Florida fraught with fraud, securities attorney says

John O'Brien May 15, 2007, 3:00pm


FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - The attorneys general of Ohio and Utah complained Friday to several Congressmen that the Securities and Exchange Commission is not protecting investors.

One securities fraud attorney thinks Florida's Office of Financial Regulation has reason to make some noise as well.

Mark Tepper, a former New York Assistant Attorney General and Chief Trial Counsel at the Bureau of Investor Protection and Securities, says that the Florida Investor Protection Act is not being enforced.

He bases his opinion on the results of his six-year study. In the 399 awards he surveyed, a violation of the act was alleged in more than 95 percent of awards given to investors seeking compensation following alleged abusive broker sale practices.

Tepper published his findings in the winter issue of the Bar Journal of the Investors Arbitration Bar Association.

"Florida has enacted the Florida Investor Protection Act, Chapter 517, reflecting a public policy to protect Floridians from investment fraud," Tepper wrote. "To achieve its purpose of protecting investors and deterring fraud by defeating all visionary schemes, 517 must be liberally interpreted and vigilantly enforced."

If any action were to be taken, it would be the Office of Financial Regulation initiating it. Attorney General Bill McCollum has no authority to enforce the Florida Investor Protection Act, his office said.

The OFR, a separate entity from McCollum's office, is given regulatory authority over the act in Florida law.

Tepper has been representing investors in criminal and civil actions during his more than 30 years practicing law. He also compared the performance of public and industry arbitrators.

"The staggering percentage of times that arbitrators are not enforcing the 517 statute is appalling, leading to the inescapable conclusion that (self-regulatory organization) arbitration is unfair to investors and biased in favor of the industry," he said.

Tepper worked in the New York Attorney General's office from 1977-1988. His website asks, "Have you been burned by a broker? If so, click the burning buck to contact our office."

Ohio Attorney General Marc Dann and Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff wrote four congressman, applauding a House committee's decision to hold an oversight hearing concerning the SEC's practices and urging the Senate to do the same.

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