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New Law will Empower Attorney General's Office to Fight Securities Fraud

 

Wednesday, Jul 01,2009, 6:11:44 PM   Click:

The office of the Florida Attorney General issued the following news release:

Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined Senator Garrett Richter and Representative Tom Grady to witness Governor Charlie Crist sign into a law a bill that further protects securities investors. The legislation broadens state authorities' ability to investigate and pursue securities fraud and will empower the Attorney General to participate in civil investigations, with the approval of the state's regulating authority.

"We need every resource and every option available to protect our citizens from another Bernie Madoff-type scheme," said Attorney General McCollum. "I appreciate the Governor's action on this bill and look forward to putting these new tools to work on behalf of our citizens."

Recent securities scams, including the infamous Bernie Madoff crisis, wiped out the assets of many families and charities throughout Florida. The resulting financial devastation highlighted the need for the state to better equip itself to fight securities fraud and galvanized the Attorney General and others into action.

The law, which will go into effect on July 1, gives the Attorney General the authority to conduct securities fraud investigations and to file securities fraud lawsuits against bad actors, when approved by the Office of Financial Regulation. The Attorney General's Office will also be able to seek restitution for victims, secure civil penalties and contribute to an overall comprehensive strategy of prevention and deterrence. The legislation also provides additional crime-fighting tools available to McCollum's Office of Statewide Prosecution, specifically a provision to criminally prosecute securities fraud and money laundering related to these investment scams.


"Our economy will grow stronger if investors have confidence in our financial markets," said Rep. Tom Grady (R- Naples), a securities attorney and expert in securities regulation who drafted the bill and sponsored it in the House. "By increasing the tools available to the state to prosecute violators of our securities laws, we protect investors and foster needed trust in the system."

"Florida needs every resource available to address this growing concern," said Sen. Garrett Richter (R- Naples), a banker and chair of the Senate Banking & Insurance Committee, the bill's Senate sponsor. "This legislation will reinforce our regulatory system and bolster investor trust."

The Investor Protection Act also enhances the Office of Financial Regulation's (OFR) enforcement powers by authorizing the emergency suspension of persons and firms for failure to provide financial books and records to OFR and by allowing the adoption of sanction guidelines for registrants who violate the Florida Securities and Investor Protection Act. These enhanced capabilities - plus the Attorney General's ability to engage in civil investigations - will help prevent and discourage future illegal conduct by a financial advisor or firm.

""On behalf of its three million members, AARP thanks Attorney General McCollum and Florida's leaders for taking action to significantly augment the state's tools available to protect seniors from unscrupulous investment advisers," said Jack McRay, Advocacy Manager for AARP Florida state office.

Contact: Sandi Copes, 850/245-0150

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