Thirty-eight people, including former and current employees at major Wall Street firms such as Morgan Stanley and Oppenheimer, ran elaborate kickback and bribery schemes in the stock loan industry, federal authorities charged in criminal and civil indictments Thursday.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charged the people in a series of fraudulent schemes involving phony finder fees and illegal kickbacks in the stock loan industry.
"The defendants in these cases devised a host of brazen schemes to enrich themselves and others at the expense of firms engaged in securities lending transactions," said Linda C. Thomsen, who directs the SEC's enforcement division.
The traders conspired with stock loan "finders" to skim profits on transactions, pocketing more than $12 million from 1998 until June 2006, the SEC said.
According to prosecutors, the firms borrowed securities for certain financial transactions. Stock-loan finders then helped the firms locate securities, prosecutors say.
The SEC said the defendants defrauded the brokerage firms, including Van der Moolen, Janney Montgomery, A.G. Edwards and Nomura Securities, which paid bogus finder fees to companies that were controlled by the trader or by their friends and relatives.
"Acting as fronts for the traders, these companies received hefty finder fees on several thousand stock loan transactions even though they did not provide any legitimate finding services and, in many cases, were simply shell companies that were not even involved in the stock loan business," the SEC said.
The SEC said the defendants met at New York City bars and restaurants, where they would exchange hefty sums of cash wrapped in newspapers or concealed in envelopes.
In two criminal indictments, authorities charged five men also indicted in the SEC cases with conspiracy to commit securities fraud and other related counts.
"Wall Street professionals who line their own pockets by fraud breach the fundamental duties owed to their employers and the investing public," U.S. Attorney Roslynn R. Mauskopf said.
Peter Sherlock, 36, a Morgan Stanley trader, steered business to a stock-loan finder for cash kickbacks and payments to a family member, according to the indictment. Also charged in that alleged scam were Craig Demizio, 43, Donato Tramontozzi, 38, and Anthony Lupo, 62.
A separate indictment charges Andrew Caccioppoli, 47, a trader at Janney Montgomery Scott, with paying bogus finder fees to family members.
The five men pleaded not guilty to the charges Thursday in Brooklyn federal court, according to two of their attorneys.
"He looks forward to his day in court," said Joseph Conway, Tramontozzi's attorney. "We fully expect he will be exonerated," said John Wallenstein, Sherlock's lawyer.
Messages for the other defendants' lawyers were not immediately returned.
If convicted of conspiracy to commit securities fraud, they face a maximum of 25 years in prison.
In a statement Thursday, Morgan Stanley said: "The conduct alleged by the government is in violation of Morgan Stanley's values and policies. We have and will continue to provide every assistance to the government's investigation into this matter."