SEC Busts $42m Ponzi-Like Scheme
The US Securities and Exchange Commission has obtained an emergency court order to halt an alleged Ponzi-like scheme operated by Small Business Capital Corp. and its principal Mark Feathers, who raised $42 million by selling securities issued by Investors Prime Fund LLC and SBC Portfolio Fund LLC – two mortgage investment funds they controlled.
The SEC alleges that more than 400 investors were attracted to the funds by promises that profits from mortgage investments would yield annual returns of 7.5 percent or more. In reality, Feathers operated a Ponzi-like scheme by paying returns to investors that came partly from fund profits and partly from other investors.
“Feathers raised millions from investors by promising high returns,” said John McCoy, Associate Regional Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Office. “The returns turned out to be too good to be true and were funded in part with new investors’ money.”
The SEC alleges that from 2009 to early 2012, Feathers improperly transferred more than $6 million from the funds to Small Business Capital to pay its expenses, including substantial payments to Feathers. According to the SEC, the defendants had the funds account for the transfers in a way that disguised the depletion of fund assets, and did not tell investors that Small Business Capital’s ability to repay was uncertain and that it was only able to make the interest payments owed to the funds by borrowing more from them.
In addition, the SEC alleges that investors were not told that in February and March 2012, the defendants caused one fund to sell mortgages to the other fund at an inflated price, thus generating a “profit” for the selling fund so it could pay Small Business Capital management fees of more than $575,000. The SEC also charged Feathers and Small Business Capital for Small Business Capital’s effecting transactions in the funds’ securities without being registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC.
The Honorable Edward J. Davila for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Feathers, Small Business Capital, and the funds, and appointed Thomas A. Seaman as a temporary receiver over Small Business Capital and the funds. Judge Davila has scheduled a court hearing for July 10, 2012, on the SEC’s motion for a preliminary injunction.
Susan Hannan and Roger Boudreau conducted the investigation and John Bulgozdy will lead the litigation. They work in the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.