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Katherine focuses her practice on financial services litigation, advising financial services clients in connection with complex commercial and securities matters.

Securities and Exchange Commission v. Okhotnikov was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois on August 1, 2022, claiming violations of several provisions of the Securities Act and Securities Exchange Act in connection with offering and selling unregistered smart contracts operated on the Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains. Specifically, the SEC seeks permanent injunctive relief against all Defendants in order to prevent future violations of the federal securities laws, disgorgement of any ill-gotten gains, and civil damages.

The SEC brought the enforcement action against Defendants Vladimir Okhotnikov (“Okhotnikov”), Jane Doe a/k/a Lola Ferrari (“Ferrari”), Mikail Sergeev (“Sergeev”), and Sergey Maslakov (“Maslakov”)—a set of Russia-based individuals who are alleged to have created, operated, and maintained an online pyramid and Ponzi scheme through smart contracts on various blockchains (collectively, the “Founder Defendants”)—and Defendants Samuel D. Ellis (“Ellis”), Mark F. Hamlin (“Hamlin”), and Sarah L. Theissen (“Theissen”) who are individuals alleged to have engaged in the promotion or sale of the smart contracts to investors within the United States (collectively, the “Promoter Defendants”).

The complaint alleges that in the fall of 2019, the Founder Defendants formed (“Forsage”), an unincorporated entity, for the purpose of coding smart contracts on various blockchains and building a website that would serve as an interface for the promotion and sale of the smart contracts. However, the complaint alleges that from January 2020 until the present, Defendants operated, promoted, and maintained an online pyramid and Ponzi scheme through Forsage, allowing millions of retail investors to enter into transactions via the sale of unregistered smart contracts maintained on the Ethereum, Tron, and Binance blockchains. To date, the transactions have totaled over $300 million.

Continue Reading… New Complaint – SEC v. Vladimir Okhotnikov, et al.

yLoft, LLC v. Bechtler, Parker & Watts, P.S.C. was filed in the Circuit Court for Jefferson County, Kentucky on January 18, 2022, asserting claims for negligent misrepresentation, fraudulent misrepresentation, violation of state securities laws, and unjust enrichment against an accounting firm alleged to have facilitated the sale of unregistered securities.

Plaintiffs are individuals and institutional investors that invested in promissory notes sold by non-parties ACS Payment Solutions, LTD Co. d/b/a ACS Payment Solutions, LLC and ACS Payment Solutions II Incorporated (collectively, “ACS”).  Defendant Bechtler, Parker & Watts, P.S.C. (“BPW”) is an accounting firm owned by Defendant Christopher J. Bechtler (“Bechtler”) that performed accounting services for ACS and Plaintiffs.  Defendants are alleged to have engaged in a scheme with ACS to solicit and defraud outside investors, including Plaintiffs.

Continue Reading… New Complaint – yLoft LLC v. Bechtler, Parker, Watts, P.S.C.

Two related cases, Bradley D. Sharp v. Shinhan Bank Co., Ltd. (the “Shinhan Action”) and Sharp v. Daishin Securities Co., Ltd. (the “Daishin Action”), were filed in the United States District Court for the Central District of California on November 23, 2021 by the receivers for various businesses under the Direct Lending Investments, LLC umbrella of companies (“Direct Lending”).  Both actions allege that certain redemptions paid out to investors in a fraudulent investment scheme constitute constructive and actual fraudulent transfers under California’s Uniform Voidable Transactions Act, regardless of the investors’ knowledge of the underlying fraud.

Plaintiffs in both actions are receivers (the “Receivers”) appointed in the underlying SEC enforcement action against an investment manager entity that was used to carry out a fraudulent investment scheme (the “Receivership Entity”). Defendants in the Shinhan Action are investment funds (the “Defendant Funds”) that invested in the scheme, trustees (the “Defendant Trustees”) that entered into subscription agreements with the Receivership Entity on the Defendant Fund’s behalf, and fund managers (the “Defendant Managers,”) that sold the funds to investors.   Defendant in the Daishin Action is a South Korean investment company that invested in the scheme.

Continue Reading… New Complaints – Sharp v. Shinhan Bank Co., et al. & Sharp v. Daishin Securities Co., Ltd.

Ballard v. NTB Financial Corporation was filed in the Arapahoe County District Court on July 7, 2021, claiming that Defendants conspired with Financial Visions, Inc. (“FV”) and its principal, Dan Rudden (“Rudden”), to induce investors into purchasing unregistered securities in violation of antifraud provisions of the Colorado Securities Act.

Plaintiffs are individuals and a business entity who invested in promissory notes sold by FV and Rudden. Defendants are NTB Financial Corporation (“NTB”), an investment firm based in Denver, Colorado, and George Louis McCaffrey III, a registered representative employed by NTB that is alleged to have advised certain clients to invest in the unregistered promissory notes.

Continue Reading… New Complaint – Ballard v. NTB Financial Corporation

February 3, 2021 – Rotstain v. Mendez, 2021 WL 359989 (5th Cir.)

On February 3, 2021, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion in Rotstain v. Mendez, holding in part that a receiver had standing to bring claims on behalf of investors in connection with a Ponzi scheme.

In the context of denying a motion to intervene, Rotstain clarified that receivers and their assignees have standing to bring claims on behalf of investors when the investors’ claims are against alleged conspirators for conduct in furtherance of that scheme and are derivative of and dependent on the claims of the receivership estate.

Continue Reading… Fifth Circuit Holds that Receiver Has Standing to Bring Derivative Claims on Behalf of Investors Harmed by Ponzi Scheme

November 13. 2020 – Heinert v. Bank of America, N.A., 2020 WL 6689287 (2d Cir.)

On November 13, 2020, the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit issued an opinion in Heinert v. Bank of America, N.A. imposing a heavy pleading burden upon plaintiffs seeking to sue banks for the facilitation of a Ponzi scheme.

As the recession deepens, Ponzi schemes that benefitted from a thriving pre-pandemic economy are likely to collapse. While investors may pursue claims against the fraudsters themselves, these suits are unlikely to yield meaningful recovery as Ponzi schemes are frequently operated by judgment-proof shell entities. As a result, investors may look to deep-pocketed financial institutions to recoup their losses. Indeed, banks are a frequent target of Ponzi-scheme related aiding and abetting claims. These claims can present significant exposure risks to banks if they survive a motion to dismiss. Heinert shields banks from some of those risks by setting a high bar for pleading a key element of an aiding and abetting claim—actual knowledge of the underlying scheme.

Continue Reading… Second Circuit Rejects Ponzi Scheme-Related Facilitation Claims against Bank