Justice Department Files Antitrust Case and Simultaneous Settlement Requiring National Association of Realtors To Repeal and Modify Certain Anticompetitive Rules / Settlement Will Increase Competition to the Benefit of American Homeowners and Homebuyers and Allow for Innovation in Brokerage Markets (DOJ Release)Investment Manager Indicted on Fraud Charges for Allegedly Swindling Clients Out of Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars (DOJ Release)Gaithersburg Brothers Facing Federal Charge for Their Roles in a $5 Million Romance Scheme / Allegedly Stole and Laundered over $5 Million from About 200 Victims Around the World (DOJ Release)In the Matter of the Arbitration Between Richard and Barbara Brody, as Trustees of the Richard Brody Revocable Trust and Barbara Brody Revocable Trust, Claimants, v. UBS Financial Services, Inc., Respondent (FINRA Arbitration Award)SEC Adopts Amendments to Modernize and Enhance Management's Discussion and Analysis and other Financial Disclosures (SEC Release)Notice of Filing and Immediate Effectiveness of a Proposed Rule Change to Adopt Temporary Supplementary Material .17 (Temporary Relief to Allow Remote Inspections for Calendar Year 2020 and Calendar Year 2021) under FINRA Rule 3110 (Supervision) (SEC Release No. 34-90454; File No. SR-FINRA-2020-040 / November 18, 2020)
According to the complaint, NAR's anticompetitive rules, policies, and practices include: (i) prohibiting MLSs that are affiliated with NAR from disclosing to prospective buyers the commission that the buyer broker will earn; (ii) allowing buyer brokers to misrepresent to buyers that a buyer broker's services are free; (iii) enabling buyer brokers to filter MLS listings based on the level of buyer broker commissions offered; and (iv) limiting access to the lockboxes that provide licensed brokers with access to homes for sale to brokers who work for a NAR-affiliated MLS. These NAR rules, policies, practices have been widely adopted by NAR-affiliated MLSs resulting in decreased competition among real estate brokers.NAR is a trade association of more than 1.4 million-member REALTORS® who are engaged in residential real estate brokerages across the United States. NAR has over 1,400 local associations (called "Member Boards") organized as MLSs through which REALTORS® share information about homes for sale in their communities. Among other activities, NAR establishes and enforces rules, policies, and practices that are adopted by the Member Boards and their affiliated MLSs.
[N]owak served as president of Global Funding Partners, a Nevada-based company that purported to be an investment firm engaged in complex business dealings with large multinational banking and financial institutions. From 2013 to 2016, Nowak, while then residing in Naples, Fla., falsely represented to investors that their funds would be used to provide "bridge funding," or temporary funding, for Global Funding Partners to close a $33 million financial transaction involving Scotiabank, the indictment states. Nowak falsely promised that investors, including the Chicago resident, would receive high-yield returns in a short amount of time, and that they could cancel their investment at any time for a full refund with interest, the indictment states.In reality, Nowak and Global Funding Partners were not parties to a transaction with Scotiabank. Nowak instead allegedly diverted investor funds to cover his personal expenses, including payments to a car dealership and pawn shop in Naples, Fla. As a result of the scheme, Nowak caused investors, including the Chicago resident, to suffer hundreds of thousands of dollars in losses, the indictment states.
MiMedx was headquartered in Marietta, Georgia, and its securities traded under the symbol "MDXG" on the NASDAQ. MiMedx sold regenerative biologic products, such as skin grafts and amniotic fluid, both directly to end users, such as public and private hospitals, and to various stocking distributors, which, in turn, resold the product to end users.One of the most critical financial metrics disclosed in MiMedx's public filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC"), and touted in MiMedx's accompanying press releases, was MiMedx's quarterly and annual sales revenue. Under Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP) and SEC guidance, a company like MiMedx that engages in the sale of products through a distributor may recognize revenue upon transfer of the product to a distributor if certain requirements are satisfied, including that delivery has occurred or services have been rendered, the seller's price to the buyer is fixed or determinable, and collectability of payment is reasonably assured. PETIT and TAYLOR repeatedly demonstrated and touted their understanding of these rules governing revenue recognition. They also publicly identified revenue as the principal metric reflecting MiMedx's growth, and touted MiMedx's consistent record of quarter-over-quarter revenue growth and meeting or exceeding revenue guidance in 17 consecutive quarters, from 2011 through year-end 2015. By 2015, however, it became increasingly difficult for MiMedx to reach its revenue guidance due to decreased demand from certain distributors and the increasingly aggressive revenue targets that MiMedx had publicly announced.Confronted with the difficulties faced by MiMedx in meeting its quarterly and annual revenue guidance by legitimate means, PETIT and TAYLOR engaged in a fraudulent scheme to falsely recognize revenue upon the shipment of MiMedx product to four stocking distributors, CPM, SLR, Stability Biologics ("Stability"), and First Medical, in the second through fourth quarters of 2015. PETIT and TAYLOR caused MiMedx to report fraudulently inflated revenue figures to the investing public in order to ensure that the reported figures fell within MiMedx's publicly announced revenue guidance, and to fraudulently convey to the investing public that MiMedx was accomplishing consistent growth quarter after quarter, as PETIT and TAYLOR had falsely touted to the investing public. The fraudulent scheme involved the following central features:
PETIT's and TAYLOR's fraudulent manipulation of MiMedx's revenue caused MiMedx to report materially inflated revenue in the second, third, and fourth quarters of 2015, and for the full year 2015. In its 2015 10-K, MiMedx reported annual revenue that was fraudulently inflated by approximately $8.2 million. Absent this fraudulent inflation of revenue, MiMedx would have missed both (1) its quarterly revenue guidance in the third and fourth quarters of 2015 and annual revenue guidance for 2015 and (2) analyst revenue consensus for the second through fourth quarters of 2015 and the full year 2015.
[F]rom November 2011 through April 18, 2019, Anile conspired with others to commit wire fraud and mail fraud. Through false and fraudulent representations and material omissions, the conspirators persuaded at least 700 victims to invest more than $72 million in a foreign exchange market ("FOREX") fraud known as Oasis International Group. Anile, a licensed attorney, created offshore entities, secured broker-dealer licenses, drafted promissory notes and disclosures, monitored incoming wire transactions, directed outgoing wire transactions and interacted with victim-investors to help carry out the scheme. The conspirators also developed and administered a "back office" operation-a secure website that falsely and fraudulently depicted account balances and earnings-to convince victim-investors that their principal balances were safe and that their investments were performing.In fact, the conspirators used only a portion of the victim-investors' funds for FOREX trading, which resulted in catastrophic losses that were concealed. They used the balance of the victim-investors' funds to make payments toward expenses associated with perpetuating the scheme, and to purchase million-dollar residential properties, high-end vehicles, gold, silver and other liquid assets, to fund a lavish lifestyle for the conspirators, their family members and friends, and for their personal enrichment. Anile used fraud proceeds to purchase other assets, including a Ferrari California T convertible. Anile did not report the victim-investors' funds he received on his federal income tax returns.
(i) Claimant provided significant and timely information that resulted in the significant expansion of the staff's investigation and resulting Commission charges; (ii) Claimant assisted in the staff's investigation by submitting additional information that helped expedite the investigation; and (iii) there are important law enforcement interests here in that Claimant identified alleged violations that were occurring overseas, some of which would have been difficult to detect in the absence of Claimant's information.
[T]he Annors are part of a romance scheme in which their co-conspirators find their victims online, typically through social media or dating websites, and communicate with the victims using e-mail, cell phones and online applications. The complaint alleges that since April 2017, the brothers and another co-conspirator have received and laundered over $5 million from approximately 200 romance fraud victims throughout the United States and overseas. The age range of the known victims is from 38 to 83 years old.Specifically, the affidavit alleges that David registered a business entity in the State of Maryland called Ravid Enterprise LLC, a shell company through which the conspirators laundered the proceeds of the fraud scheme. According to the articles of organization, Ravid Enterprise is "a car sale business where buyers come in to get cars which are from the auction." David is listed as the resident agent for the company and his Gaithersburg residence-which is an apartment-is the registered address of the company. Bank records show that between at least May 2017 and September 2020, David and Lesley Annor opened or maintained bank accounts at 10 different financial institutions, including accounts opened in the name of Ravid Enterprise, for the purpose of receiving payments from victims of the romance scheme.As detailed in the criminal complaint, the Annors' co-conspirators made contact with the victims and after convincing the victims that they were in a romantic relationship, requested money from the victims for various purposes, often assuring the victims that they would be repaid. The co-conspirators provided the victims with details on where to send the payments, which were accounts controlled by the Annors or another co-conspirator, or their mailing address, where victims would mail cashier's checks. The eight victims described in the criminal complaint each allegedly lost between $17,500 and $201,000.The criminal complaint alleges that after receiving the victim payments, the Annors sent a portion of the money to other co-conspirators, often located in Ghana, and kept at least 10 percent of the victim payments for themselves. The Annors also allegedly laundered the victim payments by sending each other wires, checks, and possibly cash.
total damages in the amount of $950,655.00, as follows: compensatory damages for losses in Claimants' accounts in the amount of $482,463.00; realized capital losses - sales to fund YES loss payoff in the amount of $17,082.00; disgorgement of YES fees and interest in the amount of $68,803.00; pre-judgment interest pursuant to Florida Statutes §55.03(1) in the amount of $38,579.00, from April 1, 2019, to October 1, 2020, at the rate of 5.37%; attorneys' fees on a 33 and 1/3 percent contingency basis in the amount of $202,309.00 pursuant to Florida Statutes §517.211(6); experts' fees in the amount of $106,026.00; other costs and expenses in the amount of $35,393.00; and an unspecified amount of punitive damages.
[S]pecifically, we are eliminating the requirement for Selected Financial Data, streamlining the requirement to disclose Supplementary Financial Information, and amending Management's Discussion & Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations ("MD&A"). These amendments are intended to eliminate duplicative disclosures and modernize and enhance MD&A disclosures for the benefit of investors, while simplifying compliance efforts for registrants.
The changes to Items 301, 302, and 303 of Regulation S-K sharpen the focus on material information by:
In addition, the Commission adopted certain parallel amendments to the financial disclosure requirements applicable to foreign private issuers, including to Forms 20-F and 40-F, as well as other conforming amendments to the Commission's rules and forms, as appropriate.
[W]e certainly agree that how a company manages climate risk and human capital is material information subject to disclosure under a principles-based approach, and that the securities laws require companies to include that information, amongst other material information, in their discussions of MD&A, descriptions of business, legal proceedings, risk factor disclosures, and perhaps elsewhere too. However, many companies simply do not make these disclosures, the majority of U.S. based large companies have failed to acknowledge the financial risks of climate change in their filings. Moreover, research and analysis have shown that a principles-based approach, coupled with voluntary disclosure, results in non-standardized, inconsistent, and incomparable disclosures. A major purpose of requiring companies to disclose specific information about climate risk and human capital management is to allow market participants to accurately price and compare the risks and opportunities associated with these risks. But when disclosure metrics are not uniform and standardized the task of pricing and comparing these risks and opportunities is, at best, unduly burdensome. And without specific requirements, much of the information is simply not there to be worked into the analysis.While we are disappointed that the modernization of Regulation S-K did not address these vital issues, there is a silver lining. We have an opportunity going forward to address climate, human capital, and other ESG risks, in a comprehensive fashion with new rulemaking specific to these topics. In addition, the Commission should have an internal task force and ESG Advisory Committee that is dedicated to building upon the recommendations of leading organizations, such as the Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosures, and defining a clear plan to address sustainable investing.There's no time to waste in setting to ourselves to this task, and we look forward to rolling up our sleeves to establish requirements for standard, comparable, and reliable climate, human capital, and other ESG disclosures.