The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging investment advisory firm and broker dealer Advanced Equities Inc. and its cofounders Keith G. Daubenspeck and Dwight O. Badger with securities fraud related to two private equity offerings that were made for a California alternative energy company. Badger, who spearheaded the sales initiatives for the offering and allegedly made misstatements about the company’s finances, is charged with misleading investors. Daubenspeck is accused of not correcting these misstatements, therefore allegedly inadequately supervising Badger. Daubenspeck is the Advanced Equities’ parent company’s ex-chief executive and board chairman. All three parties have agreed to a cease-and-desist order entry but they are not denying or admitting to the charges.
Per the SEC, for the Silicon Valley company’s 2009 offering, Badger led close at least 49 outside investor presentations and a minimum of five in-house sales calls with Advanced Equities brokers related to this between January and March 2009 alone. He claimed that the energy company had over $2 billion in order backlogs when actually this never went above $42 million. He also said that a national grocery chain had placed a $1 billion order even though that was only worth $2 million, and although a letter of intent for making future buys was signed, it was a non-binding one. Badger also is accused of making a misstatement when he said that a US Department of Energy loan of over $250 million had been granted to the company after it had sought a $96.8 million loan. (He also allegedly again made a misstatement about the loan application in 2010 during the follow-up offering.) His misstatements were then repeated to investors during phone calls and in e-mails by brokers, Advanced Equities’ investment banking team, and the broker-in-charge at the firm’s branch in New York. (The SEC believes that these individuals should have known that the statements that Badger made were untrue.)
Meantime, Daubenspeck allegedly did not say anything after he heard Badger issue the misstatements about the grocery store order, order backlog, and loan application even though he took part in at least two of the internal sales calls attended by Advanced Equities brokers during the 2009 offering. The SEC contends that although these misstatements should have been warning signs that there was the danger that the wrong information would get to investors, Daubenspeck allegedly did not take reasonable steps to fix these misstatements and did not properly supervise Badger.
To settle the securities fraud allegations, Advanced Equities will pay a $1 million penalty and it has consented to cease and desist from making or causing future securities law violations of the laws it allegedly violated. It also has agreed to be censured and it will retain an independent consultant to assess its sales procedures and policies. As for Daubenspeck, he has agreed to a $50,000 penalty and supervisory suspension of one year, while Badger has consented to a $100,000 penalty and a one-year ban from associating with any dealer, broker, municipal securities dealer, investment adviser, or transfer agent.