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SEC Charges Companies and CEO for Misleading COVID-19 Claims

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Washington, D.C.–(Newsfile Corp. – May 14, 2020) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced charges in two cases involving companies that claimed in press releases to offer products to combat the COVID-19 virus – one against Applied BioSciences Corp. and one against Turbo Global Partners, Inc. and its CEO, Robert W. Singerman. The SEC previously suspended trading temporarily in the securities of Applied BioSciences and Turbo Global.

According to the SEC’s complaint against Applied BioSciences, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, the company issued a press release on March 31 stating that it had begun offering and shipping supposed finger-prick COVID-19 tests to the general public that could be used for “Homes, Schools, Hospitals, Law Enforcement, Military, Public Servants or anyone wanting immediate and private results.”  The complaint alleges that contrary to these claims, the tests were not intended for home use by the general public and could be administered only in consultation with a medical professional.  The complaint further alleges that Applied BioSciences had not shipped any COVID-19 tests as of March 31, and its press release failed to disclose that the tests were not authorized by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. 

The SEC’s complaint against Turbo Global and Singerman, filed in federal court in the Middle District of Florida, alleges that the company issued false and misleading press releases on March 30 and April 3 regarding a purported “multi-national public-private-partnership” to sell thermal scanning equipment to detect individuals with fevers.  According to the complaint, the company claimed in its press releases that this technology could be instrumental in “breaking the chain of virus transmission through early identification of elevated fever, one of the key early signs of COVID-19.”  As alleged, the press releases also included statements, attributed to the CEO of Turbo Global’s supposed corporate partner in the partnership, that the technology “is 99.99% accurate” and was “designed to be deployed IMMEDIATELY in each State.”  In fact, the complaint alleges, Turbo Global had no agreement to sell the product, there was no partnership involving any government entities, and the CEO of Turbo Global’s supposed corporate partner did not make or authorize the statements attributed to him.  According to the complaint, Singerman drafted the releases, which he knew to be false.  The SEC charged Singerman with fraud in 1999 based on his fraudulent sale of securities through a network of boiler rooms, and obtained a permanent injunction against him.

“We are actively monitoring the markets to detect potential fraudsters who seek to use the COVID-19 crisis as a basis for investment scams,” said Stephanie Avakian, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “As alleged in these complaints, Applied BioSciences and Turbo Global sought to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis by misleading investors about their ability to provide solutions.” <_o3a_p>

“These fraud actions demonstrate the SEC’s vigilance over public companies that make materially misleading claims in press releases,” said Steven Peikin, Co-Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.  “We will continue to act swiftly when necessary to protect investors.” 

The SEC’s complaint against Applied BioSciences charges the company with violating antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and seeks permanent injunctive relief and civil penalties.  The SEC’s complaint against Turbo Global and Singerman charges them with violating antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and seeks permanent injunctive relief and civil penalties, and an officer and director bar against Singerman.

The investigation of Applied BioSciences has been conducted by Kristine Zaleskas, Dugan Bliss, and Thomas P. Smith, Jr., and supervised by Lara S. Mehraban, all of the New York Regional Office.  The investigation of Turbo Global and Singerman has been conducted by Robert F. Schroeder, William P. Hicks, and M. Graham Loomis, and supervised by Justin Jeffries, all of the Atlanta Regional Office.  The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

The SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy previously issued an investor alert cautioning investors to be aware of COVID-19 scams.

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Expressions of Interest for Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development

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The Minister for Finance, Michael McGrath, is inviting Expressions of Interest from suitably qualified candidates to be considered as Ireland’s Director of the London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). The remunerated position of Director is an important post with a demanding workload. A full-time residential position, it is based at Bank headquarters in London.

The Minister’s nominee is expected to be appointed by the EBRD, with the agreement of Ireland’s Constituency partner countries, for a three-year term from 1 August 2024.

Minister McGrath commented:

“This is an exciting opportunity to represent Ireland (and our Constituency partners Denmark, Lithuania and Kosovo) as a Director on the Board of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development overseeing the policy-making and governance of the Bank. The EBRD is a unique International Financial Institution supporting projects across three continents. By investing in projects which otherwise would not be fully met by the market, the EBRD promotes entrepreneurship and fosters transition towards open and sustainable market economies. I am keen to ensure our Irish representative has the ability, education, vision, and experience to make a significant contribution to the Board and brings a range of skills and diverse perspective to the deliberations of the Board.

My nominee will need high competence in economic and financial matters. Expertise can come from notable or significant achievements in the corporate or financial sector, academia, policy-focused institutions, or public service. Importantly, they will have the highest ethical standards, a strong sense of professionalism and commitment, and dedication to serving the interests of all the shareholders and be able to make themself readily available to the Board in the fulfilment of their duties.”

Expressions of interest will be accepted up to 3pm on 27th March 2024

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Council adopts regulation on instant payments

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The Council adopted today a regulation that will make instant payments fully available in euro to consumers and businesses in the EU and in EEA countries.

The new rules will improve the strategic autonomy of the European economic and financial sector as they will help reduce any excessive reliance on third-country financial institutions and infrastructures. Improving the possibilities to mobilize cash-flows will bring benefits for citizens and companies and allow for innovative added value services.

The instant payments regulation will allow people to transfer money within ten seconds at any time of the day, including outside business hours, not only within the same country but also to another EU member state. The regulation takes into consideration particularities of non-euro area entities.

Payment service providers such as banks, which provide standard credit transfers in euro, will be required to offer the service of sending and receiving instant payments in euro. The charges that apply (if any) must not be higher than the charges that apply for standard credit transfers.

The new rules will come into force after a transition period that will be faster in the euro area and longer in the non-euro area, that needs more time to adjust.

The regulation grants access for payment and e-money institutions (PIEMIs) to payment systems, by changing the settlement finality Directive (SFD). As a result, these entities will be covered by the obligation to offer the service of sending and receiving instant credit transfers, after a transitional period. The regulation includes appropriate safeguards to ensure that the access of PIEMIs to payment systems doesn’t carry additional risk to the system.

Under the new rules, instant payment providers will need to verify that the beneficiary’s IBAN and name match in order to alert the payer to possible mistakes or fraud before a transaction is made. This requirement will apply to regular transfers too.

The regulation includes a review clause with a requirement for the Commission to present a report containing an evaluation of the development of credit charges.

Background

This initiative comes in the context of the completion of the capital markets union. The capital markets union is the EU’s initiative to create a truly single market for capital across the EU. It aims to get investment and savings flowing across all member states for the benefit of citizens, businesses, and investors.

On 26 October 2022 the Commission put forward a proposal on instant payments that amends and modernises the single euro payments area (SEPA) regulation of 2012 on standard credit transfers in euro by adding to it specific provisions for instant credit transfers in euro.

Source: European Council

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FCA highlights need for enhanced competition in wholesale data markets

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The FCA has unveiled the outcomes of its in-depth study into the wholesale data market, focusing on the sectors of credit ratings data, benchmarks, and market data vendor services.

Despite deciding against major regulatory actions due to the risk of unintended consequences that could affect the data’s availability and quality—a crucial resource for global investors—the FCA has pinpointed several areas where competition could be significantly improved.

The study’s revelations indicate that the current state of competition in these markets may lead to users incurring higher costs for data than would be the case in a more competitive environment. This concern is particularly pressing given the critical role that such data plays in supporting effective investment decisions across the financial sector.

In a move to address these findings, the FCA has proposed initiatives aimed at ensuring wholesale data is distributed under fair, reasonable, and transparent conditions. This approach forms a part of the regulator’s broader strategy to ‘repeal and replace’ assimilated EU law, reinforcing the UK’s status as a premier global financial hub fostering investment, innovation, and sustainable growth.

Sheldon Mills, the FCA’s Executive Director of Consumers and Competition, emphasised the importance of quality and accessible wholesale data for the efficiency of financial markets. “The quality and availability of wholesale data is integral to well-functioning wholesale financial markets,” Mills stated. He further clarified, “Our market study found that firms can access the data they need to make effective investment decisions. We do not believe the case has been made for significant interventions. However, we will examine ways to help support wholesale data being provided on fair, reasonable and transparent terms.”

In its commitment to fostering a competitive and fair marketplace, the FCA will continue to scrutinize allegations of anti-competitive behavior across all markets, including wholesale data markets, leveraging its powers under the Competition Act to address any such issues.

Source: Fintech Global

 

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