A statement issued by the SEC on 15th June says “The Securities and Exchange Commission today concluded that certain individuals who invested money through the Stanford Group Company – a U.S. broker-dealer owned and used by Allen Stanford to perpetrate a massive Ponzi scheme – are entitled to the protections of the Securities Investor Protection Act of 1970 (SIPA).”
The commission does not, in fact, appear to have concluded any formal inquiry. Instead it appears to be relying on a report by a Court Appointed Receiver for the Stanford Group Company that there were a number of companies which “were operated in a highly interconnected fashion, with a core objective of selling” the CDs.
Among other things, the receiver also says that “[c]orporate separateness was not respected within the Stanford empire. …Money was transferred from entity to entity as needed, irrespective of legitimate business need. Ultimately, all of the fund transfers supported the Ponzi scheme in one way or another, or benefited Allen Stanford personally.”
It is the finality of the wording that causes concern: “the” features strongly, juxtaposed with “Ponzi scheme.”
The SEC does – almost – recognise that there has been no finding in any court of competent jurisdiction that there was in fact a Ponzi scheme: indeed, the best it can do is to refer to its early filings: “According to its 2009 complaint, the SEC alleged that Allen Stanford operated a Ponzi scheme in which certain investors were sold certificates of deposit (CDs) issued by Stanford International Bank Ltd. (SIBL) through the Stanford Group Company (SGC). SGC is a SIPC Member.”
This is nothing more than an attempt to use its own earlier filings to bolster its current statements. The analysis upon which the SEC bases its current statements can be found (pdf) athttp://sivg.org/article/SEC_protection_SIPA.html
The fact remains that Stanford remains not guilty and not subject to any formal finding of impropriety within the regulatory regime. The SEC’s actions and the wording it has adopted are tainting the jury pool for the eventual criminal trial, and producing a background which prosecutors will be able to use to great prejudicial effect.
Of course, if there was a ponzi scheme (and that remains uncertain although there are sufficient grounds for suspicion of some kind of impropriety), then victims should be able to use the full weight of the law to protect themselves against loss. But the other side of the coin is that Stanford is entitled to a clean run at a defence.
The SEC, by its choice of language, is seriously undermining that entitlement.