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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Two Year Anniversary Brings Flood of Stanford Lawsuits

Source: Scott Cohn (CNBC)

Two years to the day after the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused billionaire banker R. Allen Stanford of running a $7 billion Ponzi scheme, investors and a court-appointed receiver have unleashed a flood of lawsuits — including one targeting a top government official in Antigua where the alleged scam was based.

The following statement is condemned by Stanford International Victims Group
Another suit seeks the return of more than $7 million in Stanford contributions to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and its charitable arms.

Stanford International Victims are Demanding the Committee Retract the Law Suit and issue a public apology

A spokeswoman said St. Jude had accepted the contributions "in good faith."

Other claims target Stanford board members, organizers of major sporting events funded by Stanford, and The Golf Channel, which is owned by NBCUniversal parent Comcast [CMCSA 25.13 0.97 (+4.01%) ]. A spokesman for the Golf Channel declined to comment since officials had not yet seen the complaint.

The suits come as investors scramble to meet a two-year statutory deadline for claims, in a process that has yielded little for Stanford's 28,000 investors. Stanford himself has denied wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, 36 former Stanford employees, sued by the receiver in 2009 seeking the return of their bonuses and other compensation, today countersued the receiver, Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey. The suit accuses Janvey of so badly mismanaging the receivership that it has cost investors and the employees hundreds of millions of dollars, and destroyed the employees' careers.

"This damage is massive and will continue for years into the future," the countersuit says.

The countersuit says the employees plan to contribute any proceeds from the claim to a fund for victims—including themselves. It says the employees understood Stanford's business to be legitimate, and had invested millions themselves. The suit also repeats an earlier claim by Stanford that a prominent brokerage firm had offered $500 million to purchase the company's operations following the SEC suit, though the suit cites no specific evidence of the offer. It claims Janvey ignored the advice of an industry consultant to accept the alleged offer, denying hundreds of millions of dollars in proceeds to the victims.

An attorney for Janvey, Kevin Sadler of the law firm Baker Botts, denied there was any opportunity to sell the Stanford operations.

"The suggestion that a brokerage firm which operated at the heart of a Ponzi scheme could be sold to anyone in the weeks or months after the SEC filed its securities fraud lawsuit, defies logic, common sense, and the facts," Sadler said in a statement e-mailed to CNBC.

"The defensive claims by the former Stanford financial advisors, all or whom received substantial payments from Stanford, are baseless," the statement says.

Janvey this week reported he has recovered just $188 million in cash for investors out of more than $7 billion that is missing. But in a court filing on his behalf, Janvey's attorneys blamed the small recovery on a "difficult, protracted and expensive" process, as well as the complexity of the alleged Stanford fraud. Janvey has filed some $600 million more in claims including those filed today. Another $300 million or so is believed to be in foreign accounts, according to the filing.

Among the lawsuits filed Wednesday is a $1 million claim by the Official Stanford Investors Committee against Antiguan Minister of National Security Errol Cort, who until 2009 was the Caribbean nation's Finance Minister and oversaw Stanford's offshore bank at the heart of the alleged fraud.

"Antigua's 'regulation' of the Stanford entities was a sham," the lawsuit says.

As Finance Minister, Cort was responsible for Antigua's Financial Services Regulatory Commission. The former head of that agency, Leroy King, was indicted in 2009 for allegedly accepting bribes from Stanford. King is fighting extradition to the U.S.

A spokesperson for Cort told CNBC the Minister had not yet seen the investors' lawsuit and would have no immediate comment.

Other suits name tennis' ATP Tour and the International Players Championship, neither of which could be reached for comment. Previous suits have targeted golf's PGA Tour and the NBA's Miami heat, neither of which has responded in court.

Another case filed today seeks $2 million from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank that has previously issued reports on Stanford. The center had no immediate comment.

Meanwhile, some investors are directing their ire at the Securities and Exchange Commission, following an internal report last year that found the agency was aware of issues at Stanford as early as 1997. Many investors have begun the process of suing the agency for negligence by filing notices with the SEC's General Counsel. An SEC spokesman would not say how many notices the agency has received, and declined to comment on the allegations.

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