Did the SEC fall down on the job by not paying closer attention to Allen Stanford, the billionaire Texas banker accused of orchestrating an $8 billion fraud? One former long-time enforcement director for the agency thinks it may well have.
Robert Fusfeld, who spent 31 years as an SEC enforcement lawyer, and for 15 managed the trial unit in the commission’s Denver office before retiring in 2006, told TPMmuckraker that there was plenty of reason for the SEC to aggressively scrutinize Stanford’s operation.
“A registered broker dealer and registered investment adviser is selling offshore Caribbean CDs in mammoth volumes, and nobody’s looking at the bonafides of the bank,” he said.
The New York Times reported today that the Stanford Group paid several fines over the last few years after regulators found that it did not have enough capital to meet the requirements of being a broker-dealer and used misleading sales literature. “There were numerous very significant red flags that included a history of violations,” said Fusfeld.
The case, he said, contained the “same kind of red flags as Madoff” — like consistently high returns — but with the added red flag of the Antiguan CDs. “It’s not Germany, France, or England,” he continued, noting the history of “flagrant offshore CD frauds” over the last 10-15 years.
Because Stanford was a registered broker dealer and investment adviser, the SEC had full access to its operation, Fusfeld added. “They can walk right in.”
The SEC was publicly flogged earlier this month for its failure to catch Bernard Madoff’s alleged $50 billion Ponzi scheme. Since then, its appears to have been making a special effort to show it’s capable of acting aggressively — a concern which may have affected the timing of the Stanford complaint filed Tuesday.
It would certainly be ironic if, in this case too, it was found to have fallen down on the job.