Monday, December 8, 2008
On December 8, 2008, the SEC filed a civil injunctive action in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York alleging that New York attorney Marc S. Dreier engaged in an elaborate scheme, that violated the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws and raised at least $113 million from the sale of bogus promissory notes. According to the SEC's complaint, Dreier is the founder and managing partner of Dreier LLP, a 250-attorney law firm headquartered in Manhattan.
According to the SEC, since at least October 2008, Dreier has been marketing fake promissory notes, including bogus notes of a New York-based real estate development company, to hedge funds and other private investment funds, and has closed at least three sales. According to the complaint, Dreier created an elaborate charade designed to convince purchasers that the notes were genuine. He allegedly distributed phony financial statements and audit opinion letters of a reputable accounting firm, and recruited confederates to play the parts of representatives of legitimate companies involved in the transactions, even creating dummy email addresses and telephone numbers.
According to the Commission's complaint, Dreier directed that two purchasers of the bogus notes wire payment to what appeared to be his law firm's escrow account. At least one note purchaser discovered the fraud and demanded, and received, the return of its investment. Approximately $100 million in known proceeds from the sale of the bogus notes remains unaccounted for.
The SEC's complaint alleges that, among other fake securities, Dreier has been offering fictitious promissory notes of a New York-based real estate development company (the "developer"), a former client of Dreier and his firm. Since at least October of this year, Dreier has approached at least three different investment funds with an offer to sell them, at a deep discount, various short-term, unsecured promissory notes supposedly issued by the developer. Two of the investment funds agreed to purchase the notes (one fund purchased notes in two separate transactions) and forwarded approximately $113 million to an account in the name of "Dreier LLP Attorney Trust Account" in payment. A third fund was offered the notes, but declined to participate.
As alleged in the complaint, all of the offers were accompanied by documents that Dreier subsequently admitted he knew were fabricated. Dreier offered the notes for sale even though he knew that the developer had never issued the notes, had not authorized Dreier to market them and indeed knew nothing of their existence or Dreier's offers or sales.
The complaint further alleges that in marketing the notes, Dreier provided the hedge funds with fabricated documents including a "form" note and related agreements, "audited financial statements," and purported audit letters, which bore the forged signature of the developer's auditor, but which were printed on purported stationary of the developer's auditing firm. Dreier did not tell representatives from the hedge funds that the notes were bogus, that the "audited financial statements" and audit opinion letters were fabricated, or that the developer had never issued the notes or authorized Dreier to market them, despite Dreier's knowledge of these matters.
The Commission seeks emergency and preliminary relief, including the asset freeze, appointment of a receiver and temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction, as well as a final judgment permanently enjoining Dreier from committing future violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder, ordering him to pay civil penalties and disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, and provide an accounting.