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Articles Tagged with Fraud

Recently, Oppenheimer was found liable for the conduct of one of its former brokers named Mark Hotton. Hotton joined Oppenheimer in November 2005, and proceeded to fleece a number of his clients, according to financial regulators. FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, has filed a disciplinary action against Hotton which is still pending.

According to the complaint, Hotton outright stole almost $6 million from his brokerage customers, and directed another $2.5 million to outside businesses that Hotton was affiliated with in some way. These numbers don’t even include the millions of dollars that FINRA believes that Hotton caused by excessively trading, or churning, customer accounts to generate commissions for himself.

The level of fraud that Hotton was engaging in should be shocking if it wasn’t becoming increasingly commonplace. In 2006, a customer filed a lawsuit against Hutton after it was convinced by Hotton to invest $4 million in real estate transactions. The customer claimed that Hotton simply stole the entire investment, which was accomplished by forging contracts, forging mortgages, forging account statements, and directing the investment being made into a shell corporation that he had created with a similar name to the company that was supposed to be invested in. Ultimately, that lawsuit was settled for millions of dollars which Hotton was individually liable for. Yet this lawsuit, its allegations, and its results were never disclosed to other customers as regulations require, permitting Hotton to continue to seek new customers to bilk.

In New York, the founders of Centra Tech are now facing securities fraud, wire fraud, and conspiracy charges related to an alleged cryptocurrency fraud. Robert Farkas, Sohrab Sharma, and Raymond Trapani are accused of fraudulently raising $32M from investors during an initial coin offering (ICO).

Prosecutors claim that the men misled investors into thinking that the Centra tokens they had invested in had partnership deals with Visa, Bancorp, and Mastercard. These agreements supposedly involved the issuance of debit cards that would allow them to spend the cryptocurrency at any business that accepted Mastercard or Visa. Farkas, Sharma, and Trapani are accused of lying about a fake CEO and licenses for money transmitters. They also are accused of making misrepresentations and omissions.

Last month, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested the company co-founders and confiscated 91,000 Ether units in digital money valued at $60M. 

Howard Present, the ex-CEO and cofounder of F-Squared Investments, must pay more than $13M—nearly $11M of disgorgement, almost $1.4M of interest and a nearly $1.6M penalty. The final judgement, issued by U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin in Boston, comes after a federal jury found Present liable for the false and misleading statements made to investors.

It was in 2014 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission charged Present and his investment management firm with misleading investors about its AlphaSector strategy. At the time, F-Squared was the biggest market of index products that use exchange-traded funds.

The SEC accused F-Squared of false advertising related to its touting of a “successful seven-year track records” for its AlphaSector strategy that it claimed was based on real investments, real clients, and real performances, when, in fact, the algorithm that the company claimed to use didn’t even exist during that time period of this supposed success. Instead, the data that the F-Squared marketed was a product of backtesting—not real testing—even though Present and his firm specifically stated that their AlphaSector strategy had not been backtested.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Theranos Inc., its CEO and founder Elizabeth Holmes, and its ex-President Ramesh Balwani. The regulator contends that they engaged in a years-long fraud that raised over $700M from investors.

According to the SEC’s complaint, the three of them made statements that were false, exaggerated, and/or misleading regarding the company’s business, finances, and technology. They purportedly did this in presentations to investors, media articles, and product demos.

Because of these erroneous, deceptive, and inflated statements, investors thought that Theranos’s main product, which is a portable blood analyzer, could perform comprehensive blood tests with minute blood samples. Also, Theranos claimed that the company had the technologies needed to transport a finger stick sample of blood, place the sample in a specialized device that would go into an analyzer, and the analyzer could determine the results. The findings could then be sent to the care provider or patient. Theranos’ technology was supposedly able to offer cheaper, speedier, and more accurate results than any other blood testing labs—not to mention that it was portable.

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Four ex-Georgeson LLC employees are now on trial for fraud. Michael Sedlak, Charles Garske, Donna Ackerly, and Richard Gottcent are accused of bribing an Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) employee for information about the way Georgeson’s investor clients vote on shareholder proposals. Georgeson is a proxy solicitation firm. ISS is registered with the US Securities and Exchange Commission as an investment adviser.

According to prosecutors, the ISS employee, Brian Bennett, was given $14K in bribes in the form of tickets to different events, including a U2 concert and Boston Red Sox baseball game, as well as for meals and an airline ticket. Assistant U.S. Attorney Eric Rosen told a federal jury that the purpose of procuring the information was to obtain an illegal advantage in their work, which involved representing companies when there are shareholder votes. Rosen said that the defendants were “not entitled” to these “secrets” that they purchased.

It is the job of proxy advisory firms to give information and recommendations to institutional investors about proposals that publicly traded company shareholders are expected to vote on. These firms collect information about institutional investors’ holdings and public votes and they share that information with publicly traded companies. This allows proxy solicitors and their clients to assess how certain shareholder votes on proposals will likely go, which can help clients figure out how they might affect certain shareholder votes.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jeffrey Palish, an ex-Wells Fargo (WFC) broker in the wake of allegations of senior investor fraud. The regulator is accusing him of stealing over $180K from an elderly client with no plans or means of paying her back.

Palish was let go by the firm last year after an internal probe found that he had made misstatements about these transactions. He was arrested last week in New Jersey and charged with theft by deception involving over $75K.

According to prosecutors, Palish may have stolen at least $600K from elderly clients and failed to pay back a $100K loan from two clients. NorthJersey.com reports that Palish took clients’ money by selling their stock holdings and putting the funds from those sales into a bank account in which he deposited checks from clients. He also is accused of making more than three dozen unauthorized wire transfers of about $300K in total to pay his credit card bills.

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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 the UK, the Serious Fraud Office is charging Barclays Bank (BARC) with engaging in illegal financial assistance when it gave Qatar Holdings LLC a $3B loan in 2008 so that the latter could acquire shares in Barclays Plc. British prosecutors had previously charged Barclays Plc. and four bank executives with conspiring to commit fraud and providing unlawful financial assistance.

In Britain, public companies are usually not allowed to lend out funds to be used to buy their own shares. Barclays has come under fire for the way it handled investments made by Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund, as well as by a group of investors. The money lent to Barclays is believed to have helped the British Bank avoid getting a tax bailout during the global financial crisis. Such assistance would have likely lead to greater oversight over Barclays and closer examination of how much the bank’s executives were making at the time.

Barclays denies the charges against Barclays Plc. and Barclays Bank, which is its operating arm. Prosecutors, however, believe that the loan funds were put back into the bank to give it the capital it needed.

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SEC Accuses Atlanta Man of Misusing Over $1.2M in Investor Funds

In an enforcement action, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing Timothy S. Batchelor of misusing over $1.2M in investor monies. The funds were supposed to go toward the development of a submarine vessel and to businesses involved in national security.

According to the regulator’s complaint, of the $2.4M that Batchelor raised from investors through the Specter Ventures Fund II, he improperly spent half of the money, including almost $250K to buy new cars and about $225K to cover student loans. He allegedly moved thousands of dollars in investor monies to his own relatives. Batchelor also is accused of trying to conceal his actions by faking a document that misrepresented unauthorized expenditures as a loan.

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