Lawyer sues to recover Allen Stanford’s donations to congressional fundraisers

Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey, who is in charge of recovering assets from the empire of alleged Ponzi schemer Allen Stanford, sued the congressional fundraising committees on Friday to recover money that could be returned to investors.

Janvey first requested in Feb. 2009 that more than $1.8 million in campaign donations be returned to the estate. The largest beneficiaries of Stanford’s largess were the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee ($950,500); the National Republican Congressional Committee ($238,500); the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ($200,000); the Republican National Committee ($128,500); and the National Republican Senatorial Committee ($83,345). According to Janvey, who is represented in the matter by Kevin M. Sadler and Timothy S. Durst of Baker Botts, the committees have “ignored” his requests to return the funds.

Two of the Republican committees are led by Texans: the NRCC, by Rep. Pete Sessions of Dallas, and the NRSC, by Sen. John Cornyn. An NRCC official previously told The Dallas Morning News that the group has no plans to return the money. Sessions’ NRCC struggled to raise money in 2009, although it reported raising $4.5 million in January. Even with improved fundraising prospects in 2010, it’s hard to imagine the NRCC unilaterally disgorging the Stanford donations since its rival, the DCCC, hasn’t agreed to give back the money, either.

There have been a lot of questions about what kind of favors Stanford sought in return for his generous donations. Interestingly, the attorneys argue the answer is nothing: “The Committee defendants did not furnish any consideration whatsoever for the funds they received from Stanford, Davis and the Stanford Financial Group,” the complaint states. “Consequently, they have no legitimate right to retain the funds, and the Receiver is entitled to the return of all such funds.”


U.S. judge OKs sale of Stanford’s Panama assets

The receiver overseeing accused swindler Allen Stanford’s estate may proceed with the sale of the firm’s bank and brokerage in Panama, a U.S. judge said on Wednesday.

Ralph Janvey, the court-appointed receiver, may proceed with the sale of Stanford Bank S.A. and Stanford Casa de Valores in Panama City, two assets held by Stanford International Holdings S.A., U.S. District Judge David Godbey said in a one-page order.

Panama’s bank regulator seized Stanford’s Panama operations last year after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Texas billionaire Allen Stanford of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme.

Janvey had previously negotiated the sale of the Stanford assets to Strategic Investments Group for $15.5 million, according to court documents.

Stanford, 59, opposed the sale. He has denied any wrongdoing and is in a Houston jail awaiting trial on criminal charges related to the fraud.

Watchdog Blasts Private Financial Regulators

In a letter sent today to Congress’ banking and finance committees, a leading government watchdog has urged House and Senate lawmakers to crack down on the financial-services industry’s internal “private self-regulatory organizations,” or SROs, a less understood but problematic player in the global financial meltdown. Put simply, an SRO is a regulator within, say, the securities industry tasked with protecting investors, but is often led, in a glaring conflict of interest, by the very same people that regulator is supposed to be overseeing. If that sounds dubious, well, that’s because it is. And as the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) contends in its letter, one prominent SRO, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), has an “abysmal track record,” so much that POGO openly questions “whether FINRA can ever be an effective regulator given its cozy relationship with the securities industry.”

Despite FINRA’s stated commitment to “putting investors first,” a look at the regulator’s record in the past few calamitous years casts doubt on that claim. FINRA, the POGO letter states, neglected to step in and regulate firms like Lehman Brothers, Bear Stearns, and Merrill Lynch that all collapsed under FINRA’s watch, while also failing to spot the massive, multibillion-dollar Ponzi schemes run by Bernie Madoff and Allen Stanford. In Stanford’s case, POGO found, an internal FINRA review discovered the regulator missed Stanford’s scheme on several occasions; and with Madoff, the private regulator claimed it wasn’t at fault for letting the biggest Ponzi scheme in history slip by even though experts said Madoff was under FINRA’s purview.

Then again, when you look at FINRA’s leadership, it’s hardly surprising the regulator failed to spot the likes of Madoff and Merrill, Stanford and Bear Stearns. As POGO’s letter says, conflicts of interests are rife within FINRA, to wit: FINRA chairman and CEO Richard Ketchum is a Citigroup alum; the regulator’s executive overseeing member regulation came from Charles Schwab; and another executive in charge of enforcement is a former partner at a top law firm representing major financial institutions. Not to mention FINRA’s ties to Madoff and Stanford—Shana Madoff, Bernie’s niece, was on FINRA’s compliance advisory committee until the firm went under, and two top level staffers for Allen Stanford served on other FINRA committees. “FINRA’s numerous failures,” POGO writes, “should hardly come as a surprise given the incestuous relationship between SROs and the financial services industry.”

Yet despite these criticisms, FINRA’s Ketchum wants more power for his organization, like overseeing investment advisers as well as securities brokers. Thus the purpose of POGO’s letter today is to urge Congress not to let that power grab happen, and even more to encourage House and Senate lawmakers to curtail FINRA’s authority. “Effective, independent, and efficient government regulation is the only proper way to safely oversee our markets,” the letter concludes. “Our economy is too important to be left in the hands of the very financial industry that brought us to the brink of collapse.”

Suit filed to force lawmakers to return Stanford contributions

Thousands of families lost their life savings when, investigators say, they uncovered a massive fraud centered around billionaire Allen Stanford.

Now, the man assigned to defend the victims says money they are due is being withheld by an unlikely source: Politicians.

They’re refusing to give back more than $1.8 million they received from Stanford, now accused of being a criminal.

Arley and Marsha Carter worked hard to build the family business that eventually let them retire in the country.

Then came news of the massive ponzi scheme involving their money.

They weren’t alone; thousands of other investors were also exposed.

“A lot of sleepless nights,” Marsha Carter told News 8 during an interview last March. “It’s hard not to worry.

The Carters were hopeful that federal investigators would find some money still left in Stanford accounts. But on Monday, they learned that it is government leaders who are still holding on to some of those funds — and they’re angry.

In a lawsuit filed in federal court, attorney Kevin Sadler, representing the court-appointed receiver, contends that political committees from both political parties are holding on to $1.6 million contributed by Allen Stanford and his affiliated businesses — money they retained even as Stanford investors suffered.

“One lady and her husband had invested, and she was having problems just getting his funeral taken are of,” Marsha Carter said in the 2009 interview.

The receivers also published the names of individual campaigns that have not returned the money. Thus far, they have not been sued.

In Texas, the list includes KPAC, the political action committee affiliated with Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison; Sen. John Cornyn; and U.S. Representatives Pete Sessions, Charles Gonzalez, and Pete Olson.

Representatives Kevin Brady, Lamar Smith, Sam Johnson, Joe Barton and Michael McCaul are also on the list.

KPAC — along with the Cornyn, Sessions, Brady, and Johnson campaigns — told News 8 the money went to charity.

But Sadler equated that to saying, “I don’t have the money anymore because I gave it to someone else.”

He also points out that the gifts to charities do nothing for the victims, many of whom are seeing their golden years become their most trying years yet.

Late Monday, Rep. Olsen said he will return the Stanford funds to the receivership.

Stanford Receiver Sues Political Committees

The political stakes in the Stanford Financial scandal are getting higher.

The court-appointed receiver who is tracking down the billions of dollars missing in the alleged Ponzi scheme — Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey — has filed suit against the major parties’ congressional campaign committee seeking the return of $1.6 million in contributions they received from company founder Allen Stanford and his top lieutenants.

The move comes less than two weeks after Janvey demanded the committees return the funds, but received no response.

The suit, filed in federal court in Dallas, names the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the Republican National Committee and the National Republican Senatorial Committee.

The suit says the committees “have no legitimate right” to keep the contributions, which Janvey says belong to Stanford’s investors.

The suit says the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee received the largest amount of tainted contributions, $950,000. The National Republican Congressional Committee follows with $238,500; the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee received $200,000, the Republican National Committee got $128,500 and the National Republican Senatorial Committee took in $83,345. None of the committees was immediately available for comment.

Janvey has thus far stopped short of suing individual members of Congress, from whom he is seeking another $200,000 in contributions. Several of the congressmen, including Texas Republican Pete Sessions and New York Democrat Charlie Rangel have said they donated their Stanford-linked contributions to charity.

In addition to Janvey’s lawsuit, the Miami Herald reported in December that federal prosecutors are investigating whether Stanford’s lavish campaign contributions were an improper attempt to buy influence.