April 11 (Bloomberg) -- R. Allen Stanford’s investors may recoup some of their losses more than four years after the Stanford Group Co. founder was sued by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and put out of business.
Ralph Janvey, the receiver appointed by a federal judge in 2009 to marshal and liquidate Stanford’s personal and business assets, today asked permission to make a $55 million interim distribution to about 17,000 claimants, or about 1 cent for each of the $5.1 billion lost in the fraud scheme.
“We will follow it up in a subsequent distribution as the money comes in,” Janvey’s attorney, Kevin Sadler of Baker Botts LLP, told U.S. District Judge David Godbey today in Dallas.
The proposed payout would trail the more than $5.4 billion paid to victims of Bernard L. Madoff, who was arrested in December 2008; about $4.9 billion paid clients of the MF Global Inc. brokerage after its parent MF Global Holdings Ltd. failed in October 2011; and the $123 million interim distribution for victims of Peregrine Financial Group Inc. founder Russell Wasendorf, who prosecutors last year said stole $215 million.
“No distribution plan can satisfy every claimant,” Janvey’s lawyers said in a Feb. 12 court filing. “But the receiver’s interim plan, which drew only three objections from thousands of claimants, comes remarkably close.”
Godbey didn’t rule today on Janvey’s bid for payment plan approval. The judge granted a request to approve the Cross-Border Protocol, a cooperation agreement between the Dallas court-appointed receivership and U.S. authorities on one side, and Antiguan court-appointed liquidators of Stanford assets outside the U.S. on the other. That approval could boost investors’ final recovery.
“The court finds the motion to be well-taken,” Godbey said in a two-page order. He heard more than two hours of argument this morning.
A federal jury in Houston last year found Stanford, 63, guilty of lying to investors about the nature and oversight of certificates of deposit issued by his Antigua-based bank. The jurors decided he must forfeit $330 million in accounts seized by the U.S. government.
Sentenced to 110 years in federal prison, Stanford has appealed the verdict.
Godbey today asked Sadler whether it was proper to distribute Stanford’s money before entering a final order in the SEC case against the financier and his businesses.
No legal precedent requires Godbey to first issue such a ruling, Janvey’s lawyer replied. He also told the judge that in a prior decision he said “not a nickel” of the money recovered by the receiver from Stanford entities was not taken by fraud.
One objection to the payout plan came from the law firm Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle LLP. A lawyer for the firm, Myles Bartley, told the judge today that it’s owed $1.4 million for work done for Stanford entities and isn’t included in the first group of distributions.
Sadler said there would be enough funds to resolve those claims even if the judge approved the proposed payment plan.
In an e-mailed statement, Sadler called the judge’s ruling today “a significant milestone” in the receivership’s effort to get money to Stanford fraud victims.
Godbey’s order requires the Janvey receivership and the Antiguan liquidators to “perform in accordance with their rights and obligations as outlined in the settlement agreement.”
Lawyers for both factions battled for months for control of $300 million of Stanford assets outside the U.S.
“So long as it continues, millions of dollars in assets that could otherwise be distributed to victims of the Stanford Ponzi scheme will remain tied up in the courts,” Sadler told Godbey in a filing last month.
The liquidators, Grant Thornton International Ltd. accountants Hugh Dickson and Marcus Wide, joined in the approval request through a separate filing.
For dropping their dispute with Janvey and the U.S. Justice Department, the Antiguan liquidators will receive fees of $36 million from Stanford’s frozen funds in the U.K., according to a statement jointly released by both receivers on March 12. The Antiguan liquidators already have received $20 million from the U.K. accounts.
About $23 million in Canadian funds and $132.5 million in Swiss funds will be transferred to the Justice Department and Janvey for distribution to investors through a system the U.S. receiver is establishing, according to the joint statement.
Angie Shaw, a founder of the Stanford Victims Coalition, has denounced the agreement as “ransom” that rewards the Antiguan liquidators at the investors’ expense.
“There is no Plan B,” Sadler told the judge.
Edward H. Davis Jr., an attorney for the liquidators, told Godbey today that an Antiguan court approved the agreement this week.
He said the agreement funds a “war chest” for the liquidators to further pursue lawsuits.
“The Joint Liquidators are pleased to have obtained the approval of the settlement from the High Court in Antigua this past Monday,” Davis said today in an e-mailed statement.
Attorneys representing law firms already defending suits filed by Janvey in the U.S. objected to the accord, arguing that it would result in more litigation offshore.
“There is obviously a jurisdictional issue,” Godbey said. “There is no getting around it.”
Janvey’s professionals had been paid $63.3 million in fees and expenses as of Feb. 7, according to his most recent status report. That represents about a quarter of the $230.2 million Janvey has recovered for the estate. He has paid out $53.3 million more in costs to wind up Stanford’s business interests.
Shaw couldn’t immediately be reached for comment on Godbey’s ruling this afternoon. Peter Morgenstern, an attorney who serves on the official Stanford Investors Committee, also didn’t immediately reply to voice-mail and e-mail requests for comment.
An additional $4.1 million in Stanford-related assets have been identified in an account held by Pershing LLC, according to a court filing by Sadler yesterday seeking an order for the turnover of those funds.
The SEC case is Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank, 09-cv-00298, U.S. District Court, Northern District of Texas (Dallas). The criminal case is U.S. v. Stanford, 09-cr-00342, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Texas (Houston).
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