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SEC Charges Infinity Q Founder with Orchestrating Massive Valuation Fraud

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Washington, D.C.–(Newsfile Corp. – February 17, 2022) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged James Velissaris, the former Chief Investment Officer and founder of Infinity Q Capital Management, with overvaluing assets by more than $1 billion while pocketing tens of millions of dollars in fees.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that, from at least 2017 through February 2021, Velissaris engaged in a fraudulent scheme to overvalue assets held by the Infinity Q Diversified Alpha mutual fund and the Infinity Q Volatility Alpha private fund. According to the complaint, Velissaris executed the overvaluation scheme by altering inputs and manipulating the code of a third-party pricing service used to value the funds’ assets. Velissaris allegedly collected more than $26 million in profit distributions through his fraudulent conduct and without disclosing his activities to investors.

“We allege that, while Velissaris marketed the mutual fund as a way for retail investors to access investment strategies typically reserved for high net worth clients, what he actually offered them were fraudulent documents, altered performance results, and manipulated valuations,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “This case affirms our commitment to using all our tools to root out misconduct in the $18 trillion private fund arena, a growing market attracting more and more institutional investors, including public pension funds, university endowments, and charitable foundations.”

“We allege that Velissaris, in an attempt to cover up his scheme, sought to actively deceive the staff by creating backdated minutes of valuation meetings that never occurred and altering documents that described Infinity Q’s valuation policies,” said Adam S. Aderton, Co-Chief of the SEC’s Asset Management Unit. “We also allege that Velissaris sent forged term sheets to the auditor of the mutual fund and the private fund.”

The SEC also alleges that, by masking actual performance, Velissaris sought to thwart redemptions by investors who likely would have requested a return of their money had they known the funds’ actual performance, particularly in the volatile markets in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. The complaint alleges that at times during the pandemic, the funds’ actual values were half of what investors were told.

In February 2021, Velissaris was removed from his role with Infinity Q after SEC staff confronted the firm with information suggesting that Velissaris had been adjusting the third-party pricing model. Several days later, at Infinity Q’s request and to protect shareholders, the Commission issued an order (Investment Company Act Rel. No. 34198 (Feb. 22, 2021)) to suspend redemptions of the mutual fund.

The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, charges Velissaris with violating antifraud and other provisions of the federal securities laws. The complaint seeks permanent injunctive relief, return of allegedly ill-gotten gains, and civil penalties. The SEC also seeks to bar Velissaris from serving as a public company officer and director.

In parallel actions, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Velissaris, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced civil charges against him.

The SEC’s ongoing investigation is being conducted by David H. Tutor and Brian Fitzpatrick of the Asset Management Unit, Joshua Brodsky of the Complex Financial Instruments Unit, and Kerri Palen of the New York Regional Office. It is being supervised by Andrew Dean of the Asset Management Unit and Osman Nawaz of the Complex Financial Instruments Unit. The litigation will be led by Mr. Tutor and Preethi Krishnamurthy. The SEC’s Division of Investment Management’s Analytics Office initiated a parallel examination of Infinity Q. The examination was conducted by Jon Hertzke, Kenneth O’Connor, Luis Casais, and Timothy Husson. Additional assistance to the investigation and examination was provided by Daniel Gallagher, David Bartels, Janet Grossnickle, Jennifer Sawin, Jenson Wayne, and Alexander Bradford of the SEC’s Division of Investment Management; Ethan Coombs of the SEC’s Division of Trading and Markets; and Dennis Hamilton of the SEC’s Division of Economic and Risk Analysis. The SEC acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the FBI, and the CFTC.

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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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