More On Legal & Compliancefrom The Advisor's Professional Library
- Trading Practices and Errors When SEC-registered investment advisors conduct annual audits of firm policies and procedures, they should pay close attention to trading practices. Though usually not required to, state-registered advisors should look at their trading practices and revise policies that do not fully protect clients.
- Client Commission Practices and Soft Dollars RIAs should always evaluate whether the products and services they receive from broker-dealers are appropriate. The SEC suggested that an RIAs failure to stay within the scope of the Section 28(e) safe harbor may violate the advisors fiduciary duty to clients, so RIAs must evaluate their soft dollar relationships on a regular basis to ensure they are disclosed properly and that they do not negatively impact the best execution of clients transactions.
Enrica Cotellessa-Pitz, a more-than-30-year employee of Bernard Madoff Investment Securities, was charged Monday by the SEC of falsifying internal accounting records at the firm to hide the fact that client money had been transferred to operating accounts to hide trading losses.
The agency also charged her with using the false data to construct statements used for the Securities and Exchange Commission and other regulators trying to review the firm’s business records.
The SEC complaint says that, after her promotion to controller in 1998, Cotellessa-Pitz followed instructions from Madoff and the firm’s director of operations, David Bonventre, to falsely account for the transfer of hundreds of millions of dollars in investor funds from client accounts into operating accounts, labeling them as adjustments to certain securities positions on Madoff Securities' stock record.
The complaint also alleges that she then took these false data and used it to calculate and overstate the trading income purportedly generated by Madoff’s market-making and proprietary trading operations. Cotellessa-Pitz included these bogus figures on Madoff Securities financial statements, which she then filed with the SEC and other regulators.
Cotellessa-Pitz and other Madoff personnel then falsified documents provided to regulators to obscure the firm’s advisory operations and the transfer of investor funds to the operating bank accounts.
George S. Canellos, director of the SEC’s New York regional office, said in a statement, “To keep his massive fraud alive, Madoff had to hide as many facts about his advisory operations as possible. Cotellessa-Pitz along with other senior BMIS personnel played a critical role in this effort by creating false documents to deceive federal and state regulators.”
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York also announced Monday parallel criminal charges against Cotellessa-Pitz, who has pleaded guilty and also consented to the entry of a partial judgment in the SEC’s civil case against her.
Subject to court approval, the proposed partial judgment will impose a permanent injunction against Cotellessa-Pitz and require her to disgorge ill-gotten gains and pay a fine in an amount to be determined by the court at a later date.