SEC Cases: Ex-AIG Broker-Dealers to Pay $9.5M For Purportedly Directing Investors Toward Pricier Mutual Funds, California Water District Resolves Bond Offering Charges for $125M, & Businessman is Accused of Stealing Investor Money

Former AIG Affiliate Brokerage Firms to Pay $7.5M Fine, $2M Restitution Over High-Priced Mutual Funds
Royal Alliance Associates, FSC Securities Corp., and SagePoint Financial have agreed to pay over $9.5M to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of guiding clients toward expensive mutual fund share classes so that the firms could garner additional fees. The brokerage firms were formerly under the AIG Advisor Group umbrella.

According to the regulator, the firms put clients in share classes that charged 12b-1 fees for distribution and marketing even though they were eligible to purchase shares that didn’t come with these added fees.

Because of the placement in the costlier fund classes, the firms collected an additional $2M in fees and did not disclose their conflict of interest in choosing the share classes that would make them more money.

The AIG affiliates are accused of not monitoring advisory accounts quarterly to make sure that churning didn’t take place. The SEC order is claiming breach of fiduciary duty and numerous compliance failures.

California Businessman Allegedly Stole Investor Money, Covered Up Fraud
Daniel R. Nase is accused of stealing investor assets and then trying to conceal the theft once the SEC discovered his scam. The regulator claims that the California businessman raised funds from investors via an unregistered offing of common stock in his Bic Real Estate Development Corp. He then used the funds to cover his own bills.

The Commission said that Nase, who was not registered with any state regulator or the SEC to sell investments, told investors that his company would invest in promissory notes and real estate. Instead, he improperly placed those under his name, his wife’s name, of the name of their family trust. He allegedly tried to hide his fraud by investing the assets that he stole back into BIC to make it look like he was raising his equity stake in the company.

California Water District Accused of Misleading Investors in $77M Bond Offering
The SEC is charging Westlands Water District with misleading investors about its financial state while issuing a $77M bond offering. The agricultural water district is the largest one in the state of California.

According to the SEC, Westland, in prior bond offerings, consented to keep a 1.25 debt service coverage ratio but discovered in 2010 that a lower water supply and drought conditions would keep it from making enough money to keep up that ratio, which measures an issuer’s ability to make future bond payments. To meet the ratio without upping customer rates, Westlands reclassified the funds.

When it used the $77M bond offering the following year, investors were told that the water district satisfied or exceeded the 1.25 ratio for the last five years without disclosing that the only way this was able to happen was because of its extraordinary accounting transactions. Meantime, Westlands left out accounting adjustments it made in 2012 that would have hurt the ratio. Without the accounting reclassifications its coverage ratio would have been just .11.

Westlands General Manager Thomas Birmingham and ex-assistant general manager Louie David Ciapponi are accused of improperly certifying the bond offering documents’ accuracy. Westlands is settling the SEC charges by paying $125M. The two men will pay $50K and $20K, respectively.

Our securities fraud law firm would like to offer you a free case consultation if you suspect that your investment losses are due to the negligence or wrongful actions of a financial representative or a firm. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

Read the SEC Order Involving AIG Affiliates (PDF)

Read the SEC Complaint Against Nase (PDF)

Read the SEC Order Involving the Westlands Water District (PDF)