The Securities and Exchange Commission used an emergency court order this week to stop Los Altos-based Small Business Capital Corp. and its founder Mark Feathers from operating what the SEC alleges was a Ponzi-like scheme to defraud investors.
More than 400 investors were promised that returns from mortgage investments would yield annual returns of 7.5 percent or more, the SEC said Thursday. But the firm, known as SB Capital was paying investors with both fund profits and money from other investors in a Ponzi-like arrangement, according to the SEC.
“Feathers raised millions from investors by promising high returns,” said John McCoy, Associate Regional Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Office, quoted in the SEC’s press release. “The returns turned out to be too good to be true and were funded in part with new investors’ money.”
The Hon. Edward J. Davila for the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted the SEC’s request for a temporary restraining order and asset freeze against Feathers, Small Business Capital, and the funds, and appointed Thomas A. Seaman as a temporary receiver over Small Business Capital and the funds.
The SEC describes the allegations this way:
The SEC alleges that from 2009 to early 2012, Feathers improperly transferred more than $6 million from the funds to Small Business Capital to pay its expenses, including substantial payments to Feathers. According to the SEC, the defendants had the funds account for the transfers in a way that disguised the depletion of fund assets, and did not tell investors that Small Business Capital’s ability to repay was uncertain and that it was only able to make the interest payments owed to the funds by borrowing more from them.
In addition, the SEC alleges that investors were not told that in February and March 2012, the defendants caused one fund to sell mortgages to the other fund at an inflated price, thus generating a “profit” for the selling fund so it could pay Small Business Capital management fees of more than $575,000. The SEC also charged Feathers and Small Business Capital for Small Business Capital’s effecting transactions in the funds’ securities without being registered as a broker-dealer with the SEC.
Judge Davila has scheduled a court hearing for July 10, 2012, on the SEC's motion for a preliminary injunction.