HOUSTON, (Reuters) – A federal judge yesterday ordered the release of about $500 million from Stanford Group Co customer brokerage accounts held by Pershing LLC that had been subject to a court-ordered freeze since February, a filing showed.
Ralph Janvey, the receiver in charge of the operations and assets of Texas billionaire Allen Stanford’s Stanford Group Co, had asked U.S. District Judge David Godbey in Dallas to release about 12,000 accounts containing less than $250,0000 on Wednesday.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has accused Allen Stanford, two top aides and three of his companies of a long-running $8 billion securities fraud using high-yield certificates of deposit issued by a Stanford bank in Antigua.
Accounts excluded from the release include those owned by defendants in the case and those that contain investment assets managed by Stanford, the receiver said.
Vantis Plc, the UK firm appointed as receiver of Stanford International Bank Ltd by regulators in Antigua, said on Thursday that all CD accounts remained frozen as their investigation continues.
The receivers charged with locating assets in the Stanford case face a complex task. Janvey has identified at least 175 Stanford entities, and the company has operations throughout the United States and in Canada, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean.
So far, Janvey has documented 32,000 Stanford customers who have aggregate net assets of more than $6 billion.
Janvey said he was considering the release of other categories of accounts, including the small number custodied at JP Morgan Clearing Corp. The Stanford accounts were frozen by court order on Feb. 17 in a bid to preserve assets for investors and creditors.
Based on Janvey’s review of the financial condition of the Stanford entities, he believes the firm probably will not be able to continue operating as a broker dealer, so customers will not be able to gain access to their accounts through Stanford Group.
Therefore, Janvey is working with clearing agents, brokers and others, including Pershing, to determine the fastest way for customers to transfer their accounts to other firms so they have access to their funds when they are released, the lawyer said in a statement.
On Wednesday, some Stanford Group customers filed a lawsuit in federal court in Houston, accusing the SEC and the receiver of wrongly seizing their accounts.
The account freeze has caused extreme financial hardship for some Stanford clients, leaving them unable to pay mortgages, medical bills and other expenses, lawyers for the clients have said. “The receiver regrets the hardship and delay that may result from the temporary account freeze and the transfer process,” Janvey said in a statement.