Saturday, February 28, 2015

SEC Halts $5.3 million Twitter/Uber Ponzi Scheme

On Feb. 27, 2015 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Gregory W. Gray Jr. and his firms Archipel Capital LLC and BIM Management LP with fraud for operating a Ponzi scheme.

Gray and his firms would solicit money for a fund investing in pre-IPO shares of Twitter (NYSE: TWTR). The shares were to be delivered to investors once the company went public. Gray raised $5.3 million, but only purchased a fraction of the shares he was supposed to purchase with the funds. He then appeased investors with funds from other unrelated funds to make up for the shortfall.

The complaint was filed in the Southern District of New York, the location of an investor which gave Gray $5 million to  purchase shares of Uber Technologies, however, Gray fabricated a stock purchase agreement to convince the investor that shares of Uber were being purchased in his name when in actuality they were being used to pay back investors in Twitter.

Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office had this to say about the announcement:
Gray sold investors on a seemingly great idea to acquire pre-IPO shares of high-profile companies like Twitter and Uber at a low price.  But rather than come clean when he failed to invest as promised, Gray stole from investors to cover his misdeeds.
To read the original announcement click here.

Texas Man Sentenced To 25 Years For Securities Fraud

On February 19, 2015 Charles Wayne Kiway of North Richland Hills, Texas was sentenced to 15 years in state prison for securities fraud and theft. This was on top of a 10 year sentence for violating the conditions of probation from an earlier securities fraud incident. The two sentences will run concurrently.

Kilway sold promissory notes and used the money to pay for personal expenses by transferring funds to his wife's account. In addition to the prison term he was also ordered to pay $602,120 in restitution.

To read the actual order click here.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Diane Glatfelter of Billerica Massachusetts Accused of Selling $2.2M In Fake "Bank Guarantees"


On February 15, Diane Glatfelter of Billerica, Massachusetts was barred from selling securities after selling $2.225 million in fictitious investments called "bank guarantees" through K2 Unlimited, Inc. and 211 Ventures, LLC. Glatfelter promised high returns and guarantees against losses. Additional penalties have yet to be announced. We'll continue to track this story as it evolves.

To read the original order click here.

CEO of San Fran-Based Penny Stock Company Pump and Dump Scheme Fined $300,000


On February 25, 2015 Joseph A. Noel, of Martinez, California was ordered to pay $315,000 resulting from a complaint originally filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Nov. 17, 2014.

As the CEO of the YesDTC Holdings, Noel is accused of defrauding investors via a pump and dump scheme. Noel issued misleading press releases and infomercials to market shares of his company, pushing the price of the thinly-traded securities up. He then sold his shares and made $300,000. Noel hid his sales through an account he made in his teenage daughter's name.

To read the original charges click here.

To read the final order click here.



Texas Hedge Fund/Commodity Pool Manager Sentenced to 8+ Years In Federal Prison

On February 26, 2015, Kevin G. White of The Woodlands, Texas, was sentenced to 8+ years of prison resulting from a complaint filed by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) on July 9, 2013. A concurrent filing was made by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The suit alleged that RFF GP, LLC, and KGW Capital Management, LLC, tricked investors into investing in Revelation Forex Fund, LP, a purported $7.4 million hedge fund/commodity pool scam in which he used $1.7 million for his own personal use.

White found investors through websites and presentations at trade shows. According to the order, "White fabricated Revelation’s performance and lied about his investment experience".  Aitan Goelman, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, cleary used this case to make a statement about CFTC's willingness to assign prison time to financial fraud cases. Goelman had this to say about the verdict in the announcement:
The sentence in this case should serve as a warning that those who willfully commit fraud in our markets face the very real possibility of a significant term of imprisonment. The CFTC will continue its vigilance in protecting commodities and derivatives investors from fraud and other forms of financial crime.
To read the full announcement click here.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

How Investors Can Claim $4.1 billion in SEC Settlement Dollars

TheGAFI.com is a resource for investors to find out what actions government financial regulatory institutions are taking. Most important are the actions involving enforcement actions where funds have been paid. 

In 2013, the SEC collected over $1.6 billion in monetary penalties. In 2014, according to Chairman Mary Jo White's address at SEC Speaks 2015 a few days ago, the amount more than tripled to $4.1 billion. After the order is obtained, the money is placed in a “fair fund” for distribution to harmed investors. 

While every effort is made to identify harmed investors it is important to know how to follow up with the fund yourself. In the coming weeks we'll be publishing an updated contact list for our readers, meanwhile you can start by seeing if the company you invested in is on this list and following the instructions as posted for that particular claim.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act is the catalyst behind much of the change going on in the financial industry today. It also authorizes the SEC to pay an award to eligible whistle-blowers if you submit leads to an SEC action that results in monetary sanctions over $1 million. To learn more about this program click here. You can see a list of FAQs about the whistle-blower program here.

To see if a class action lawsuit has been filed relating to your investment you can visit Stanford's Securities Class Action Clearinghouse by clicking here.

If the issue is with your registered broker/dealer going out of business you can visit the Securities Investor Protection Corporation to see if you can file a claim by clicking here

In addition to providing a Government Top Alerts Blog, TheGAFI.com also provides an SEC/CFTC Blotter Blog that highlights the latest charges announced, as well as an Events and Meeting Blog which provides a list of events and meetings held by financial regulatory agencies. You can jump straight to the blogs through the links above or go to TheGAFI.com to view a list of headlines. If you have any research requests or suggestions please reach out to us via the contact page.

________________________________________________________________
If you like what you're reading, please join my mailing list to receive blog posts and updates as they occur. If you're an investor with all of your assets tied up in the stock market and cash, you might want to consider a few diversification strategies. Gold is the oldest asset in the world and it's inflation proof. Bitcoin is the gold standard for the cryptocurrency world, which is the fastest growing asset class in the world. Diversifying your portfolio into one or both of these assets can help to insure your portfolio against a stock market crash or inflation. Most importantly, it can help to safeguard the gains you've made over the last 10 years.

Please note that there are other companies that sell gold and Bitcoin on the market, and you should always do your research when making decisions about your portfolio. Just like your personal health, if you're planning on having major surgery, you need to get a second, and sometimes a third, opinion. You want to make sure your surgeon is good and has performed the procedure many, many times.  In the same way, you need to trust your broker and you need to make sure they are reputable. This is the process I used when looking for a broker to recommend.

Full disclosure: RegalAssets compensates me for everyone I send their way, but I would receive compensation from any company I chose to recommend. The only broker I'm recommending is Regal, primarily due to its innovative product offering in my favorite commodities - gold, precious metals and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. They also have a distinguished track record for success (see below).




Next Steps: Use Regal as one of your options and compare against them. Your other brokers should be able to offer the same level of service and the same low rates. The kit is free and it will provide you with a basis for comparison. Don't wait, get started today. Fill out the form below to get your free investment kit.

If you're interested in learning more about gold investments, click here to receive a free gold investment kit from Regal Assets.

If you're interested in learning more about Bitcoin investments, click here to receive a free Bitcoin investment kit from Regal Wallet.


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

CFTC's Energy Committee To Hold First Meeting In 5 Years on 2/26 @ 10am

When: Thursday, February 26, 2015 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m
Location: The Commission’s headquarters in Washington, D.C. from

Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo, sponsor of the EEMAC had this to say about the meeting:

The EEMAC’s first meeting in over five years will examine what impact the Commission’s proposed position limits and aggregation rulemakings will have on the ability of energy firms, utilities and producers to protect against fluctuations in the price of electricity, winter heating oil, gasoline, natural gas and other commodities used every day by millions of American consumers.

Meeting Agenda as taken from the original press release.
10:00 a.m. to 10:10 a.m.
    Opening Remarks
  • Commissioner J. Christopher Giancarlo, Sponsor, EEMAC
  • Chairman Timothy Massad
  • Commissioner Mark Wetjen
  • Commissioner Sharon Bowen
10:10 a.m. to 10:30 am
Current Conditions in U.S. Energy Markets
  • Adam Sieminski, Administrator, U.S. Energy Information Administration
  • EEMAC Member Questions
10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.
Panel I: What Does the Data Show?
Witnesses
  • Vince McGonagle, Director, Division of Market Oversight
  • Steve Sherrod, Senior Economist, Division of Market Oversight
  • Tom LaSala, Chief Regulatory Officer, CME
  • Erik Haas, Director – Market Regulation, ICE Futures U.S.
  • Craig Pirrong, Professor of Finance and Energy Markets, Director of Global Energy Management Institute, Bauer College of Business, University of Houston
Open Discussion
11:30 a.m. to 11:45 a.m.
Break
11:45 a.m. to 12:45 p.m.
Panel II: Designated Contract Market Experience with Position Limits and Trading Liquidity
Witnesses
  • Tom LaSala, Chief Regulatory Officer, CME
  • Erik Haas, Director – Market Regulation, ICE Futures U.S.
Open Discussion
12:45 p.m. to 2:00 p.m.
Lunch
2:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Panel III: Bona Fide Hedging
Witnesses
  • Vince McGonagle, Director, Division of Market Oversight
  • Steve Sherrod, Senior Economist, Division of Market Oversight
  • Joe Nicosia, Commodity Markets Council
  • Ron Oppenheimer, Commercial Energy Working Group
Open Discussion
3:30 p.m. to 3:45p.m.
Closing Remarks


Santa Cruz Investment Fund Charged $2.7M For $60M Ponzi Scheme

February 24, 2015 -- On February 23 the SEC imposed a final judgement against John A. Geringer and GLR Advisors, LLC (GLR Advisors) which renders a charge of $2.7 million. The SEC says Geringer and GLR Advisors managed the GLR Growth Fund, L.P., which is based in Scotts Valley, California, as a Ponzi scheme by reporting fictitious trading profits. The group raised $60 million from investors, mostly in the Santa Cruz, California area. Geringer pleaded guilty on June 4, 2014 and awaits sentencing.

For the full announcement click here.

Silicon Valley Initiative Event Discussing Regulatory Issues in Capital Formation 3/5 @ 7pm

7 p.m. (4 p.m. PT) on Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Silicon Valley Initiative: Emerging Regulatory Issues in Private Equity, Venture Capital and Capital Formation. The event is being co-Hosted by the SEC’s San Francisco Office and Stanford University’s Rock Center for Corporate Governance. 
Speakers include: SEC Commissioner Kara Stein, SEC National Exam Program Director Andrew Bowden, and SEC Corporation Finance Director Keith Higgins
The event is located at Stanford Law School, 559 Nathan Abbott Way, Stanford, Cali.
The contact for the event is the Office of Public Affairs, 202-551-4120

SEC Director, Office of Minority and Women Inclusion To Speak At Georgetown 2/27 @ 11:15am

11:15 a.m. on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015

Pamela Gibbs, Director, Office of Minority and Women Inclusion, will be a panelist at Georgetown University’s Georgetown Law Women’s Forum. 
 
The panel is titled “Why Women Lead: Insights from Women in Government.”
 
Location: Georgetown University, Eric E. Hotung Building, Room 2001, 600 New Jersey Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.
 
The contact for the event is: Kara Tershel, 202-662-9037, kat5@law.georgetown.edu

SEC Director To Give Keynote Address At SIFMA 2/25 @ 8:30am

February 2015

Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015, 8:30 a.m.

Andrew Ceresney, Director, Division of Enforcement, will give the keynote address at the SIFMA Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Crimes Conference.
 
Location: New York Marriott Marquis, 1535 Broadway, New York
 
Contact: Jeana Zamanski, 202-962-7384, jzamanski@sifma.org

SEC Charges Goodyear With Bribery

Source: WikiImages
Feb. 24, 2015 —Today, the SEC charged Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company (NASDAQ: GT) with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying cash bribes to employees, government owned entities, local authorities and even the police in sub-Saharan Africa. Goodyear has agreed to pay ~$16 million to settle. The order from the SEC alleges that Goodyear failed to detect and prevent over $3.2 million in bribes due to inadequate controls in sub-Saharan Africa.

Here's an excerpt from Scott W. Friestad, Associate Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division:
Public companies must keep accurate accounting records, and Goodyear’s lax compliance controls enabled a routine of corrupt payments by African subsidiaries that were hidden in their books. This settlement ensures that Goodyear must forfeit all of the illicit profits from business obtained through bribes to foreign officials as well as employees at commercial companies in Angola and Kenya.
In addition to the $16 million settlement, Goodyear must also report the steps the company is taking to prevent and identify bribery in the future.

To read the original order click here.

Friday, February 20, 2015

ACUS First Meeting For Unified Agenda Project - March 12 @ 2

On March 12, 2015 @ 2:00 pm EDT, the Administrative Conference of the United States will have their first meeting located at 1120 20th Street, NW Suite 706 South. You can read more about what the Unified Agenda Project is here.

To RSVP for the event go here.

For more information contact: 
Staff Counsel
rbull@acus.gov

ACUS First Meeting For Unified Agenda Project - March 31 @ 2

On March 31, 2015 @ 2:00 pm EDT, the Administrative Conference of the United States will have their second meeting located at 1120 20th Street, NW Suite 706 South. You can read more about what the Unified Agenda Project is here.

To RSVP for the event go here.

For more information contact: 
Staff Counsel
rbull@acus.gov

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Louisiana Brothers-in-Law Charged For Insider Trading

Feb. 19, 2015 —Today the SEC announced insider trading charges against brothers-in-laws from Louisiana. The SEC alleges that Scott Zeringue traded securities of The Shaw Group based on information he learned on the job about an acquisition. Leading up to the merger Zeringue and his brother-in-law purchased shares of Shaw and made nearly $1 million after the merger announcement increased share prices by 55 percent. Criminal charges have also been announced.

The full announcement can be read here.

SEC Charges New Jersey's Proteonomix, Inc. & CEO With Securities Fraud

February 19, 2015 -- Today the SEC charged Proteonomix, Inc., a New Jersey biotechnology company, and Michael M. Cohen, the CEO, with securities fraud. Both have agreed to settle with the SEC for a monetary amount tba by the court. The complaint covers 2008 through 2012 and alleges that Cohen pocketed more than $600,000 for his own personal benefit resulting from the issuance and transfer of millions of Proteonomix shares to entities named after Cohen's wife, children and father-in-law.  In truth. Cohen directed all accounts and failed to disclose that the transactions were with related parties. To read the original release click here.


I would like to remind investors to always do their own due diligence on any investment, and to consult their own financial adviser or representative when necessary. Any material provided is intended as general information only, and should not be considered or relied upon as a formal investment recommendation.


SEC Charges VCAP Securities & Brett Thomas Graham With CDO Fraud

Feb. 19, 2015 —The SEC charged VCAP Securities, an NYC based brokerage firm, and its CEO Brett Thomas Graham with fraud by deceiving investors in an auction to liquidate collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). The charge alleges that VCAP arranged for a broker-dealer to secretly bid at the auctions that it was prohibited from. VCAP was forbidden to bid on the CDO's it auctioned while serving as a CDO liquidation agent. VCAP had access to confidential bidding information that allowed them to win bids at prices only slightly higher than other bidders.

The firm and CEO have agreed to pay approximately $1.5 million to settle charges.

Here's a quote from Michael J. Osnato, Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit:

Graham abused a position of trust by playing the roles of both conductor and bidder during CDO liquidation auctions to the detriment of other participants. The settlement requires Graham and VCAP to give up fees they obtained while conducting these unfair liquidations that landed certain bonds in their fund manager’s portfolio.
To read the order in full click here.

SEC Commissioner Showing Resistance Against Universal Ballots & Shareholder Disclosure


February 19, 2015 -- Today, SEC Commissioner Daniel M. Gallagher addressed the newly formed Proxy Voting Roundtable to address two issues: universal proxies and retail shareholder participation in the proxy process. In particular, the Commission is concerned about ways to increase shareholder participation in the voting process.

"I’m hoping we can hear about ways to make it less costly for individual shareholders to vote. Could we streamline our disclosures or make them less intimidating for retail investors without loss of informational content for institutional investors? This is obviously not an easy feat, but it is an important issue"
Gallagher also wanted to limit the number of votes that can be taken and suggested the use of technology to aid in the reformation.
For example, could we allow individuals to delegate the ability to cast their ballots so long as they are cast consistently with certain voting rules preset by the investor?
As for universal ballots, "let’s just say I’m trying to keep an open mind," Gallagher said. This has become an issue with companies and investor relations due to increasing attacks from shareholder activists against global warming, lack of board diversity or a number of other social issues. "What does this mean for the SEC?" Gallagher asks in the opening remarks.
Our responsibility in the corporate governance arena is a limited one: it is to ensure that our rules establish a level playing field. I’m therefore interested in hearing from our panelists about the pros and cons of universal ballots, as one stand-alone option in this area, including how they may affect the relationship between shareholders and management.
He then goes on to commend an approach recommended by Professor Guhan Subramanian in the Harvard Business Review. The professor suggests using staggered boards and tightening disclosures of activists positions which is an argument for less disclosure. Commissioner Kara Stein is for universal ballots, however, she has also accused her colleagues of being more interested in decreasing the amount of disclosure required rather than improving it, which is what this debate boils down to.

To read the opening remarks in full click here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

FDIC Announces Extension of AIG, GE & Prudential "Living Will" Deadline

February 18, 2015  -- The FRB and FDIC announced the 6 month extension of a deadline to submit a resolution plan for American International Group, Inc. (NYSE: AIG), General Electric Capital Corporation, Inc. (NYSE: GE), and Prudential Financial, Inc. (NYSE: PRU). The resolution plan must describe the company's strategy for a "rapid resolution" to financial distress or failure. These resolution plans are required by the Dodd-Frank Act of all banking organizations with consolidated assets of over $50 billion, or "non-bank" institutions, as designated by the Financial Stability Oversight Council.

To view the original press release click here.

CFTC Announces Members of New Market Risk Advisory Committee

February 18, 2015 -- Today, the Commissioner of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Sharon Y. Bowen announced the members of the new Market Risk Advisory Committee (MRAC). The Commissioner had these remarks to add to the membership announcement:
Now the MRAC must begin work on determining and analyzing the risks to our markets and consumers, in order to provide consultation on how best to address them. I am confident that the Commission will benefit from the recommendations of this Committee.
The list is full of financial heavy hitters in the risk community and includes C-level representatives from academia as well as Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JP Morgan, the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, BlackRock, Cargill, and the Committee of Chief Risk Officers, to name a few.  In total, as of today, there are 31 people on the Committee.

First chartered in 2014 the goal of the committee is to "detect and mitigate risks within the market to industry participants, consumers, and the broader financial community." For the current year the Committee plans on studying long-standing and nascent risks to the markets, in particular the swaps and futures market.

You can stay informed of upcoming reports and public meetings of MRAC by visiting TheGAFI.com.

For the original press release click here.  For a link to the list of members click here.

________________________________________________________________
If you like what you're reading, please join my mailing list to receive blog posts and updates as they occur. If you're an investor with all of your assets tied up in the stock market and cash, you might want to consider a few diversification strategies. Gold is the oldest asset in the world and it's inflation proof. Bitcoin is the gold standard for the cryptocurrency world, which is the fastest growing asset class in the world. Diversifying your portfolio into one or both of these assets can help to insure your portfolio against a stock market crash or inflation. Most importantly, it can help to safeguard the gains you've made over the last 10 years.

Please note that there are other companies that sell gold and Bitcoin on the market, and you should always do your research when making decisions about your portfolio. Just like your personal health, if you're planning on having major surgery, you need to get a second, and sometimes a third, opinion. You want to make sure your surgeon is good and has performed the procedure many, many times.  In the same way, you need to trust your broker and you need to make sure they are reputable. This is the process I used when looking for a broker to recommend.

Full disclosure: RegalAssets compensates me for everyone I send their way, but I would receive compensation from any company I chose to recommend. The only broker I'm recommending is Regal, primarily due to its innovative product offering in my favorite commodities - gold, precious metals and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. They also have a distinguished track record for success (see below).




Next Steps: Use Regal as one of your options and compare against them. Your other brokers should be able to offer the same level of service and the same low rates. The kit is free and it will provide you with a basis for comparison. Don't wait, get started today. Fill out the form below to get your free investment kit.

If you're interested in learning more about gold investments, click here to receive a free gold investment kit from Regal Assets.

If you're interested in learning more about Bitcoin investments, click here to receive a free Bitcoin investment kit from Regal Wallet.

SEC Charges "The Achieve Community" With Fraud

Feb. 18, 2015 — Today the SEC announced fraud charges against two operators of Colorado-based pyramid and Ponzi scheme. The scheme used vocabulary like “triple algorithm” and “3-D matrix”to trick investors into investing in a "business" with 700 percent returns.

According to the complaint the SEC alleges that Kristine L. Johnson  and Troy A. Barnes raised more than $3.8 million since April of 2014. Investors thought they were buying positions in the company Work With Troy Barnes Inc., doing business as “The Achieve Community.”

If you go to the webpage now (http://theachievecommunity.com) it says the account has been suspended, however, here's a video I found with Troy Barnes explaining the scheme on Youtube.


Investors purchase positions that cost $50 each. As they progess through the matrix the payout is $400 at the end of 3 to 6 months. The SEC alleges that the matrix was actually a pyramid scheme with no "legitimate business operations". The press release goes on to say that Johnson and Barnes "are merely paying purported investment returns to earlier investors as they receive funds from new investors."
Johnson and Barnes allegedly claim to be operating a successful investment program when in fact they are taking funds from new investors to pay phony profits to earlier investors.
Julie Lutz, Director of the SEC’s Denver Regional Office. 

The SEC’s investigation is being conducted by Jeffrey Felder, Kerry Matticks, and Jay A. Scoggins in the Denver office.  To read the original press release click here.

Business Climate Is Worse, But Leaders Remain Optimistic

This is a follow up post to our post entitled Contraction? Empire State Manufacturing Index Back To Early Recession Levels, as published in SeekingAlpha this morning. The article compares the Empire State Manufacturing Index for February 2015 to the December 2007 index level which was the official start of the recession. We found that both the current and futures index are lower than they were in Dec. 2007, but does that mean the market isn't doing well in a post-QE world? Perhaps the Business Leaders Survey for 2015, also sent out by the New York Fed to regional manufacturers and service firms, can shed some light.

Released this morning at 8:30 am, the survey’s headline index fell 15 points to 0.8 and the business climate index fell as well. On average, according to the report, "...respondents viewed the business climate as worse than normal." However, the index for future business activity climbed up two points to 37.4, and the index for future business climate is up seven points to 33.3.

In the Supplemental Survey Report the Fed asked respondents:
To what extent do you expect your firm’s spending on new plant and equipment to be higher or lower this year than last? How do you expect each of these capital spending categories to change?
According to the report the number of business leaders planning to hike spending greatly outnumbered those expecting to reduce spending by a margin of 38 to 25 percent, among service sector firms, and 41 to 22 percent among manufacturers.

Bottom line: Signs are pointing south from a technical or operational perspective, and while business leaders acknowledge that the business climate is worse than normal, they are optimistic, evidenced by the number willing to increase capital spending compared to this time last year. Only time will tell if QE cuts helped the economy or prolonged the inevitable, meanwhile financial leaders are growing anxious about the fed-funds rate.

The FOMC is testing a series of term reverse repurchase agreements, through the FRB of New York from mid-February through early March as a potential way to control the fed-funds rate in the absence of QE. Look for a follow-up post on the effect of these tests shortly.

Monday, February 16, 2015

CFTC’s Energy and Environmental Markets Advisory Committee - Feb. 26 @10am

The U.S Commodity Futures Trading Commission's Energy and Environmental Markets Committee (EEMAC) will hold a public meeting on 2/26 from 10am - 4pm at the Commission’s Washington, D.C. headquarters at 1155 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20581. The meeting will focus on proposed rules for position limits -- see positions, 78 Fed. Reg. 68946, , 78 Fed. Reg. 75680.  You can also watch a live webcast (www.cftc.gov) or listen via conference call using the information provided below.
Participants should be prepared to give first name, last name and affiliation.
Domestic Toll Free:
1-866-844-9416
International Toll and
Toll Free Numbers:
International Dial-In Numbers
Participants Passcode:CFTC
For Further Information Contact: Ajay Sutaria, EEMAC Secretary, U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, 1155 21st Street, NW, Washington, DC 20581; (202) 418–5959.

Moazzam “Mark” Malik's $100M Hedge Fund Charged With Fraud

Moazzam “Mark” Malik was charged on February 13 for stealing money from his investors.

Malik claimed to operate a hedge fund with $100M in assets, and raised $840,774 doing so, but the fund never held more than $90,177 in assets. The difference being what Malik used for his own personal needs. He then avoided investors, refused redemption requests, sent emails out claiming his death, and created a fictitious person named “Amanda Ebert” as his Investor Relations liaison.
The SEC’s complaint charges Malik and his fund with violating Sections 5(a), 5(c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  The complaint also charges Malik with violations of Sections 206(1), 206(2) and 206(4) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-8.
The SEC is seeking a temporary restraining order with the complaint in order to freeze Malik's assets. To read the full complaint as filed click here.

Estate Planner Fined $43M For Turning Death Benefits of the Terminally Ill Into An Investment Opportunity

On February 3, Joseph A. Caramadre, was ordered to pay $46.3M in restitution due to a case Caramadre plead guilty to on Nov. 1, 2013 in which he was sentenced to a prison term of 6 years.

From 1995 through December 2010, Caramadre was the President, CEO and majority owner of Estate Planning Resources, Inc. As part of the plea deal, Caramadre admitted to scheming 1) financial institutions, and 2) terminally-ill individuals.

What did he do? Caramadre purchased variable annuities that carried death benefits, payable if the annuitant died, from insurance companies and assigned terminally-ill individuals as the annuitants. He did not notify the family of the terminally-ill participant about the variable annuities purchased and kept the proceeds for his company. The death benefit is usually the initial amount invested plus any gain from the investment.

To find terminally ill patients Caramadre placed ads in the newspaper of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence promising $2,000 to all respondents -- those who went on to participate in the scheme received between $3,000 and $10,000. When prosecutors questioned the family members of the terminally-ill patients recruited for the scheme they claimed that even though their loved ones took the money, they didn't understand the full scheme. He is also accused of taking actionable steps to mislead family members.

To read the actual charges, click here. Sign up for updates with your email address below.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Proxy Voting Process - 2/19; Agenda & Panelists Announced

Feb. 13, 2015 — As an update to a post published a few days ago on the Proxy Voting Process, yesterday the SEC announced the agenda and panelists for the Feb 19 roundtable on ways to improve the proxy voting process. The roundtable is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. as outlined in the Agenda, as posted here and below.  The roundtable is open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis and the event also will be webcast on the SEC website. Comments are welcome to rule-comments@sec.gov., paper submissions (in triplicate) to:  Office of the Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission, 100 F Street N.E., Washington, D.C. 20549-1090.

Source: Office of the Secretary, Securities and Exchange Commission

Agenda and Panelists
9:30 a.m.         Opening Remarks
9:45 a.m.         Panel 1:  Universal Proxy Ballots
Moderators:  Keith Higgins, Director, Division of Corporation Finance and Michele Anderson, Chief, Office of Mergers and Acquisitions, Division of Corporation Finance
Panelists:
  • Frederick H. Alexander, Counsel, Morris, Nichols, Arsht & Tunnell, LLP and Advisor for Legal Policy, B-Lab
  • Chris Cernich, Managing Director, M&A and Contested Elections, Institutional Shareholder Services
  • Lisa M. Fairfax, Leroy Sorenson Merrifield Research Professor of Law, The George Washington University Law School
  • Bruce H. Goldfarb, President and Chief Executive Officer, Okapi Partners
  • David A. Katz, Partner, Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz LLP
  • Michelle Lowry, Ph.D., TD Bank Endowed Professor, LeBow College of Business, Drexel University
  • Charles Penner, Partner, Chief Legal Officer, JANA Partners LLC
  • Anne Simpson, Senior Portfolio Manager and Director of Global Governance, CalPERS
  • Sarah B. Teslik, Senior Vice President – Communications, Public Affairs and Governance, Apache Corporation
  • Steve Wolosky, Partner, Olshan Frome & Wolosky LLP
11:15 a.m.       Break
11:30 a.m.       Panel 2:  Retail Participation in the Proxy Process
Moderators:  Keith Higgins, Director, Division of Corporation Finance and David Fredrickson, Chief Counsel and Associate Director, Division of Corporation Finance
Panelists:
  • Donna Ackerly, Senior Managing Director, Georgeson Inc.
  • Reena Aggarwal, Robert E. McDonough Professor of Finance, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University; Director, Georgetown Center for Financial Markets and Policy
  • John Bajkowski, President, American Association of Individual Investors
  • Alan Beller, Senior Counsel, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton LLP
  • John Endean, President, American Business Conference
  • Lawrence Hammermesh, Ruby R. Vale Professor of Corporate and Business Law at Widener Law Delaware’s Institute of Delaware Corporate and Business Law
  • Cornish F. Hitchcock, Principal, Hitchcock Law Firm PLLC
  • Niels Holch, Executive Director, Shareholder Communications Coalition
  • James McRitchie, Publisher, CorpGov.net
  • Nell Minow, Co-Founder, The Corporate Library; Founder and Former Board Member, GMI Ratings
  • Robert Schifellite, President, Investor Communication Services, Broadridge Financial Solutions
  • Darla Stuckey, President and Chief Executive Officer, Society of Corporate Secretaries and Governance Professionals, Inc.
1:00 p.m.         Closing Remarks

SEC Approves JP Morgan's $200M Distribution Plan To Investors

Feb. 13, 2105 - On Sept. 2013 the SEC issued JPMorgan with an order requiring the bank to pay $200M for violating securities laws. On March 5, 2014, the SEC established a Fair Fund to distribute those funds, and on Dec. 11, 2014 the SEC published a distribution proposal -- you can obtain a copy of that proposal here. In a nutshell, the plan proposes to compensate investors that were harmed due to JPMorgan's failure to report the true amount of trading losses. For the most part, this includes investors that owned shares between May and April of 2012. On Feb. 12, the SEC approved the Distribution Plan.

To read the full story, click here.

We would like to remind investors to always do their own due diligence on any investment, and to consult their own financial adviser or representative when necessary. Any material provided is intended as general information only, and should not be considered or relied upon as a formal investment recommendation.

Water Island Capital Settles With the SEC For $50K

Feb. 13, 2015 — On Feb. 12, the SEC charged Water Island Capital LLC, an investment adviser for several alternative mutual funds with violating custody rules. The adviser was maintaining roughly $247 million at broker-dealer counter-parties instead of in the adviser's, or funds, custodial bank. As a settlement, Water Island Capital has agreed to pay $50,000. According to the press release, Andrew M. Calamari, the Director of the SEC's New York Regional Office, had this to say about the charges:

Mutual funds must ensure that all fund assets are properly protected. Water Island Capital failed to implement the required policies and procedures to ensure all cash collateral was held in the custody of the funds’ bank. 

To read the original press release click here.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

SEC Chair Mary Jo White Provides Status Update On Dodd-Frank Act Implementation

On Feb. 12, SEC Chair Mary Jo White made the opening remarks at the first meeting of the Investor Advisory Committee which was established by Section 911 of the Dodd-Frank Act. The committee is tasked with providing advice to the SEC on the regulation of securities products, trading strategies, fee structures, and the effectiveness of disclosures.
Good morning, and welcome to this year’s first meeting of the Investor Advisory Committee. Thank you all for making time in your busy schedules to be here. Today, I want to very briefly update you on a few recent developments at the Commission and give you a glimpse of some of what lies ahead in 2015.
White proceed to provide an update on several rules that regulate market technology and enhance disclosures to investors:
  • In November, the SEC adopted Regulation Systems Compliance and Integrity (“Regulation SCI”) which applies to the regulation and disclosure of "exchanges, clearing agencies, FINRA, the MSRB, securities information processors, and alternative trading systems accounting for the bulk of equity trading on such systems." 
  • In December, White recounts the announcement that the Division of Investment Management is developing recommendations for the SEC to address portfolio composition with the aim of modernizing and enhancing data reporting for funds and investment advisers. 
  • White also discusses the two rules adopted already in 2015, 1) under Title VII of the Dodd-Frank Act, which brings transparency in the over-the-counter derivatives market, and 2) the requirement of disclosure about whether directors, officers and other employees are permitted to hedge the market value of securities obtained through equity-based compensation.
Looking ahead, White discussed the continued implementation of the Dodd-Frank and JOBS Act mandates, including:
the additional Title VII and executive compensation rulemakings under Dodd-Frank, as well as Regulation A and crowdfunding under the JOBS Act. We will also be busy in a number of other important areas, including, to name just a few, enhancements of our equity and fixed income market structure, the asset management initiatives I mentioned, our disclosure effectiveness review, and enhancing broker-dealer financial responsibility requirements.
To read the full speech, click here.

3rd Public Meeting of President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans - 3/3 @10:30am

The President's Advisory Council was established in 2013 and created as a way to advise the President and the Secretary of Treasury on ways to foster the importance of financial capability for young adults. Council members include the Secretary of the Treasury, the Secretary of Education, the Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and up to 22 non-governmental members appointed by the President.

This meeting will be held at 10:30 am EDT on March 3, 2015 at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, 1650 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20502.

You can view the meeting live at http://www.whitehouse.gov/live. There's no need to register.

Questions or comments about the even can be sent to: pacfcya@treasury.gov.

SEC Officials Speak At PLI "SEC Speaks" - 2/21 8:45 - 4:33pm

Saturday, Feb. 21, 2015

8:45 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.
SEC senior officials and staff will participate at PLI’s SEC Speaks. See agenda.
The event will be held at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Washington, D.C.
Contact: media@pli.edu

SEC Charged 5 Cayman Island-based Entities With Selling $75M in Securities Illegally

On Feb. 11, 2015, the SEC charged five entities with the offering and selling of unregistered penny stocks.  First issued on Feb. 6, 2015, the complaint is against Cayman Islands-based, Caledonian Bank Ltd. and Caledonian Securities Ltd., Belize-based, Clear Water Securities, Inc. and Legacy Global Markets S.A., and Panama-based, Verdmont Capital S.A. It alleges that the five entities sold over $75 million in illegal securities from four shell company issurers, namely, Swingplane Ventures (OTC BB: SWVI:), Goff Corp. (OTC: GOFF), Norstra Energy Inc. (OTCMKTS: NORX) and Xumanii, Inc (OTC: XUII). To read the original press release click here.

________________________________________________________________
If you like what you're reading, please join my mailing list to receive blog posts and updates as they occur. If you're an investor with all of your assets tied up in the stock market and cash, you might want to consider a few diversification strategies. Gold is the oldest asset in the world and it's inflation proof. Bitcoin is the gold standard for the cryptocurrency world, which is the fastest growing asset class in the world. Diversifying your portfolio into one or both of these assets can help to insure your portfolio against a stock market crash or inflation. Most importantly, it can help to safeguard the gains you've made over the last 10 years.

Please note that there are other companies that sell gold and Bitcoin on the market, and you should always do your research when making decisions about your portfolio. Just like your personal health, if you're planning on having major surgery, you need to get a second, and sometimes a third, opinion. You want to make sure your surgeon is good and has performed the procedure many, many times.  In the same way, you need to trust your broker and you need to make sure they are reputable. This is the process I used when looking for a broker to recommend.

Full disclosure: RegalAssets compensates me for everyone I send their way, but I would receive compensation from any company I chose to recommend. The only broker I'm recommending is Regal, primarily due to its innovative product offering in my favorite commodities - gold, precious metals and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. They also have a distinguished track record for success (see below).




Next Steps: Use Regal as one of your options and compare against them. Your other brokers should be able to offer the same level of service and the same low rates. The kit is free and it will provide you with a basis for comparison. Don't wait, get started today. Fill out the form below to get your free investment kit.

If you're interested in learning more about gold investments, click here to receive a free gold investment kit from Regal Assets.

If you're interested in learning more about Bitcoin investments, click here to receive a free Bitcoin investment kit from Regal Wallet.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

AstraZeneca To Pay $7.9M To Settle Kickback Charges

On Feb. 11, 2015 the Department of Justice announced that AstraZeneca LP (NYSE: AZN), a pharmaceutical manufacturer, has settled kickback allegations. The company has agreed to pay $7.9 million in the settlement. "We will continue to pursue pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks to pharmacy benefit managers,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Joyce R. Branda, according to the press release. He goes on to say that,  “Hidden financial agreements between drug manufacturers and pharmacy benefit managers can improperly influence which drugs are available to patients and the price paid for drugs.”

The lawsuit was originally filed by former employees of AstraZeneca who acted as whistle-blowers and received a combined $1.4 million. While this is a public health issue, it is also an issue within the pharmaceutical industry due to profitability targets.

“Pharmaceutical companies that pay kickbacks in order to boost profits will be held accountable for their improper conduct,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick DiGiulio in the press release.

The announcement gave the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) credit for the settlement and partnership between the two departments which was formally established in 2009. Since January 2009, according to the press release, the Justice Department has recovered more than $23.6 billion through False Claims Act cases, with $15.1 billion involving financial fraud against federal health care programs.

AZN was up $.19 to $68.44 today and is  trading up $.02 in after hours trading.

SEC Roundtable on Ways To Improve Proxy Voting Process -- 2/19

On Thursday, February 19, the Commission will convene a roundtable discussion exploring universal proxy ballots and retail participation within the proxy voting process.

Location: SEC Headquarters, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C.

Contact: Office of Public Affairs, 202-551-4120

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

CFTC Budget Hearing: Massad Testifies Before the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee 2/11 10am



Date:Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Time:10:00 a.m.
Location:Room 2362-A Rayburn House Office Building
For original press release click here.

SEC Requiring CFO's To Personally Pay For Earnings Fraud

Last year the SEC charged Saba Software with falsifying time-sheets in order to meet quarterly goals. As a result, William Slater and Peter E. Williams III, the company's two CFO's over the time period -- Slater was CFO from December 2008 to October 2011 and Williams was CFO from October 2011 to January 2012 -- agreed to payback almost $500K to the company's investors. The two were not personally charged with the fraud, but under Section 304 of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act the two can be held responsible for the company's financial negligence. The former CEO is also expected to reimburse the company $2.5 million which is the amount of compensation made over the time period.

To read the original press release, click here.

Monday, February 9, 2015

SEC Commissioner To Speak At Fort Hood On About Saving and Investing For Military Members 2/12 @ 11:45

Date: Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015 @ 11:45am

Commissioner Daniel Gallagher and Lori Schock, will discuss the basics of saving and investing for military members Fort Hood's, Palmer Theater, in Building 344, 761st Tank Battalion Ave. in Fort Hood, Texas. 
Contact: Master Sgt. Nicholas Conner, nicholas.j.conner3.mil@mail.mil

FRB of NY Releases Monthly Survey On America's Consumer Expectations

Source: Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE)
On February 9, the The Federal Reserve Bank of New York released the January 2015 Survey of Consumer Expectations (SCE), which provides readers with monthly data about America's views on three economic factors, as can be seen in the charts above, inflation, the labor market and household finance.

Consumer inflation was unchanged, but median household spending growth decreased significantly from the last month. Median inflation expectations remained stable, the mean perceived probability of losing one’s job was unchanged at 14.5% (lowest level since July 2013), but the perceived probability of finding a job in the next three months increased to 53.3% from 51% in December 2014

The survey is conducted by The Demand Institute, a non-profit organization operated in collaboration with The Conference Board and Nielsen.

To read more details about the survey click here.

________________________________________________________________
If you like what you're reading, please join my mailing list to receive blog posts and updates as they occur. If you're an investor with all of your assets tied up in the stock market and cash, you might want to consider a few diversification strategies. Gold is the oldest asset in the world and it's inflation proof. Bitcoin is the gold standard for the cryptocurrency world, which is the fastest growing asset class in the world. Diversifying your portfolio into one or both of these assets can help to insure your portfolio against a stock market crash or inflation. Most importantly, it can help to safeguard the gains you've made over the last 10 years.

Please note that there are other companies that sell gold and Bitcoin on the market, and you should always do your research when making decisions about your portfolio. Just like your personal health, if you're planning on having major surgery, you need to get a second, and sometimes a third, opinion. You want to make sure your surgeon is good and has performed the procedure many, many times.  In the same way, you need to trust your broker and you need to make sure they are reputable. This is the process I used when looking for a broker to recommend.

Full disclosure: RegalAssets compensates me for everyone I send their way, but I would receive compensation from any company I chose to recommend. The only broker I'm recommending is Regal, primarily due to its innovative product offering in my favorite commodities - gold, precious metals and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. They also have a distinguished track record for success (see below).




Next Steps: Use Regal as one of your options and compare against them. Your other brokers should be able to offer the same level of service and the same low rates. The kit is free and it will provide you with a basis for comparison. Don't wait, get started today. Fill out the form below to get your free investment kit.

If you're interested in learning more about gold investments, click here to receive a free gold investment kit from Regal Assets.

If you're interested in learning more about Bitcoin investments, click here to receive a free Bitcoin investment kit from Regal Wallet.


SEC Announces New Congressionally-mandated Dodd-Frank Rule Regarding Executive Compensation

On February 9, Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar issued a press release about a new rule proposed by the SEC, as proposed by Section 955 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which adds a new paragraph to Reg. S-K. It requires companies to disclose employee and director level hedging activities. The rule is an attempt to better align executive pay, in particular stock-based compensation, with the shareholders of a company. Here's an excerpt from the announcement discussing market growth: 
Much of that growth reflects the trend towards equity-based and other incentive compensation, which intends to meet the worthy goal of aligning the interests of the corporate overseers of public companies with their shareholders.  However, some have suggested that company policies that permit hedging of the company’s equity securities could have the opposite effect.[3]  By allowing corporate insiders to protect themselves from stock declines while retaining the opportunity to benefit from stock price appreciation, hedging transactions could permit individuals to receive incentive compensation, even where the company fails to perform and the stock value drops.[4]

The purpose of this rule change is not to prohibit stock-based compensation, but to provide greater transparency for investors.

Keep in mind that this is only the first in a series of Congressionally-mandated rules intended to improve transparency in executive compensation. The other disclosures are dealing with "pay for performance" contracts and the ratio between the CEO and the average worker's pay.

This proposing release is a positive step in the direction of providing more information to shareholders as to whether the interests of corporate insiders are truly aligned with their own. 
If you have any concerns, public comments are being accepted.

To read Aguilar's full statement click here.

NY Fed Q4 2014 Household Debt and Credit Report Coming Out 2/17 @11am

On February 17, at 11 am, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York will release the Household Debt and Credit Report for Q4 in conjunction with the release detailing the state of student loan delinquencies.

This report contains invaluable information about the state of the country's debt levels. Last quarter, the third quarter of 2014, total household indebtedness was $11.71 trillion, up 0.7 percent from Q2. Overall household debt remained below 2008 peak levels of $12.68 trillion. Here's a link to last quarter's report.
Source: Q3 FRBNY Report


You can request your own copy of the report from Kevin Sajdak at kevin.sajdak@ny.frb.org.

________________________________________________________________
If you like what you're reading, please join my mailing list to receive blog posts and updates as they occur. If you're an investor with all of your assets tied up in the stock market and cash, you might want to consider a few diversification strategies. Gold is the oldest asset in the world and it's inflation proof. Bitcoin is the gold standard for the cryptocurrency world, which is the fastest growing asset class in the world. Diversifying your portfolio into one or both of these assets can help to insure your portfolio against a stock market crash or inflation. Most importantly, it can help to safeguard the gains you've made over the last 10 years.

Please note that there are other companies that sell gold and Bitcoin on the market, and you should always do your research when making decisions about your portfolio. Just like your personal health, if you're planning on having major surgery, you need to get a second, and sometimes a third, opinion. You want to make sure your surgeon is good and has performed the procedure many, many times.  In the same way, you need to trust your broker and you need to make sure they are reputable. This is the process I used when looking for a broker to recommend.

Full disclosure: RegalAssets compensates me for everyone I send their way, but I would receive compensation from any company I chose to recommend. The only broker I'm recommending is Regal, primarily due to its innovative product offering in my favorite commodities - gold, precious metals and cryptocurrency like Bitcoin. They also have a distinguished track record for success (see below).




Next Steps: Use Regal as one of your options and compare against them. Your other brokers should be able to offer the same level of service and the same low rates. The kit is free and it will provide you with a basis for comparison. Don't wait, get started today. Fill out the form below to get your free investment kit.

If you're interested in learning more about gold investments, click here to receive a free gold investment kit from Regal Assets.

If you're interested in learning more about Bitcoin investments, click here to receive a free Bitcoin investment kit from Regal Wallet.

Friday, February 6, 2015

"A Day With The SEC" - 2/11 From 10am to 1pm

10 a.m. and 1 p.m.
The Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and the Deputy Director of the Division of Enforcement will participate at the Association of Corporate Counsel’s “A Day with the SEC.” Higgins will provide updates on the division. At 1 p.m., Avakian will provide updates on current SEC enforcement issues.
 
Location & Contact:  
Woodway Country Club, 540 Hoyt St., Darien, Conn.
  Lee Cushman, 203-461-9004, wesfacca@wesfacca.com

Discussion On Regulatory Developments & Initiatives at the SEC and FINRA - 2/10 @ 9:15

Stephen Luparello, Director, Division of Trading and Markets, will participate in a discussion with FINRA Chief Legal Officer Robert Colby at the 2015 Investment Company Institute’s Capital Markets Conference. They will discuss regulatory developments and initiatives at the SEC and FINRA.
Location & Contact:  
Convene at 32 Old Slip, 32 Old Slip, New York
Olivia Caverly, 202-326-5945, olivia.caverly@ici.org

Master Class on Corporate Governance on 2/10 From 9:15 to 2:15.

On Tuesday, Feb 10, Keith Higgins and Andrew Ceresney, Director of the Division of Corporation Finance and Director of the Division of Enforcement, respectively, will speak at the Practising Law Institute’s Corporate Governance – A Master Class 2015.
 
Even Location: 
Location: PLI New York Center, 1177 Avenue of the Americas, New York
Contact: media@pli.ed
 

SEC Announces Suspension of Scottsdale, AZ based Med Pro Venture (MPVC)


Today, the SEC announced the temporary suspension of Scottsdale, Arizona based Med Pro Venture Capital, Inc. f/k/a Modern PVC, Inc. due to questions about the accuracy of financial statements made in a company press release issued on January 12 and a paid research analyst report on January 9 regarding a partnership with Go CNG technologies. As of 12:36 EST, the stock has had no movement and trades for $5.25. It has a 52 week trading range of $1.00 to $10.70. You can read more about the story here, but the full press release won't be published until January 12.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Record $2.3 trillion Exported in FY 2014

Ex-Im Bank Chairman and President Fred P. Hochberg issued a statement in response to the Bureau of Economic Analysis' (BEA) report which states that exports increased 2.9% to a record $2.345 trillion. The Ex-Im Bank, which is under political scrutiny, is an independent federal agency that supports, provides and facilitates export financing to foreign buyers of American products. To read more about how the Ex-Im Bank affects the financial markets click here. To read the original press release from The Ex-Im Bank click here.

Investor Alert! Say No To "Prime Bank" Scam

The SEC issued an alert today to warn investor about "prime bank" investment programs. Here's an excerpt from the announcement:

All “prime bank” investment programs are fraudulent.  Promoters of prime bank programs often claim that investors’ funds will be used to buy and trade supposed prime bank instruments, and that investors will receive guaranteed, high investment returns with little or no risk.  Promoters try to make the schemes sound legitimate by using complex, sophisticated, and official-sounding terms. These may include: debenture, standby letter of credit, bank guarantee, prime world bank financial instrument, private funding project, offshore trade or trading program, trading platform, trading facility, trade slot, high-yield trading or roll program, guaranteed bank note, or some variation. 
Promoters of the scam claim securities are backed by organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a central bank (such as the U.S. Federal Reserve), or the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC). Evidently it is not unusual for promoters of these investments to advertise in national newspapers, social media and classifieds. They may also avoid using the term "Prime Bank". In this case, investors should be wary of any offer of high-yield, risk free (read high return with no risk) security backed by institutional finance programs. Please circulate. For more info click here.

Click here to return to TheGafi.com

SEC Charges Four In $750K Insider Trading Scheme

Today, the SEC charged John Gray, previously an analyst at Barclays Capital, and friend Christian Keller with trading on confidential merger information supplied by Keller. An attempt to hide the trades was made by placing them in the name of Gray’s friend Kyle Martin. Gray also told Aaron Shepard about the merger. All four have agreed to settle with the SEC by paying more than $1.6 million combined. The first trade was made while Keller was financial analyst at Applied Materials. In 2012, Keller left Applied Materials (Nasdaq: AMAT) and joined Rovi Corporation (Nasdaq: ROVI) as VP for investor relations and finance, and the scheme continued as the four would trade ahead of negative news announcements about Rovi securities. ROVI is down .26% today. To read more about the story click here.

The Dodd-Frank Act Isn't Just For Banks

Not all financial institutions are created equal. Some, provide significant financial services to the economy, but do not operate as a "bank" so they fall outside of the regulatory scope for the Dodd-Frank Act. Up until yesterday, Feb 4, the FSOC made the determination on a one-off basis. For example, the following have "one-off" designations:
These institutions could pose a threat to U.S. financial stability. As of February 4, the Council decided to streamline the process of review in a way that could increase this list significantly by making the review process easier, meaning a greater number of non-bank financial institutions will be held accountable to Dodd-Frank legislation. To read more about these changes click here.

Federal Court Orders U.S. Bank to Pay $18 Million to Peregrine Financial Group, Inc

The order arises from a complaint originally filed on June 5, 2013 charging U.S. Bank with treating the Peregrine Financial Group's segregated funds account like a regular business checking account. In other words, the Bank was withdrawing funding for non-customer purposes. To read more about this order and its background, click here.

Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee Recommends Reduced Treasury Bill Issuance

On February 3 the Treasury Borrowing Advisory Committee of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association sent a letter to the Secretary of the Treasury. The bulk of the letter was about figuring out a way to tighten monetary policy without raising rates. The letter discusses the continued expansion of the economy, though at a slower pace. The letter also cites a steep decline in energy prices as being a catalyst for consumer spending growth which was the fastest it's been since 2006.  Here's an interesting quote from the letter pertaining to labor the fed funds rate:

In recent statements, the FOMC has indicated that it can be patient before raising the federal funds rate. After its late –January meeting, the FOMC upgraded its assessment of domestic economic conditions, but also noted that international developments will be factored in when considering the date of the first interest rate increase. In public speeches, some FOMC members have signaled that mid-year 2015 could be a reasonable time for such a move, should growth and inflation dynamics evolve favorably over the coming months. But a large degree of uncertainty remains on this front, while commentators and market pricing increasingly point toward a later date.

The group also mentions the looming debt ceiling debate:

Another complicating factor is the debt ceiling requirement. On March 15, the debt ceiling will automatically be increased to include the amount of borrowing that occurred during the suspension period (February 8, 2014 to March 15, 2015) but Treasury is expected to reduce its the cash balance essentially to the level it was on February 8, 2014, approximately $30 billion.
As the March 15 date approaches, the Committee recommends that the Treasury absorb excess cash above the required amount through reduced Treasury bill issuance.

It's the last sentence that's most interesting. Reduced Treasury bill issuance is akin to raising rates. All signs point to raised rates in 2015. To read the letter in its entirety, click here.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

FRB of New York Staff Report Confirms More Millennials Staying At Home

Source: FRB of New York
The FRB came out with a report today confirming speculations long circulated by the media, "today’s young people are more likely to live in parental households long into their twenties than were young people one or two decades ago." The trend is widespread and a reflection of three distinct trends including rising youth employment, escalating housing prices, and increasing student debt. The group plans on continuing this research in the future. To read more click here.




















Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Panel Discussion: SEC enforcement and private litigation developments (2/5 @3:50)

Public Appearances

Thursday, Feb. 5, 2015

3:50 p.m.
Miami Regional Director Eric Bustillo and Fort Worth Regional Director David Woodcock will be panelists at the 33rd Annual Federal Securities Institute. Their panel will discuss SEC enforcement and private litigation developments.
Location: 1435 Brickell Ave., Miami
Contact: Alec Moore, 646-562-3495, alexander.moore@thomsonreuters.com

Investor Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting - 2/12 @10am

Thursday, Feb. 12, 2015

10:00 a.m.
Investor Advisory Committee Quarterly Meeting
Location: SEC Headquarters, Multipurpose Room, 100 F Street, N.E., Washington, D.C.
Contact: Frankie White, 202-551-4310

Agenda: February 12, 2015, Meeting of the Securities and Exchange Commission Investor Advisory Committee

10:00 - 10:30 a.m.Welcome Remarks and Continental Breakfast
10:30 - 10:35 a.m.Approval of Minutes
10:35 - 11:05 a.m.Discussion of Recommendation of Market Structure Subcommittee on Shortening the Trade Settlement Cycle
11:05 - 12:05 p.m.Discussion of Proxy Access
12:05 - 1:35 p.m.Non-Public Subcommittee Meetings and Lunch
1:40 - 2:00 p.m.Subcommittee Reports/Discussion
2:00 - 3:00 p.m.Update on FINRA's CARDS Proposal
3:00 - 4:00 p.m.Update on MSRB and FINRA Proposals for Improved Disclosures for Same-Day, Retail-Size Principal Transactions in Fixed Income Securities
4:00 p.m.Adjourn

SEC - Vote On Definition of Accredited Investor: Open Meeting; 2.17 @ 2pm EST

Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015

2 p.m. ET
Advisory Committee on Small and Emerging Companies will hold a public meeting by conference telephone call.
Location: Conference Call
Contact: Julie Davis, acsecquery@sec.gov
At the Dec. 17, 2014 meeting the definition of accredited investors was discussed. Many would like to change the definition to be more inclusive rather exclusive; that is, based on taking a test rather than net wealth. The effect is more investors in the market, especially for private placements and other structured products. Needless to say investment managers love the idea, but policy advocates believe it exposes the vulnerable to risk. The committee will receive advice from companies and small businesses with a market cap less than $250 million and vote at the end of the meeting. The meeting will be broadcast live on the website.
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