Monthly Archives: June 2011

SEC Defines Due Diligence for Dodd-Frank ABS Certification Requirements

On May 28, 2011, as part of its ongoing efforts to implement the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved for public comments (which will be accepted until July 18, 2011) proposed rules pursuant to Section 932 that would require nationally recognized statistical rating organizations (NRSROs), issuers and underwriters to make public the findings and conclusions of any due diligence reports prepared by a third-party service provider in an asset-backed securities transaction. Such third-parties would also have to furnish a certification to each NRSRO rating the securities.

Since the Dodd-Frank Act does not define “due diligence services,” the SEC has identified four categories of reviews, and thus has defined “due diligence services” in the proposed Rule 17g-10 to mean “an entity that engages in a review of the assets underlying an Exchange Act-ABS for purposes of making findings with respect to:

  • quality or integrity of the information or data about the assets provided, directly or indirectly, by the securitizer or originator of the assets;
  • whether the assets origination conformed to stated underwriting or credit extension guidelines, standards, criteria or other requirements;
  • value of collateral securing such assets;
  • whether the assets originator complied with federal, state or local laws or regulations; and
  • any other factor or characteristic of such asset that would be material to the likelihood that the issuer of the Exchange Act-ABS will pay interest and principal according to its terms and conditions.”

Proposed Rule 17g-10 will also define “issuer” to include a sponsor (as defined in 17 CFR 229.11) or depositor (as defined in 17 CFR 229.1011) that participates in the issuance of an Exchange Act-ABS. The terms “originator” and “securitizer” as used in proposed Rule 17g-10 will have the meanings stated in Section 15Gf of the Exchange Act.

An issuer or underwriter is not required to furnish a Form ABS-15G if such issuer or underwriter obtains a representation from each NRSRO engaged in the rating of the Exchange Act-ABS that the NRSRO will publicly disclose the findings and conclusions of any third-party due diligence report obtained by the issuer or underwriter. The NRSRO must disclose the finding and conclusions of any third-party due diligence report with the publication of the credit rating in an information disclosure form prepared pursuant to new paragraph (a)(1) of Rule 17g-7 no less than five business days prior to the first sale in the offering. Rule 17g-7 as amended by the proposed rules, would require an NRSRO to disclose in the information disclosure form:

  • whether and to what extent it relied upon third-party due diligence services;
  • description of the information that such third-party reviewed in conducting its due diligence services; and
  • description of the findings or conclusions of such third-party.

Also in accordance with Section 15E(s)(4)(C) of the Exchange Act, the SEC proposed that the format of the certification in Form ABS Due-Diligence-15E include the following line items:

  • identity and address of the provider of the third-party due diligence services;
  • identity and address of the issuer, underwriter or NRSRO that hired the provider of the third-party due diligence services;
  • identity of each NRSRO that published criteria for performing;
  • scope and manner of the due diligence performed, including but not limited to the type of assets that were reviewed, the same size of the assets reviewed, how the sample size was determined and any other type of review conducted with respect to the assets; and
  • findings and conclusions resulting from the review.

In addition, any individual executing the Form ABS Due Dilignce-15E on behalf of a third-party due diligence provider will be required to represent that he/she executed the form on behalf of, and on the authority of, the third-party due diligence provider and the third-party due diligence provider conducted a complete due diligence review.

June 26th, 2011|Dodd-Frank|

Financial advice show hosts have host of problems

Just about any time of the day, the airwaves are filled with self-appointed financial gurus spewing their secrets for managing money and ways to get rich. But the true secrets of more than a dozen of these wealth peddlers may be in their shady backgrounds and off-the-air dealings. Here are a few examples of the bamboozlements, as disclosed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other authorities.

On June 13, 2011, Clifford Robertson was sentenced to 97 months for bank fraud, to be followed by 24 months for aggravated identity theft and ordered to pay $4,627,520 in restitution, according to a statement by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Investigation Dallas Field Office. The bureau’s investigation determined that Robertson claimed to be a real estate investment advisor who hosted AM radio real estate investment talk shows and in-person seminars. Robertson admitted that beginning in December 2007, he used the identity of another person to submit a fraudulent personal financial statement to a lending institution in order to obtain money by false pretenses. The loss to investors was estimated at around $3 million.

Another recent financial show host shakedown was announced in a June 3, 2011 press release by the Department of Justice’s U.S. Attorney’s office for the Southern District of Florida which said that “criminal information was filed against Anthony F. Cutaia, charging him with nine counts of mail fraud…” Cutaia, who was the host of “Talk About Mortgages and Real Estate,” a television and radio program, was also the managing member and beneficial owner of CMG Property Investment Group, LLC, which purportedly engaged in commercial real estate investments in Florida, and promised not to collect commissions or fees from the investors until the properties were sold and a profit was made. However, court papers allege that Cutaia invested little of the money and instead used it to make payments to pre-existing investors and to pay his own business and personal expenses. Legal documents further show that Cutaia filed for bankruptcy in 2007, but that case was tossed out. He filed another Chapter 7 petition on May 11, 2011.

Also exposed this year was John Farahi, a host on a Farsi language radio station in the Los Angeles area. The SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California alleges that NewPoint, co-owners John Farahi and Gissou Rastegar Farahi, and its controller Elaheh Amouei targeted investors in the Iranian-American community by touting NewPoint on a daily finance radio program hosted by Farahi. The SEC charges that the Farahis or Amouei would then make appointments with interested listeners to discuss investment opportunities offered by NewPoint, and subsequently misled more than 100 investors into purchasing over $20 million worth of debentures that they claimed were low risk. Many investors also were falsely told that they were investing in FDIC-insured certificates of deposit, or government or corporate bonds issued by companies backed by the funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). According to the SEC, most of the money raised was instead transferred to accounts controlled by the Farahis to, among other things, fund construction of their multi-million dollar personal residence in Beverly Hills.


June 18th, 2011|Educational Series, Fraud|

SEC issues warning about investing in reverse merger companies

On June 9, 2011, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an Investor Bulletin about investing in companies that enter U.S. markets through the so-called “reverse mergers.” These mergers allow private companies, including those outside the U.S., to access U.S. investors and markets by merging with an existing public shell company. The SEC and U.S. exchanges recently suspended trading in more than a dozen reverse merger companies, citing a lack of current, accurate information about these companies and their finances.

“Given the potential risks, investors should be very careful when considering investing in the stock of reverse merger companies,” said Lori J. Schock, director of the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy. “As with any investment, investors should thoroughly research the company – including ensuring there is accurate and up-to-date information – before making a decision to invest.”

The SEC’s warning is especially strong regarding Chinese companies, as more than 150 entities have recently put their shares up for grabs to American investors through the backdoor “without any of the vetting from underwriters and investors that companies undergo when they perform a traditional IPO,” as noted by Commissioner Luis Aguilar.

Shareholders already have sued a string of China-based, U.S.-listed companies for fraud, claiming that they lost money when stocks plummeted after the financial scandals. They charge that the companies operated sham businesses, inflated revenue or gave vastly different information to U.S. and Chinese regulators. And they are starting to sue the auditors who signed off on the financial statements. But it will be tough to win these cases in American courts, as Chinese entities often have refused to comply with U.S. court proceedings.

The best hope for investors may be the SEC, which has launched an inquiry into U.S. audit firms with China-based clients. Investors could benefit if the SEC, which can force companies and auditors to cooperate in investigations, sues more auditors or companies.


June 15th, 2011|Educational Series|

Asset searches: who can get bank account information and why

A quick Internet search for ways to get someone’s bank or investment account information returns at least a dozen private investigation companies that promise to find these records “anywhere in the US and worldwide” for judgment collections, verification of net worth and for “just about any other purpose.” But a closer look at these Web sites reveals a fine-print disclaimer stating that the information is from public records such as divorce cases and probate filings. And there are a few that do not bother with a disclaimer, providing only an 800 number to call.

Asset searches, which may include bank and investment accounts, are not illegal; however, certain actions to obtain this information, such as pre-texting, are illegal. And although there are methods that can be used to obtain financial information covertly, most if not all, are questionable and often futile. There is no clear way for anyone other than the account holder, a designated representative or a party with a valid court order to get account information without violating the law.

There is a general misconception that a judgment, just by virtue of its issuance, can be used to force a bank or financial institution to disclose account information, but the enforcement of judgments is governed by each state’s laws. In California, for example, a writ of execution is necessary. These writs are rendered on a county-by-county basis and direct a levying officer (usually a sheriff) to serve the writ on the named institution. The institution then may be required to freeze the account and in some cases to hand over the account balance. State laws also allow the creditor, after a judgment is obtained, to examine and request asset information from the debtor. This, however, puts the debtor on notice and may result in draining an account before a writ of execution is served.

The privacy protection laws that govern access to financial information under false pretenses depend on whether the affected customer is a consumer or a business entity. The more significant legislation is directed at protecting consumers, defined generally in the laws and in interpretative decisions as ”individuals consuming goods or services for personal or household use.” The Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act (GLBA) prohibits obtaining customer information from a financial institution under false pretenses and imposes an obligation to protect customer information. Under the GLBA, a customer means “an individual consumer,” which is essentially the same as the definition of a consumer under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). In addition to the GLBA and FCRA, there are other potentially applicable federal privacy laws, as well as a long list of state laws. But even if a specific law may cover only consumers, the financial institution’s contract with the business customer would certainly be construed as preventing third-party access.

June 10th, 2011|Educational Series|
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