An Indianapolis CPA firm has settled a lawsuit with Indiana’s Secretary of State for $1.8 million after it served as the accounting firm of a convicted Ponzi schemer.
The firm, DeWitt & Shrader, agreed to pay the sum, according to an announcement Tuesday by Indiana Secretary of State Connie Lawson’s office. A former client of the firm, money manager Keenan Hauke, managed Samex Capital Partners LLC and was sentenced to 10 years in prison in December 2011 for securities fraud. Although Hauke is now behind bars, Lawson’s office is still trying to return significant portions of investor losses, totaling over $9 million, and brought suit against Hauke’s former accounting firm. The firm’s principal did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.
“While Hauke was the perpetrator of this scheme, DeWitt & Shrader gave his scam credibility,” Lawson said in a statement. “As the fund’s accountants, they had a responsibility to the investors to check Hauke’s work before issuing client account and tax statements. The funds secured from this settlement will go towards repaying Hauke’s victims. Helping Hoosier victims is always our number one priority and we will continue to work to maximize their restitution. There is still a condo in Barbados to be sold that Hauke purchased with investor money. We are working to finalize that sale now.”
The Indiana Secretary of State’s office said it has already returned $1 million to 97 investors and, with the accounting firm settlement, is projecting $2.25 million more. The other funds have been recovered through asset freezes, liquidation of Hauke’s accounts and clawback litigation against past investors who made fake profits off of Hauke’s scheme.
“Accountants or other licensed professionals who also hold securities licenses cannot afford to turn a blind eye if they see or suspect securities fraud,” said Securities Commissioner Carol Mihalik in a statement. “They have an obligation to take action and in this case, they did nothing.”
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