International Financial Law Prof Blog

Editor: William Byrnes
Texas A&M University
School of Law

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paul Greenwood, former Islanders co-owner, sentenced to 10 years for billion dollar ponzi scheme

Journalist John Riley of NewsDay reports that "former New York Islanders co-owner Paul Greenwood was sentenced to 10 years in prison at federal court in Manhattan Wednesday for ... soliciting $7.6 billion from investors, and issuing bogus promissory notes to cover $554 million in losses and diverted money. Greenwood allegedly spent $80 million on a lavish lifestyle that included a horse farm, expensive stallions and collectible Teddy bears."

720px-US-CFTC-Seal.svgThe U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC)  announced that Paul Greenwood operated a $1.3 billion investment scam where he and a co-Defendant misappropriated at least $554 million from commodity pool participants, was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for charges related to his participation in the scam. Earlier, on July 28, 2010, Greenwood pled guilty to a six-count criminal indictment on the charges, including a commodities fraud charge in violation of the Commodity Exchange Act (CEA).

The criminal charges arose from Greenwood’s solicitation fraud and misappropriation of pool participant funds, as charged in a Complaint filed by the CFTC on February 25, 2009 (see CFTC Press Release 5621-09) and a companion Complaint filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission. According to findings in Consent Orders entered earlier in the CFTC case, from at least 1996 to 2009, Greenwood and a co-Defendant solicited more than $7.6 billion from institutional investors, including charitable and university foundations and pension and retirement plans through Westridge Capital Management, WG Trading Investors, LP, and other entities. The Defendants defrauded victims by falsely depicting that all pool participants’ funds would be employed in a single investment strategy that consisted of index arbitrage. However, pool participants’ funds were transferred to another entity from which Greenwood and the co-Defendant siphoned funds.

Of the approximately $554 million in pool participants’ funds misappropriated, over $130 million was used for Greenwood and the co-Defendant’s personal expenses, including purchasing rare books, horses, and Steiff teddy bears for as much as $80,000.

In a sentencing letter filed with the Court in the criminal proceeding, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York acknowledged that Greenwood had cooperated and had provided substantial assistance to the government and the court-appointed receiver in the CFTC and SEC cases. The receiver’s efforts to marshal assets to date have resulted in the recovery of over $900 million dollars, or close to 90 percent of investors’ claims.

Aitan Goelman, the CFTC’s Director of Enforcement, stated: “The sentence in this case should serve as a warning that those who willfully violate the CEA face the very real chance of a significant term of imprisonment. The CFTC will continue its vigilance in protecting commodities and derivatives investors from fraud and other forms of financial crime.”

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