Stanford Investors Could Get Money Back

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Some investors in Allen Stanford's Ponzi scheme could be getting their money back.

The Securities Exchange Commission released a statement on Wednesday regarding the Stanford Financial Group of companies. Stanford had an office in Memphis and made charitable gifts to several nonprofit organizations and was former sponsor of the PGA golf tournament here.

This is the text of the press release:

Washington, D.C., June 15, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today concluded that certain individuals who invested money through the Stanford Group Company — a U.S. broker-dealer owned and used by Allen Stanford to perpetrate a massive Ponzi scheme — are entitled to the protections of the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (SIPA).

In exercising its discretionary authority under SIPA and based on the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case, the Commission asked the Securities Investor Protection Corporation (SIPC) to initiate a court proceeding under SIPA to liquidate the broker-dealer.

According to its 2009 complaint, the SEC alleged that Allen Stanford operated a Ponzi scheme in which certain investors were sold certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by Stanford International Bank Ltd. (SIBL) through the Stanford Group Company (SGC). SGC is a SIPC Member.

In an analysis provided to SIPC, the SEC explains that, on the specific facts of this case, investors with brokerage accounts at SGC who purchased the CDs through the broker-dealer qualify for protected “customer status under SIPA.

In reaching its determination, the SEC cited the conclusions in the report of the court appointed-receiver for SGC, who noted that the many companies controlled and directly or indirectly owned by Stanford “were operated in a highly interconnected fashion, with a core objective of selling the CDs.

Among other things, the receiver also noted that “[c]orporate separateness was not respected within the Stanford empire. ... Money was transferred from entity to entity as needed, irrespective of legitimate business need. Ultimately, all of the fund transfers supported the Ponzi scheme in one way or another, or benefitted Allen Stanford personally.

The Commission further determined that, in light of all of the facts and circumstances in this case, the customers’ claims should be based on their net investment in the fraudulent CDs used to carry out the Ponzi scheme.

A SIPA liquidation proceeding would allow investors with accounts at SGC to file claims with a trustee selected by SIPC. The trustee would decide whether the investors have “customer claims that are protected by the statute. An investor who disagreed with the trustee’s determination could seek court review.

The Commission has authorized its staff to file an action in federal district court under SIPA to compel SIPC to initiate a liquidation proceeding in the event SIPC does not do so.

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