Miss. seeks records of Stanford offices in state

Published 12:05 am Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mississippi officials are seeking access to information on Texas financier R. Allen Stanford’s clients and the products he sold in their state.

Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann said Wednesday that his office has issued subpoenas to gather the information from Stanford Financial offices in Mississippi. Besides its office in Tupelo, the company also has offices in Jackson and Columbus, according to its Web site.

“If there are problems in Mississippi with Stanford, we are going to find out about it,” Hosemann said. “By subpoenaing this information, we hope to find out if and how many Mississippians were affected by the products under investigation by the Securities Exchange Commission.”

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Hosemann said his office received its first complaint against Stanford Financial on Wednesday, though he did not disclose the details of the complaint.

“Because of the close ties two co-defendants in the SEC investigation, James M. Davis and Laura Pendergest-Holt, have to Mississippi, our office will closely examine the documents subpoenaed from Stanford Financial to determine the scope, if any, of the problem here in our state,” he said.

The SEC on Tuesday filed a federal lawsuit in Dallas claiming fraud by Stanford, Davis and Pendergest-Holt. Davis and Pendergest-Holt are from Baldwyn, Miss.

Davis is chief financial officer of Stanford International Bank, an Antigua-based company that was one of the three involved in the case to have its assets frozen. Pendergest-Holt is chief investment officer of Stanford Financial Group, a Houston-based financial advisory firm.

SEC officials raided the offices of Stanford on Tuesday and froze the assets of three companies he controls.

Stanford was accused in civil charges of lying about the safety of investments he sold as “certificates of deposit” and promising unrealistically high rates of return. Regulators also said he faked historical data about other investments which he then used to lure in more investors for the CD products.

The fraud’s operations allegedly reached as far as the tiny Caribbean island of Antigua, where Stanford was knighted in 2006 and helped sponsor high-stakes cricket matches.

Pendergest-Holt and Davis have offices in SFG’s Tupelo office. Davis, who was Stanford’s college roommate, is a fifth-generation north Mississippian with family ties to the Baldwyn area. Pendergest-Holt is a native of Baldwyn.

U.S. marshals, SEC officials and other law enforcement officers shut down the company’s offices Tuesday in Houston; Memphis, Tenn.; and Tupelo.

The Tupelo office is in a two-story, 7,500-square-foot building that Stanford purchased last year. The Tupelo office also houses Stanford’s private client group and more than a dozen analysts.

Davis and Pendergest-Holt were not at the office. Messages were left at home numbers listed for them.