Securities Industry Commentator by Bill Singer Esq

June 4, 2020

Here's how far hackers are willing to go to steal your stimulus check (CNBC by Darla Mercado)
A very sobering and scary report by CNBC's Mercado. If you're savvy enough to avoid the scamsters, makes sure that those in your family and circle of friends with less tech chops understand the traps that are waiting out there for them.

AMC has 'substantial doubt' that it can survive coronavirus outbreak shutdown (CNBC by Sarah Whitten)
The end of an era? Perhaps. CNBC's Whitten reports that the world's largest movie theater chain, AMC, may not be able to bounce back after COVID. Is that going to be a similar tale for the other chains? What happens to all those empty theaters? Is this the final push for at-home, first-run movie streaming?
Bloomberg's Banjo paints a devastating picture of the added stresses the COVID pandemic and ensuing recession has placed on women. In part, she reports that:

By March, 14% of American women who work full-time and have children at home were already considering quitting their jobs to take care of their families. That compares to 11% of men surveyed by Syndio, a company that develops software for corporate human resources departments.

Social media feeds may be filled with smiling photos of working moms baking bread and crafting with their kids between Zoom meetings. But women are typically spending 20 more hours a week on housework and caregiving than men in the same situation do, the Lean In survey found, noting that women of col-or and single mothers are putting even more hours.

Senior Executives at Major Chicken Producers Indicted on Antitrust Charges / First Charges Filed in Ongoing Investigation into Fixing Prices of Broiler Chickens (DOJ Release)
In an Indictment filed in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado,, Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady were charged with conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens. As alleged in part in the DOJR Release

According to the indictment, from at least as early as 2012 until at least early 2017, Jayson Penn, Roger Austin, Mikell Fries, and Scott Brady conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens across the United States.  Penn is the President and Chief Executive Officer, and Austin is a former Vice President, of a chicken supplier headquartered in Colorado.  Fries is the President and a member of the board, and Brady is a Vice President, of a broiler chicken producer headquartered in Georgia.

Bill Singer's Comment: President Mikell Fries? I'm sorry but the comic in me can only imagine someone at DOJ preparing a motion for a court Order and asking: "Can we get Fries with that Order?" 

In the Matter of the Arbitration Between Monica C. Chioffi, Claimant, v. Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. and Steven A. Gordon, Respondents (FINRA Arbitration Decision 19-03687)
In a FINRA Arbitration Statement of Claim filed in December 2019, pro se public customer Claimant Chioffi excessive and unauthorized commission and fees in connection with exchange traded funds. Claimant sought $1,200 in compensatory damages plus interest, costs, fees. Respondents generally denied the allegations and asserted various affirmative defenses. The sole FINRA Arbitrator found Respondents jointly and severally liable to Chioffi and ordered them to pay her $1,200 in compensatory damages plus $75 reimbursement for her filing fee. Respondent Gordon's request for an expungement of the matter was denied.

Bill Singer's Comment: Talk about a bare-bones' recitation of facts and an unexplained FINRA Arbitration Decision!  $1,200 in excessive commissions and fees -- and all derived from the apparent purchases/sales of ETFs? How many trades are we talking about? Over how long a period? What was the defense raised by Respondents? Just out of curiosity, I looked at FINRA's online BrokerCheck disclosures as of June 4, 2020, and found that Chioffi's allegations are published as follows:

Claimant alleged that the commissions charged on three specific trades were excessive. From 11/29/2017 to 12/7/2017.

Seriously?  That's $1,200 in commissions on three -- only 3 -- trades? How the hell do you rack up $1,200 in commissions on three ETF trades? Of course, maybe that's exactly what customer Chioffi was asking. Which gets me to wondering why it took nearly 2 1/2 years for her to get reimbursed for those seemingly excessive commissions. Which gets me wondering even more as to why the hell the FINRA Arbitration Decision doesn't at least disclose the numbers of trades at issue and the commissions charged on each. Which gets me wondering even more about Respondents' explanation for $1,200 in commissions on three dates? As I find myself grousing about far too much in recent days, given the facts presented in the Decision plus the facts published online, why didn't the FINRA Arbitrator refer this for a regulatory investigation. One answer, is that I'm reading too much into the dispute but that's solely the fault of FINRA for not providing sufficient content and context to make this Decision intelligible. Frankly, given the concerns that I have noted, it's very troubling that this Decision fails to fill in some important blanks.
Matthew Ledvina, 46, pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud in the United States States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, and he was sentenced to 30 months of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $50,000. As alleged in part in the DOJ Release:

In or about June 2017, Ledvina assisted his co-conspirators by creating nominee entities that were used to hold shares in Environmental Packaging Technologies Inc. (EPTI), a publicly-traded company. The nominee entities allowed the true owners of the shares to mask their identities and to secretly sell large quantities of EPTI shares, even as they and others simultaneously orchestrated promotional campaigns and other manipulative efforts to artificially inflate the price and trading volume of those shares.

Roger Knox, the operator of Silverton, a Switzerland-based asset management firm, was charged with helping to facilitate the EPTI pump-and-dump and other market manipulation schemes. During the pump-and-dump, Silverton sold approximately $1.5 million worth of EPTI stock before trading was halted by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Guest blogger Aegis Frumento finds the unfolding events of 2020 eerily reminiscent of 1967, when LBJ convened the Kerner Commission to study the causes of racial unrest. The Kerner Commission Report didn't tell anyone anything that they didn't know then about the causes of racial protests and unrest (and it won't tell you anything that you don't already know today). Still, Frumento thinks it's worth reading, if only so you can avoid reading whatever silly report is commissioned to explain this year's protests and riots, because nothing's changed.
In a Complaint filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida,, the SEC charged E*Hedge Securities and its President, Devon W. Parks, with violating the books and records provisions of Section 204(a) of the Advisers Act and the registration provisions of Section 203A of the Advisers Act, and Parks with aiding and abetting those violations. As alleged in part in the SEC Release:

[F]rom mid-April 2020 to the present, E*Hedge and Parks, while operating COVID-19-related investment websites, have failed to produce books and records requested by SEC examination staff, as required by the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. The complaint alleges that this is the second time E*Hedge and Parks have failed to respond to an SEC examination attempt. The complaint further alleges that E*Hedge is improperly registered with the Commission as an Internet investment adviser because it does not meet the applicable registration requirements, and does not otherwise appear to be qualified for registration with the Commission.