The Securities and Exchange Commission filed charges against James Y. Lee, a resident of La Jolla, California, alleging he defrauded his advisory clients.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in federal district court in San Diego, alleges that Lee portrayed himself to prospective clients as a highly successful financial industry expert. According to the complaint, Lee recruited clients to open online brokerage accounts, including margin accounts in which he had discretionary authority to trade in options. He also charged his clients a management fee of as much as 50% of their monthly realized profits and promised clients that he would share equally in 50% of their realized losses. But when Lee’s clients suffered large realized losses, he failed to reimburse most of them for his promised share.
The complaint alleges that Lee defrauded his clients in several ways. He charged some clients fees for the month of February 2011 based on false performance and concealed from them that they had actually incurred realized losses that month. In addition, he misled clients about his background, including failing to disclose a criminal conviction for embezzlement and an SEC cease-and-desist order for his role in illegal unregistered penny stock offerings. He also misled clients about his promise to share in realized losses and the risks of his options trading strategy. Furthermore, he traded in penny stocks in client accounts outside of his discretionary authority, and fraudulently induced one client to loan money to a penny stock company.
The complaint charges Lee with violating the antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws – Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, and Section 206(1) and (2) of the Investment Advisors Act of 1940. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction as well as disgorgement, prejudgment interest and civil penalties against Lee.
The complaint names several relief defendants including Lee’s girlfriend, his son and his close business associate as well as their respective companies. According to the complaint, Lee diverted investor funds to all of the relief defendants to avoid holding assets in his own name.
In a related matter, on February 12, 2014, the SEC settled administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings against Ronald E. Huxtable II, of Palm Coast Florida. (Rel. 33-9547) In those proceedings the SEC found that Huxtable, one of Lee’s clients, aided, abetted and caused Lee’s violations by helping Lee charge certain clients fees for the month of February 2011 based on false performance and conceal the fact that they had actually incurred net realized losses for that month.