A lot of interesting verbiage on Jewish connections went down when Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme went down last year. For those of you unfamiliar with the term, a Ponzi scheme (named after an Italian-American guy named Ponzi who pulled the trick) is to pay off old investors with new investor's money.
For instance, say I guarantee you a 10%/month return on your money. You invest $1000, which I plunk in my bank account instead of whatever investment I say I'm making. At the end of the month, I give you $100 as your "profits" for the month. You start telling your friends and coworkers of the great investment work Dr. B is doing, and I get twenty people investing $200,000 total. A month after that, paying them 20K of their own money as "profits", I have, say, $5,000,000 invested via word of mouth. Being a low-brow crook, I then transfer the $5M into a Cayman Islands bank account and retire to do some snorkeling, leaving a bunch of conned investors behind.
In Madoff's case, he used his connections with the Jewish community to get rich friends and charities to invest in his hedge fund. Since legit hedge funds, when they work right, can get above-average returns, people didn't realized that former NASADAQ boss Madoff had made off with billions of their dollars in a Ponzi scheme. Likewise, a hot commodity trader can make big bucks in a hurry; one of my finance students has the bug, and has been trading a modest amount of money in commodity and foreign exchange options.
It seems that some of the folks behind the Canadian Pentecostal TV show 100 Huntley Street (it's been compared to the 700 Club but seems more like the Crouch's stuff on TBN that that from what I've seen of it) were victimized in a Ponzi scheme revolving around commodity trading; at least that was the cover. The folks behind the scheme lost a small fortune on trading but took in a larger one from "marks".
Bene's asked for some professional help from his finance buddy-"Post away on your blog, if I'm reading this right it appears the two Mainse brothers [sons of the show's founder] were finders, however I don't understand enough to say that. Either way, huge blow to this Canadian ministry. People are hurt. "
According to this Hamilton Spectator piece, the Mainse brothers were what the piece called "finders" who were helping the purported scamster, Gordon Driver, who worked at 100 Huntley Street as a teen.
A lot of money is spent on prediction software working on "technical analysis", trying to make predictions of future stock and commodity market behavior based on past patterns. Such analysis tends to be descriptive of past returns but typically does a lousy job of predicting future returns, with any profits from such programs getting eaten up by trading commissions; at least that's what I teach my finance students. Please note that the technical analysis isn't fraudulent in and of itself, but just not overly effective as a general rule.
That being said, such technical analysis gets played up on financial TV shows (the purdy pick-tures of technical charts make "better" TV than fundamental analysis, much as audience members getting slain in the spirit makes "better" TV than serious Bible exposition) and tons of folks, including the Mainses, can get suckered in.
Meanwhile, onto the company pulling off the scam. I looked into the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database for any record of Axcess Automation; publically traded companies have to file quarterly 10-Q and yearly 10-K forms of financial data and other information. No such luck.
There is a Texas-based Axcess International (the report has them incorporated in Delaware, but most big US companies have their titular HQ there to take advantage of Delaware's permissive corporate governance laws) that specializes in miniature tracking devices (RFIDs); here is it's latest quarterly report (10-Q) with the SEC for the first quarter of 2009. Despite bleeding red ink for the last five year, they seem to have enough promise to have secured new stock investors for the last five years per their statements of cash flow.
If you'd like to take a flyer, you can buy them for US$0.41/share per MSN Money's page on AXSI. However, they're so risky that they are traded over-the-counter, not on NASDAQ, well meeting the definition of "penny stock."
However, that's not the critter that seems to have gotten the Huntley Street boys scammed. The SEC has no record of them. That's entirely possible, for they generally regulate only publically-traded companies. Many mom-and-pop companies with a small number of investors don't have to deal with them, and if Axcess Automation didn't have enough investors to warrant a SEC filing, they might not be on their radar.
Next stop, the CFTC, who regulates the futures markets in the US; it's an oddity of US finance where the CFTC is part of the Agriculture department, since it was ag futures that they first started overseeing before oil and financial futures became the biggest part of that market. They do know about these guys and shut them down last month.
“Domestic and foreign regulators will continue to cooperate and combine our resources to combat the pestilence of Ponzi fraud schemes that cross borders,” said CFTC Acting Director of Enforcement Stephen J. Obie.
The CFTC complaint alleges that, from at least February 2006 through the present, the defendants defrauded pool participants, misappropriated pool participant funds and operated two commodity pools as a Ponzi scheme, using newly received participant funds to pay purported profits and withdrawals to other participants.
Defendants allegedly misrepresented to prospective pool participants that Driver’s trading generated monthly profits of around 20 percent and issued false account statements to give credibility to these misrepresentations. According to the complaint, despite accepting over $13.5 million, the defendants used only about $3.7 million for trading during the relevant time period, and Driver’s trading during that time resulted in approximately $3.5 million of trading losses, or 95 percent of the funds invested. Pool participant funds were also allegedly commingled with non-pool funds.
In addition, here's the court paperwork the CFTC filed in US District Court in California and the order telling Mr. Driver to stop driving his financial scam.
The sad part of the story is that the Mainses got sucked in, seemingly innocently (other than a less-than-innocent lust for a quick profit), to the scheme. A lot of otherwise honest Jewish folks got sucked into Madoff's scheme and, as, we might remember from the back-history of the Todd Bentley story, his Lakeland host church's predecessor got rocked when the pastor's son pulled off a major financial scam at the expense of quite a few parishioners.
It will be interesting to see if the Mainses, like quite a few of Madoff's victims, were just innocent, if a bit greedy, victims or knew better and sucked people in anyway.