Peter Romero after a meeting with the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jose Vicente Rangel in Caracas, Venezuela, Aug. 11, 1999.
A former top State Department official during the Clinton administration is set to go on trial next month on civil allegations he helped Texas financier Allen Stanford carry out his $7 billion Ponzi scheme, then destroyed possible evidence of his involvement.
Peter Romero, who is not accused of criminal wrongdoing, is a former U.S. Ambassador to Ecuador and a former Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere. Soon after Romero left the State Department in 2001, Stanford hired him as a consultant and appointed him to his advisory board.
But Ralph Janvey, the court-appointed receiver seeking to recover funds from the fraud, says Romero’s actual role was to help Stanford attract more victims.
“He traded on his prior government service to become an ambassador for Allen Stanford,” said Janvey’s attorney Kevin Sadler in an email to CNBC.
Janvey sued Romero in federal court in 2011 seeking the return of nearly $1 million in compensation that Janvey says was fraudulently obtained. A one-week jury trial is scheduled to begin Feb. 9 in Dallas.
“For seven years, Romero was paid more than $100,000 per year, plus expenses, for a less than part-time job that involved almost nothing more than lending his name and credibility to Stanford’s organization,” Sadler said.
New York (January 06, 2015, 4:11 PM ET) — Greenberg Traurig LLP and Hunton & Williams LLP urged a Texas federal court to modify its decision trimming claims in an investor row over the firms’ alleged role in helping convicted Ponzi schemer Robert Allen Stanford, asking the court to certify the question of whether the receiver had standing to file the suit.
The firms on Monday asked the court to amend U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey’s Dec. 17 order that tossed claims brought by an investors committee and receiver that alleged the firms breached fiduciary duty and aided and abetted Stanford as he operated his $7 billion scheme. In the order, Judge Godbey rejected the firms’ argument that the receiver lacked standing to assert the tort claims because the alleged damages are “really nothing more” than the same losses claimed by the putative class of Stanford investors.
WASHINGTON — As Congress returns to a radically realigned Washington this week, most lawmakers’ attention will be glued to energy, immigration and spending bills as the new Republican-led majority asserts itself. But behind the headlines, many victims of Allen Stanford’s massive Ponzi scheme will be looking for help, too.
They want Congress to rewrite the rules for a large, government-created insurance fund that has yet to pay them a penny. About 20,000 investors worldwide lost $5.5 billion in capital when federal authorities halted Stanford’s scheme in 2009.
But first, they’ll have to persuade the Dallas congressman whose voice against their proposal probably counts most in the Capitol.
Chairman Jeb Hensarling of the powerful House Financial Services Committee opposed the bill in the last Congress and looks certain to do so again.
Hensarling said the changes the Stanford victims want to make to the Security Investment Protection Corporation, which usually compensates investors defrauded by licensed brokers, would carve out an exemption just for them. That’s unfair, he said.
Associated Press file photo — R. Allen Stanford arrives in custody at the federal courthouse for a hearing in Houston in 2010. Court rulings during 2014 presented a rollercoaster ride for investors in the former Texas tycoon’s massive Ponzi scheme.
Sometimes the federal judiciary rules in favor of small investors who lose their savings to slick promoters like Robert Allen Stanford, of Houston, Texas. On other occasions, federal judges can crush those same investors.
That was the roller coaster ride federal courts provided in 2014 for about 1,000 Louisiana residents and more than 20,000 people in other states and countries.
By year’s end, those towering ascents and stomach-churning plunges left diminished hope of recovering much of the $5.5 billion to $7 billion estimated to have been swindled from people who placed their savings with Stanford Group Co. That firm and its sister companies were shut down by federal regulators in February 2009.
The Houston-based brokerage had offices in Baton Rouge and several other cities across the nation. It also was insured through a federally chartered and industry-funded safety net — the Securities Investor Protection Corp., better known as SIPC.
Ten months ago, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a decision by the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. The circuit court’s decision granted investors permission to proceed with negligence and fraud claims in state courts against companies that provided back-office services to Stanford’s juggernaut. That was the high point of the year for some investors.
In July, though, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia upheld a lower court decision that allowed SIPC to refuse a directive by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The SEC had ordered SIPC to begin proceedings that could have reimbursed each of the Stanford victims as much as $500,000 of their individual losses.
The SEC later decided against an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
As devastating as this year’s court ride was for investors, it provided Stanford, 64, hope of overturning a federal fraud conviction in Houston that sent him to prison for 110 years in Coleman, Florida.
Among the Washington appellate court’s rulings was a decision that investors could not be considered SIPC-insured customers of Stanford Group Co. and a bogus Stanford bank because their money should have been categorized as loans. That categorization, the court ruled, means people who thought they were Stanford investors actually became Stanford’s partners — not his customers.
Now, Stanford is asking the 5th Circuit to overturn his criminal conviction. In that appeal in New Orleans, Stanford argues that the appellate ruling in Washington, D.C., bolsters his view that neither the SEC nor any other federal agency had probable cause to target him for investigation. That’s because, Stanford says, the ruling supports his contention that people who invested in his offshore bank through his Stanford Group Co. “were not customers of the domestic-based SGC.”
Federal prosecutors have not yet filed a response to Stanford’s argument.