Fraud • Fight brewing between investors, receiver over disposal of assets.
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The father and son who ran what federal regulators alleged was one of the biggest financial frauds in Utah history have been ordered to forfeit millions of dollars in profits from the operation.
U.S. District Judge Bruce Jenkins approved the final judgments this week against Wendell and Allen Jacobson of Fountain Green, who earlier agreed to settle the lawsuit filed against them almost exactly a year ago by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Although the judgments largely bring an end to the regulatory action, investors in their Management Solutions Inc. are gearing up for what might prove to be a tough fight with the court-appointed receiver over how to dispose of remaining assets and pay them what's left.
The SEC in December 2011 sued the Jacobsons and their company that invested in large apartment complexes, alleging they were operating a Ponzi scheme in which monies from some investors went to pay off others and make the company appear profitable. About 200 investors had put more than $200 million into the company, the suit said.
Daniel Wadley, one of the SEC attorneys who filed the lawsuit, said Friday the agency sticks by its allegations. "We did not uncover through any of the investigation any evidence the contradicted the case that we brought," he said.
It was unclear whether a criminal investigation into the Jacobsons was continuing. Federal agents raided their homes and businesses on the day the SEC filed the lawsuit, but the Office of the U.S. Attorney for Utah has declined comment.
Jenkins' order prohibits the two from further violations of U.S. securities laws and from participating in an offer for sale of financial products, such as shares of a company except from personal accounts.
Wendell Jacobson was made responsible for $11.1 million plus $2.1 million in interest in profits from Management Solutions, while Allen Jacobson was liable for $5.3 million in profits and interest. But those obligations are satisfied by relinquishing any ownership of assets already controlled by the receiver.
The Jacobsons' attorney, Stephen Quesenberry of Provo, said they decided to settle after weighing the risks of litigation and whether they had the financial ability to continue the legal fight.
"It really represents the balancing of the risks and reality," he said. "We think it's a very good settlement and it ended the matter."
Greg Hoole, the attorney for an investor group, said that although he was pleased to see the civil lawsuit against the Jacobsons concluded, investors were preparing to fight a court battle with the receiver over how assets are to be disposed.
Investors believe a proposal by attorney John Beckstead, the court-appointed receiver, to sell most of the properties in one package would end up seriously undervaluing them, meaning investors would get less back.
"It's not an attractive portfolio for institutional buyers," he said. "But bundling it all together limits everybody else."
Instead, Hoole said he is preparing a proposal in which the investors would take possession of the property and then decide what would be done to divide or sell it.
Beckstead said Friday that approving a liquidation plan would be up to the judge, and he declined comment on the investor proposal.
Beckstead has asked Jenkins to rule that Managements Solutions Inc. was a Ponzi scheme beginning in about April of 1996. Such a ruling could affect whether or how assets are distributed to certain investors.
Quesenberry said his clients adamantly deny they were operating a Ponzi scheme and believe there were sufficient assets to satisfy all investors, although estimates of their value have varied wildly.