Former Oppenheimer Broker Likely Fabricated Investor

A scene from the ill-fated musical "Rebecca." Latest developments in the off-stage drama include the arrest of the man who was hired to find investors. The producers have filed a lawsuit against Mark Hotton. Photographer: VBW, Alexander Ch. Wulz via Bloomberg

Paul Abrams, a purported investor whose sudden death helped scuttle the $12 million Broadway musical “Rebecca,” seems to have been invented by former Oppenheimer & Co. broker Mark Christopher Hotton, according to a lawyer for the show’s producer.

“Based on everything I know and who Mark Hotton is, it appears Paul Abrams is a fiction,” said Ron Russo, a lawyer and former federal prosecutor who represents the lead producer of “Rebecca.”

Unlike Abrams, Hotton left traces of his existence.

He filed for bankruptcy protection last year in federal court on New York’s Long Island and has a 42-page disciplinary record from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Reached on his mobile phone today, Hotton asked a reporter to call him back and hung up. He didn’t return subsequent messages left on his voicemail. Stephen Wexler, a lawyer for Hotton, declined to comment yesterday and didn’t return a call today.

Hotton worked at Oppenheimer in Jericho, New York, from November 2005 to February 2009, according to the Finra report. In March 2010, a customer accused him of doing excessive, unsuitable and unauthorized trading, according to the report. The allegation was settled for $113,500, with Oppenheimer and Hotton splitting the penalty, according to the report.

Civil Litigation

In December 2009, about 10 months after he left, allegations that he misrepresented the value and safety of investments were settled for $2.25 million, according to the Finra report. Hotton was responsible for $225,000, the firm the rest, according to the report. In both cases, Hotton denied wrongdoing. Brian Maddox, an Oppenheimer spokesman, didn’t return a call and e-mail today seeking comment.

The disciplinary record on Finra’s website includes references to 11 customer disputes as well as civil litigation and his February 2011 bankruptcy filing. The collapse of “Rebecca” and Hotton are the subject of two unrelated federal fraud probes, the New York Times reported, citing unnamed sources.

Peter Donald, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in New York, declined to comment on the existence of a probe. Ellen Davis, a spokeswoman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, declined to comment.

Financial ‘Guy’

Russo said his client, Ben Sprecher, the lead producer of “Rebecca” with Louise Forlenza, met Hotton through an intermediary. Hotton claimed to be bringing in investors for the show, Russo said.

“He appeared to be a legitimate financial guy,” Russo said of Hotten. “If you meet a guy from Oppenheimer and he’s a stock broker, you think he’s legitimate.”

Russo said he didn’t know why Hotton would have fabricated Abrams. His supposed death from malaria left the producers lurching into the arms of another investor who also dropped out after receiving what Sprecher had previously described as a “vicious” e-mail. The e-mail said Abrams was made-up months ago to defraud other investors “while Mr. Sprecher continued to try and raise money.”

The musical, based on Daphne du Maurier’s murder mystery, was to have opened in November with direction by Michael Blakemore and Francesca Zambello.

Sprecher declined in a telephone interview to discuss anything except the musical itself, which he said he remains determined to stage in New York.

“The show is great,” he said.

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