Washington, D.C.–(Newsfile Corp. – February 23, 2023) – The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged media and entertainment company Ozy Media Inc., its CEO Carlos R. Watson, Jr., its former COO Samir Rao, and its former Chief of Staff Suzee Han with defrauding investors of approximately $50 million through repeated misrepresentations concerning the company’s basic financial condition, business relationships, and fundraising efforts. Rao and Han have agreed to resolve the charges against them.
According to the SEC’s complaint, from at least January 2019 through September 2021, the defendants routinely and purposely presented prospective investors with false financial information that grossly inflated Ozy Media’s annual revenue by at least 100 percent. Watson and Rao also allegedly solicited investments by repeatedly and falsely telling prospective investors that well-known and sophisticated investors would be investing in Ozy Media in some capacity.
The SEC’s complaint further alleges that Watson and Rao orchestrated a scheme in which Rao impersonated an executive from YouTube in an effort to support Ozy Media’s false claims to a prospective investor at the time that the company was receiving licensing revenue from YouTube when it was not. According to the SEC’s complaint, when the prospective investor discovered the ruse, Watson falsely attributed Rao’s impersonation to Rao suffering from a “mental health crisis.” He made these claims to both the prospective investor and Ozy Media’s Board of Directors.
“We allege that over the course of several years, the defendants raised approximately $50 million from victim investors on the basis of fraudulent documents and repeated misrepresentations, including, at least in one case, falsely impersonating a potential business partner during a meeting with an investment bank,” said Gurbir S. Grewal, the SEC’s Director of Enforcement. “This matter underscores that we will hold anyone accountable, even well-known media personalities, for misrepresentations that impact investors.”
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York, charges the defendants with violations of the anti-fraud provisions of the federal securities laws and related rules. The SEC seeks injunctive relief and civil penalties against all defendants, officer and director bars against Watson and Rao, and disgorgement with prejudgment interest against Ozy Media and Watson.
Rao has consented to the entry of a judgment enjoining him from violating the charged provisions and from serving, for a period of ten years, as an officer or director of a publicly traded company, with civil monetary penalties to be determined by the court at a later date. Han has consented to the entry of a judgment permanently enjoining her from violating the charged provisions, with civil monetary penalties to be determined by the court at a later date. The judgments are subject to court approval.
In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York today announced criminal charges against Ozy Media, Watson, Rao, and Han.
The SEC’s ongoing investigation was conducted by Christine D. Ely, Karolina Klyuchnikova, Lisa Knoop, Lee A. Greenwood, and Alison R. Levine of the SEC’s New York office, under the supervision of Sheldon L. Pollock. The litigation will be led by Ms. Klyuchnikova and Ms. Ely.
The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York.
Expressions of Interest for Director of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development
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
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.
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
FCA highlights need for enhanced competition in wholesale data markets
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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