On February 4, 2021, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) charged three individuals and affiliated entities with running “a Ponzi-like scheme” that raised over $1.7 billion by selling unregistered, high commission private placements issued by GPB Capital Holdings, an alternative asset management firm. The SEC alleges that David Gentile, the owner and CEO of GPB Capital, and Jeffry Schneider, the owner of GPB Capital’s placement agent Ascendant Capital, lied to investors about the source of money used to make the annual distribution payments to investors. According to the Complaint filed by the SEC in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of New York, GPB Capital actually used money raised from investors to pay portions of the annualized 8% distribution payments due on private placements sold to earlier investors. The SEC complaint alleges that GPB Capital, Mr. Gentile, and former GPB Capital managing partner, Jeffrey Lash, manipulated the financial statements of certain funds managed by GPB Capital to give the false appearance that the funds’ income was sufficient to cover the distribution payments – when in fact it was not.
In addition, the SEC complaint alleges that GPB Capital allegedly violated whistleblower protection laws by including language in separation agreements that forbade individuals from coming forward to the SEC, and by retaliating against whistleblowers.
Financial advisors sold GPB Capital private placement investments to their customers, including retirees and unsophisticated investors. The 8% annual distribution payment appealed to investors. Those payments, however, stopped in 2018. In 2019, GPB’s chief financial officer was indicted and GPB Capital reported sharp losses across its funds. Following the announcement, some broker-dealers allegedly instructed their broker-dealer clients to remove GPB issued private placements from their platforms within 90 days. Investors of the GPB private placement investments paid as much as 12% of the money they invested to broker-dealers in the form of fees and commissions. Brokers and financial advisors allegedly touted and pushed these investments onto their clients, thousands of which are retirees and unsophisticated, and in some instances over concentrated their portfolios in GPB Capital. Private placement investments are risky investments only suitable for sophisticated, accredited investors who understand the risks and can afford to lose their investment. Financial advisors and brokers have duties to recommend investments that are suitable to their clients and perform due diligence on the investment products they recommend and sell to investors. If your financial advisor sold GPB Capital investments to you, you may have a claim to recover your investment losses.