The Securities and Exchange Commission has charged Joseph P. Collins, a partner with the law firm Mayer Brown, with aiding and abetting fraud at his client Refco. He is the fourth person accused in the case.
The SEC accused Collins of helping the brokerage cover up hundreds of millions of dollars in related-party transactions and indebtedness before the company went public. The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York has also filed criminal charges against Collins for his role.
The complaint alleges that Refco Group Holdings, which was controlled by former Refco CEO Phillip R. Bennett, owed Refco hundreds of millions of dollars. Collins allegedly worked on, and oversaw other attorney's work on, transactions in which a Refco subsidiary would, at the end of a fiscal period, loan hundreds of millions of dollars to a third party that in turn was obligated to loan an equal amount simultaneously to Refco Group Holdings.
The transactions would be reversed soon after the fiscal periods ended. In these round-trip transactions, Refco assumed hundreds of millions of dollars in potential liabilities. Those liabilities were not disclosed to investors when Refco went public in 2005.
They also weren't disclosed when Collins helped prepare documents for Refco to sell a stake to a buyout firm. The brokerage raised $670 million in its IPO, but collapsed two months later.
Bennett was charged earlier in the case, along with former Refco CFO Robert Trosten and former Refco president Tone Grant. They have all pleaded not guilty and are set to go on trial in March. Collins' firm, Mayer Brown, insisted it acted ethically and has been cooperating with authorities.
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