Jurors favored the defendants in a case brought in London by the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office. In the U.S., the Securities and Exchange Commission fined Goldman Sachs $15 million over locates for short sales, fined and barred a hedge fund manager and froze the assets of a company alleged to have fraudulently offered securities in oil and gas investment programs.
Hedge Fund to Repay Nearly $3 Million for Hiding Losses
Manhattan-based investment advisory firm QED Benchmark Management LLC and its Toronto-based hedge fund manager, founder/fund manager Peter Kuperman, have agreed to settle charges that they misled investors about a fund’s investment strategy and historical performance. They will reimburse investors for $2.877 million in losses.
According to the agency, QED and Kuperman hid heavy trading losses from investors by using a misleading mixture of hypothetical and actual returns when providing the fund’s performance history. Investors put millions of dollars into the fund based on these misrepresentations, and QED Benchmark and Kuperman tossed their stated investment strategy to pour most of the fund’s assets into a single penny stock. They continued to hide the value and liquidity of this penny stock investment from fund investors.
Kuperman and QED Benchmark Management neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s charges but agreed to the settlement. In addition to making the $2.877 million payment to fully reimburse fund investors for their losses, Kuperman has agreed to pay a $75,000 penalty and be barred from the securities industry.
Jury Acquits Six in U.K. LIBOR Case
Six former brokers were acquitted by a jury in London of attempting to rig the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), after they were accused of conspiring with a seventh — former UBS Group AG and Citigroup Inc. trader Tom Hayes, who was convicted last year and is now in prison.
The six, Colin Goodman, Danny Wilkinson and Darrell Read, formerly of ICAP Plc; Noel Cryan of Tullett Prebon Plc in London; and Terry Farr and James Gilmour from RP Martin Holdings Ltd., were found not guilty and released.
The verdict, after a four-month trial, came as a blow to the Serious Fraud Office's efforts to prosecute others in the LIBOR case. It is the second trial held in Britain focusing on LIBOR rigging, with a third trial expected to begin as soon as next month.
A trial in the U.S., conducted last year, ended in November with two convictions.
LIBOR helps determine the borrowing costs for about $450 trillion of contracts and consumer loans worldwide.
Goldman Sachs Fined $15 Million
Goldman Sachs was censured and fined $15 million by the SEC after the agency said its securities lending practices violated federal regulations — specifically, Regulation SHO.
According to the agency, Goldman Sachs improperly provided locates to customers selling short when it had not performed an adequate review of the securities to be located. (Granting a “locate” represents that a firm has borrowed, arranged to borrow, or reasonably believes it could borrow the security to settle the short sale.) Such locates were inaccurately recorded in the firm’s locate log that must reflect the basis upon which Goldman has given out locates.
SEC examiners questioned the firm’s securities lending practices in 2013, but Goldman Sachs provided incomplete and unclear responses that, according to the agency, “adversely affected and unnecessarily prolonged the examination.”
Members of Goldman Sachs’ Securities Lending Demand Team routinely processed customer locate requests by relying on an F3 key function of the firm’s order management system known as “fill from autolocate.” That function allowed employees to get the system to grant locate requests based on outdated information from the start of the day — even though by the time the locate requests came in the automated system had determined the inventory depleted based on the day’s earlier locate requests that had already been processed.
In addition, documentation failed to adequately distinguish between locates filled by the automated model and those that the Demand Team filled via the F3 key function.
While the firm neither admitted nor denied the SEC’s charges, it agreed to the $15 million penalty.
SEC Freezes Assets in Suspected Oil and Gas Investment Fraud
The SEC has won a temporary restraining order halting an investment offering it says is fraudulent, as well as an asset freeze against the defendants’ assets.
According to the agency, since at least June 2013, Dallas-based Sedona Oil and Gas Corp. and its president, Kenneth "Kenny" Crumbley Jr., have raised approximately $3.3 million from 55 investors through the fraudulent offer and sale of securities in six oil and gas investment programs.
Although the defendants’ offering materials claimed that 100% of investor funds would be used to cover expenses associated with drilling, testing and completing wells located in Texas, Tennessee and Kentucky, instead the SEC said that the defendants spent more than 60% of investor funds instead on such expenditures as Sedona's daily operating expenses, defending a lawsuit by an earlier investor, repayment of loans from another Crumbley-controlled company, personal expenses of Crumbley and his family and Ponzi payments to investors in earlier offerings.
The SEC also said that the defendants lied to investors about the use of geologists to assess and endorse the prospects, falsely promised annual investment returns ranging from 37% to 276%, lied about how much was paid out to prior investors, and failed to disclose the poor quality of several surrounding and nearby wells. They also destroyed evidence in the months leading up to the SEC’s court action, and Crumbley even threatened to fire Sedona employees for speaking with SEC staff or other government authorities.
In addition to the asset freeze and restraining order, the SEC has also won the appointment of a receiver over the defendants’ assets. The agency seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties against both defendants.
--- Check out Convicted Inside Traders Look to Supreme Court for Redemption on ThinkAdvisor.