The SEC is still trying to live down the Bernard Madoff affair, in which it failed to stop a $65 billion fraud. But if the agency’s allegations in a recent enforcement case are true, it just notched what you might call a reverse Madoff.
It says it shut down a fraudulent Beverly Hills hedge fund before the firm appeared to have attracted investors.
IU Wealth Management claimed, the SEC said, to manage money for professional athletes, actors, producers, doctors, politicians, and executives, among others. It allegedly told prospective clients that it had more than $800 million under management, and, in a presentation, it said its hedge fund had achieved an average monthly gross return of 23 percent, according to the SEC.
Those claims were false, the Securities and Exchange Commission said in a civil complaint.
The track record of the IU Group included a different distinction, the SEC said. In 2009, a California regulator ordered the firm’s principal Elijah Bang, “a/k/a Elijah Bhang,” and its sales associate Daniel Lee to stop an earlier illegal offering, the SEC said in the complaint.
In the 2009 case, one of the California regulator’s allegations was that Bang did not disclose to investors that he had filed for bankruptcy protection.
In the new case, a federal judge in California has issued a temporary restraining order against IU Group and Bang, the SEC said in a Monday news release.
Judge Margaret M. Morrow found there was grounds to believe they would cause “immediate and irreparable loss and damage to investors and to the general public unless they are restrained and enjoined.”
The judge scheduled a May hearing in the case.
Calls to Bang at the office of IU Group were not returned. A call to Lee at a number shown for him in court records was transferred to Bang’s voice mail. No lawyer for the defendants was listed in the federal court docket.
According to the SEC, IU Group and its affiliate IU Wealth Management were soliciting investments at a cost of $50,000 per unit, promising at least a 12 percent annual return. The offering was not registered with the SEC as required, the agency said.
“We take great pride in our patented investment technology that aims for an extremely conservative approach to achieve steady and consistent return on all of our investments,” Lee wrote in e-mails to prospective investors, according to copies filed with the court.
In a phone call with an SEC official, Bang said a Web site for IU Wealth Management was a work in progress not intended for the public, and he acknowledged that some of the claims made on the site were untrue, according to a sworn statement by an SEC employee.
The site allegedly said the firm was “founded by devoted Christians who believe in God, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit.”
“As such,” it allegedly added, “integrity and honesty are at the heart of our business.”