The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced fraud charges against three traders accused of repeatedly lying to customers relying on them for honest and accurate pricing information about residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS).
The SEC alleges that Ross Shapiro, Michael Gramins, and Tyler Peters defrauded customers to illicitly generate millions of dollars in additional revenue for Nomura Securities International, the New York-based brokerage firm where they worked. They misrepresented the bids and offers being provided to Nomura for RMBS as well as the prices at which Nomura bought and sold RMBS and the spreads the firm earned intermediating RMBS trades. They also trained, coached, and directed junior traders at the firm to engage in the same misconduct.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Connecticut announced criminal charges against Shapiro, Gramins, and Peters, who no longer work at Nomura.
“The alleged misconduct reflects a callous disregard for the integrity and obligations expected of registered securities professionals,” said Andrew Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division. “Not only did these traders lie to their customers, but they created a corrupt culture on Nomura’s trading desk by coaching more junior traders to employ the same deceptive and dishonest trading practices we allege in our complaint.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Manhattan:
- The lies and omissions to customers by Shapiro, Gramins, and Peters generated at least $5 million in additional revenue for Nomura, and lies and omissions by the subordinates they trained and coached generated at least $2 million in additional profits for the firm.
- Nomura determined bonuses for Shapiro, Gramins, and Peters based on several factors including revenue generation. Nomura paid total compensation of $13.3 million to Shapiro, $5.8 million to Gramins, and $2.9 million to Peters during the years this misconduct was occurring.
- Customers sought and relied on market price information from these traders because the market for this type of RMBS is opaque and accurate price information is difficult for a customer to determine. Therefore it was particularly important for the traders to provide honest and accurate information.
- Shapiro, Gramins, and Peters went so far as to invent phantom third-party sellers and fictional offers when Nomura already owned the bonds the traders were pretending to obtain for potential buyers.
The SEC’s complaint charges Shapiro, Gramins, and Peters with violating Section 10(b) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 as well as Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933.
The SEC separately entered into deferred prosecution agreements (DPAs) with three other individuals who have extensively cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and provided enforcement staff with access to critical evidence that otherwise would not have been available.
“The SEC is open to deferring charges based on certain factors, including when cooperators come forward with timely and credible information while candidly acknowledging their own misconduct,” said Michael Osnato, Chief of the SEC’s Complex Financial Instruments Unit. “The decision to defer charges in this matter reflects the early and sustained assistance provided by these individuals.”
The SEC’s continuing investigation is being conducted by James R. Drabick, Susan Curtin, Rua Kelly, and Celia Moore. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Ms. Kelly.