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Alexander Janghorbani’s practice focuses on complex securities issues, litigation and enforcement, informed by nearly nine years of service with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

On February 20, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC” or “Commission”) issued a cease-and-desist order against Gladius Network LLC (“Gladius”) concerning its 2017 initial coin offering (“ICO”).  The SEC found that the Gladius ICO violated the Securities Act of 1933’s (“Securities Act”) prohibition against the public offer or sale of any securities not made pursuant to either an effective registration statement on file with the SEC or under an exemption from registration.[1]  While this is far from the first time that the SEC has found that a particular ICO token meets the definition of a “security” under the Securities Act,[2] this is notably the first action involving an ICO token issuer that self-reported its potential violation.  Due to this, and Gladius’s cooperation throughout the investigation, the SEC stopped short of imposing any civil monetary penalties among its ordered remedial measures.
Continue Reading SEC Issues First ICO Enforcement Action Against a Self-Reporting Token Issuer

On February 15, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (the “SEC”) announced that it had settled—on a no-admit, no-deny basis—with Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation (“Cognizant”) for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (the “FCPA”) involving Cognizant’s former president and chief legal officer.[1] The same day, the Department of Justice (the “DOJ”) indicted the two former executives and the SEC filed a civil complaint seeking permanent injunctions, monetary penalties, and officer-and-director bars against them. The DOJ declined to prosecute Cognizant.[2] The DOJ’s declination was in part based on the fact that Cognizant quickly and voluntarily self-reported the conduct, and, as a result of that self-report, the DOJ was able to identify culpable individuals. This settlement reflects the DOJ demonstrating its continued commitment to its FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, under which the DOJ has committed to extending significant cooperation credit, up to and including declinations, to companies that provide meaningful assistance to further DOJ investigations. The resolution also reflects the DOJ’s “anti-piling on” policy in action, as the DOJ declination recognized the “adequacy of remedies such as civil or regulatory enforcement actions,” namely Cognizant’s resolution with the SEC, as a factor in declining to prosecute.[3]
Continue Reading DOJ Issues Twelfth Declination Letter Under FCPA Cooperation Policy

On January 29, 2019, the SEC announced four settlements with publicly-traded companies for failure to maintain adequate internal control over financial reporting.

None of the companies was charged with making false or inaccurate statements, either about its ICFR or otherwise; indeed, each had repeatedly disclosed material weaknesses in ICFR over many years.

These cases are

Last week, in SEC v. Scoville, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit held that Dodd-Frank allows the Securities and Exchange Commission to bring fraud claims based on sales of securities to foreign buyers where defendants engage in fraudulent conduct within the United States.

In so holding, the Court concluded that Dodd-Frank

On January 11, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals denied the appeal of Rajat Gupta, who was seeking to undo his insider trading conviction.  Relying on the Second Circuit’s decision in United States v. Newman, Gupta argued that—to satisfy the requirement that Gupta personally benefit from tipping inside information—the Government must show “a quid pro quo – in which [Gupta] receive[d] an ‘objective, consequential . . . gain of a pecuniary or similarly valuable nature.’”[1]  In other words—intangible benefits should not, standing alone, constitute a personal benefit sufficient to uphold a criminal conviction.  The Second Circuit rejected this argument, finding that the Supreme Court’s decisions in Dirks v. SEC and Salman v. United States foreclosed such a narrow definition of “benefit,” opting instead for a test that looked at “varying sets of circumstances”—including those that involve indirect, intangible, and nonquantifiable gains, such as an anticipated quid quo pro that can be inferred from an ongoing, business relationship—to satisfy the “personal benefit” test.[2]  This case is the latest in a line of decisions—in the Supreme Court, as well as the Second and Ninth Circuits—to reject defendants’ arguments for a narrow definition of the “personal benefit” element of insider trading law based on Newman.
Continue Reading Second Circuit Denies Gupta Appeal of Insider Trading Conviction—Continuing to Give Broad Meaning to “Personal Benefit” Requirement

On December 26, 2018, the SEC announced settled charges against ADT Inc. after finding that ADT, in two earnings releases, gave undue emphasis to non-GAAP adjusted EBITDA figures because they identified the relevant GAAP measures only later and much less prominently.

Without admitting or denying the SEC’s factual or legal claims, ADT agreed to an

On Monday, following two reversals of convictions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut moved to dismiss the sole securities fraud claim remaining against former Jefferies bond trader, Jesse Litvak, bringing an end to the 5 1/2-year long case against him.[1]  During the case’s winding procedural path, the Government twice secured convictions against Litvak by jury trial—on the theory that Litvak’s alleged misstatements about his own costs and profit margins for residential mortgage-backed securities (“RMBS”) trades would have been material to the decision-making of a reasonable (and often sophisticated) investor-buyer.  And twice the Second Circuit overturned the convictions on narrow and technical grounds.  Notably, even while seeking to dismiss the remaining charge, the Government maintains in its filing that the Second Circuit’s decisions left undisturbed the soundness of its legal theories—namely that a broker-dealer’s misstatements relating to his own profits to sophisticated counterparties could satisfy the materiality requirement for securities fraud as a matter of law.[2]  Thus, notwithstanding the additional hurdles presented by the Second Circuit’s decisions, the Government’s decision not to pursue yet another trial against Litvak does not signal a death knell for all similar charges in the future, particularly those that are currently pending and arose as part of the Government’s RMBS probe.  But the somewhat torturous history of the Litvak case does highlight the difficulty for the Government in establishing the materiality of alleged misstatements made to sophisticated securities professionals who undertake their own analysis of trades.  Indeed, in many of these RMBS cases, the Government faced an uphill battle from the start, evidenced by its inability to secure convictions in many of them.
Continue Reading Two Strikes and You’re Out: The Litvak Saga Comes to an End

The long-running criminal case against Jesse Litvak seems to have come to an end, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut filing a motion yesterday seeking voluntary dismissal of the sole remaining charge.[1]  This action—which has resulted in the government twice obtaining a criminal conviction against Litvak, only to see both convictions overturned by the Second Circuit—raised somewhat novel questions of the materiality of information a broker-dealer provides about its own costs or profit margins to sophisticated counterparties.  Notably, even while seeking dismissal, the Government again reiterated its view that the legal theory it pursued, and which the Second Circuit twice appeared to credit, remains sound and (presumably) actionable in future cases.[2]
Continue Reading Government Moves to Voluntarily Dismiss Remaining Charge Against Jesse Litvak, Foregoing a Third Trial

On July 11, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (“Commission”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) published a risk alert describing common deficiencies that OCIE staff observed in recent examinations regarding advisers’ compliance with their obligation under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (the “Advisers Act”) to seek “best execution” of client transactions.  This obligation is a specific component of advisers’ general fiduciary duties owed to clients and requires an adviser to execute transactions so that “the client’s total cost of proceeds in each transaction is the most favorable under the circumstances.”  Though what constitutes “best execution” lacks a uniform definition, the staff continues to maintain the well-settled principle that an analysis of whether a broker-dealer provides best execution should be qualitative based on the nature of the broker-dealer’s services, and that the lowest price does not necessarily equate to best execution.  The risk alert nonetheless clarifies and reiterates particular practices that the staff considers inconsistent with an adviser’s best execution obligation. 
Continue Reading OCIE Risk Alert Focuses on “Best Execution” and Investment Advisers

Yesterday the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced a non-prosecution agreement (“NPA”) with a Hong Kong-based subsidiary of Credit Suisse Group AG arising out of the so-called “princelings” scandals of recent years—the practice of hiring unqualified, but politically-connected, relatives of Chinese officials to garner business from state-owned firms.[1]  Per Credit Suisse’s admissions, “bankers discussed and approved the hiring of close friends and family of Chinese officials in order to secure business,” resulting in $46 million “in profits from business mandates with Chinese” state-owned enterprises.  As part of the resolution, Credit Suisse agreed to a $47 million criminal penalty, to continue to cooperate with DOJ, and to enhance its compliance program, including adopting additional controls around hiring.  In addition, Credit Suisse agreed to pay nearly $25 million in disgorgement and $4.8 million in prejudgment interest to the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”).  In its press release, DOJ stated that it was giving Credit Suisse a 15 percent discount from the bottom end of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines for its cooperation in the investigation, while also (as discussed more below) noting steps the firm did not take that worked to limit the amount of such cooperation credit.  While this is hardly the first of the “princelings” cases, it does demonstrate DOJ’s continued commitment to the cooperation framework it laid out in its FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy (“Enforcement Policy”) late last year.[2]

Continue Reading Recent Settlement Highlights Cooperation Parameters Under the Department of Justice’s FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy