The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has expelled Provident Asset Management, LLC, for marketing a series of fraudulent private placements offered by its affiliate, Provident Royalties, LLC, in a massive Ponzi scheme.
FINRA is looking at broker-dealers’ compliance with suitability, supervision and advertising rules, as well as potential instances of fraud. The initiative was undertaken in response to an increase in investor complaints involving private placements and Securities and Exchange Commission actions halting sales of certain private placement offerings.
Provident Asset Management misrepresented to investors that the funds raised through the offerings would be used to purchase interests in the oil and gas business, including exploration activity and the acquisition of real estate, oil and gas leases and mineral rights. Investors’ funds were commingled and used by an affiliated issuer to make dividend and principal payments to other investors.
“Provident facilitated the sale of a series of fraudulent private placements that were marketed to unsuspecting customers as income-producing investments, when it was simply using new investors’ money to pay previous investors the promised dividends – a classic Ponzi scheme,” said Susan L. Merrill, FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement.
FINRA found that from September 2006 through January 2009, Provident Asset Management marketed and sold preferred stock and limited partnership interests in a series of 23 private placements offered by Provident Royalties, LLC. Provident Asset Management’s only business line was acting as the wholesaling broker-dealer for the Provident Royalties’ offerings, which were sold to customers through more than 50 retail broker-dealers.
In an effort to market the Provident Royalties offerings, the firm falsely represented that: investors’ funds would be used by each individual Provident Royalties offering to purchase interests in the oil and gas business for that offering; the subscription proceeds of each offering would be deposited into an account for that offering and become assets for that offering; approximately 86 percent of the subscription proceeds would be allocated to acquiring interests in the oil and gas business; and, dividends paid to investors would be derived from revenues, primarily from the sale of oil and gas assets. Provident Asset Management neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings and penalties.