Almost four years after Wites Law Firm obtained a judgment against Brookstreet Securities Corporation, and its CEO and Founder, Stanley C. Brooks, the SEC did the same. In July 2008, Marc A. Wites represented Judy Schulman, a Boca Raton resident, in an arbitration against Brookstreet and Brooks. Ms. Schulman suffered substantial losses in a risky portfolio of Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) sold to her as a safe and conservative investment by Brookstreet Securities Corporation.
Wites Law Firm obtained for Ms. Schulman an arbitration award of $523,300 after a 4-day hearing before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The Arbitration Panel found Brookstreet and its President, Stanley Brooks, jointly and severally liable for Ms. Schulman’s losses.
On March 2, 2012, the SEC announced that it did the same, and explained as follows:
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a federal judge has ordered the former CEO of Brookstreet Securities Corp. to pay a maximum $10 million penalty in a securities fraud case related to the financial crisis.
The SEC litigated the case beginning in December 2009, when the agency charged Stanley C. Brooks and Brookstreet with fraud for systematically selling risky mortgage-backed securities to customers with conservative investment goals. Brookstreet and Brooks developed a program through which the firm’s registered representatives sold particularly risky and illiquid types of Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs) to more than 1,000 seniors, retirees, and others for whom the securities were unsuitable. Brookstreet and Brooks continued to promote and sell the risky CMOs even after Brooks received numerous warnings that these were dangerous investments that could become worthless overnight. The fraud caused severe investor losses and eventually caused the firm to collapse.
The Honorable David O. Carter in federal court in Los Angeles granted summary judgment in favor of the SEC on February 23, finding Brookstreet and Brooks liable for violating Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 as well as Rule 10b-5. The court entered a final judgment in the case yesterday and ordered the financial penalty sought by the SEC.
“Brooks’ aggressive promotion and sale of risky mortgage products to seniors and other risk-averse investors deserves the maximum penalty possible, and that is what he got,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Those who direct such exploitative practices from the boardroom will be held personally accountable and face severe consequences for their egregious actions.”
Rosalind Tyson, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, added, “The CMOs that Brookstreet sold its customers were among the most risky of all mortgage-backed securities. This judgment highlights the responsibility of brokerage firm principals to ensure the suitability of the securities they sell to customers.”
In addition to the $10,010,000 penalty, Brooks was ordered to pay $110,713.31 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest. The court’s judgment also enjoins both Brookstreet and Brooks from violating Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act as well as Rule 10b-5.
The SEC is awaiting a court decision in a separate Brookstreet-related enforcement action filed in federal court in Florida. In that case, the SEC charged 10 former Brookstreet registered representatives with making misrepresentations to investors in the purchases and sales of risky CMOs. Two representatives settled the charges, and the SEC tried the case against the remaining eight representatives in October 2011.
The SEC has brought enforcement actions stemming from the financial crisis against 95 entities and individuals, including 49 CEOs, CFOs, and other senior officers.