Friday, February 18, 2011

Top 10 Reasons This is a Great Time to be a Securities Fraudster

From Bloomberg:

Did somebody say America was having a hard time getting back to work after the financial crisis and ensuing recession? Forget the dopey career counselors who are coaching you to earn a new degree. There’s a job sector poised to enter a new golden age, and it doesn’t even require a high school diploma. So all you aspiring millionaires had better listen up.

“This is a perfect time if you want to be a crook,” says Joseph Borg, the 16-year veteran securities regulator who runs the Alabama Securities Commission. Borg, who has seen his share of creepy wrongdoers, doesn’t mean just any kind of crook, of course. He’s talking about lawbreakers who sweet-talk investors out of their money with everything from misleading products and promises to bogus tax shelters, real estate pools and Ponzi schemes.

Why now? Because everything is going right for you if you’re in the business of cheating investors, that’s why. In fact, I’ll count down 10 good reasons:

10. The nation’s biggest securities regulator, hardly a paragon of effective policing in the first place, is being neutered. Budget constraints at the Securities and Exchange Commission have meant putting plans on hold for a new Office of the Whistleblower, among other stalled SEC projects. If you’re a bad guy at a brokerage firm looking to make a little mischief, you can rest easier about the risk of a colleague ratting you out for fun and profit.

9. If you’re looking for easy marks, demographics are on your side. The over-60 crowd is panicked about the soundness of the Social Security system and afraid of the stock market. The 75-plus crowd, long enamored with certificates of deposit, is freaked out that interest rates are so low. The former credit- card junkies now in their 40s and 50s have lost big on their McMansions and want to make a quick recovery. These groups are desperate for returns, making them targets for fraud.

8. The trend is your friend if you’re hunting for a new idea for a bogus product. Inflation worries are picking up, and if it kicks in enough to hurt, the public will be sitting ducks for schemes supposedly backed by real estate, gold or silver. If you see a rising consumer price index, new investment products with names like “The Inflation Buster” will not be far behind, says Borg, the securities regulator.

7. Another trend favoring swindlers: Rising gasoline prices that may lead to new opportunities to package oil and gas schemes. Once gasoline hits $4 a gallon, investors let down their guards and become more vulnerable to energy-related scams, Borg says....MORE