Donnerstag, 26. November 2009

Stanford victims ask why Texas didn't act sooner

November 26, 2009
By Brian Gaar
In the aftermath of the R. Allen Stanford case, some local investors are asking: Where was the State of Texas?

Investors who lost money in the Houston financier's alleged Ponzi scheme now say the state's financial oversight was too lax.

"We have the right to know what the (Texas State Securities Board) knew and when they knew it, details of their past investigations, and why they didn't disclose anything to the citizens of Texas all these years," Austin investor Annalisa Mendez said.

In fact, the state looked into Stanford's dealings years ago.

The Securities Board wrote a memo in the mid-1990s, expressing concern "that the high return rates and commissions for CDs made it difficult for the Stanford bank to make a legitimate profit on the CDs," according to a September Financial Industry Regulatory Authority report on the aftermath of both the Bernard Madoff and Stanford cases.

FINRA is a private corporation that provides regulatory oversight of all securities firms nationwide.

Texas Securities Commissioner Denise Voigt Crawford mentioned the securities board's involvement with the Stanford case in Feb. 20 testimony to the state Senate Committee on Finance, just after the scandal broke.

"We looked at him about 10 years ago, because there was evidence of potential money-laundering," Crawford said in response to a question from state Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan.

The FBI and the Securities and Exchange Commission took the case, "which is what should have happened," she said. "But why it took 10 years for the feds to move on it, I could not answer."

The SEC has been criticized by investors who say the agency didn't do enough, quickly enough, to stop Stanford.

In 2003, some Stanford employees told the SEC they suspected fraud at the company.

In 2005, the SEC's Fort Worth office started an informal investigation into the sale of certificates of deposit by Stanford International Bank, which is based in Antigua.

But it was not until this past February that the SEC sued Stanford, alleging he was running a "massive Ponzi scheme" based on fraudulent CDs.

The SEC's inspector general concluded in a report that the agency had fulfilled its duty to check out accusations against Stanford.

The report found that the agency's inquiry was "hampered by a lack of cooperation" from Stanford and his attorneys, as well as by jurisdictional obstacles and obstruction by regulators in Antigua.

Stanford's attorney, Kent Schaffer, denied that his client had operated a Ponzi scheme, saying that money from the CD program was invested in a "wide range of investments."

What caused the losses were the government's lawsuit and fraud investigation, which prompted a run on the bank, he said.

Visit the Stanford International Victims Group - SIVG official forum

Donnerstag, 19. November 2009

Stanford lawyers and Lloyd's of London butt heads in court

November 19, 2009
R. Allen Stanford sat in court glumly for three hours Tuesday while a dozen lawyers debated whether insurance should pay for his criminal attorneys and whether those lawyers will have to report to a civil receiver when they find something new in the case.

Lloyd's of London lawyers announced in court that under a Stanford company policy, they've paid out $4.2 million to some criminal defense lawyers for work done before the August guilty plea of the Stanford company's chief financial officer, James Davis.

The Lloyd's lawyers said they won't pay further for the criminal defense of Stanford or those accused with him because Davis said they conspired with him. They said that the insurance contract said Lloyd's could stop payment if it determined money laundering was committed. Though Davis didn't plead guilty to money laundering, Lloyd's contends the terms of the policy were violated.

Dan Cogdell, lawyer for the former Stanford chief investment officer, Laura Holt, disputed that position.

"It's a bad faith denial of coverage," he said.

Stanford, Holt and others are accused of cheating investors who bought certificates of deposit issued by Stanford International Bank, on the Caribbean island of Antigua, and sold through companies affiliated with Houston-based Stanford Financial Group.

Stanford, a native Texan who founded Stanford Financial Group and is the only one of the defendants in the case who is behind bars while awaiting trial, faces 21 counts of conspiracy, fraud, bribery and obstruction of justice.

Lawyers for Stanford and other defendants asked U.S. District Judge David Hittner to order Lloyd's to pay on its policy, possibly unprecedented in a criminal case.

"We're in uncharted water," Hittner said, asking lawyers on both sides to submit briefs on the issue.

Hittner observed that the insurance lawyers' position would mean taxpayers have to pay for legal representation of Stanford and his codefendants.

Frozen assets

The payment of the criminal defense lawyers has been an ongoing issue. When the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil fraud suit last February in Dallas, it froze all the company assets and the personal assets of Allen Stanford and Holt.

Holt filed a separate lawsuit against Lloyd's in Houston federal court Tuesday, saying it was denying her coverage in bad faith. It's unclear whether Hittner will hear that case.

Also discussed Tuesday, but left undecided, is whether a receiver appointed by the Dallas court in the SEC case should be allowed to force criminal defense lawyers to hand over information they obtain while conducting their defense investigations.

Constitutional rights

Kent Schaffer, Stanford's lawyer, argued that the receiver's demands could violate defendants' constitutional rights and interfere with attorney-client privilege.

On that and the insurance issue, prosecutor Gregg Costa asked the judge to consider moving the case along as quickly as possible, especially since Stanford is imprisoned.

Stanford, who has had two surgeries since he went to jail in late June and has dropped more than 35 pounds, was unshaven and gaunt.

Concern on health

He leaned his head down so much at the beginning of the hearing that Hittner asked his lawyers to check on him and admonished that if Stanford is not well enough to attend court, he should stay in the detention center downtown.

Stanford perked up during a break, engaging in animated conversation with two U.S. marshals.

Visit the Stanford International Victims Group - SIVG official forum

Dienstag, 3. November 2009

Miami's ex-DEA chief could escape charge in Allen Stanford case

November 3, 2009
By Rob Barry and Michael Sallah
In a blow to prosecutors, a federal judge Monday called for the dismissal of an obstruction charge against Miami's former DEA chief in the Allen Stanford bank fraud case.

Two months after one of Miami's most celebrated drug cops was charged in the Allen Stanford financial scandal, a federal magistrate is recommending that one of the key charges be thrown out.

Judge Robin Rosenbaum said prosecutors failed to prove Tom Raffanello -- head of security for Stanford's worldwide enterprise -- interfered with a federal investigation by ordering the destruction of reams of company documents.

The former Drug Enforcement Administration chief, who left the agency to join Stanford's security force in 2004, was charged with ordering the shredding of records just days after federal agents shut down Stanford's empire in a massive fraud case in February.

Though prosecutors said Raffanello defied a court order by destroying the documents, Rosenbaum said the government failed to show he impeded the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission's probe.

The magistrate fell short of rejecting the entire case, however, saying prosecutors were able to show the former drug cop destroyed records in the course of a federal investigation. Her recommendation will be taken up by presiding Judge William Zloch later this month.

The charges over the destruction of the records -- including sensitive background checks on employees and investors -- are just part of the government's case against Stanford, who prosecutors say orchestrated a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

Raffanello's attorney, Richard Sharpstein, said he was pleased with Rosenbaum's recommendation. "We hope Judge Zloch not only agrees with Judge Rosenbaum, but throws out the entire case," he said.

Lead prosecutor Paul Pelletier could not be reached on Monday. However, prosecutors have argued in prior hearings that Raffanello and co-defendant Bruce Perraud were aware of a judge's order to preserve all company documents when they called a shredding truck to the company's Fort Lauderdale security bunker on February 25.

Federal agents have been scrambling to trace billions of dollars that flowed through Stanford's Antiguan bank over the past decade.

Ruling mostly on technical grounds, Rosenbaum said the order to preserve the records was for the court-appointed receiver and not the SEC. "[The indictment] does not assert that defendants knew that when they allegedly obstructed the receiver's investigation, they were also interfering with the SEC's proceeding," Rosenbaum wrote.

She also threw out a portion of a conspiracy count relating to the obstruction charge. A trial on the remaining counts is tentatively set for January.

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