Imagine this: A labyrinth filled with offices and a network of sales agents. Their voices sound like a chorus of convincing pitches. And their targets are unsuspecting investor. This is the alleged boiler-room operation of Legend Venture Partners LLC. A New York City-based broker-dealer, it was in the sights of the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Recently, the SEC took action against Legend Funds and its five private funds by appointing an administrator to take control. What led to such a dramatic change in events?
According to SEC’s complaint about Legend, he was a master puppeteer who pulled the strings for an elaborate scheme. Who is the puppet? The Legend Funds invested in shares and interests of specific private companies that were on the verge of an IPO. The stage? Cold-calling sales agents, unregistered, in boiler rooms full of investors raising $35 million.
What was the story? Legend allegedly told its investors that sales agents would not be paid upfront or receive commissions. The firm profited only if the investor was able to make a profit from the IPO. Doesn’t that sound like a win-win scenario? Was it really?
The SEC claims that Legend was a wolf dressed as a sheep, charging exorbitant markups on the pre-IPO share prices, averaging 60 percent and up to 105 percent. The puppet master not only controlled the strings but also allegedly pocketed over $12.8 million upfront compensation.
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On June 27th, 2023, The Hon. Lewis A. Kaplan of U.S. District Court Southern District of New York Court issued a preliminary order, effectively putting a straitjacket around Legend and preventing it from violating federal securities laws. What does this mean to the investors?
The preliminary injunction of the court will remain in force until the case is resolved or until the court issues further orders. The curtain has fallen, but there is still a final act to play.
Melanie L. Cyganowski, retired bankruptcy court judge, has been appointed receiver of Legend and Legend Funds. This appointment is like a beacon in a storm to investors who are hopeful that their interests will protected. Judge Kaplan appointed Cyganowski last year as receiver of a similar alleged scam shut down by StraightPath Venture Partners LLC.
Question is: Will the receiver have the ability to navigate the rough waters of this lawsuit and bring the vessel safely to land? Will investors be left in a sea full of uncertainty with their investments as a shipwreck on the bottom of the sea?
While the SEC’s investigation continues and the lawsuit unfolds, these answers remain shrouded by mystery. This story of alleged misrepresentation and deceit serves as a reminder to investors that not everything that glitters really is gold.