Just as the various stock indices were testing November lows, the SEC announced what appears to be another mini-Madoff: Robert Allen Stanford and three of his financial companies have been charged with orchestrating an $8 billion fraud.
According to the SEC, approximately $8 billion of bogus CDs were sold to investors through a network of financial advisors affiliated with Stanford Group Company, the Houston-based investment advisor and broker/dealer. (Stanford claims on its website to have $43 billion in assets under management.)
The SEC's complaint, filed in Dallas federal court today, also charged the CFO of Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, James Davis, as well as Laura Pendergest-Holt, CIO of parent company, Stanford Financial Group. The assets of the companies and the defendants have all been frozen, according to the SEC complaint.
It turns out, like Madoff, the historical returns of the Stanford International Bank CDs-sometimes paying 10 percent to 15 percent annually—were too good to be true. "Stanford and the close circle of family friends with whom he runs his businesses perpetrated a massive fraud based on false promises and fabricated historical return data to prey on investors," said Linda Chatman Thomsen, director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement.
Like Madoff, Stanford probably gained some measure of trust on his name and the size of his financial empire. (Stanford was also known for his love of cricket and hosted a $1 million-a-man cricket tournament in Antigua, his adopted home, says the Times of London.)
Stanford's downfall surely has to hammer home the importance of due diligence: No matter how bad things look at your current firm, look—and look again—before you leap to another. Take this team of investment consultants that joined Stanford from Citi/Smith Barney Institutional Consulting in mid-December to launch Stanford Institutional, an advisory specializing in HNW and institutions. Led by Christopher Aitken (#6 on Registered Rep.'s 2008 Top 100 Financial Advisors list), these advisors must be horrified to learn they joined a firm that was weeks away from being accused of malfeasance by the SEC.
Here's a question: Is Sir Robert Allen Stanford the multi-billion dollar Ponzi that Harry Markopolos said he was going to serve up to the SEC? Or is that one still in the works?
And in other news, film maker/pot-stirrer Michael Moore (Bowling for Columbine, Fahrenheit 9/11) is at it again, this time looking for disgruntled (and connected) former or current Wall Streeters to tell the American people "the real deal" about what has happened in the last 18 months. Read Moore's plea for help with his new film here.
Lastly, here's a fun like cartoon video clip to lighten the day's otherwise dour mood: http://www.markfiore.com/wall_street_executive_air_0.