SEC inspector general says agency still isn’t up to par

Last year, the iSecurity and Exchange Commission’s nspector general faulted the agency for failing, over a period of eight years, to take action against alleged Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford. In a followup report today, things haven’t improved much. From the Washington Post: “Loosely translated, SEC officials responsible for examining financial firms may be so concerned about their batting averages that they refrain from recording their suspicions in an SEC database of tips, complaints and matters referred to colleagues in the SEC’s enforcement division for possible follow-up…”

Borrower’s punishment stands in contrast to mortgage executives

Charlie Engle, encouraged by his broker, lied about his income on two mortgage applications for stated-income loans (also called ‘liar loans’ because no one was required to verify the numbers provided by applcants). An IRS agent started looking at Engle’s finances after he saw him in a documentary training to run marathons. The agent wondered how Engle could afford to train, and thus began an investigation that ended with Engle in prison, not for tax fraud, but for lying on his mortgage applications (it took a female undercover agent to wrestle a supposed confession out of Engle). “His punishment stands in stark contrast to that of the Countrywide chief executive Angelo Mozilo, who personally pulled in millions of dollars from his company’s embrace of low-documentation loans like Engle’s,” says the Huffington Post.

Investors sue SEC for failing to stop Stanford’s fraud

The eight plaintiffs, with a combined loss of nearly $18.7 million, say the agency’s negligence and misconduct caused their losses, and that they should’ve caught Stanford’s “massive” Ponzi scheme long before it collapsed. Last year, according to Bloomberg, the SEC’s inspector general faulted the agency and some specific employees for not taking action against Stanford sooner. They’d suspected Stanford was operating a Ponzi scheme for eight years before doing anything about it, the inspector general said.

‘Reload’ scams on the rise, regulators say

Promising relief to investors already taken in by a bad investment (maybe through a pump-and-dump scheme), fraudsters swoop in and offer to help recover victims’ money by buying the bad shares, as long as the investors agree to pay “transfer fees” and other costs. It’s a double-hit; once they’ve got all the money they can, they’re gone and the bad investment is still bad. The so-called reload scams come and go in waves, says the Saskatchewan Financial Services Commission, and they’re seeing a lot of them rising up in the United States. They’ve got a warning, according to the Post-Leader: “Anything that’s asking you to send more money, good money to recoup the bad, you’ve got to really be careful.”

Two more Chinese reverse-merger stocks get trading halts

The AMEX has halted trading in the shares of NIVS IntelliMedia Technology Group Inc (AMEX: NIV) and China Intelligent Lighting & Electronics Inc. (AMEX: CIL).

NYSE Regulation Inc., which operates the exchange, said it was seeking additional information from both companies.

“NYSE Regulation is evaluationg both the need for certain public disclosure, as well as the overall suitability for the continued listing of the Company’s common stock. In this regard, NYSE Regulation is in the process of requesting additional information from the Company in connection with such assessment,” the organization said in each of the halt orders.

According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, the chief executive of NIVS IntelliMedia, Tianfu Li, is the brother of the chief executive of China Intelligent Lighting, Xuemei Li.


 

Indian securities regulators issue guidelines on social media

The Securities and Exchange Board of India, or SEBI, says it’s noticed that brokers and their employees have been circulating unauthenticated news and rumors via blogs and other social media with the potential to damage the markets. It wants that to stop, and says that brokers should put a code of conduct in place, restrict their employees’ access to blogs and keep records of all employee social media activities. || Earlier: Before you ‘friend’ the SEC

Hedge fund issues second report on China Shen Zhou Mining

Absaroka Capital Management LLC issued a follow up report on China Shen Zhou Mining & Resources Inc. (AMEX: SHZ), pointing out what it said were material misstatements or errors in the company’s Securities and Exchange Commission fiilings. The report, written as a letter to shareholders, also said that an analysis of the company’s financial statements using a forensic auditing tool raised additional concerns.

China Shen Zhou Mining issued a rebuttal March 10 to the original report. It disclosed in a subsequent SEC filing that its chief financial officer had resigned, making him the fourth CFO to leave that position in three years. Despite the negative reports, China Shen Zhou Mining’s shares have been rallying, along with shares of other Chinese minerals producers.

New Oriental Energy delisted from Nasdaq

Three days after the Nasdaq exchange halted trading in its shares, New Oriental Energy & Chemical Corp has been delisted. The company’s stock now is traded on the Pink Sheets under the symbol NOEC.PK. New Oriental Energy was one of the Chinese companies covered in a recent Sharesleuth report about the undisclosed role that certain promoters and financiers played in a series of reverse mergers.

SEC shuts down Los Angeles-based boiler room

“The SEC claims that Spyglass Equity Systems cold-called suckers and induced them to invest in co-defendants Flatiron Capital Partners and Flatiron Systems, which supposedly had ‘stock trading systems … based on algorithms or computer models,’” according to the Courthouse News Service. But none of that was really true. The SEC says the scam netted the defendants over $3 million after investors poured money into worthless investments.

Supreme Court hands securities-fraud plaintiffs a rare win

From the Wall Street Journal: Securities-fraud plaintiffs don’t often get good news when their cases reach the current Supreme Court, but this week the court, in a 9-0 decision, ”reaffirmed one of its earlier rulings that the duty to disclose hinges instead on whether a reasonable investor would regard an omitted fact as a significant part of the ‘total mix’ of information that affects a decision on whether to trade stock.” The case involved a company called Matrixx Initiatives Inc., the maker of  Zicam nasal spra. Matrixx had received a number of reports that the spray caused a loss of smell, but didn’t disclose them because it concluded that the total wasn’t statistically significant. The company’s shares plunged nearly 70 percent in 2009 after the Food and Drug Administration issued a warning about the product, citing the reported health problems.