According to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, under federal securities law a broker-dealer can be liable as a control person if one of its registered representatives is involved in a Ponzi scam even if the scheme was channeled through a separate entity. The court issued its ruling in Lustgraaf v. Behrens last month. In making his decision, Judge Michael J. Melloy reinstated the investors’ control person claims against Sunset Financial Services Inc. and didn’t join the other circuits in making culpable participation by a defendant a requirement in a control-person liability action.
Melloy said that even though the Ponzi scheme didn’t take place through Sunset, the broker-dealer is the one that gave scammer Bryan S. Behrens access to the markets. Melloy says that Sunset had the duty to monitor Behrens’ activities. It was in 2008 that the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a temporary restraining order against Behrens and National Investments Incorporated. The SEC accused Behrens of raising more than $6 million from some 20 investors through promissory notes. He and National Investments, which he controls, also are accused of falsely claiming that the high percentage of interest payable on the notes would come from the lending of investors’ funds to other people at a high interest rate when actually the assets belonging to newer investors were used to pay off current clients.
A number of the investors sued Behrens, Kansas City Life Insurance Company, and its wholly owned subsidiary Sunset. They argued that the defendants should be held liable for Behrens actions on claims of apparent authority, state and federal control-person liability, and respondeat superior.
In reversing the previous ruling, the court rejected the broker-dealer’s claim that under the 1934 Securities Exchange Act Section 20 no control person liability could come from Behren’s use of National, which is an entity unrelated to Sunset. The court, however, did affirm that the control person claims against Kansas City Life were lacking.
Related Web Resources:
LUSTGRAAF v. Behrens, Court of Appeals, 8th Circuit 2010