FINRA Arbitrators Award Damages On 2008-Solicited Annuity When Contract First Delivered in 2018. In the Matter of the Arbitration Between Larry A. Longhi, Claimant, v. James W. Ray, Respondent (FINRA Arbitration Decision)Swiss Asset Management Firm And Its Owner Charged In Manhattan Federal Court For Orchestrating Stock Manipulation Scheme / Danish National Who Participated in the Scheme Is Also Charged (DOJ Release)
FINRA Needs To Better Coordinate Its Admonition of Statutory Disqualification (BrokeAndBroker.com Blog)
[F]rom at least 2013 through December 2019, CIAPALA and his firm, BLACKLIGHT, as well as others, conspired to defraud the investing public by orchestrating and facilitating the manipulation of multiple publicly traded stocks, commonly referred to as "pump and dump" schemes. The vast majority of the stocks that CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and their co-conspirators sought to manipulate were "penny" or "microcap" stocks that traded in the United States on the over-the-counter ("OTC") market. In executing these pump and dump schemes, CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and their co-conspirators (i) secretly amassed beneficial ownership of all, or substantially all, of the stock of certain publicly traded companies; (ii) began manipulating the price and demand for these stocks through, among other means, the release of materially false information to the investing public and manipulative trading practices, thereby causing the share price of these stocks to become artificially inflated; and (iii) sold out of their secretly-amassed positions at artificially inflated values at the expense of the investing public.CIAPALA, using his firm BLACKLIGHT, primarily furthered the stock manipulation scheme by helping other participants in the scheme to obscure their beneficial ownership and control of all or substantially all of the shares of companies whose securities they sought to manipulate. CIAPALA caused BLACKLIGHT to establish nominee entities that were registered in the names of various third parties to hold the shares that were, in reality, beneficially owned and controlled by the scheme participants. In order to obscure their ownership interests, CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and others typically caused these nominee entities' holdings to be structured so as to ensure that no single nominee entity held more than five percent of the outstanding stock of any of the relevant companies.CIAPALA also caused BLACKLIGHT to open bank accounts in the names of these nominee entities and to trade shares owned by these nominee entities through various brokerage accounts. Through BLACKLIGHT, CIAPALA exercised trading authority over these nominee entities' shares, and CIAPALA directed brokers to execute trades on behalf of these nominee entities in furtherance of the stock manipulation scheme. After CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and others participating in the scheme had obtained control of all or substantially all of the shares of a company, the scheme participants manipulated the share price and trading volume of the stock of the company. This typically occurred through a promotional campaign and through certain manipulative trading practices.With respect to the promotional campaign, CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and others participating in the scheme caused promotional materials to be distributed to the investing public that contained exaggerated and, at times, false claims about the company whose stock they sought to manipulate. The scheme participants concealed from the investing public that these promotional materials were financed and created at the direction of those who beneficially owned and controlled substantially all of the shares of the relevant company that was the subject of the promotion.In addition, to drive investor demand and artificially inflate the share price, CIAPALA, BLACKLIGHT, DEBO, and other participants also engaged in manipulative trading activity in order to artificially increase the trading volume and share price of the issuers whose stock they sought to manipulate. This manipulative trading activity included "match" trades whereby the scheme participants caused multiple nominee entities they controlled to essentially trade with one another to create the false appearance of trading volume and demand for the stock.
Between June 2018 and May 2019, De Alba allegedly advertised and sold illegal narcotics on the Wall Street Market, using the moniker "RaptureReloaded." Customers were directed to pay her in Bitcoin, and contact her through encrypted email and messaging services. De Alba offered customers free shipping to addresses in the United States, and "stealth" delivery options ranging from "Basic Stealth" and "Better Stealth," to "Super Stealth 360." These options featured measures to conceal the external and internal packaging of illegal narcotics to evade detection by law enforcement, and to inform buyers if law enforcement had intercepted, tampered with, or was monitoring the shipment.On January 3, 2019, an undercover DEA agent accessed the RaptureReloaded listing on the Wall Street Market and purchased 30 grams of heroin for a total of $1,810. Later that day, the undercover agent purchased 10 grams of methamphetamine from the RaptureReloaded listing for a total of $160. As requested, the undercover agent paid for the drugs with Bitcoin. On January 14, 2019, the undercover agent retrieved a package shipped by RaptureReloaded via the U.S. postal service to a mailbox in Queens, New York. The package contained a small plastic container containing approximately 30 grams of a substance that tested positive for heroin, and a clear plastic bag containing approximately 10 grams of a substance that tested positive for methamphetamine. Between August 2018 and January 2019, law enforcement agents intercepted five packages containing methamphetamine pills and fentanyl that were shipped from the Netherlands and Canada and addressed to De Alba's deceased husband at an apartment in southern California. Allegedly, since her husband's death in March 2018, De Alba used his identity and credit cards to fund her narcotics business on the Wall Street Market.
[S]eidel, who knew the firm's net-capital position was precarious, falsely represented to the broker-dealer's outside accounting firm and to the staff of the SEC's Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations that loan proceeds were a capital infusion. It further alleges that Mekawy forged one of the broker-dealer's account statements to inflate the broker-dealer's cash position and knowingly concealed a substantial six-figure liability.
https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/1229566/download, Alan Seidel and Benjamin Mekaway were each charged with one count of conspiracy, falsifying required books and records of a broker-dealer, falsifying records in a federal investigation, and making false statements to the SEC.As alleged in part in the DOJ Release:At all relevant times, SEIDEL was the CEO of Seidel & Co., a Manhattan-based inter-dealer broker registered with the SEC. MEKAWAY was a Seidel & Co. employee. As an inter-dealer broker, Seidel & Co. acted primarily as an intermediary between institutional broker-dealers trading bonds of various types.SEC regulations required Seidel & Co. to maintain net capital reserves of the greater of $100,000 or six and two-thirds percent of its aggregate indebtedness. If Seidel & Co.'s net capital fell below the required threshold, the Firm was required to notify the SEC of that fact the same day. Once a broker-dealer falls out of its net capital requirement, it becomes subject to the suspension or revocation of its registration.In order to ensure, among other things, that a broker-dealer maintains adequate net capital, SEC regulations require broker-dealers like Seidel & Co. to maintain books and records reflecting each expense incurred relating to their business and any corresponding liability. Seidel & Co. was also required to file monthly reports with the SEC summarizing information concerning its financial and operational status, including its current net capital position.Beginning at least in or about late-2016, SEIDEL and MEKAWAY caused Seidel & Co. to maintain inaccurate books and records regarding its net capital position and to submit false reports to the SEC regarding Seidel & Co.'s net capital position. In particular, in monthly reports filed with the SEC reflecting Seidel & Co.'s financial position for the months of October 2016 and November 2016, SEIDEL and MEKAWAY caused Seidel & Co. to falsely represent that it had the requisite net capital to meet its regulatory requirements for those months. In fact, as SEIDEL and MEKAWAY well knew, the net capital of Seidel & Co. fell far below the requisite amount in both months. Specifically, in its filings for month-end October 2016, Seidel & Co. fraudulently represented that its net capital exceeded the minimum amount by: (i) failing to account for a debt of approximately $104,000 that the firm owed to its landlord, and (ii) falsely inflating the balance of a Firm brokerage account, for which MEKAWAY submitted a forged bank statement to the external financial operations entity the Firm engaged to prepare and submit reports to the SEC. Subsequently, in order to falsely represent that Seidel & Co. met its capital requirements in its filing for November 2016, Seidel & Co. falsely recorded as a capital contribution a $1 million loan that should have been recorded as a liability.When, in December 2016, the SEC began to examine Seidel & Co.'s true net capital position, SEIDEL made false statements to the SEC's exam staff regarding the $1 million loan. SEIDEL initially claimed on multiple occasions that the loan was a capital investment. When the SEC sought verification of this assertion, SEIDEL acknowledged that the money was in fact a loan but claimed, falsely, that he believed it might be converted to a capital investment.Subsequently, in or about August 2018, MEKAWAY sought to obstruct an investigation by the SEC's Division of Enforcement into the misconduct at Seidel & Co. by failing to produce relevant documents and emails in response to a subpoena for records and falsely denying that he was in possession of Seidel & Co. records.
Pinto-Thomaz, Oujaddou, and Millul each agreed to settle with the SEC and consented to the entry of judgments permanently enjoining them from violating the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, ordering Millul and Oujaddou liable for disgorgement of their ill-gotten trading profits, and ordering Pinto-Thomaz liable for disgorgement of a cash payment he received from Oujaddou, with the disgorgement for all three defendants deemed satisfied by orders of forfeiture entered in a parallel criminal action. Pinto-Thomaz, who was convicted after a trial, is serving a 14-month prison sentence. Oujaddou and Millul each pled guilty, and Millul is serving a 5-month prison sentence. In a separate administrative proceeding instituted on November 12, 2019, Pinto-Thomaz also consented to a bar from association with any nationally recognized statistical rating organization.
[T]he causes of action relate to Claimant's allegation that Respondent breached an agreement to compensate Claimant for Respondent's admitted mistake, regarding how an annuity would operate. Claimant further alleges that the annuity was solicited in 2008, but the annuity contract was not delivered to Claimant until 2018, and the annuity features were misrepresented to Claimant during the ten years of periodic reviews. Claimant also asserts that Respondent agreed to pay Claimant the sum of $159,000.00 in a pre-suit settlement, and that this action is to enforce that settlement.