It has now been over one week since Ken Bell, the court-appointed receiver overseeing ZeekRewards ("Zeek"), held a press conference to brief various members of the media about this progress thus far and plans for the near future. In his remarks, Bell indicated that one of his main priorities going forward was to continue gathering assets for eventual distribution to victims. This included cashiers checks deposited, but not cashed, by Zeek investors just before the scheme's collapse. Following the press conference, Mr. Bell posted an update to his website that included a letter updating investors and additional answers to investor questions.
Since that meeting, a review of the court docket reveals that the recovery of assets continues to be the focus of Mr. Bell and his team. In the past ten days, various financial institutions have submitted sworn statements in response to the court's earlier asset freeze indicating how much, if any, Rex Venture Group ("RVG") maintained in bank accounts. RVG is the parent company of ZeekRewards. Those reports, from institutions such as Charles Schwab and NewBridge Bank, showed that tens of millions of dollars were currently being held in the name of RVG or Paul Burks, Zeek's founder. Additionally, Mr. Bell's lawyers have sparred with Burks in an attempt to gain control of his personal assets.
Shortly after the Securities and Exchange Commission ("SEC") filed suit against Zeek, United States District Judge Graham Mullen issued an order appointing Mr. Bell as receiver. That order listed the various assets over which Mr. Bell would have authority over, including assets held or fraudulently transferred by RVG. These orders are standard in receivership proceedings, and their wording rarely varies. However, Zeek was somewhat unique, in that it highly encouraged the use of cashier's checks to fund a new investor's account. Different from personal checks, a cashier's check operates like cash upon endorsement by the maker. According to the receiver, "numerous" cashier's checks and other forms of payment potentially totaling several million dollars were received either on or after the date the SEC shut down Zeek, Because of this, Mr. Bell sought the Court's approval (the "Motion") to clarify the language of the order appointing receiver to explicitly include those forms of payment as receivership assets.
The Motion also sought to freeze assets in possession of Burks and other third parties, including his family members. In support, Bell noted that while Burks was estimated to have secretly misappropriated roughly $11 million from Zeek, nearly $7 million of that sum was no longer in Burks' possession or control, including $1 million transferred to certain family members.
Not surprisingly, while Burks did not object to the inclusion of uncashed cashier's checks into the receivership estate, he strongly opposed any attempts to now "include Mr. Burks' personal accounts." Noting that the receiver's basis for this request centered on the SEC's allegations in its complaint - which Burks had neither admitted nor denied in his settlement with the SEC as is typical of SEC judgments - Burks' attorney argued that no other evidence existed in support. Additionally, Burks noted that, in addition to the $4 million penalty paid to settle the SEC's allegations, the IRS received more than $5 million in income tax assessments for 2011 and 2012. Arguing that Mr. Bell was overreaching, Burks' lawyers touted his roots in Lexington, marital status, recent successful bouts with cancer, and lack of prior legal troubles. In other words, Burks was not a flight risk.
Apparently swayed, Judge Mullen declined to grant the receiver's request to include Burks' personal accounts in the asset freeze, but did allow the amendment of language in the order appointing receiver to include cashier's checks and other forms of payment as receivership property. However, the receiver certainly has the ability to bring future lawsuits against Burks and/or his family members once he has completed his analysis of Zeek's financial records and been able to trace the flow of assets in and out of Zeek. This investigation is expected to take weeks, if not months, to complete.
The Receiver's Motion to Amend is here.
Burk's Response is here.
Judge Mullen's Ruling is here.