Articles Posted in Securities and Exchange Commission

Provectus Accused of Disclosure and Accounting Controls Violations Related to Executive Perks
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against the biopharmaceutical company Provectus. According to the regulator, the Tennessee-based company committed violations related to disclosures and accounting controls. Among the alleged failures was that Provectus did not properly report that its then-CFO and former CEO made millions of dollars in perks as compensation.

The SEC contends that Provectus did not have “sufficient controls” in place regarding the reporting and disclosure of entertainment and travel expenses of executives. Ex-CEO Dr. H. Craig Dees is accused of using fabricated, limited or “non-existent expense documentation” for millions of dollars of benefits of which investors were not informed. Then-CFO Peter R. Culpepper is accused of receiving more than $199K in undisclosed and unauthorized benefits and perks.

The Commission has filed a separate securities fraud case against Dees. Not only did he allegedly get $3.2M in reimbursements and cash for business travel that he didn’t go on, but also, he is accused of hiding these perks, which personal expenses, including restaurant tips and cosmetic surgery for women friends.

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Ex-Philadelphia Eagles Player Who Bilked Former Coaches is Sentenced to 40 Years
Merrill Robertson Jr., a former Philadelphia Eagles football player, will serve 40 years in prison for a $10M fraud that bilked investors. Among his investor fraud victims were coaches he knew from when he played football at the University of Georgia and the Fork Union Military Academy.

The SEC also filed a case against him in a parallel civil case. According the regulator, Robertson, Sherman C. Vaughn Jr., and their Cavalier Union Investments diverted almost
$6M of investors’ money to pay for their own expenses and repay earlier investors.

Investment Advisers Accused of Mislead Investors About Conflicted Transactions
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against Mohlman Asset Management, LLC, Mohlman Asset Management Fund, LLC, and Louis G. Mohlman, accusing them of misleading investors and engaging in conflicted transactions. Mohlman and the two investment advisers managed two private funds.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed a $1.75M penalty on Ameriprise (AMP) related to its sale of F-Squared Alpha Sector strategies. The financial firm must also disgorge $7.3M.

According to the regulator, F-Squared Investments made mistakes when calculating the historical performance of its Alpha Sector investment strategies. These sector rotation strategies were predicated upon the use of an algorithm that gave off a “signal” noting whether to sell or purchase certain exchange-traded funds that collectively comprised the industries in the S & P 500 Index.

However, claimed the regulator, F-Squared erred when it implemented these signals prior to when they could have happened. The Commission accused the firm of employing back-tested and hypothetical historical performance data that was inflated, rather than using what the AlphaSector’s performance would have been if there hadn’t been any signal-related errors, to come up with the investment’s track record.

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SEC Awards Whistleblower $4.1M
A company insider who notified the US Securities Exchange Commission about a “widespread, multi-year securities law violation” involving the employer, is getting a $4.1M whistleblower award. The individual, who is a foreign national employed abroad, also provided information and help during the regulator’s probe. Further details about the case have been kept confidential so as to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the whistleblower.

This is the third whistleblower award issued this month by the SEC. The regulator awarded two other people $8M each for their help in another successful enforcement action.

To date, the SEC whistleblower program has awarded 50 whistleblowers over $179M.

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Nehal Chopra, founder of the hedge fund Ratan Capital Management, and her husband Paritosh Gupta have settled US Securities and Exchange Commission charges alleging that they acted improperly: He, by sharing confidential investment recommendations with her and she, by not disclosing to her clients that her husband was the one who gave her this information.

Gupta worked at Brahman Capital, a hedge fund firm. He later launched Adi Capital Management, also a hedge fund firm. Brahman and Ratan are competitors in their field.

According to the SEC, Gupta provided Chopra with information developed for Brahman’s own clients, as well as the timing of Brahman’s sizes and positions, and he advised her about certain investments. In one example noted by the regulator, Gupta asked his wife about the size of her firm’s position in one security. After she responded, he advised her to increase that position. Ratan would go on to buy more shares that day.

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David Webb, the ex-Illinois mayor of the city of Markham, has agreed to partially resolve fraud charges brought by the SEC accusing him of involvement in a $5.5M municipal bond scam. The regulator accused Webb of taking part in a pay-to-play scheme that involved a $75K bribe from a construction contractor. In return, Webb is accused of directing one of the city’s construction projects to the contractor. The alleged fraud involved a $5.5 muni bond offering that the city offered in 2012.

According to the Commission’s complaint, at a Markham council meeting that year, talks took place to authorize the $5.5M of general obligation bonds to help pay for certain city projects. It was during this conversation that an attendee spoke out saying she’d heard that the owner of a roller rink stood to “improperly benefit.” The owner of the rink was Markham’s city attorney at the time and the roller ring was one of the city projects involved. Webb, however, responded by saying “I don’t make deals” even though he purportedly had recently been paid the bribe to the construction contractor. The regulator claims that the pay-to-play scam involving the city’s Roesner Park development project was already in place.

The bond offering was approved.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commision has awarded $16M to two whistleblowers—$8M each—for the crucial information and help they provided in bringing a successful securities enforcement action. If you consider that a whistleblower may be eligible for 10-30% of funds collected when the monetary sanctions of the SEC action that the individual helped to bring is greater than $1M, the sanctions imposed in this latest case must have been significant.

According to the regulator, one whistleblower reported a “particular misconduct” that became central to the SEC’s enforcement action. The other whistleblower provided additional key information and continued to cooperate with the agency during its probe. The latter’s contributions reportedly saved the Commission time and resources.

These latest awards bring the amount awarded to SEC whistleblowers—49 of them—to over $175M. Alleged wrongdoers accused in the regulators’ cases have been ordered to pay $1B in financial remedies, including over $671M in disgorgement.

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FINRA Orders JPMorgan Securities to Pay $1.25M
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said that J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPM) will pay $1.25M for not conducting proper background checks—or, in certain instances, conducting them but not in a timely enough manner—from 1/2009 through 5/2017 on 8,600 of its associated persons that were non-registered. According to the self-regulatory organization, this included the failure to properly fingerprint about 2,000 non-registered associated persons. The lapses kept the brokerage firm from knowing whether these individuals should be disqualified from employment.

Meantime, other non-registered associates persons who were fingerprinted were only screened for criminal convictions as they related to federal banking laws, as well as to list that was “internally created.” Still, said FINRA, four people who warranted disqualification due to a prior criminal conviction were allowed to work as non-registered associated persons.

Under federal securities laws, breakage firms must fingerprint certain associated staff even if they are employed in a non-registered manner because they could still pose a risk to customers otherwise. Fingerprinting allows for the identification of folk convicted of past crimes that may disqualify them from working for a firm in an associated role.

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SEC Files Fraud Charges Against Oyster Bay, NY

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed municipal securities fraud charges against the New York City of Oyster Bay along with John Venditto, who was a former supervisor of the town. According to the regulator, the Long Island Town and Venditto defrauded investors through 26 municipal securities offerings from 8/2010 to 12/15. A parallel criminal action has been brought against the ex-town supervisor.

The regulator’s complaint claims Oyster Bay and Venditto hid a number of side deals with a businessman who ran concession stands and restaurants at local facilities. Part of the deals included agreeing to “indirectly guarantee” a number of private loans totaling over $20M to this vendor. “Gifts, bribes, kickbacks, and political support” also were allegedly involved.

Day Trader is Accused of Unauthorized Trades to Inflate Stock Prices and Make Illegal Profits
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Joseph P. Willner accusing him of accessing over 100 brokerage accounts and making unauthorized trades. Meantime, prosecutors in NY, as well as the US Justice Department, have filed criminal charges against him.

The SEC contends that Willner used the allegedly unauthorized trades to inflate a number of companies’ stock prices. He then traded in these same securities in his accounts and made at least $700K in illicit profits.

Willner is accused of fraud and market rigging. The Commission wants back ill-gotten gains in addition to interest, penalties, and a permanent injunction.

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