On September 28, 2016 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced charges and an emergency asset freeze against former stockbroker Peter Kohli for defrauding investors in his failing mutual fund business.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, alleges that, from 2012 through 2015, Kohli fraudulently raised more than $3.2 million from at least 120 investors. The complaint alleges that, among other things, Kohli filed false mutual fund registration statements with the SEC, misappropriated investor funds, and made false and misleading statements when selling securities in a company controlled by Kohli. At the time of his misconduct, Kohli was a registered representative and investment adviser representative associated with a dually-registered broker-dealer and investment adviser. Read More
On September 26, 2016 the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) charged a former microcap company CEO and a boiler room operator with defrauding seniors and others who were pressured to invest in a pair of penny stock companies and promised lucrative profits.
The SEC alleges that Craig V. Sizer founded Sanomedics Inc. and Fun Cool Free Inc., which were purportedly in the business of selling non-contact infrared thermometers and software applications respectively, and he hired Miguel “Michael” Mesa to help him attract and defraud investors in both companies. Sizer allegedly provided Mesa with a list of pitch points for use by boiler-room agents hired by Mesa to sell shares of the stocks based on misrepresentations that investor funds would be used for research and development and no sales commissions would be paid out of investor funds. Read More
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced on September 27, 2016 that a former IT executive at the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) has agreed to settle charges that he participated in a scheme to defraud Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) of approximately $98 million.
According to the SEC’s complaint, filed in federal court in Los Angeles, California, CSC’s former Executive Vice President of Cloud Computing (the CSC executive) bribed Hunter to have CBA enter into contracts with CSC in 2013 and 2014 so that the CSC executive could receive an earn-out payment. The alleged purpose of entering into the CBA contracts was to meet a $20 million revenue threshold before a certain date that was required for Service Mesh, Inc. (SMI), a Santa Monica, California cloud computing company, to earn an additional $98 million earn-out payment from CSC’s November 2013 acquisition of SMI. Read More
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a civil injunctive action in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California against Jason Wallace alleging that he violated the antifraud and registration requirements of the federal securities laws as a result of his participating in a fraudulent scheme to artificially inflate the per share price of penny stocks.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that in 2010, an owner of penny stocks, James Price, proposed to a stock promoter, Brian Kingsfield, that they engage others to help Price sell his shares. According to the complaint, Kingsfield recruited Wallace, who operated a boiler room through his wholly-owned company, JAW & Associates, Inc., to act as seller’s agent on behalf of Price and, subsequently, on behalf of another seller, William Alverson. Read More
On September 26, 2016, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged Texas-based Mard, Inc., formerly known as KiOR, Inc., and its former CEO and President Fred Cannon for failing to disclose important assumptions about the yield that KiOR had claimed to have achieved through the company’s proprietary process of converting wood and other biomass into crude oil – a key metric that was critical to the company’s viability.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in Houston federal court, beginning in April 2011 with the filing of KiOR’s registration statement for its initial public offering, KiOR and Cannon claimed that the company had “achieved” a yield of 67 gallons of fuel per ton of biomass. But they did not disclose that this yield was based on significant assumptions about technologies that remained under development. Read More
On September 26, 2016, the Honorable Nathaniel M. Gorton of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts entered a final judgment against Daniel Thibeault, of Framingham, Massachusetts.
Thibeault is a defendant in an SEC enforcement action filed in January 2015 alleging that he misappropriated money from an investment fund that he was managing. The final judgment imposes on Thibeault permanent injunctions against future violations of certain antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and orders him to pay disgorgement of $15.3 million, which will be deemed satisfied by the restitution order in the parallel federal criminal case against him. Thibeault was also recently sentenced to nine years in prison in the criminal case.
In its complaint, filed on January 9, 2015, the SEC alleged that Thibeault, GL Capital Partners, LLC, and other related entities engaged in securities fraud and fraud by an investment adviser. Specifically, the SEC alleged that GL Capital Partners, LLC and its principal, Thibeault, were the investment advisers to a fund called the GL Beyond Income Fund, and that they misappropriated at least $15 million of the money that belonged to this fund. The GL Beyond Income Fund’s assets consisted primarily of individual variable rate consumer loans. Read More
On June 19, 2015, Regulation A+ became effective. The new rules which were promulgated under the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (JOBS Act), create two Tiers of exempt offerings, both of which allow securities to be offered and sold to the general public.
Tier 1 offerings allow the issuer to offer and sell up to $20 million in a 12-month period. Additionally, Tier 1 offerings do not preempt state Blue Sky laws. Issuers in Tier 2 offerings may raise up to $50 million in a 12-month period. A notable advantage of Tier 2 over Tier 1 offerings is preemption of state Blue Sky laws. As discussed below, Tier 2 offerings require the issuer to provide audited financial statements and comply with ongoing reporting obligations. Read More
On September 21, 2016, North Star Finance LLC, G. Thomas Ellis, and Yasuo Oda entered consents to settle the SEC’s charges against them.
Without admitting or denying the allegations in the SEC’s complaint, North Star, Ellis, and Oda consented to a judgment permanently enjoining them from violations of Sections 5(a), 5(c), and 17(a) of the Securities Act and Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, with the amounts of any disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties to be determined by the court on the SEC’s motion. The settlement remains subject to court approval.
On May 11, 2015, the SEC charged North Star, Ellis, and Oda, together with several other individuals and entities, for defrauding dozens of investors in an advance fee loan scam involving bogus prime bank instruments. Many of these investors were solicited from the National Association of Home Builders (“NAHB”). Read More
The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) announced charges on September 22, 2016 against Sheren Tsai and Colin Whelehan for insider trading in advance of the acquisition of a home security company based on confidential information tipped to the trader by her live-in boyfriend. Both individuals, who were securities professionals during the relevant period, have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges.
In a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, the SEC alleges that Tsai, who then worked at an investment advisory firm, traded in the securities of ADT Corp. on the basis of tips of material nonpublic information that she received from her romantic partner, Whelehan. The complaint alleges that Whelehan, who was then a Senior Associate at a different investment advisory firm, provided Tsai with inside information that he obtained in the course of his employment regarding an impending acquisition of ADT by funds managed by affiliates of Apollo Global Management, LLC. Read More
On September 16, 2016, the Honorable William J. Martini of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey entered a judgment against defendant Lee Vaccaro that imposed permanent injunctions and an officer and director bar.
The SEC’s complaint, filed on May 4, 2016, alleged that Vaccaro and James Trolice pocketed the approximately $6 million they raised from more than 100 investors for limited liability companies they owned and controlled that purportedly held warrants to purchase the common stock of a technology startup company. Vaccaro and Trolice created a false sense of urgency and exclusivity around the offering, claiming that only a limited amount of warrants were available and that they eventually could be exercised at a very profitable price. The complaint alleged that Vaccaro spent at least a quarter-million dollars in investor funds at Las Vegas casinos. Read More