Man fined $2.5 million for investment fraud
by Geoff Fox
An order has been reached in the case against Robert G. Bard and Vision Specialist Group, LLC, of Fulton County, Pa., according to Jeffrey Boujoukos, Regional Trial Counsel for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).
Bard’s hearing was held on January 19 and the order was made on February 2. His victims include people from Berkeley Springs and the Hancock area.
In the order, U.S. District Judge William Caldwell ordered Bard to pay a penalty of $2.5 million.
Within 14 days of the order, the SEC will send Bard an assessment of the total amount owed, which will include paying back $450,000, with prejudgment interest, and a civil penalty of $2.5 million.
Bard then has 14 days to notify the SEC’s calculation of prejudgment interest. Those objections will then be considered separately from the payment of the fee and civil penalty.
Bard would then have to pay a total of $2.95 million by March 12.
In the findings, the court said Bard lied to 33 clients on 146 separate occasions about what type of securities and holdings they had, where the assets were and their value. One client was charged an excessive fee.
Bard continued to lie to his clients for nearly three years, the judge said.
The court also said that the knowledge of wrongdoing was a factor in the imposing of the civil penalty.
“There is no evidence that indicates defendants’ behavior was a result of an innocent mistake,” Judge Caldwell said in the court’s findings.
According to the court documents, securities examiners visited Bard on May 19, 2009 asking about misleading account statements received by his clients.
Bard denied sending the statements, which the SEC found out later to be untrue.
On July 30, 2009, a preliminary injunction prohibited Bard from controlling client funds and holding a job in the financial services industry.
Bard violated that order by controlling client funds and performing tax and investment services.
The court said he did not cooperate with authorities.
After lying to his clients, Bard lost $2.5 million in trading losses.
There are disagreements between Bard and the SEC as to Bard’s current and future financial situation.
Bard told the court that he has no income and owns property jointly with his wife and other family members who should not be penalized.
The SEC asserted that because of his age and education, he has significant earning potential in the future.
Bard’s argument is that due to the court’s injunction against him working in the financial services industry, he lacks future earning potential.
With those factors weighed in, the court found in favor of imposing the $2.5 million penalty.
There is no date given as to when the victims would begin receiving their money, if they are entitled to it.