Morgan Keegan and employees charged with fraud related to subprime mortgages
The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced administrative proceedings against Memphis, Tenn.-based firms Morgan Keegan & Company and Morgan Asset Management and two employees accused of fraudulently overstating the value of securities backed by subprime mortgages: The SEC's Division of Enforcement alleges that Morgan Keegan failed to employ reasonable procedures to internally price the portfolio securities in five funds managed by Morgan Asset, and consequently did not calculate accurate "net asset values" (NAVs) for the funds. Morgan Keegan recklessly published these inaccurate daily NAVs, and sold shares to investors based on the inflated prices. "This scheme had two architects — a portfolio manager responsible for lies to investors about the true value of the assets in his funds, and a head of fund accounting who turned a blind eye to the fund's bogus valuation process," said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC's Division of Enforcement. William Hicks, Associate Director in the SEC's Atlanta Regional Office, said, "This misconduct masked from investors the true impact of the subprime mortgage meltdown on these funds." According to the Commission's order instituting administrative proceedings, the SEC's Enforcement Division alleges that James C. Kelsoe, Jr., the portfolio manager of the funds and an employee of Morgan Asset and Morgan Keegan, arbitrarily instructed the firm's Fund Accounting department to make "price adjustments" that increased the fair values of certain portfolio securities. The price adjustments ignored lower values for those same securities quoted by various dealers as part of the pricing validation process. The Enforcement Division further alleges that Kelsoe actively screened and manipulated the pricing quotes obtained from at least one broker-dealer. With many of the funds' securities backed by subprime mortgages, Kelsoe's actions fraudulently prevented a reduction in the NAVs of the funds that otherwise should have occurred as a result of the deterioration in the subprime securities market.