DALLAS (AP) — The receiver in charge of recovering assets from Allen Stanford's financial empire said Friday that investors could not access their cash or transfer funds out of their accounts "for the foreseeable future."
Ralph S. Janvey, a Dallas lawyer appointed by a federal judge to oversee the recovery of Stanford assets, also encouraged recipients of political contributions from Stanford to return the money. Many have already done so, attempting to distance themselves from the unfolding scandal.
The Securities and Exchange Commission accuses Stanford of running an $8 billion financial fraud scheme. The SEC filed a civil lawsuit this week against Stanford, two of his colleagues, his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank and two related entities.
A federal district court judge in Dallas gave Janvey power to seize assets and records of Stanford and his companies and two of his lieutenants.
In Friday's statement, Janvey said he was "systematically obtaining control" over the Stanford empire's assets and records, and he had hired lawyers, forensics accountants and broker-dealer experts to aid the recovery work.
Janvey said brokerage and advisory account customers could get instructions on how to sell securities in their accounts but wouldn't be allowed to transfer accounts to another firm or get their cash.
"For the foreseeable future, customers cannot use their accounts to make payments because transfers out of these accounts are frozen until the Receiver is able to verify there are no legal or equitable claims against those accounts," he said in the statement.
Janvey said statements to investors would go out at month's end.
The receiver also said he had ordered a halt to all sales of certificates of deposit by Stanford companies.
The FBI found Stanford on Thursday in Virginia and served him with a subpoena from the SEC. The Dallas judge had ordered Stanford and the other defendants, James M. Davis, the Stanford bank's chief financial officer, and Laura Pendergest-Holt, the chief investment officer, to turn over their passports and remain in the country.
High-ranking officers in the company said in court documents they didn't know where most of the Stanford assets were invested. Former employees said they were suspicious of the companies' claim to high returns.
Experts said the case would take years to resolve and that investors were unlikely to recover much of their money.
Jay L. Westbrook, a bankruptcy law professor at the University of Texas, said the case could last four to five years or longer because of the allegation of fraud and its international nature, raising questions of which laws would apply.
"This is going to be a very complicated and expensive mess to untangle," he said.
Gary Caris, a Los Angeles lawyer who has represented receivers in several fraud cases, said they face many challenges "because a lot of times the wrongdoer has laundered the money so it's difficult to trace and moved it offshore to a jurisdiction that's difficult to get information from."
Caris added that there could be less to recover if Stanford spent lots of money on boats, cricket matches and other baubles that are hard to monetize, especially in the current weak market for luxury goods. That would mean less for investors to recover.
In one of the fraud cases that he worked to unwind, Caris said, investors got back about 25 cents on the dollar, "and frankly, in these kinds of cases that's a success story."
Web site for investor updates: www.stanfordfinancialreceivership.com
The case: Securities and Exchange Commission v. Stanford International Bank Ltd., et al., 3:09-cv-00298
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.