The SEC censured and fined an investment adviser for due diligence lapses. Yosemite Capital Management, LLC and its managing director, Paul H. Heckler, got a wrist slap for failing to disclose to clients that they had encountered substantial problems when attempting to perform the due diligence.
The big problem is that Yosemite had made a promise to at least two clients prior to placing his clients into the investment. They had promised to conduct due diligence. We saw a similar action by the SEC against the Hennessee Group for their failure to conduct their promised due diligence.
Yosemite ended up putting their clients’ money into a Ponzi scheme. Yosemite placed $3.25 million of four clients’ funds through a feeder fund, Ashton Investments LLC which was supposed to make bridge loans arranged by Norman Hsu and Next Components, Ltd. Heckler’s clients’ funds became part of a Hsu’s $60 million Ponzi scheme.
Yosemite missed some bright red flags:
- The business cards from Ashton’s representatives that listed their position as “Represenative” [sic].
- Ashton gave Yosemite a brochure riddled with spelling errors and mostly general, unverified information.
- In addition to the business cards and the brochure, the only other written information concerning Ashton and Hsu that Yosemite received were emails, without any identifying information, that summarized a few of the loans.
- Heckler was told that he could not contact Hsu’s lawyers or accountants because Hsu was a private person.
- Heckler was told that the bridge loans were safer than stocks or bonds.
- When Heckler requested a disclaimer in the loan agreement, he was told that it was unnecessary because the investment was not risky.
- Because Ashton had no offices, Heckler met the Ashton representatives at local restaurants to discuss the investment.
Heckler and Yosemite willfully violated Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act, which prohibits any investment adviser from engaging in any transaction, practice, or course of business, which operates as a fraud or deceit on any client or prospective client, and Heckler caused Yosemite’s violations of Section 206(2) of the Advisers Act.
The “wrist slap” was a disgorgement of the fee earned ($26,000), prejudgment interest and a $50,000 fine. Heckler invested $275,000 of his own money in the scheme and lost $150,000 of it.
Of the $3.25 million of the clients’ money invested, they lost $1.95 million when Hsu’s Ponzi scheme collapsed.