SEC charges Morgan Keegan, two employees with fraud

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” 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.”

A hearing will be scheduled before an administrative law judge to determine whether the respondents committed the alleged violations and provide them an opportunity to defend the allegations. The hearing also will determine what sanctions, if any, are appropriate in the public interest, and whether financial penalties should be imposed.

The Commission appreciates the assistance of FINRA and a task force of the securities regulators of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, North Carolina, Florida, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, and Illinois.

Read more about this story in Thursday's Sun Herald.