The Vermont Commissioner of the Department Financial Regulation, Susan Donegan, has announced a $5.95 million agreement with Raymond James Associates, a Florida-based securities broker-dealer.
This is the brokerage firm implicated in the massive Jay Peak EB-5 ponzi scheme allegedly perpetrated by partners Bill Stenger and Ariel Quiros. The pair face a variety of federal and state lawsuits and are accused of misappropriating $200 million EB-5 immigrant investor economic development funds.
Federal and State lawsuits allege the brokerage house broke securities regulations by arranging illegal access to EB-5 immigrant investor funds. Quiros’ ready access to these funds played a pivotal role in the complicated illegal eight-year scheme to flow money away from the mandated EB-5 targeted development at Jay Peak, Burke Mountain Resorts (formerly Q-Burke) and other NEK EB-5 job creating projects.
In a press release announcing the settlement Vermont DFR Commissioner Donegan explained: This agreement provides for the payment of $4.5 million to the appointed federal receiver in the case SEC v. Quiros for the purpose of reimbursing possible claims by investors. Additionally, $200,000 will be paid to DFR for the cost of the investigation and $1.25 million will be paid to Vermont’s general fund as an administrative penalty.
The broker agreed to the settlement terms but is not required to admit to or deny the department’s allegations. DFR’s Donegan has said the brokerage had “inadequate written supervisory procedures” for collateralization of margin loans. The Commissioner pointedly notes the firm ultimately profited from the Jay Peak EB-5 fund transactions.
Well, the $5.95 million payout that Vermont DFR got may sound like tidy sum money, but look at it this way: it is less than what Raymond James pays their CEO Paul Reilly. His total pay package for 2015 is estimated to be $7.8 million (up 37.7%) and all four top executives at the firm made over three million each in 2015. Last year the company recorded an annual income of $502.1 million, up 7 percent, not exactly proportional to the boost its CEO got.
The firm also has a long trail of fines paid out over the years. Lax supervisory procedures, such as those mentioned by Commissioner Donegan, appear to be a feature — not an aberration — at the brokerage house Ariel Quiros chose to help build his complex web of alleged financial fraud.
In 2007 Raymond James was fined $2.75 million by the National Association of Securities Dealers for failing to maintain an adequate supervisory system to oversee the sales activities of over 1,000 producing branch managers working in offices throughout the United States.
And in May 2016 the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc.(FINRA) fined them a record-setting $17 million for widespread compliance failures in the brokerage firm’s anti-money laundering programs.
(FINRA, the Wall Street funded industry watchdog, is the successor to the National Association of Securities Dealers, Inc. [NASD]. It is a non-governmental organization that regulates member brokerage firms and exchange markets.)
Raymond James Associates reportedly is pleased that a guilt-free settlement was reached with Vermont DFR. No doubt they are happy to be clear of this latest little bit of unpleasantness — and it must seem a bargain price at only $5.95 million!
The amount will likely not satisfy the EB-5 immigrant investors seeking green cards, and it won’t do a thing to put the NEK economy back together again.
The settlement is simply the cost of doing business for a brokerage firm like Raymond James — on the level of a speeding ticket for the rest of us. And there is no admission of “wrong doing,” so no points accumulated on their brokerage “driving licenses.”
Given the firm’s history, there’s no evidence that such a penalty will even make its managers wary enough to look in their rear-view mirrors for flashing blue lights.