TD Bank wants Ponzi scam deal kept private
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — A Toronto-based bank wants to keep details confidential after reaching a multimillion-dollar settlement with a group of investors victimized in a huge Ponzi scheme run by a former lawyer in South Florida.
Attorneys for TD Bank objected Tuesday to releasing specifics of a just-announced deal with 55 investors in connection with the $1.2 billion fraud that led to the conviction and imprisonment of Scott Rothstein.
Circuit Judge Jeffrey Streitfeld, in Florida's Broward County, did not issue an immediate order but scheduled a hearing Friday on the confidentiality question. The matter involves a settlement reached with investors known as the Razorback Group.
"I'm not going to make a ruling on an issue this important in this setting," Streitfeld said of the bank's last-minute request.
The Razorback group claimed at least $180 million in losses in the fraud, which involved supposedly lucrative investments in legal settlements that turned out to be faked. Various news reports have placed the total value of the settlement at about $170 million, including lawyers' fees and interest, but attorneys at a hearing Tuesday would not confirm that.
This latest settlement follows a decision in January by a Miami jury ordering TD Bank to pay $67 million to a separate group of Rothstein investors. That jury found that TD Bank employees provided key assistance to Rothstein and others operating the scheme at his now-defunct law firm.
The bank has previously announced it was setting aside some $255 million for claims related to the Rothstein cases. The bank has about 7.8 million customers and more than 1,280 branches mainly along the East Coast, according to the bank website.
The Ponzi scheme, which imploded in fall 2009, involved investments in fictitious legal settlements. Investors were told they could buy settlements that were supposedly being paid over time at a discount by paying a lump sum, then enjoy fat profits as the money rolled in. In fact, Rothstein acknowledged that money from new investors was being paid to older ones, with Rothstein and others taking a cut to live lavishly.
Rothstein, 49, is serving a 50-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to federal fraud and racketeering charges. Seven other people connected to the once high-flying Rothstein Rosenfeldt Adler law firm have also pleaded guilty. Prosecutors say more people will be charged.
Regarding the TD Bank agreement, attorney Glenn Goldstein said the bank does not want details and backup documents made available to other investors who are pursuing similar lawsuits. The Razorback Group, for example, is suing Coral Gables-based Gibraltar Private Bank, where Rothstein also had accounts related to the Ponzi scheme.
But Gibraltar attorney Gene Stearns said knowing who will be paid what by the TD Bank settlement is key evidence in their case.
"We have to know how it was allocated among the various plaintiffs," Stearns said.
Rothstein is being held at an undisclosed facility in the U.S. Bureau of Prisons' witness protection program because of his help in convicting an organized crime operative. In December, he returned to Miami to give sworn testimony in a marathon 10-day deposition that is being used by lawyers involved in the various civil lawsuits.
U.S. District Judge James Cohn ordered that Rothstein appear for the second 10-day deposition in June via video conference from prison.
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