By Suzanne M. Schafer
Saturday, April 7, 2007
COLUMBIA, S.C., April 6 -- An economics professor known for his flamboyant suits and million-dollar pen collection claimed amnesia after federal investigators found that about $134 million was missing from several investment funds he managed, according to court documents.
The Securities and Exchange Commission said Albert E. Parish Jr. and Parish Economics provided false statements to his 300 investors indicating the five funds were trading profitably, when "in fact, brokerage accounts represented to hold millions of dollars of assets for the funds do not hold significant funds."
The SEC said Parish "checked into a local hospital claiming to have amnesia" after it attempted to contact him.
The Charleston Southern University professor reported dizzy spells and blurred vision while teaching on March 29 and was taken to Trident Medical Center, the Post and Courier of Charleston, S.C., reported Friday. The SEC filed its lawsuit Thursday.
School officials did not return phone calls seeking comment, and the hospital would not confirm that Parish was a patient. The newspaper reported that Parish remained hospitalized Thursday.
It was not immediately clear whether Parish had an attorney. Phone calls to several home listings went unanswered and a message left at his office at the school was not immediately returned. A federal judge has frozen his assets.
The SEC said Parish's funds had been operating since 1986, and four of the funds were "informal pools of money."
The pools allowed investors to put money in commodities and securities futures products, bonds, stocks and hard assets such as expensive watches, jewelry and fine art. The fifth fund was Summerville Hard Assets, which purported to invest in such things as jewelry and collectibles.
The SEC said investigators began looking into Parish's funds in February and found that claims Parish made about the funds' assets in statements he sent to clients and prospective investors did not match the amounts in his brokerage accounts.
Parish was known in Charleston to cut a flashy figure in his colorful suits, and he offered investment tips at speaking engagements. He made regular economic forecasts for the local Chamber of Commerce and wrote periodic columns on investing for the Post and Courier.
In November, Parish purchased a diamond-studded fountain pen worth $170,000. He put it on display at a Charleston store with other pens from his $1.2 million collection.