Thursday, September 29, 2016

Biotech Employee Charged With Insider Trading Ahead of Company’s Announcements About Breast Cancer Drug

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the former senior director of regulatory affairs for Puma Biotechnology with insider trading ahead of the company’s news announcements about its drug to treat breast cancer.
The SEC alleges that Robert Gadimian pocketed more than $1.1 million in illicit profits by secretly purchasing Puma stock and short-term call options based on nonpublic information he learned about positive developments in two clinical trials for Puma’s drug, neratinib.  Gadimian allegedly bought Puma securities before the results from the first trial were announced in December 2013 and again before the results of the second trial were announced in July 2014.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Puma confronted Gadimian after learning about his trades and he admitted to trading because of “greed.”  Gadimian allegedly proceeded to alter his trading records before providing them to Puma for its internal investigation, deleting certain trades in Puma securities and renumbering the pages of the altered documents to hide his changes.  Gadimian was fired in October 2014.
“We allege that Gadimian used valuable confidential information about his employer’s drug trials to trade illegally and enrich himself,” said Antonia Chion, Associate Director in the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. 
In a parallel case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts today announced criminal charges against Gadimian.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Timothy K. Halloran with assistance from Martin L. Zerwitz and Michael C. Baker of the Enforcement Division’s Market Abuse Unit.  The case was supervised by Deborah A. Tarasevich, Ms. Chion, and Robert A. Cohen, Co-Chief of the Market Abuse Unit.  The litigation will be conducted by Jonathan P. Hooks and Mr. Halloran.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.  

SEC Press Release

Supervisory Failures leads to 15 Million Dollar Fine

The SEC fined UBS $15 million for systematically failing to train its advisers in complex products they sold to unsophisticated investors

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

SEC Files Insider Trading Charges Against Peruvian Traders Using Overseas Accounts

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged two lawyers and a brokerage firm manager in Peru with insider trading prior to the merger of two mining companies.
The SEC alleges that Nino Coppero del Valle, who worked at Canadian-based HudBay Minerals Inc., tipped his close friend and fellow attorney Julio Antonio Castro Roca with material nonpublic information about a tender offer his company submitted to acquire the shares of Arizona-based Augusta Resource Corp.  Castro allegedly traded on the inside information through a brokerage account held by a shell company he set up in the British Virgin Islands in an attempt to avoid having the trades traced back to him and Coppero.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Castro and Coppero made more than $112,000 in illicit profits from these unlawful trades.
The SEC further alleges that Coppero tipped an acquaintance Ricardo Carrion when seeking his advice about making illegal trades untraceable.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Carrion exploited the inside information and caused his brokerage firm to purchase Augusta Resource shares ahead of the tender offer announcement.  Carrion’s firm obtained $73,000 in alleged profits.
“As alleged in our complaint, Coppero breached his duty to his employer by tipping Castro and Carrion in advance of any public announcement about HudBay’s impending tender offer,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.  “Try as they might, overseas traders shouldn’t presume they can cover their tracks to avoid detection and scrutiny from U.S. law enforcement when they violate insider trading laws.”
The SEC’s complaint charges Coppero and Castro with violating the antifraud provisions of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Coppero, Castro, and Carrion are charged with violating the prohibitions against trading ahead of the announcement of a tender offer contained in Exchange Act Section 14(e) and Rule 14e-3.  The complaint seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest and penalties among other things.
The SEC’s investigation is continuing.  It is being conducted by Jorge G. Tenreiro and Thomas P. Smith Jr. of the New York office.  The litigation will be led by Preethi Krishnamurthy and Mr. Tenreiro.  The case is being supervised by Sanjay Wadhwa.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

SEC Press Release

Monday, September 26, 2016

SEC Charges CEO and Boiler Room Operator With Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a former microcap company CEO and a boiler room operator with defrauding seniors and others who were pressured to invest in a pair of penny stock companies and promised lucrative profits.
The SEC alleges that Craig V. Sizer founded Sanomedics Inc. and Fun Cool Free Inc., which were purportedly in the business of selling non-contact infrared thermometers and software applications respectively, and he hired Miguel “Michael” Mesa to help him attract and defraud investors in both companies.  Sizer allegedly provided Mesa with a list of pitch points for use by boiler-room agents hired by Mesa to sell shares of the stocks based on misrepresentations that investor funds would be used for research and development and no sales commissions would be paid out of investor funds.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Sizer and Mesa misappropriated approximately 90 percent of the funds raised from investors, enriching themselves and paying sales commissions to the boiler-room agents.  Several hundred investors nationwide were allegedly defrauded out of a total of approximately $20 million.
“We allege that Sizer and Mesa fraudulently touted Sanomedics and Fun Cool Free stocks as profitable investments while in fact only Sizer and Mesa and the sales agents were profiting at the expense of investors, many of whom were seniors,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida today announced criminal charges.
Sizer and Mesa have agreed to partial settlements of the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations.  They both agreed to be barred from future penny stock offerings, and Sizer agreed to be barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company.  Financial sanctions will be decided by the court at a later date.  The SEC’s complaint alleges that Sizer and Mesa violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5.  Mesa also allegedly violated Section 15(a) of the Exchange Act, and Sizer allegedly aided and abetted Mesa’s violations.
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by Gary M. Miller and Eric E. Morales of the Enforcement Division’s Microcap Fraud Task Force in the Miami office, and the case has been supervised by Elisha L. Frank and Jason R. Berkowitz of the Microcap Fraud Task Force.  The SEC’s litigation is being led by Alejandro O. Soto.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida.

SEC Press Release

Friday, September 23, 2016

''Movie Studio'' Executives Charged With Microcap Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged three company executives with defrauding investors in a purported project to construct the largest movie studio in North America at a suburban location outside Savannah, Georgia.
The SEC alleges that Manu Kumaran, the founder and former chairman and CEO of a startup movie production company called Medient Studios and later Moon River Studios, schemed with his successor CEO Jake Shapiro to make an assortment of false and misleading statements in press releases and corporate filings.  They allegedly claimed that construction was underway and projected dates by which the studio would be operational while knowing full well they did not have anywhere near sufficient funding to begin building the touted "Studioplex."  In addition, Kumaran, Shapiro, and Roger Miguel – the CEO of a separate successor public company called Fonu2 that also operated under the name Moon River Studios – are alleged to have backdated and falsified promissory notes as part of a scheme to issue common stock in exchange for financing. 
The SEC further alleges that while the Studioplex never materialized and the company eventually shuttered without releasing a single movie or video game, Kumaran and Shapiro nonetheless enriched themselves in the process.  According to the SEC’s complaint, Kumaran spent an average of $1,700 per day of company funds on his globetrotting travel and personal expenses from April 2014 to June 2014 after claiming publicly that he did not draw a salary and assuring shareholders that all funds were being used to benefit the company.  Shapiro allegedly misappropriated company funds for personal use after becoming CEO and lived in a house worth nearly a million dollars that was paid for by the company.
Miguel agreed to settle the charges against him without admitting or denying the allegations.  He agreed to be barred from participating in any penny stock offerings or serving as a public company officer or director for five years, and the court will determine monetary sanctions at a later date.  The settlement is subject to court approval. The litigation continues against Kumaran and Shapiro.  The SEC's complaint was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia.
Three company directors who are not alleged to have participated in the fraud were separately charged with violating federal securities laws by failing to timely report their stock transactions in the company while serving on its board.  Former New York Democratic Governor David A. Paterson and music producer Charles A. Koppelman each agreed to pay $25,000 penalties to settle the charges against them without admitting or denying the findings.  An administrative proceeding was instituted against Matthew T. Mellon II, a businessman and former chairman of the New York Republican Party Finance Committee.  The matter will be scheduled for a public hearing before an administrative law judge, who will prepare an initial decision stating what, if any, remedial actions are appropriate.
"We allege that Kumaran and Shapiro preyed upon investor interest in the movie industry and financed their own lifestyles rather than build the promised Studioplex,” said Walter Jospin, Director of the SEC’s Atlanta Regional Office.  "Koppelman, Paterson, and Mellon allegedly failed in their personal responsibility to comply with the beneficial ownership reporting requirements of the federal securities laws." 
The SEC’s continuing investigation has been conducted by Joshua M. Dickman of the Atlanta office under the supervision of Aaron W. Lipson and William P. Hicks.  The litigation to determine the merits of the allegations against Kumaran and Shapiro will be led by Wm. Shawn Murnahan and M. Graham Loomis with the assistance of Shannon Statkus from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia.

SEC Press Release

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SEC Charges Hedge Fund Manager Leon Cooperman With Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged hedge fund manager Leon G. Cooperman and his firm Omega Advisors with insider trading based on material nonpublic information he learned in confidence from a corporate executive.
The SEC alleges that Cooperman generated substantial illicit profits by purchasing securities in Atlas Pipeline Partners (APL) in advance of the sale of its natural gas processing facility in Elk City, Oklahoma.  Cooperman allegedly used his status as one of APL’s largest shareholders to gain access to the executive and obtain confidential details about the sale of this substantial company asset.  Cooperman and Omega Advisors allegedly accumulated APL securities despite explicitly agreeing not to use the material nonpublic information for trading purposes, and when APL publicly announced the asset sale its stock price jumped more than 31 percent. 
According to the SEC’s complaint, when Omega Advisors received a subpoena nearly a year-and-half later about its trading in APL securities, Cooperman contacted the executive and tried to fabricate a story to tell if questioned about this trading activity.  The executive was shocked and angered when he learned that Cooperman traded in advance of the public announcement. 
“We allege that hedge fund manager Cooperman, who as a large APL shareholder obtained access to confidential corporate information, abused that access by trading on this information,” said Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “By doing so, he allegedly undermined the public confidence in the securities markets and took advantage of other investors who did not have this information.”
The SEC’s complaint further charges Cooperman with failing to timely report information about holdings and transactions in securities of publicly-traded companies that he beneficially owned, alleging that he violated federal securities laws more than 40 times in this regard. 
The SEC’s complaint was filed in federal district court in Philadelphia and seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus interest, penalties, and permanent injunctions against Cooperman and Omega Advisors as well as an officer-and-director bar against Cooperman.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Brendan P. McGlynn, Oreste P. McClung, Patrick A. McCluskey, and Polly A. Hayes of the Philadelphia Regional Office, and supervised by G. Jeffrey Boujoukos.  The litigation will be led by David L. Axelrod and Mark R. Sylvester.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

SEC Press Release

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

“Stock Trading Whiz Kid” to Pay $1.5 Million to Settle Stock Newsletter Fraud Charges

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a self-proclaimed “stock trading whiz kid” and his stock newsletter company in Los Angeles have agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million to settle charges that they defrauded subscribers through false statements and misrepresentations.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Manuel E. Jesus and his newsletter company Wealthpire Inc. used advertising materials and websites touting him as “the untutored prodigy of stock investing” under the alias Manny Backus.  A self-purported “math whiz” who boasted a “skyscraping” IQ and training as a professional chess player, Backus claimed to be actively trading in the stock market with “real money” by age 19.  The SEC’s complaint also states that Wealthpire materials claimed that Backus made millions of dollars before “deciding to help other investors” by starting an alert service that let traders copy his every trading move.

The SEC alleges that from at least January 2012 to September 2014, Backus was not trading in the same stocks recommended by his services as he claimed.  He wasn’t the one making all of the recommendations either.  For instance, the SEC’s complaint alleges that Robert C. Joiner was paid by Wealthpire to make all of the stock picks for one alert service without any guidance from Backus on how to choose them.  Joiner allegedly posed as Backus during chat room sessions by signing in using a password that Backus supplied, and Joiner told investors that he was buying and selling certain recommended stocks when no such transactions were actually taking place.  Joiner also is named in the SEC’s complaint and agreed to settle the case.

The SEC’s complaint alleges a series of other misrepresentations to Wealthpire subscribers as well, including false claims about one particular stock alert service that purportedly made historic trading recommendations that yielded huge past returns higher than 1,400 percent.

“Investors who subscribe to trading alert services are relying on the purported expertise and success of those making the stock recommendations, but Wealthpire and Backus instead circulated repeated lies and falsehoods,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.

The SEC has warned investors that investment newsletters can be used as tools for fraud, noting in an investor alert for example to beware false performance claims misrepresenting the track record of the newsletter’s investment recommendations and be suspicious if the newsletter does not disclose having received any compensation.

Backus and Wealthpire agreed to pay disgorgement of $1,135,145 plus interest of $112,902, and Backus also must pay a $235,000 penalty.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, Backus, Wealthpire, and Joiner consented to the entry of a final judgment permanently enjoining each of them from future violations of the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.  

The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Lucee Kirka and supervised by Robert Conrrad of the Los Angeles office.  

SEC Press Release

Tuesday, September 06, 2016

SEC Charges CEO and Paid Promoter With Fraudulently Promoting Stock of Las Vegas Health Products Company

The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged the CEO of a sexual health products retailer and a paid promoter with orchestrating fraudulent promotional campaigns to tout the company’s stock.


The SEC alleges that Scott S. Fraser, who also was a major shareholder in Las Vegas-based Empowered Products Inc., separately ran a newsletter publishing business and hired Nathan Yeung to secretly help him promote Empowered Products through online newsletter articles purportedly authored by independent writers.  But Fraser and Yeung actually authored, authorized, and distributed the rosy articles about Empowered Products themselves, working under such pseudonyms as “Charlie Buck” and then hiring other promoters to disseminate the promotions to their respective subscriber lists in exchange for fees.  Meanwhile the promotions failed to disclose that Empowered Products and Fraser approved and paid for the advertisements.


“When promoters fail to disclose their relationship with a company they’re touting, they give investors a false impression that an investment recommendation is objective,” said Andrew M. Calamari, Director of the SEC’s New York Regional Office.  “We allege that Fraser and Yeung deliberately touted Empowered Products without disclosing the company’s involvement with the promotions.”


The SEC’s complaint charges Fraser, his newsletter company Contrarian Press, and Yeung with violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 as well as Section 17(b) of the Securities Act of 1933.  The complaint further charges Fraser with aiding and abetting violations by Contrarian Press, and seeks to hold him liable as a control person of the company.  The complaint also charges Yeung with aiding and abetting violations by Fraser and Contrarian Press.


The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Tejal Shah, Alexander Janghorbani, Douglas Smith, and Sandeep Satwalekar of the New York office and Joseph Darragh of the Microcap Fraud Task Force.  The case is being supervised by Lara Shalov Mehraban.  The litigation will be led by Mr. Janghorbani and Ms. Shah.

SEC Press Release