3,500 Stanford employees called "...to clear out their desks."

By Andy Wise - Bio | email

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Sources inside Stanford Financial's Memphis office say as many as 3,500 employees may have received notice that they will not be paid and may lose their jobs, even as an unnamed entity is negotiating to purchase the embattled firm's America-based broker-dealer assets.

Action News 5 Chief Consumer Investigator Andy Wise confirmed Tuesday that a lawyer retained by Stanford Financial's court-appointed receiver Ralph S. Janvey has been calling employees with the firm's 3rd floor offices at the Crescent Center, 6075 Poplar Ave.  The employees are getting the calls at their homes, with requests to make appointments every half-hour "...to clean out their desks," according to sources.

"I wish I was terminated, but unfortunately we're not," says Suzanne Hamm, chief marketing officer for Stanford North America and the ranking staff member in the Memphis office.  "I was there for two hours while they watched me collect my personal items.  I did not get a full answer until 9pm central Friday (Feb. 27) that we were not getting paid.

"I do not think it is appropriate. These employees have already been victimized, and they are being victimized a second time."

Sources have also indicated that an unnamed financial institution is negotiating under the purview of the receiver to purchase the firm's broker-dealer assets based in the United States.  One source familiar with the negotiations tells Action News 5 that if the sale is allowed, Janvey may be able to release some investors' accounts before the March 12 deadline as set Monday by U.S. District Court Judge David Godbey in Dallas.

That same source also says the sale would allow investors the choice to either keep their accounts where they are or transfer them to other brokerage firms.

Janvey has not answered an e-mail from Action News 5 requesting comment.  But in a statement posted on the receivership's web site at www.stanfordfinancialreceivership.com, Janvey says:

"If some Stanford customers were allowed to withdraw funds now, before any determination has been made about whether their accounts contain assets that can be traced to fraudulent products or schemes, the risk is high that money the Estate would otherwise be entitled to recover for the benefit of all victims of the fraud will be moved forever beyond the reach of the Receivership.  The effect would be to give the early-withdrawing investors an advantage over other victims of the fraud, as the amount available to satisfy claims by the other investors would be diminished further.

"It is critical to my work on behalf of every defrauded investor to ensure that all available assets of the Estate remain within the Court's control."

Federal investigators have accused R. Allen Stanford of bilking more than $8 billion from his investors, although he has not been criminally charged.  Stanford Financial's Chief Investment Officer Laura Pendergest-Holt, an executive once based in Memphis, is charged with obstructing a federal fraud investigation.  She is free on a $300,000 bond.

Monday, Godbey extended his temporary restraining order freezing investors' accounts to March 12.  Janvey has indicated he may have discretion to release any accounts less than $100,000 by March 16.

Accounts held separately by outside custodians other then Pershing LLC and J.P. Morgan Clearing Company may be available now on a case-by-case basis, according to Janvey.