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Did Charles Schwab Help a Ponzi Schemer?

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Charleston, SCYou can't help but notice attorney Badge Humphries' passion for securities law. Too bad the rest of us don't take such a keen interest—maybe then Ponzi scheme operators would have more trouble taking advantage of people. Humphries, an attorney with the firm of Motley Rice, has just certified a class action securities fraud case against Charles Schwab, one of the nation's most prestigious securities firms. The detailed suit alleges that Schwab ignored the South Carolina Uniform Securities Act and thereby helped a now imprisoned shyster take clients for an estimated $57 million.

You Can Call Him Al

Al Parish's days as an investment advisor are over. He's currently doing time in prison while his 600 former clients, robbed of their nest eggs, follow the money trail.

"He made you almost beg him to take you on as a client. It was similar to the way Bernie Madoff worked."
A professor of economics at Charleston Southern University with a compelling personality, Parish cultivated his image as an extra-smart money manager who delivered consistent and above-average returns. "He was a rather large individual," says Humphries from his Charleston office. "He was a flamboyant dresser and wore suits made from colorful women's clothing fabric. He made you almost beg him to take you on as a client. It was similar to the way Bernie Madoff worked."

In order to expand and perpetuate his Ponzi scheme, Parish needed access to their IRA accounts. He also needed to protect the IRA tax advantage for his clients, or they would never agree.

"Al needed a qualified IRA custodian to reach these funds," says Humphries.

Al Parish worked a deal with Schwab. ''All his investors would have to become Schwab customers in order to invest their IRA account with Parish and preserve their tax advantages," explains Humphries. The IRA accounts would be held by Schwab in the form of promissory notes.

The complaint filed by Humphries and his firm on behalf of the aggrieved investors maintains that Schwab violated the South Carolina Uniform Securities Act by "materially aiding Parish's securities fraud." The class action alleges that Schwab and Parish are equally responsible for the loss of the savings under the Uniform Securities Act.

"Schwab is a statutory broker-dealer under the Uniform Securities Act and therefore has very special duties because of that," says Humphries. "The law is very clear—any person or entity in the status of a broker dealer who materially aids illegal conduct under the Uniform securities act is jointly and separately liable—just like a primary violator."

The stock market crash of 2008 lifted the veil on a now widely publicized list of Ponzi schemers, all of whom seemed to have something in common: charisma. They all promised and produced unrealistic returns and made their victims feel fortunate to be clients.

"You never know who is swimming naked the tide goes out," Humphries says, quoting financial wizard Warren Buffet.

Badge Humphries earned his J.D. with honors at the University of Texas Law School in 2001. Humphries specializes in representing institutional investors and individuals in complex securities fraud and shareholder litigation. He has achieved corporate governance enhancements for Motley Rice's clients in derivative cases involving Massey Energy Company and The South Financial Group, Inc. and has litigated direct class actions from start to finish in the Delaware Court of Chancery. He has played a significant litigation role in securities fraud cases against UBS, Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., Vivendi and Washington Mutual Inc.

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