Judge 'unfreezes' some Stanford accounts

March 6, 2009 6:20:22 AM PST
A federal judge issued an order Thursday lifting a freeze on about 12,000 investor accounts with Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford that were valued at $250,000 or less as of Feb. 28, at the request of the court-appointed receiver in the Stanford case. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

The Securities and Exchange Commission, which has accused Stanford of conducting an $8 billion investment fraud, announced the order by U.S. District Judge David C. Godbey in Dallas. Godbey's order "unfreezing" the roughly 12,000 accounts held at the clearing firm Pershing LLC takes effect on Monday.

Thousands of investor accounts have been frozen under a restraining order and Stanford's companies have been in receivership since the SEC filed its civil complaint against Stanford on Feb. 17, saying he lied about the safety of investments sold by his Antigua-based Stanford International Bank as certificates of deposit and promised unrealistically high rates of return. Stanford has been ordered to surrender his passport but has not been charged with a crime.

An attorney representing Stanford has said his client denies the allegations made by the SEC.

Texas attorney Ralph Janvey, the receiver authorized to freeze the assets of Stanford and his principal companies, said this week he has already released some mutual fund accounts.

There are mutual funds and numerous other accounts not tied directly to the alleged fraud, and those account holders now face dire economic consequences because they don't have access to their money.

Pershing, based in Jersey City, N.J., handled Stanford accounts. Attorneys representing investors have argued in court that their clients' funds should be unfrozen because they are being held by Pershing and are not tied to the alleged fraud.

The accounts valued at $250,000 or less are qualified to be released unless: they are owned by shareholders, directors or certain employees of Stanford companies or for the benefit of the companies; they are managed by Stanford companies; they secure unpaid balances owed by customers or loans made to customers; or they related to accounts in any of those categories by Social Security number, address or other indicator.

The SEC said the affected investors can immediately begin the process of obtaining control of their accounts by arranging to transfer them to a new brokerage firm and opening a new account.

Account transfer forms and forms for opening new accounts are available from brokerage firms or on their Web sites, the SEC said. A small fee is usually charged for the transfer.

Investors can contact the receiver's office at infostanfordfinancialreceivership.com, or go to its Web site at Stanfordfinancialreceivership.com

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