Risk Management

Stanford Financial CFO Will Aid the Feds

James Davis reportedly reverses his decision to plead the Fifth, and says he'll cooperate in an investigation targeting an alleged $8b investment s...
Stephen Taub and Roy HarrisMarch 24, 2009

Stanford Financial Group CFO James M. Davis — the number-two executive at the financial firm at the center of allegations that it is an $8-billion investment fraud — is reportedly cooperating with federal investigators.

Previously, Davis had cited his Fifth-Amendment rights against self-incrimination in a February filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, according to press reports at the time. It was last month that the SEC announced that a federal judge in the Northern District of Texas had entered a temporary restraining order against Robert Allen Stanford and three of his companies, the Antigua-based Stanford International Bank, Houston-based broker-dealer and investment adviser Stanford Group Company, and investment adviser Stanford Capital Management. The court’s order also extended to Davis and to Laura Pendergest-Holt, chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group.

Now, however, CFO Davis — who was a college roommate of Robert Stanford at Baylor University, according to press accounts — plans to work with the Department of Justice and the SEC, his attorney David Finn told the Associated Press.

In the order last month, the judge also froze all assets of the company and individuals until further notice, ordered that assets outside the U.S. be returned to the court’s jurisdiction, appointed a receiver to marshal the defendants’ assets and granted other relief.

The SEC’s complaint last month in the Dallas federal court alleged that individuals at the Stanford firms committed an $8 billion fraud by selling so-called certificates of deposit to investors by promising “improbable and unsubstantiated” high interest rates. The rates were supposedly earned through its unique investment strategy, which has purportedly allowed the bank to achieve double-digit returns on its investments over the past 15 years. According to the complaint, the defendants misrepresented to CD purchasers that their deposits are safe, falsely claiming that the bank re-invests client funds primarily in “liquid” financial instruments; monitors the portfolio through a team of 20-plus analysts; and is subject to yearly audits by Antiguan regulators.

The SEC continues to seek, among other things, a permanent injunction, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, plus pre-judgment interest, and civil money penalties.

In late February Pendergest-Holt was criminally charged with obstruction of a proceeding before an agency of the United States, according to prosecutors in Texas and the Houston Division of the FBI. According to that complaint, Pendergest-Holt met with representatives of the SEC to testify in its investigation into allegations that SFG and related companies, including the Stanford International Bank, had defrauded investors and account holders of an estimated $8 billion in deposits. The complaint alleges Pendergest-Holt made several affirmative misrepresentations to the SEC in order to obstruct its investigation. So far, she is the only individual who is facing criminal charges in the case.

Attorney Finn told the AP that there would be “a time and a place” to address allegations of Davis’ involvement.