The Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") filed civil charges against a Minnesota hedge fund and two employees, alleging that they facilitated the $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme orchestrated by Thomas Petters by funneling $600 million in customer funds and subsequently attempting to cover up problems that later resulted in the scheme's unraveling. Petters' scheme was one of the largest in history and later landed him a fifty-year sentence in federal prison. The SEC charged Arrowhead Capital Management LLC ("Arrowhead"), along with founder James N. Fry ("Fry") and director Michelle W. Palm ("Palm") (collectively, "Defendants") with numerous violations of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Fry and Palm also face charges of aiding and abetting violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940.
According to the complaint, Arrowhead sold interests in three Arrowhead-branded hedge funds (the "Funds") from 1998 through 2008 through the use of confidential private placement memoranda and pitch books. These documents included false representations that Arrowhead was registered with the SEC as an investment adviser, when in fact its registration had been terminated in 1997. In the course of selling interests in the Funds, the Defendants made numerous misrepresentations to investors, including material facts about the security of their interests. Additionally, as the scheme began to encounter financial stress, the Defendants concealed Petters' inability to make payments on some notes, even going so far as to extend the maturity date of the notes to hide the default risk. In total, over $600 million was raised through the Fund offerings, and nearly all investor contributions were then invested in the scheme. During that same period, the Defendants earned more than $42 million in fees.
The SEC is seeking relief against the Defendants including the entry of a permanent injunction, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, pre-judgment interest, and civil monetary penalties. Earlier this year, Palm pled guilty to one count of securities fraud and one count of providing false statements to a government agent.
A copy of the SEC Complaint is here.
The court-appointed trustee overseeing the unraveling of Bernard Madoff's massive Ponzi scheme has filed an amended complaint in which he is seeking the return of $226.4 million from several Madoff family members including Madoff's brother, sons, and niece (the "Madoff Defendants"). Picard had originally filed suit against the Madoff Defendants in October 2009, seeking nearly $200 million.
Each of the Madoff Defendants held senior management positions at Madoff's investment firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities ("BLMIS"), including:
- Peter Madoff - Chief Compliance Officer
- Mark Madoff (now deceased) - Co-Director of Trading at BLMIS
- Andrew H. Madoff - Co-Director of Trading at BLMIS
- Shana D. Madoff - Compliance Counsel, in- house Counsel, and Compliance Director of BLMIS
Through these positions, each of the Madoff Defendants was tasked with compliance and supervisory responsibilities that Picard alleges should have alerted them to Madoff's fraudulent scheme. This included BLMIS's filing for Investment Adviser Registration with the SEC in 2006, when the number of represented accounts and assets under management contrasted greatly with Madoff's customer list and paper holdings.
Each of the Madoff Defendants received tens of millions of dollars in transfers from Madoff, and also maintained investment accounts in which they withdrew amounts far in excess of their invested principal, making them "net winners" under Picard's terminology. Picard draws particular attention to Peter Madoff's investment account with BLMIS, alleging that while Peter invested only $32,146 - and only fourteen dollars after December 1995 - he made withdrawals exceeding $16 million. As an example, Picard points to the alleged purchase of Microsoft stock in Peter's account in December 2000 that was subsequently sold in January 2002 for $15.4 million - despite previously having no money or securities invested in that particular account. Other Madoff Defendants experienced similar anomalies and astronomical returns in their investment accounts, which according to Picard should have alerted them that the activities were the product of fraud and deception.
In total, Picard is trying to recover $77 million from Peter Madoff, $71.9 million from the estate of Mark Madoff, $64.7 million from Andrew Madoff, and $12.7 million from Shana Madoff,.
A copy of the complaint filed against the Madoff Defendants is here.
The trustee overseeing the liquidation of Bernard Madoff's $50 billion Ponzi scheme continued his efforts to recover assets for the victims in filing two lawsuits seeking over $1 billion from customers of feeder funds that invested through Madoff. The trustee, Irving Picard, is seeking the return of funds transferred from two feeder funds, Fairfield Sentry Limited ("Fairfield") and Harley International (Cayman) Limited ("Harley"), to investors through authority under the Bankruptcy Code and New York state law. These clawback suits, as they are known, constitute the majority of the over-1,000 lawsuits filed thus far by Picard in his quest to maximize recovery by victims of Madoff's fraud.
In the two suits, Picard is seeking the return of over $86,000,000 from Somers Dublin Limited (“Somers Dublin”) and Somers Nominees (Far East) Limited (“Somers Nominees”) (collectively, the “Somers Defendants”), and over $975,000,000 from BNP Paribas Arbitrage SNC (“BNP Arbitrage”). While Picard has filed a number of clawback suits against subsequent transferees of Fairfield, these two suits represent the first believed attempt to retrieve funds from subsequent transferees of Harley thus far by Picard.
Harley, also itself the subject of a liquidation, was the previous target of a Picard suit. Picard alleged that Harley received transfers of $1.07 billion from Madoff. After failing to file an answer to Picard's complaint, United States Bankruptcy Judge Burton R. Lifland entered a default judgment for $1.07 billion. Of those transfers, Picard is now seeking $80 million from the Somers Defendants and $975 million from BNP Arbitrage, which constitutes nearly all of the alleged transfers made from Madoff to Harley.
A copy of the Somers Defendants complaint is here.
A copy of the BNP Arbitrage complaint is here.
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A former lobbyist who was found guilty of bilking investors out of nearly $1 million has been sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison. Joan R. Laplante, 66, received a forty-six month sentence after previously being convicted of mail fraud at a five-day jury trial earlier this year. LaPlante was the former director of the New Hampshire chapter of the National Federation of Independent Business, the leading small business association representing small and independent businesses.
Beginning in 1996, LaPlante owned and operated JRL Business Resources LLC ("JRL"). JRL was in the factoring business, which involved the purchase of a business's receivables at a discount that provided immediate capital to the business. However, JRL ceased legitimate business activities by 2002, and instead solicited potential investors by promising annual returns ranging from twelve to eighteen percent. In total, over $2 million was given to LaPlante and JRL, and investors received fictitious monthly statements showing that their accounts were experiencing constant gains. Instead, LaPlante used new investor funds to make interest payments to existing investors, resulting in total losses that authorities estimated at $880,000.
LaPlante had faced up to twenty years in prison.