SEC testimony can sometimes be tedious and uneventful, but that certainly does not appear to have been the case with respect to the February 10, 2009, SEC testimony of Stanford Financial Group chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt. First, almost immediately following her testimony, Stanford Financial Group's lawyer, Thomas Sjoblom of the law firm Proskauer Rose, decided to withdraw from the case altogether and to "disaffirm" his prior statements to authorities.
According to a Memphis Daily News article
, on February 11, Sjoblom reportedly gave notice to the SEC that his firm was no longer Stanford’s counsel. Sjoblom
followed that up with a Feb. 12 fax to Kevin Edmundson, the assistant regional director in the SEC’s Forth Worth office, and left a voice mail message for him the next evening.
Finally, Sjoblom typed a note on his BlackBerry to Edmundson a little after 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 14. It read: “Kevin, this will advise the SEC, and confirm my voice message last evening, that I disaffirm all prior oral and written representations made by me and my associates … to the SEC staff regarding Stanford Financial Group and its affiliates.”
Three days later, on February 17, the SEC filed its case
against SFG and the executives.
That was hardly the end of the "post-testimony" fall-out in this case, however. Yesterday, the FBI made Pendergest-Holt the first arrest in its $8 billion Stanford Financial Group fraud investigation. The DOJ alleges that in her SEC testimony, Pendergest-Holt "concealed her role in and familiarity with the Antigua bank's investments." Specifically, Reuters reports
that the allegations of the complaint include the following:
- Pendergest-Holt did not tell the SEC that she had served on the Antigua bank's investment committee and that the investment portfolio holding more than 80 percent of its assets included a $1.6 billion loan to Stanford himself.
- Pendergest-Holt wrongly denied she had prepared with company officials before her SEC interview on February 10. In fact, the complaint alleges, there were stormy preparation sessions for Pendergest-Holt in January and February "during which the bank's shaky asset base became apparent. to a wider circle of officials and to the lawyer -- 'Attorney A' -- who later quit." These intense sessions allegedly included "Executive A" -- Stanford --"pounding the table" and insisting "the assets are there." The next day one of the participants broke down in tears and threatened to go to the authorities, and the attorney declared "the party is over."
According to Bloomberg
, the DOJ stated that its criminal complaint against is based on a finding of probable cause by a magistrate judge, and Pendergest-Holt has not been indicted by a grand jury. Pendergest-Holt's lawyer, Dan Cogdell, stated that "[s]he is extremely disappointed in the path the SEC and law enforcement are taking. She has been cooperating for weeks, and now she is falsely charged for a crime she didn't commit."