The SEC’s civil fraud charges against R. Allen Stanford are having nasty repercussions for Stanford Financial Group financial advisors and clients not implicated in any wrongdoing. The SEC has frozen client accounts of Stanford Financial Group advisors, and the SEC ordered the advisors not to communicate with their clients. So advisors, who are not individually accused of any wrong doing (and, in some cases, only recently joined the advisory) are fighting back—and suing the SEC.
The suit, which includes nearly two dozen Houston-based Stanford Financial Group FAs and one local charity, and which was filed today in Houston district court, also names the U.S. Marshall’s Office as well as Stanford Group entities. (Separately, J. Mark Brewer, a partner at Houston law firm, Brewer & Pritchard, has also filed a suit against the SEC and U.S. Marshal’s Office for his inability to access his own funds.)
Clearly, while Stanford is named in the complaint, it’s not their employer these advisors are after: It’s the regulators that have frozen their accounts and the accounts of their clients, effectively cutting off any access to cash for many of them. “This lawsuit is not about any alleged wrongdoing on the part of the Stanford Group Company or its affiliates. It seeks redress and compensation for actions of defendants that are violating the protections of the Constitution,” writes the advisors’ attorney, Michael Stanley, of Houston law firm Stanley, Frank & Rose, in the summary of the complaint. Even clients and advisors without a penny invested in CDs with Stanford International Bank, the source of the alleged $8 billion fraud, have been frozen out of their funds—the vast majority of which are custodied at Bank of New York Pershing.
Mortgage payments, car payments, college and secondary school tuition for kids, groceries, etc. “I’m going to be having conversations with creditors I haven’t had since college,” says one somber Stanford advisor in Dallas. Another Stanford advisor in Florida has an otherwise wealthy client with big monthly bills he suddenly can’t pay: “This client is 70-years old with $30 million who asks me to cut him a check every month to pay for his living expenses, as well as those of his elderly mother and aunt, both of whom have hefty medical bills,” he says. “So right now, I’m looking to get him a home equity line of credit. That’s ridiculous.”
The SEC has instructed all Stanford advisors, none of whom have been accused of anything, not to speak to their clients—suppression of free speech and assembly, according to the complaint; but many freely admit to doing so anyway. “What the heck can you do? A client calls you worried sick about his retirement money, are you going to hang up on him?” asks a Dallas-based advisor. “It makes me wonder if the political pressure on the SEC after Madoff is causing them to overreach, make an example of us.”