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Brooklyn Judge Calls Bear Stearns Settlement ‘Chump Change’

CADMAN PLAZA EAST (AP) — Two former Bear Stearns executives reached settlements this week with federal regulators over civil charges they mislead investors about risky mortgage securities when the housing market was collapsing.

The Securities and Exchange Commission said Ralph Cioffi will pay $800,000 and be barred from the industry for three years, and Matthew Tannin will pay $250,000 and be banned for two years. The deal means that the pair will avoid a civil trial, which was scheduled to begin Monday in Brooklyn federal court.

“These serious sanctions reflect the defendants’ misconduct, their ill-gotten gains and other considerations,” said SEC spokesman John Nester.

Both men are neither admitting nor denying wrongdoing.

But U.S. District Judge Frederic Block, who must approve the settlement, called the fines “chump change” on two separate occasions during the Monday hearing. Attorneys for both men declined to comment on their clients’ cases.

Cioffi, 56, and Tannin, 50, were acquitted in November 2009 in a criminal trial on conspiracy, fraud and other charges. Jurors weren’t swayed by e-mails presented by Brooklyn federal prosecutors.

The two ran hedge funds that collapsed after betting heavily on the shaky subprime mortgage market, costing investors about $1.6 billion.

Bear Stearns was the first Wall Street bank to lapse. It was caught in the credit crunch in early 2008 and avoided bankruptcy in a rescue buyout in March by JPMorgan Chase & Co. with a $29 billion federal backstop.

Since 2010, the SEC has reaches settlements with three major Wall Street banks over charges of misleading investors about mortgage securities. Goldman Sachs & Co. settled for $550 million, Citigroup Inc. for $285 million and JPMorgan Chase for $153.6 million.

February 15, 2012 - 5:37pm


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