SEC Charges Chicago-Area Father and Son Conducted Cherry-Picking Scheme at Investment Firm
The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged a father and son and their Chicago-area investment advisory firm with defrauding clients through a cherry-picking scheme that garnered them nearly $2 million in illicit profits, which they spent on luxury homes, vehicles, and vacations.
The SEC alleges that Charles J. Dushek and his son Charles S. Dushek placed millions of dollars in securities trades without designating in advance whether they were trading personal funds or client funds. They delayed allocating the trades so they could cherry pick winning trades for their personal accounts and dump losing trades on the accounts of unwitting clients at Capital Management Associates (CMA). Lisle, Ill.-based CMA misrepresented the firm’s proprietary trading activities to clients, many of whom were senior citizens.
“The Dusheks and their firm had an obligation to treat clients fairly and honestly,” said Merri Jo Gillette, Director of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office. “Instead, they exploited the trade allocation process to enrich themselves at the expense of their clients.”
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in Chicago, the scheme lasted from 2008 to 2012. During that period, the Dusheks made more than 13,500 purchases of securities totaling more than $350 million. The Dusheks typically waited to allocate the trades for at least one trading day – and often several days – by which time they knew whether the trades were profitable. The Dusheks ultimately kept most of the winning trades and assigned most of the losses to clients. At the time of the trading, they did not keep any written record of whether they were trading client funds or personal funds.
The Dusheks’ extraordinary trading success reflects the breadth of their scheme. For 17 consecutive quarters, the Dusheks reaped positive returns at the time of allocation while their clients suffered negative returns. One of Dushek Sr.’s personal accounts increased in value by almost 25,000 percent from 2008 to 2011 while many of his clients’ accounts decreased in value.
The illicit trading profits from his personal accounts were Dushek Sr.’s only source of regular income outside of Social Security, according to the SEC. It alleges that he drew no salary or other compensation as president of CMA and relied on profits from the scheme to make mortgage payments on his 6,500 square foot luxury home featuring separate equestrian facilities. He also spent the money on luxury vehicles including a Mercedes Benz SL550, membership in a luxury vacation resort, and vacations abroad. Dushek Jr. is alleged to have used trading profits to pay for a boat slip and vacations to ski resorts and Hawaii.
According to the SEC’s complaint, CMA misrepresented its proprietary trading activities to clients in a brochure that is part of the firm’s Form ADV. The brochure falsely claimed that Dushek Sr. maintained “reports” of his proprietary trading activities that he submitted to an associate for review, when he did not maintain such reports nor have any associate review his trading. The brochure further stated, “We do not merge or aggregate any client order with any employee order.” That claim also was false. When the Dusheks placed orders, there were no client orders or employee orders but instead merely block purchases in CMA’s brokerage accounts that were later allocated to client accounts or personal accounts.
The SEC’s complaint charges the Dusheks and CMA with fraud and seeks final judgments that would require them to return ill-gotten gains with interest and pay financial penalties.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Nicholas Eichenseer, Vanessa Horton, and Paul Montoya of the Chicago Regional Office. Steven Seeger will lead the SEC’s litigation.