U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 22877 / November 25, 2013
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Steven Palladino, et al. (United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Civil Action No. 13-11024-DPW)
Court Orders Massachusetts-Based Viking Financial Group, Inc. and Steven Palladino to Pay Over $9.8 Million
The Securities and Exchange Commission announced today that, on November 18, 2013, a Massachusetts federal court entered orders against Steven Palladino of West Roxbury, Massachusetts and his Massachusetts-based company, Viking Financial Group, Inc. requiring them to pay more than $9.8 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains and prejudgment interest and permanently enjoining them from future violations of the antifraud provisions of the securities laws. The Court also ordered that an asset freeze imposed in April 2013 remain in effect.
The Commission initially filed this action on April 30, 2013, as an emergency enforcement action against the Defendants seeking a temporary restraining order, asset freeze and other emergency relief, which the Court granted. In its Complaint, the Commission alleged that, since April 2011, Palladino and Viking falsely promised at least 33 investors that their money would be used to conduct the business of Viking - which was purportedly to make to short-term, high interest loans to those unable to obtain traditional financing. The Commission also alleged that the Defendants misrepresented to investors that the loans made by Viking would be secured by first interest liens on non-primary residence properties and that investors would be paid back their principal, plus monthly interest at rates generally ranging from 7-15%, from payments made by borrowers on the loans. The Complaint alleges that, in truth, the Defendants made very few real loans to borrowers, and instead used investors' funds largely to make payments to earlier investors and to pay for the Palladino family's substantial personal expenses, including cash withdrawals and hundreds of thousands of dollars spent on gambling excursions, vacations, luxury vehicles and tuition.
After the parties had an opportunity to brief the issues, on July 15, 2013, the Court held that the Commission had established that the Defendants' conduct violated the antifraud provisions of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder and Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933. The orders of disgorgement and injunction against the Defendants were entered by the Honorable Douglas P. Woodlock of the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts. The Court has delayed a determination as to civil penalties until a later date. The Commission acknowledges the assistance of Suffolk County (Massachusetts) District Attorney Daniel F. Conley's Office, which filed related criminal charges against Palladino and Viking in March 2013.