Articles Tagged with SEC

Crypto-tokens-300x200In hopes of helping society grow and to allow everyone gain more insight into exactly how crypto tokens will be viewed in the eyes of the law, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has released a regulatory guidance document that outlines how and when cryptocurrency should be used and what certain tokens will be classified as, though mainly in reference to securities.

The first to state that regulators were working to develop new guidance for crypto tokens was SEC Director of Corporation Finance, William Hinman, in November of 2018. Others have also made it clear that this was a solid plan for the future of society including Valerie Szczepanik, FinHub head, and Commissioner Hester Peirce.

Hinman revealed that the guidance would be in “plain English” and allow anyone invested in crypto tokens to seamlessly be able to determine its qualification as a security offering. The document includes a plethora of useful information as well as examples of both tokens and networks that could be considered securities under the law, and a few examples of those that do not.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a former SeaWorld lawyer with fraud for alleged insider trading. The Complain says that former SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. associate general counsel Paul Powers used confidential information that the company was set to exceed analysts’ financial performance  to make  $65,000 in alleged “illicit profits.” The U.S. Department of Justice announced parallel criminal charges against Powers on Tuesday. Powers received a draft of SeaWorld’s earnings release Aug. 1, 2018. The following day, he allegedly purchased 18,000 shares of company stock. When SeaWorld publicly released its earnings , the company’s stock rose 17 percent—and Powers sold all his shares.

The Orlando-based marine animal amusement park terminated Powers in October over the alleged insider trading, according to the SEC’s complaint.

“At the time of his trading, defendant knew his trading was in breach of SeaWorld’s trading policy, knew his trading was in breach of duty of trust and confidence that he owed to SeaWorld and its shareholders, and knowingly and willfully breached the trading policy and his duty by trading in securities issued by SeaWorld while in possession of material and confidential information,” the SEC alleged in its complaint.

insider-trading-300x168Charlie Jinan Chen, a Boston restaurant owner, is accused of insider trading of Vistaprint stock after illegally receiving confidential information from a former Vistaprint employee. His wife, Shui Foon Mak, is also being charged for her part in reaping the illegal profits, which are believed to be in excess of $850,000. But, how did this all work?

Insider Information Leaked from 2012-2014

Vistaprint is an eCommerce platform that specializes in selling customizable business materials and other products. From 2012-2014, Chen received insider information from an employee of Vistaprint, identified only as “Jenny” in court documents. Jenny was an accounting manager that reportedly handled Vistaprint’s quarterly financial statements, which included confidential information that would remain unavailable to the public prior to a set date for release. It was this information that Chen allegedly used to generate fraudulent profits.

Russian telecom companyRussia-based Mobile TeleSystems PJSC (MTS), the largest mobile telecommunications company in that country and an issuer of publicly traded securities in the United States, has settled with the Department of Justice and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) paying $850 million to resolve charges of paying bribes in Uzbekistan.  A former Uzbek official who is the daughter of the former president of Uzbekistan and the former CEO of Uzdunrobita LLC, another MTS subsidiary, were said to have participated in a bribery and money laundering scheme involving more than $865 million in bribes from MTS, VimpelCom Limited (now VEON) and Telia Company AB (Telia) to the former Uzbek official in order to secure her assistance in entering and maintaining their business operations in Uzbekistan’s telecommunications market.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman of the Southern District of New York, Special Agent in Charge Raymond Villanueva of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Washington, D.C. and Chief Don Fort of IRS Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

Gulnara Karimova, 46, a citizen of Uzbekistan, was charged in an indictment filed in the Southern District of New York on March 7 with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Karimova is a former Uzbek official who allegedly had influence over the Uzbek governmental body that regulated the telecom industry.  Bekhzod Akhmedov, 44, a citizen of Uzbekistan and the former Uzbek executive, was charged in the same indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), two counts of violating the FCPA, and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Karimova’s and Akhmedov’s case is assigned to U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood of the Southern District of New York.

One of the informants will get $37 million, the third-biggest payout in the history of the SEC’s whistleblower program, the agency said in a statement Tuesday. The SEC didn’t name the company involved or the people getting the awards but said the two provided high-quality assistance.

“Whistleblowers like those being awarded today may be the source of ‘smoking gun’ evidence and indispensable assistance that strengthens the agency’s ability to protect investors and the capital markets,” Jane Norberg, chief of the SEC’s whistleblower office, said in the statement.

Tipsters are eligible for payouts if they voluntarily provide the SEC with unique information that leads to a successful enforcement action. Compensation can range from 10% to 30% of the money collected in a case where sanctions exceed $1 million. The SEC has paid out about $376 million since issuing its first award in 2012.

dominos pizza fraudWhile everyone enjoys a nice slice of the pie, Domino’s Pizza has had a corporate insider file a detailed whistleblower report with the SEC against top-level officers and various staff members. This case involves general misconduct and an alleged scheme involving misleading franchisors and fraudulent investments.

On February 19, 2019, the franchise community website Blue MauMau reported that “[a] corporate insider has filed a well-documented whistleblower report with the [SEC] against Domino’s Pizza, its top-level officers, and various staff members.” Domino’s allegedly forced an unapproved advertising increase to franchisees in order to pay a $1.85 billion Securitization Transaction to gain higher stock prices and dividends.

Details of this case came directly from a concerned insider at Domino’s Pizza who noticed the presence of possible misconduct and decided to blow the whistle on this major pizza chain.

oil-company-bribes-300x200In a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the company, TechnipFMC plc, stated that they have set aside $280 million in possible settlement funds involving bribery-related offenses. The payment would be delivered to authorities in the United States as well as Brazil and France.

TechnipFMC plc is a company based in London that is often found engaging in projects involving oil and gas. They were formed through a merger in 2017, including the UK-based FMC Technologies Inc. and French oil-services giant Technip SA. In 2010, Technip SA paid $338 million to resolve its own issue involving FCPA offenses in Nigeria that involved using massive bribes to win contracts worth $6 billion. They then used these bribery-won contracts to build massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island in Nigeria.

Moving back to the present, this current reserve of settlement funds is related to an investigation involving a number of factors. TechnipFMC states in a summary of their financial statement for the fourth quarter in 2018 that, “We are cooperating with the U.S., Brazilian, and French authorities in their investigations of potential violations of anti-corruption laws relating to historical projects in Brazil, Equatorial Guinea, and Ghana, and Unaoil contracts. We have been informed that these authorities have been coordinating their investigations, which could result in a global resolution.”.

insider tradingAccording to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s 2018 Annual Report, 262 tips were received from whistleblowers regarding insider trading and resulted in a total of 56 charges throughout the year. As one of the SEC’s most successful years in combating insider trading, it is evident that the combination of whistleblower tips and modern technology are the key to securing the integrity of the securities market.

What is Insider Trading?

According to the SEC’s Investor.gov, “Illegal insider trading refers generally to buying or selling a security, in breach of a fiduciary duty or other relationship of trust and confidence, on the basis of material, nonpublic information about the security. Insider trading violations may also include “tipping” such information, securities trading by the person “tipped,” and securities trading by those who misappropriate such information.”

SEC Pump-and-Dump Scheme The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged ten individuals, named as “microcap fraudsters” in the SEC press release, for numerous market manipulation schemes that lead to the group profiting over $27 million in unlawful stock sales. The classic “pump and dump” scheme went on for years and involved well-known figures in the cryptocurrency and biotech field.

The Microcap Fraudsters

Of the ten individuals charged in this complex and manipulative scheme, three names stand out from the group. At the forefront of the microcap fraud is Barry Honig, who once served as one of the largest shareholders of the cryptocurrency company, Riot Blockchain. According to the SEC, Honig was the primary leader of the market manipulation scheme, bringing together the group of those charged and strategizing their elaborate fraudulent activities.

SEC-Director-300x200The Division of Corporation Finance has named Valerie A. Szczepanki their Associate Director and Senior Advisor of the Digital Assets and Innovation Division. In her new role, Ms. Szczepanki will deal with security laws relating to digital technologies, including, but not limited to, cryptocurrencies and Initial Coin Offerings. Social media expressed a great attitude toward her appointments and her stated intentions toward working to make new currency tech trading, investing, and development easier to regulate.

Ms. Szczepanki will be looking at issues that concern securities laws that possibly affect the developments and advancements of certain lender technologies, such as blockchain and distributed ledger technologies, cryptocurrencies, Initial Coin Offerings, tokenized securities, and other digital methods of currency transfer and lending. While the SEC recognizes that cryptocurrencies are the wave of the future and need flexibility and freedom to develop in multiple ways, the organization also knows that this tech needs to be regulated and registered to some extent in order to protect those investing as well as those trading in these currencies.

With the developments of all of these new technologies in lending and electronic currency, Ms. Szczepanki has intentions to thoroughly examine the many ways that securities can affect their function and advancement in the markets. Ms. Szczepanki’s efforts are very welcomed by social media outlets and those who utilize social media platforms for business and for other types of electronic currency transactions that deal in the transfer of funds. These routes have noted that regulations are outdated and are affecting the advancement of these types of digital lender technologies and new currency developments as well.