SEC Charges Former Detroit Officials and Investment Adviser to City Pension Funds in Influence Peddling Scheme
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged former Detroit mayor Kwame M. Kilpatrick, former city treasurer Jeffrey W. Beasley, and the investment adviser to the city’s public pension funds involved in a secret exchange of lavish gifts to peddle influence over the funds’ investment process.
The SEC alleges that Kilpatrick and Beasley, who were trustees to the pension funds, solicited and received $125,000 worth of private jet travel and other perks paid for by MayfieldGentry Realty Advisors LLC, an investment adviser whose CEO Chauncey Mayfield was recommending to the trustees that the pension funds invest approximately $117 million in a real estate investment trust (REIT) controlled by the firm. Despite their fiduciary duties, neither Kilpatrick and Beasley nor Mayfield and his firm informed the boards of trustees about these trips and the conflicts of interest they presented. The funds ultimately voted to approve the REIT investment, and MayfieldGentry received millions of dollars in management fees.
“It is a disappointing day when pension fund trustees such as ex-Mayor Kilpatrick and others corrupt the investment process by selling out hardworking police officers, firefighters and other municipal employees for the price of a few vacations and paltry extras like concert tickets and rounds of golf,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, members of Kilpatrick’s administration began to exert pressure on Mayfield in early 2006 after he supported Kilpatrick’s opponent in his 2005 re-election and hired that candidate’s daughter at MayfieldGentry. Beasley met with Mayfield in February 2006 and told him he was “in the dog house” with Kilpatrick and offered to help him “clear the air.” Throughout 2007, Mayfield appeared before the boards of trustees for Detroit’s public pension funds recommending the REIT investment.
Meanwhile, the SEC alleges, MayfieldGentry began footing the bills for trips taken by Kilpatrick, Beasley and others that extended beyond business. In January 2007, Beasley demanded and Mayfield agreed to pay more than $3,000 for hotel rooms in Charlotte, N.C. for Beasley, Kilpatrick, and others. Beasley told Mayfield that the reason for the trip was to inspect a building recently acquired by one of the pension funds, but in fact Beasley and Kilpatrick never inspected the building. Mayfield knew that Beasley and Kilpatrick never inspected the building, but did not ask any further questions about the matter.
According to the SEC’s complaint, the non-business travel continued:
- In April 2007, MayfieldGentry paid for Kilpatrick, Beasley, and their associates to travel by private jet to Las Vegas, where they enjoyed luxury hotel accommodations, two concerts, three rounds of golf, meals, and massages. The Las Vegas trip cost more than $60,000.
- In July 2007, MayfieldGentry paid more than $24,000 for a private jet to take Kilpatrick, Beasley’s son and others to Tallahassee, Fla., where Kilpatrick had a second home.
- In October 2007, MayfieldGentry paid more than $34,000 for a private jet to fly Kilpatrick and his wife to and from Bermuda, and Kilpatrick’s father and his girlfriend back from Bermuda.
The SEC alleges that neither Kilpatrick nor Beasley nor Mayfield nor MayfieldGentry told anyone associated with the pension funds about any of the travel. The boards of trustees for the funds thus voted to invest approximately $117 million with Mayfield and his firm without the knowledge that they had supplied Kilpatrick, Beasley, and their associates with the extravagant travel and perks during the preceding 10 months.
The SEC’s complaint alleges that the defendants violated Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rules 10b-5(a), 10b-5(b) and 10b-5(c) thereunder. The SEC also alleges that MayfieldGentry and Chauncey Mayfield violated Sections 17(a)(1), 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933. In addition, the SEC charges that MayfieldGentry and Chauncey Mayfield violated Sections 206(1) and 206(2) of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Kilpatrick and Beasley aided and abetted those violations. The SEC seeks disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, penalties, and permanent injunctions, including an injunction against Kilpatrick and Beasley to prohibit them from participating in any decisions involving investments in securities by public pensions.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted jointly by the Chicago Regional Office led by Merri Jo Gillette and Timothy L. Warren, the Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit led by Bruce Karpati and Robert Kaplan, and the Municipal Securities and Public Pensions Unit led by Elaine C. Greenberg and Mark R. Zehner. The investigative attorneys are Brian D. Fagel, Rebecca R. Goldman and Eric A. Celauro, led by Assistant Directors Peter K.M. Chan and John J. Sikora, Jr. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Timothy S. Leiman and John E. Birkenheier.