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Thursday, March 18, 2010

Stanford Receiver Sues Lobbyist Barnes for $5 Million

Ralph Janvey, the receiver for R. Allen Stanford’s businesses, sued former Texas Lieutenant Governor Ben Barnes to recover consulting and lobbying fees he got from the indicted financier during the past five years.

Janvey seeks a court order requiring Barnes to return more than $5 million that he was paid by Stanford or his companies from 2005 to 2009, when the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused Stanford of leading a $7 billion investment fraud. Janvey said the funds should be used to repay investors allegedly defrauded through bogus certificates of deposit at Antigua-based Stanford International Bank Ltd.

Barnes “did not perform services of reasonably equivalent value in exchange for those payments, and in many instances performed services that simply furthered the Ponzi scheme,” Kevin Sadler, Janvey’s lawyer, said in a complaint filed March 15 in Dallas federal court.

Janvey said Barnes’s payments constituted fraudulent transfers. Payments to the lobbyist, who has offices in Austin, Texas and Washington, were made with “funds taken from unwitting CD investors” at a time when Stanford’s businesses were technically insolvent, Janvey said.

‘Dangerous Precedent’

“This lawsuit is without merit and creates a dangerous precedent for service providers in all fields,” Jay Madrid, a lawyer for Barnes, said today in an e-mailed statement. “Like dozens of other professionals, we provided services to Stanford Financial Group under the belief that it was just what it appeared to be -- a robust, vibrant international business.”

Stanford, who is in jail awaiting trial on related criminal charges, denies any wrongdoing.

Janvey said Barnes’s firm received a total of $5 million for lobbying and consulting that included such varied tasks as advising Stanford on tax law in the U.S. Virgin Islands and consulting for Stanford’s annual “20/20” cricket tournament in Antigua.

Barnes also advised Stanford on contributions to U.S. politicians, many of whom have been asked by Janvey to return donations they received from Stanford. Barnes also consulted on Stanford investments including Caribbean airlines, alternative energy and development plans for a private Antiguan island, Janvey said.

Barnes, 71, rose rapidly through Texas politics under the patronage of U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson and former Texas Governor John Connally. Barnes served as the Texas Legislature’s Speaker of the House from 1965 to 1969 and as the state’s lieutenant governor from 1969 to 1973.

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