Institutional Investor Securities Roundup: SEC Sues Investment Adviser Over $60M Ponzi Scam, Michigan Investment Club Manager Gets Prison Term for Defrauding Over 900 Investors, & IOSCO Seeks Comments on Report About Credit Raters’ Conflicts & Controls

The SEC is suing investment adviser John Geringer for allegedly running a $60M investment fund that was actually a Ponzi scheme. Most of Geringer’s fraud victims are from the Santa Cruz, California area.

According to the Commission, Geringer used information in his marketing materials for GLR Growth Fund (including the promise of yearly returns in the double digits) that was allegedly “false and misleading” to draw in investors. He also implied that the fund had SEC approval.

While investors thought the fund was making these supposed returns by placing 75% of its assets in investments connected to major stock indices, per the SEC claims, Geringer’s trading actually resulted in regular losses and he eventually ceased to trade. To hide the fraud, Geringer allegedly paid investors “returns” in the millions of dollars that actually came from the money of new investors. Also, after he stopped trading in 2009, he is accused of having invested in two illiquid private startups and three entities under his control. The SEC is seeking disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, financial penalties, preliminary and permanent injunctions, and other relief.

In an unrelated securities case, this one resulting in criminal charges, Michigan investment club manager Alan James Watson has been sentenced to 12 years behind bars for fraudulently soliciting and accepting $40 million from over 900 investors. Watson, who pleaded guilty to the criminal charges, must also forfeit over $36 million.

Watson ran and funded Cash Flow Financial LLC. According to the US Justice Department, he lost all of the money on risky investments—even as he told investors that their money was going to work through an equity-trading system that would give them a 10% return every month. In truth, Watson only put $6 million in the system, while secretly investing the rest in the undisclosed investments. He would go on to also lose the $6 million when he moved this money into risky investments, too.

Watson ran the club as a Ponzi scam so investors wouldn’t know what he was doing. He is still facing related charges in a securities case brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

In other institutional investments securities news, the International Organization of Securities Commissions’ technical committee is asking for comments about a new consultation report describing credit rating agencies’ the internal controls over the rating process and the practices they employ to minimize conflicts of interest. The deadline for submitting comments is July 9.

The report was created following the financial crisis due to concerns about the rating process’s integrity. 9 credit rating agencies were surveyed about their internal controls, while 10 agencies were surveyed on how they managed conflict.

IOSCO’s CRA code guides credit raters on how to handle conflict and make sure that employees consistently use their methodologies. Two of the report’s primary goals were to find out how get a “comprehensive and practical understanding” of how these agencies deal with conflict when deciding ratings and find out whether credit ratings agencies have implemented IOSCO’s code and guiding principals.

Read the SEC’s complaint against Geringer (PDF)

Investment Club Manager Sentenced To 12 Years In Prison For $40 Million Fraud, Justice.gov, May 24, 2012

Credit Rating Agencies: Internal Controls Designed to Ensure the Integrity of the Credit Rating Process and Procedures to Manage Conflicts of Interest, IOSCO (PDF)

More Blog Posts:
FINRA Initiatives Addressing Market Volatility Approved by the SEC, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 5, 2012

Several Claims in Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against Ex-IndyMac Bancorp Executives Are Dismissed by Federal Judge, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 30, 2012

Leave The 2nd Circuit Ruling Upholding Madoff Trustee’s “Net Equity” Method for Investor Recovery Alone, Urges SEC to the US Supreme Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 5, 2012

If you are an institutional investor who believes you have been the victim of financial fraud, contact our securities attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP today.