The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday charged a 23-year-old New Yorker with buying himself millions of dollars of artwork and other luxury items with money investors gave him to purchase stocks.
Without admitting or denying the civil securities fraud charges, David Peter Bloom, a 1985 Duke University art history graduate who was an unregistered investment adviser, turned over assets that cost more than $8 million to a receiver who will return the proceeds to more than 100 investors.
The assets included 40 paintings, a three-bedroom Manhattan condominium, a home in East Hampton, Long Island, a $195,000 single strand diamond and platinum necklace of about 52 carats and two automobiles, a 1987 Mercedes Benz 560 SEL and a $139,000 Aston Martin Valente convertible.
It is unclear whether investors actually will lose any money, since the liquidation value of the assets is unknown.
On Oct. 18, one day before the stock market collapse, Bloom was featured in a New York Times Magazine article about art collectors.
"First I decide what I want to buy, then I worry about how I'm going to pay for it," Bloom was quoted as saying.
Bloom's art included works by John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Edward Hopper and Willem de Kooning. His most expensive purchase was the $750,000 acquisition of a work by Thomas Wilmer Dewing, "Lady in White."
Bloom's lawyer, Peter Morrison, said his client cooperated fully with the SEC investigation, adding that he will "continue to do what he can to make sure no investors lose any money." Morrison would not comment on whether Bloom might face criminal charges. The Manhattan U.S. attorney also declined to comment.
According to SEC documents, Bloom used a "substantial portion" of more than $10 million in funds that he raised from investors, beginning in January 1986, to buy luxury items for himself. The money was supposed to be invested in stocks, and Bloom sent investors false statements indicating he was achieving financial success.
When an investor wanted money, Bloom took the funds out of amounts raised from other investors, the SEC said.
Bloom, who is single, also used some of the money to pay personal expenses and to make a number of substantial donations to art and educational institutions, the SEC said.
Neither Bloom nor his Greater Sutton Investors Group Inc. were registered with the SEC as investment advisers.
According to the SEC, Bloom, who grew up in New York, established a reputation for stock market prowess while he was a student at Duke University. But even when his scheme grew to multimillion-dollar proportions, many of his investors were longtime friends and family acquaintances, including some contemporaries of his parents.
In 1983, while in college, Bloom and at least one other student organized an "investment club" that solicited money from other students. Later that year, the investment club began accepting funds from family friends and others. The next year, Bloom began using funds given to him for the "investment club" to pay his personal expenses, the SEC said.
In December 1985, after Bloom graduated from Duke and moved back to New York City, he falsely told family members who had given him money that he was "achieving substantial gains for them," the SEC said. He then developed a reputation as a highly successful "money manager" and investment adviser, and collected additional funds from the original investors and began getting money from their friends as well.
By December 1986, Bloom had formed a corporation, Greater Sutton Investors Group Inc., to bolster his reputation, the SEC said. He established offices on West 57th Street in Manhattan and mailed agreements to investors explaining that he would receive a 1 percent fee for managing their funds.
Bloom said he executed trades through Goldman, Sachs & Co. and Evans and Co., although the extent of his trading remains unclear, given the diversion of funds to other items.
The SEC said that on some occasions in 1986 and 1987, Bloom used clients' funds to buy stocks in a personal brokerage account. According to one 1987 letter released by the SEC, Bloom received $25,000 from a single investor.
The SEC, which launched its investigation recently after receiving a tip, barred Bloom from the securities business for life as part of the settlement agreement.
SEC associate enforcement director Joe Goldstein said investors should verify the credentials, including SEC registration, of anyone who solicits money for investment in stocks.
In addition, Goldstein said, "There is one rule that should always be followed: If investment results or success sounds too good to be true, it probably is."