Former lawyer Scott Rothstein has been jailed for 50 years for his $1.2 billion scam in Florida. You'll find details on Wikipedia.
Fooling people is easier when you've got credible parties involved. Accountants. Lawyers. Banks.
SettlementTD Bank has set aside $255,000,000 to deal with their role in the Rothstein Ponzi scam. In January, a jury ordered TD to pay $67,000,000 to Coquina Investments. This week. TD agreed to pay the Razorback Group an estimated $170,000,000.
This post isn't about a particular bank but big financial institutions in general. One bank seems like another. There’s no solid reason to think that a different bank would have acted differently.
ImagineImagine if financial institutions became advocates for the victims and set things right quickly. Imagine if they told us what went wrong and the new precautions they are now taking.
That wouldn't be good for business. Or would it?
Warren Buffett admits his mistakes (Forbes). In this video he confesses to a $200 billion blunder.
Imagine if such candor were common.
Employee FraudLarge institutions have vast resources, sophisticated systems and other safeguards. Their employees still manage to commit fraud — sometimes for years. Here are examples from a quick web search:
- BMO Nesbitt Burns: rep gets penalties of $43,000 for misappropriating funds from an elderly client
- RBC DS: Two brokers fined $350,000 for outside business activities from 1991 to 2005 [now working for CIBC World Markets]
- TD Waterhouse: rep fined $1 million for misappropriating $1.4 million from a client
LegalThere’s a region between advocacy and fraud. What’s legal may not be quite right. Look at the Rogers/Bell attack ads. That’s big business versus big business. What about big business versus you?
When large institutions are selling to you (say investments or insurance), who is safeguarding your interests? If problems arise, what can you do? If there's a big problem that also affects other clients, the media may become interested. If the activities were illegal, the courts can step in.
In real life, what happens if you alone have a dispute with a large institution? Who's looking out for you then?
- Warren Buffett admits mistakes (Forbes, Feb 28, 2012)
- Convicted con man Scott Rothstein tells all (BusinessWeek, Jan 26, 2012)
- TD wants deal on Florida Ponzi scheme kept private (The Globe and Mail, Feb 2012)
- Jury says TD Bank owes $67M to victims of ex-lawyer's enormous Ponzi scheme (Yahoo News, Feb 14, 2012)
- TD Bank wants settlement with victims in lawyer’s Ponzi scheme kept confidential (Washington Post, Feb 28, 2012)
- TD Bank played ‘critical’ role in Ponzi scheme, Rothstein says (Toronto Star, Dec 23, 2011)
- Dumb money 2009: what went wrong?
- Three steps to keeping financially solvent
- The cost of getting advice from your banker
- The dread of going to a bank for a loan
- The new prescription for trust
- image courtesy of melodi2 (New Zealand)
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PS Are you concerned more about Ponzi scams or employee fraud?