(The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission incorrectly stated in its news release that it previously charged Gibraltar last year. It charged the firm in 2013, not 2014.)
By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON, Jan 27 (Reuters) - Oppenheimer & Co will pay $20 million to settle two U.S. government cases stemming from allegations the firm improperly sold penny stocks and ignored red flags.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Oppenheimer will pay $10 million to settle the case with the agency, plus another $10 million to settle parallel charges with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network.
As part of the settlement, the SEC said Oppenheimer is admitting to wrongdoing and will be required to hire an independent consultant to review its policies over a five-year period.
A spokesman for Oppenheimer did not have any immediate comment on the case.
The SEC said its case against the brokerage centers on a number of violations. It said Oppenheimer aided and abetted illegal activity by Gibraltar Global Securities, a Bahamas-based brokerage firm that the SEC sued in 2013.
The SEC said Gibraltar was not properly registered to do business in the United States and that Oppenheimer ignored ”red flags by executing billions of sales of penny stock shares for Gibraltar without realizing the company was offering brokerage services to U.S. customers.
Andrew Ceresney, the head of the SEC’s enforcement division, said in a statement that Oppenheimer had failed in its “gatekeeper” role because the stock was not properly registered.
He said the sanctions imposed on the firm “reflect the magnitude of Oppenheimer’s regulatory failures.”
The SEC also said Oppenheimer failed to file suspicious activity reports required by the Bank Secrecy Act to report Gibraltar’s activities.
In addition, the SEC said also committed various violations related to books and record keeping rules. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Bill Trott)