty Capital Trust III and American Realty Capital Trust IV, two non-traded REITS that were publicly held. Schorsch was the principal owner and CEO of all three REITs during the time of the merger, while Block was the CFO and a minority shareholder.

The Commission contends that without their board’s permission, the REIT manager, Schorsch, and Block “inflated an incentive fee” during the mergers, which made it possible for them to get another $2.92M in ARCP operating partnership units as a portion of their “incentive-based” compensation.” The SEC is also accusing the three defendants of “wrongfully obtaining” at least $7.2M in charges that were not supported from the sale and asset purchase agreements that were related to the mergers.

Kristofor R. Behn and his Fieldstone Financial Management are now facing US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges accusing them of defrauding retail investors. Behn and the firm, which was a registered investment adviser until March, recommended that their clients invest in Aequitas Management LLC-issued securities. In 2016, Aequitas and four of its affiliates were accused of defrauding over 1500 investors of around $350M–although that figure could be as high as around $600M.

The Commission contends that between 2014 and early 2016, Behn and Fieldstone advised about 40 individuals to invest over $7M in Aequitas securities, while failing to disclose that the company had given Fieldstone a $2M credit line and a $1.5M loan. Both were reasons for him and his firm to recommend the investments to clients seeing as, per the terms:

  • If $25M of the assets of Fieldstone’s clients went into Aequitas securities, then Behn could pay back the loan by “converting the debt into an equity interest” in Fieldstone, with the interest belonging to Aequitas.

Ex-target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>LPL Financial (LPLA) broker, Kerry L. Hoffman, is now facing fraud charges brought by the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Hoffman is accused of fraudulently selling $3.3M of unregistered securities, along with childhood friend Thomas V. Conwell, who is also a defendant in the civil case. The latter was barred by the regulator from the industry in 2000 after a separate $800K fraud that harmed 19 investors. Conwell pleaded guilty to criminal fraud charges against him and was sentenced to time in prison.

According to the SEC’s current complaint, the two men defrauded at least 46 investors in a dozen states by selling GT Media, Inc. securities to them. Hoffman was a registered LPL Financial broker during most of the time of the fraud, which allegedly took place between July 2015 and July 2018. He resigned from the firm in the wake of allegations that he served as consultant to GT Media without getting LPL’s approval or notifying the firm about these outside activities. He also was accused of helping a number of LPL clients and his own family members to invest in the company.

Hoffman allegedly offered and sold $350K of GT Media convertible promissory notes and $500K of the company’s stock to five advisory clients, making $50K in commissions. The Commission is accusing him of soliciting some of his advisory clients to invest in the unregistered securities but without letting them know that he had a conflict of interest. Not only was GT Media  paying him compensation, but also the company was paying back money he had let it using investors’ money.

Unregistered investment advisers (IAs) David Wagner and Mark Lawrence, Downing Investment Partners, Downing Partners, and Downing Digital Healthcare Group are now facing US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges accusing them of involvement in an $8M scam that allegedly defrauded dozens of healthcare fund investors. Wagner and Downing are also facing parallel criminal charges.

The regulator contends that between 5/2014 and 1/2017, Wagner, Lawrence, and the companies they headed sold healthcare services and technology-related investment opportunities while defrauding 30 investors, many of them “purported” employees at two of the defendant companies, as well as at Downing Health Technologies, Inc., and Cliniflow Technologies. According to the SEC’s complaint, the two unregistered investment advisers and their companies claimed to acquire, oversee, and resell companies that offered technologies and services for the investment portfolios of the healthcare funds at issue.

To bring in new investors, the two unregistered IA’s allegedly would inflate how much was available in cash reserves at the funds, including at Downing Digital Healthcare Group and Downing Investment Partners, as well as the revenue from the portfolio companies of the funds. Wagner is also accused of secretly negotiating a deal that obligated Downing Digital Healthcare Group to pay him and an entity that he operated certain management fees. This allegedly resulted in the defendants misusing at least $540K of the $1.5M that was invested in Downing Digital Healthcare Group to go toward these fees.

Investors in Alleged $2.3M Prime Bank Fraud Were Promised Huge Profits

In the US Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) prime bank investment fraud case against Elizabeth Oharriz of Florida and Peter Baker of Georgia, the regulator is accusing the two of them and their companies of stealing more than $2.2M from investors. The Commission contends that Oharriz and Baker sold fake prime bank instruments from supposedly known banks while promising investors “astronomical profits.” The regulator’s complaint said that they also were also told that if these instruments could not be obtained, then their advance payments would be returned to them.

Instead, claims the SEC, Oharriz and Baker allegedly used investors’ money for their own personal spending or sent the funds to third parties. Meantime, investors were given bogus bank instruments along with accompanying documents.

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