U.S. District Court Judge Robert Wilkins says that the Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t need to go through a full civil trial in order to make the Securities Investor Protection Corp. start liquidation proceedings to compensate the victims of Allen Stanford’s $7B Ponzi scam for their losses. This ruling is a partial victory for the SEC, which has been trying to get the brokerage industry-funded nonprofit to help the investors recoup their losses. The dispute between the two groups has centered around the interpretation of the SIPC’s mission and whether or not it supports the SEC’s efforts to protect investors.
SIPC had been pushing for a trial. However, Wilkins said that a trial doesn’t comport with the agency’s purpose, which is to give immediate, summary proceedings upon the failure of a securities firm. Wilkins is mandating a “summary proceeding” that would be fully briefed by the end of this month. However, in regards to the SEC claim that it should be able to determine when the SIPC has failed to fulfill its duties, Wilkins said that this was for the court to decide.
SIPC has a reserve fund that is there to compensate investors that have suffered losses because a brokerage firm has failed. Under SIPC protections, customers of a broker that has failed can receive up to $500,000 in compensation ($250,000 in cash). Although not intended as insurance against fraud, SPIC covers the financial firm’s clients but not those that worked with an affiliate, such as an offshore bank. For example, Stanford International Bank is an Antiguan bank, which means that it should fall outside SIPC-provided protections. However, Stanford Group Company, which promoted the CDs to the investors, is a member of SIPC. (Also, SEC has maintained that Stanford stole from the brokerage firms’ clients by selling the CDs, which had no value, and that this was not unlike the Bernard L. Madoff Ponzi scam that credited $64B in fake securities to client accounts.)
Meantime, Stanford has been charged by both federal prosecutors and the Commission with bilking investors when he and his team persuaded them to buy $7B in bogus CDs from Stanford International Bank. He then allegedly took billions of those dollars and invested the cash in his businesses and to support his lavish lifestyle. Stanford’s criminal trial is currently underway.
Wilkins noted that even if the SEC’s lawsuit against SIPC succeeds, this wouldn’t mean that Stanford’s victims would get their money right away. It would still be up to a Texas court to decide on claims filed by former Stanford clients.
Judge Hands SEC Initial Victory In Suit Against Insurance Fund, The Wall Street Journal, February 9, 2012
Securities Investor Protection Corporation
Compensating Stanford’s Investors, NY Times, June 20, 2011
More Blog Posts:
SEC and SIPC Go to Court to Over Whether SIPA Protects Stanford Ponzi Fraud Investors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 6, 2012
SEC Sues SIPC Over R. Allen Stanford Ponzi Payouts, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 20, 2011
SEC Chairman Criticized For Allowing Ex-Commission Official that Benefited from the Bernard Madoff Ponzi Scam to Help Craft Policy Regarding Victims’ Compensation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 23, 2011
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