featured in today's Securities Industry Commentator:
[T]he Panel decided: (1) to grant Respondent's motion to the extent of precluding the admission of evidence for the purpose of challenging the veracity of the SEC Order on Claimant's direct case, but would rule on the admissibility of evidence to rebut any defenses raised by Respondent, and; (2) to deny Respondent's motion to preclude the testimony of a witness, and rule on the admissibility of relevant evidence.
ARBITRATOR ANDERSON'S DISSENTThe Panel erred in granting Respondent's motion to preclude the introduction of evidence challenging the veracity of the SEC Consent Order. The fact that Claimant was not allowed to present evidence to rebut the factual contentions of the Order prevented Claimant from making a full presentation of his case. There was a sufficient number of demonstrably false statements in the Consent Order to call into serious question the main contention of the Consent Order, that is, that Claimant Mittal was culpable in the manner described in the Order. Based on the evidence presented, the compensatory damages awarded under the breach of contract claim are inadequate. Furthermore, Claimant stated a valid claim for tortious interference with business relationship with regard to both AQR and other potential employers. Compensatory damages should have been awarded under that claim. In addition, ITG's willful and malicious conduct toward Mr. Mittal indicates that punitive damages in an amount at least equal to compensatory damages should have been awarded.MAJORITY ARBITRATORS' REPORTThe following is but a brief response to the dissenting arbitrator's statement regarding the Panel's July 15, 2019 ruling on Respondent's motion to preclude. That ruling provided, in relevant part, that Claimant was precluded from challenging the veracity of the SEC Order on its direct case, but expressly provided that the Panel would rule on the admissibility of evidence offered to rebut the defenses asserted by the Respondent in connection with the Order. In fact, as the record in this case amply demonstrates, under the liberal application of this ruling at the hearing, Claimant was afforded a fair and full opportunity to present evidence in support of each of his claims and to rebut Respondent's defenses, including evidence challenging the factual underpinnings of the SEC Order - both on his direct case and on rebuttal. The intention and effect of the ruling was to limit the introduction of evidence regarding the SEC Order to the claims at issue in this arbitration, rather than conducting an unbridled re-evaluation by the Panel of the SEC's investigation into ITG and the ensuing Consent Order
The SEC's order finds that ITG facilitated transactions known as "pre-releases" of ADRs to its counterparties without owning the foreign shares or taking the necessary steps to ensure they were custodied by the counterparty on whose behalf they were being obtained. Many of the ADRs obtained by ITG through pre-release transactions were ultimately used to engage in short selling and dividend arbitrage even though they may not have been backed by foreign shares. ITG's improper handling of ADRs lasted from 2011 to 2014.
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The SEC's order finds that ITG violated Section 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933 and failed reasonably to supervise its employees on its securities lending desk. Without admitting or denying the findings, ITG agreed to be censured and pay more than $15 million in disgorgement plus more than $1.8 million in interest and a penalty of more than $7.5 million. The SEC's order acknowledges ITG's cooperation in the investigation and its remedial acts.
Hedge Fund AQR Fires Trading Head Linked to ITG Probe / The SEC brought an enforcement action against a former employer (The Wall Street Journal / August 12, 2015)https://www.wsj.com/articles/itg-confirms-plan-to-pay-20-million-to-settle-sec-dark-pool-charges-1439388899
AQR's Ex-Head of Trading Sues Broker He Says Derailed His Career (Bloomberg.com / July 31, 2018)https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-07-31/aqr-s-ex-head-of-trading-sues-broker-he-says-derailed-his-career
Ex-tech honcho claims firm ran ‘smear campaign' against him (New York Post / July 31, 2018)https://nypost.com/2018/07/31/ex-tech-honcho-claims-firm-ran-smear-campaign-against-him/
[F]rom February 2013 to March 2017, despite its penny stock activity, BNP did not develop and implement a written AML program that could reasonably be expected to detect and cause the reporting of potentially suspicious transactions. Until 2016, BNP's AML program did not include any surveillance targeting potential suspicious transactions involving penny stocks, even though BNP accepted the deposit of nearly 31 billion shares of penny stocks, worth hundreds of millions of dollars, from its clients, including from so-called "toxic debt financiers." BNP also did not implement any supervisory systems or written procedures to determine whether resales of securities, including the penny stocks deposited by its customers, complied with the registration requirements of Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933. As a result, BNP facilitated the removal of restrictive legends from approximately $12.5 million worth of penny stocks without any review to evaluate the transactions for compliance with Section 5.During the same period, BNP processed more than 70,000 wire transfers with a total value of over $230 billion, including more than $2.5 billion sent in foreign currencies. BNP's AML program did not include any review of wire transfers conducted in foreign currencies, and did not review wires conducted in U.S. dollars to determine whether they involved high-risk entities or jurisdictions.BNP's AML program also was understaffed. For example, although BNP effected more than 70,000 wire transfers during a two-year period, with a total value of $233 billion, during a majority of that period, only one investigator was tasked with reviewing alerts relating to wires originating from BNP's brokerage accounts. Although BNP identified many of these deficiencies as early as January 2014, BNP did not fully revise its AML program until March 2017. As a result, BNP did not identify "red flags" indicative of-or review-potentially suspicious activity involving the deposit and sales of penny stocks or foreign wire transfers that may have required the filing of a suspicious activity report.
Between February 2011 and April 2016, Levoff - the top corporate attorney at "Company-1," who also served as the company's assistant secretary and corporate secretary -allegedly misappropriated material, nonpublic information about Company-1's financial results and then executed trades involving the company's stock. This scheme to defraud Company-1 and its shareholders allowed Levoff to realize profits of approximately $227,000 on certain trades and to avoid losses of approximately $377,000 on others.Levoff used his position as a member and co-chairman of Company-1's Disclosure Committee - which reviewed and discussed the company's draft quarterly and yearly earnings materials and periodic U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filings before they were disclosed to the public - to obtain material, nonpublic financial information about Company-1. Levoff used this confidential information to buy and sell stock in Company-1 ahead of its quarterly earnings announcements. When Levoff discovered that Company-1 had posted strong revenue and net profit for a given financial quarter, he purchased large quantities of stock, which he later sold for a profit once the market reacted to the news. When he learned that Company-1 had posted lower-than-anticipated revenue and net profit, he sold large quantities of Company-1 stock, avoiding significant losses.Levoff was subject to Company-1's regular quarterly "blackout periods," which prohibited individuals who had access to material nonpublic information from engaging in trades until a certain period after the company disclosed its financial results to the public. Levoff ignored this restriction, as well as the company's broader Insider Trading Policy - which he was responsible for enforcing - and instead repeatedly executed trades based on material, nonpublic information without Company-1's knowledge or authorization. On several occasions, Levoff executed trades within a blackout period after notifying other individuals subject to the restriction that they were prohibited from buying or selling Company-1 stock until the blackout period terminated.
[L]ee was a Managing Director in the Firm's Private Banking and Investment Group. As a registered representative, Lee was required to personally complete his assigned Firm Element CE modules and other assigned training throughout the year by certain deadlines set by the Firm. For 29 CE modules assigned to him by the Firm during the Relevant Period, Lee instructed two members of his staff, a financial analyst and a client associate, to complete the CE modules on his behalf, rather than completing the modules himself.Specifically, Lee instructed his staff to complete the following seven Firm Element CE modules on his behalf: 2016 "Annual Compliance Discussion Video and Acknowledgment" module; 2016 and 2017 "Key Policy Review" modules; 2017 "Regulation GG: Unlawful Internet Gambling Enforcement Act" module; 2017 "Deceased Customer Notification" module; and 2016 and 2017 "Product and Sales Practices" modules. In addition, Lee instructed his staff to complete eight CE modules required by laws and regulations apart from FINRA Rule 1250(b). For example, these modules covered topics including: United States Federal Reserve Regulation W; the 2016 Fair Credit Reporting Act; financial crimes compliance; and the Department of Labor Fiduciary Rule. In addition, Lee instructed his staff to complete 14 CE modules required by the Firm. These modules covered topics including: the Merrill Lynch Code of Conduct; market-linked investments; risk appetite; business continuity awareness; and information protection.At Lee's direction, these individuals ensured that the above-referenced training was completed on Lee's behalf, and Lee did not complete this training himself. As a result of the foregoing, Lee violated FINRA Rule 2010.