Tag Archives: Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)

Inside Baseball: Former Baseball Star Convicted of Insider Trading

The phrase “inside baseball” took on new meaning for a former baseball star, Doug DeCines, who was recently convicted on insider trading and securities fraud charges.  Inside baseball is a term that usually refers to a detail-oriented approach to any subject, which requires a specific knowledge about what is being discussed, with nuances that are not easily understood by outsiders.  This term became reality for DeCinces when he was convicted on Friday, May 12, 2017 of illegal insider trading for a stock buy that earned him more than $1 million.

DeCines was no stranger to white collar crime allegations. On August 4, 2011, DeCinces, along with three others, was charged with securities fraud by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  The SEC alleged that DeCinces and his associates made more than $1.7 million in illegal profits when Abbott Park, Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories Inc. announced its plan to purchase Advanced Medical Optics Inc. through a tender offer. Without admitting or denying the allegations, DeCinces agreed to pay $2.5 million to settle the SEC’s charges.

Then in November 2012, DeCinces received a criminal indictment on insider trading in a related matter and was charged with securities fraud and money laundering.  Evidence at trial was that DeCinces was tipped off in 2009 that a Santa Ana-based medical device firm, Advanced Medical Optics, was going to be sold. The information came from the company CEO, James Mazzo, who was DeCinces’ neighbor in Laguna Beach, California, prosecutors argued. DeCinces bought more than 90,000 shares in the company days before Abbott Laboratories bought the firm, and he sold the shares for a profit of about $1.3 million, prosecutors said.[1]  On May 12, 2017, after a nearly two-month trial, a federal court jury in Santa Ana, California found him guilty on 13 charges.[2]

DeCinces, who is now 66 years old, will remain free on bail until sentenced. A hearing date was not immediately set for sentencing.  At the time of the merger, Advanced Medical Optics had seen its stock price plunge from more than $30 to under $10 in the wake of the 2008 Wall Street crash. It more than doubled after the merger was announced.

Canadian insider trading laws have not been as aggressively enforced as those in the U.S. The epic failure of the Ontario Securities Commission to secure a conviction in the prosecution of John Felderhof arising from the Bre-X Minerals scandals has now gained notoriety in the Hollywood movie Gold.[3]  There has only been one prosecution for insider trading under the Criminal Code, resulting in a guilty plea and a 39 month jail term for Stanko Grmovsek.[4]  Canada’s team, the Toronto Blue Jays major league baseball franchise, have been largely scandal free and is celebrating their 40th season in Toronto.

[1] http://www.nydailynews.com/newswires/sports/ex-baseball-star-doug-decinces-guilty-insider-trading-article-1.3160385

[2] Hannah Fry, Former Angels player Doug DeCinces found guilty of insider trading, Los Angeles Times (May 12, 2017). Retrieved on May 13, 2017.

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gold_(2016_film)

[4] See, Insider Trading in Canada, 2nd Edition, 2017, Lexis Nexis, N. Keith, pp. 88-94

President Trump and Congress Water Down Anti-Corruption Rules for U.S. Mining Companies

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On February 14, 2017, President Trump signed into law a joint resolution of Congress to repeal a critical anti-corruption rule for oil, gas and mining companies. The law was introduced by the House on January 30, 2017. It quickly moved to the Senate, where it was passed with the support of the Republicans and opposition of the Democrats.

The rule is referred to as the “Cardin-Lugar regulations” and was enacted by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, in accordance with the Cardin-Lugar amendment of 2010.  The amendment, prompted by the 2008 financial crisis and high prevalence of corruption in developing countries, directed the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue a rule requiring oil, gas and mining companies listed on the U.S. stock exchange to disclose how much they paid to hosting foreign governments (above a certain threshold).  The purpose of this amendment was to curb bribery and otherwise illicit payments made to governments in return for specific natural resource extraction projects.

The rule itself took a decade to finalize, and, up until the U.S. government’s recent decision to overturn it, was set to take effect next year. As the rule stood, it would require U.S. listed mining companies to file an annual report with the Securities and Exchange Commission, outlining the type and total amount of payments made to foreign governments (and the U.S. federal government) with respect to extractive projects. With the decision to repeal the Commission’s rule, there is therefore no indication that U.S.-listed companies will be subject to a reporting regime in the near future. That is, until the Securities and Exchange Commission creates a new rule. While the Cardin-Lugar regulations have been overturned, the Cardin-Lugar amendment has not been. This means that U.S.-listed companies will likely still be subject to reporting requirements at some point in time, as the Cardin-Lugar amendment requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to issue disclosure rules on extractive companies. However when this rule will be enacted, is yet to be determined. Given the length of time associated with enacting the original rule, it is unlikely that a new reporting regime will be established any time soon. In the meantime, U.S.-listed companies will be required to continue to track their payments, pursuant to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act , however, they will not be required to make this information public.

It is unlikely that other countries who have adopted legislation consistent with the Cardin-Lugar regulations will follow the U.S. government’s new direction in this field. The regulations have received widespread support from the world’s major extractive companies, and many companies have a reporting regime. It has led to the creation of a global standard of transparency in the extractive industry, with numerous countries including Canada, the UK and the EU, enacting similar legislation to help combat corruption and to increase accountability in corporate governance.

Canada continues to be one of the countries supporting transparency requirements in the extractive industry. The Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act  for example came into force in June 2015 and contains broad reporting obligations for oil, gas and mining companies. The reporting obligations go even further than the Cardin-Lugar provision, to include not only entities included on Canadian stock exchanges, but also certain private companies.

A concern for Canadian and foreign companies who will maintain their reporting regimes is whether the repeal of the Cardin-Lugar regulations will place U.S.-listed companies operating in mining extraction areas at an advantage compared to companies subject to rigorous transparency requirements. Particularly for projects in developing countries such as Africa, where there is a problem with corruption and where succumbing to bribery could lead to the award of mining rights and subsequent contracts. While the Cardin-Lugar rule would not have ended corruption, it was expected to put pressure on those giving bribes and those receiving them, as they would be aware that they would have to report any payments made to government. With the repeal, there is the possibility that U.S.-listed companies could feel more inclined to engage with corrupt governments and be under less pressure to decline a bribe, which could put them ahead of competitors from Canada, the UK, the EU and elsewhere. Whether or not this will in fact cause such a shift in the thinking and conduct of U.S.-listed companies during their dealings with foreign governments is of course undetermined. However, there remains a concern for mining companies subject to these types of reporting regulations, when operating and competing against American companies in these areas.

Mining companies listed on both U.S. and foreign exchanges will still be subject to transparency requirements. While the U.S. may not have reporting requirements, U.S.-listed companies operating in Canada, UK and EU will still be required to comply with applicable transparency legislation. Therefore, if a company has reason to believe and is concerned that an American competitor is committing bribery or corruption, it should consider further investigation. The suspect company may be subject to other transparency requirements and anti-corruption legislation.

In conclusion, although the repeal of the Cardin-Lugar regulations signals that Canadian, UK and EU companies will have tougher reporting guidelines compared to their US neighbours, the playing field may have just become more complex, rather than uneven.

What happens in Vegas…SEC investigates Sands Hotel and Casino

In 2006 through to at least 2011, the Las Vegas Sands hotel and casino corporation transferred funds totaling more than $62 million to a “consultant” in China to promote their interests.

Lacking supporting documentation for appropriate authorization and identity, the money trail raised a red flag for the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the United States. This led to an investigation under the authority of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as well as an investigation carried out by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), since the Sands is traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

Since the Sands management could not account for the funds transferred to the consultant, bribery was inferred. This lack of controls extended to other transactions, including gifts and entertainment to foreign officials, employee and vendor expense reimbursement, and customer complimentary services.

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