Remember Fred Lee? Dennis Levine? Martin Siegel?
If you're still not with me, let me add some names that may be more familiar: Ivan Boesky, Michael Milken, Drexel Burnham Lambert.
All were guilty of some sort of securities fraud, especially illegal insider trading. All have been forced to disgorge their dishonest profits. Those funds will be used to repay investors who were defrauded. Disgorgement plans are drawn up by the Securities and Exchange Commission and approved by a court.
But, says Barry Goldsmith, the SEC's deputy chief litigation counsel, ''It's easier to get the money than to get rid of it.'' What with the complications of trying to divide the money fairly, the continuing court cases and claimants coming out of the woodwork, no funds have yet been paid out to investors. Furthermore, qualifying for payments will be harder than you think.
The theory behind insider-trading restitution is that, had the sellers of the stocks known what the insiders knew, they would have hung on to their shares to earn higher profits. Hence, they were defrauded by the swindlers who were operating on inside information.
But you won't get paid just because you were trading the same stocks that the crooks were. You have to have sold certain, specific securities on the specific dates listed in the SEC's disgorgement plans.
If you kept your securities at your brokerage house in a ''street name,'' only your broker may be able to tell you if you're eligible. ''If you bought through the bankrupt Drexel Burnham Lambert, will the skeleton crew that's left there notify you?'' asks James Newman, publisher of the Securities Class Action Alert in Cresskill, N.J.
However they get distributed, the disgorgement sums are huge.
The late, unlamented Drexel Burnham paid $300 million to the Treasury, as a criminal fine, and another $200 million into a fund for investors and other claimants. Another $150 million is still owing, which the SEC is pursuing in bankruptcy proceedings.
When junk-bond king Michael Milken comes up for sentencing, he will pay a $200 million fine to the government and $400 million into a disgorgement fund. To collect from that fund anytime during the first six years, however, an investor will have to get a legal judgment or settlement arising out of Milken's Drexel-related activities.
Of Ivan Boesky's $100 million give-up, half went to the Treasury to pay his criminal fine. The other half, set aside for investors, has grown to $63.5 million.
A plan disgorging nearly $30 million of Boesky's money was approved just last month. Trades in six securities are covered, on certain dates in 1985 and 1986. But all of these claimants are joined in class actions against Boesky, Goldsmith says. So the mechanism for distributing the money will be the lawsuit. The SEC has not yet filed a disgorgement plan for the rest of the Boesky fund.
Among the other pots of money that -- some day -- may become available:
More than $20 million, principally from Taiwanese national Fred Lee, who is now a fugitive from justice. It will eventually be distributed to people who sold any of 17 specified securities or call options on specified dates in 1987 and 1988, with the largest sum available to sellers of Staley Continental.
Around $14 million from former investment banker Dennis Levine. It would chiefly benefit investors who sold Nabisco Brands just before the merger with R.J. Reynolds was announced. But a recent court decision opens the possibility that some of the fund will go to the Internal Revenue Service, to help pay Levine's back taxes.
A $10.5 million sum from ex-investment banker Martin Siegel, for which no disgorgement plan has yet been drawn.