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SEC Awards More Than $14 Million to Whistleblower

Earlier this week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced that an anonymous whistleblower has been awarded over $14 million for the information provided to the SEC that resulted in an expedited enforcement action. This is the third, and by far the largest, award granted by the SEC's Office of the Whistleblower since it was established by the Dodd-Frank Act in 2011.1

Although the announcement does not specifically mention which enforcement action lead to the award, we can...

FINRA Files Cease and Desist RE: John Carris Investments and Fibrocell Science

Yesterday, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced a temporary cease and desist order against "John Carris Investments, LLC (JCI) and its CEO, George Carris, to immediately halt solicitations of its customers to purchase Fibrocell Science, Inc. stock without making proper disclosures."

According to FINRA's complaint, JCI manipulated the stock price of Fibrocell (FCSC) through unauthorized purchases and so-called 'matched trades'. In particular, between May and September...

SEC Proposes Rule for "Pay Ratio" Disclosure

Last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)released a rule proposalthat would require "public companies to disclose the ratio of the compensation of its chief executive officer (CEO) to the median compensation of its employees." The proposed rule gives companies flexibility with respect to the methodology used to calculate the pay ratio. This flexibility allows for a variety of approaches that are appropriate for each company's size and structure.

Although the SEC does not specify...

SEC Approves Municipal Adviser Registration Requirement

Late last week, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) voted to adopt rules requiring municipal advisors to register with the commission if the advisor "provides advice on the issuance of municipal securities or about certain 'investment strategies' or municipal derivatives." This permanent registration requirement was required by Dodd-Frank (Section 975) and replaces the temporary registration requirement previously implemented by the SEC.

The registration requirement is meant to...

SEC Cracks Down on Firms for Short Selling Violations

Yesterday, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced "enforcement actions against 23 firms for short selling violations" stemming from their investigation of improper participation in initial public offerings (IPOs). Firms are prohibited from selling short stocks in the five business days immediately preceding an IPO. The restriction is meant to prevent firms from artificially lowering the price just prior to the IPO.

The SEC alleges that the 23 firms "bought offered shares from...

FDIC Goes After Directors of Failed Banks

In recent months, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has been filing a significant number of lawsuits against bank executives to recoup losses stemming from the onslaught of bank failures following the financial crisis. The annual number of bank failures reached a peak at 157 in 2010 and has declined steadily since.

A figure showing an area graph demonstrating bank failures from 2000 to 2013.

These bank failures were a significant test of the FDIC system. The fund backing the FDIC guarantee has been depleted by nearly $90 billion over the past five years...

FINRA Study: Financial Scams Prevalent

Financial fraud is estimated to cost Americans between $40 and $50 billion annually . Last fall, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) commissioned a study on the financial vulnerability of Americans to classic investor scams. The online study surveyed a sample of more than 2,000 Americans aged 40 and above, chosen to represent the approximate age, ethnicity, and census region distribution reflected by the 2010 census.1

According to the report,the survey found that approximately...

SEC Halts Florida-Based Prime Bank Investment Scheme

On Monday, the SEC charged a Miami-based group with perpetrating a prime bank investment fraud. The group, which includes Florida attorney Bernard H. Butts, Jr., purported financial services provider Fotios Geivelis, Jr. (a/k/a "Frank Anastasio"), several sales agents, and their allegedly fraudulent business entities (Express Commercial Capital LLC and Worldwide Funding III Limited LLC), are also subject to an emergency asset freeze. View the full complaint.

Prime bank programs promise high...

CFTC: Concept Release on Risk Controls and System Safeguards for Automated Trading

Yesterday, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) produced their concept release on "Risk Controls and System Safeguards for Automated Trading Environments" (PDF). The CFTC is hoping to evaluate the efficacy of currently implemented risk control mechanisms that may have been sufficient for "human judgment and speeds" but may no longer be sufficient in the present environment of automated and interconnected high-frequency trading.

After reviewing the present status of automated...

Illiquid ETFs and SEC Market Maker Incentives

There is now nearly $1.5 trillion invested in exchange-traded products (ETPs) in some 1,400 exchange-traded funds and exchange-traded notes. However, not all of that huge sum is distributed evenly. Some funds, like SPY, have huge assets under management, while many others struggle to top $10 million. Often, issuers will close lightly-traded ETPs (leading to substantial turnover each year), but if they don't, the market price of an ETP can often deviate from the net asset value of its...

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