U.S. SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION
Litigation Release No. 20545 / April 30, 2008
Securities and Exchange Commission v. Larry P. Langford, William B. Blount, Blount Parrish & Co., Inc., and Albert W. LaPierre, Case No. Case No. cv-08-B-0761-S (N.D. Ala., filed April 30, 2008)
The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil action today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama against Birmingham Mayor Larry Langford, William Blount, and Albert LaPierre. The SEC's complaint alleges that while Langford served as president of the County Commission of Jefferson County, Alabama (County Commission), he accepted more than $156,000 in undisclosed cash and benefits over the course of two years from Blount, the chairman of Blount Parrish & Co, Inc. Blount Parrish is a broker-dealer based in Montgomery, Alabama.
According to the SEC's complaint, Langford selected Blount Parrish to participate in every Jefferson County municipal bond offering and security-based swap agreement transaction during 2003 and 2004, earning Blount Parrish over $6.7 million in fees. Moreover, the SEC alleges, Langford and Blount concealed the payment scheme by using their long-time friend, LaPierre, an Alabama registered political lobbyist, as a conduit. The case is the SEC's first enforcement action involving security-based swap agreements.
The SEC's complaint alleges that prior to Langford's election to the County Commission, Blount Parrish had not received any municipal bond business from Jefferson County for years. After Langford won the primary election in 2002 for the County Commission, however, Blount began making payments and conferring other benefits to Langford, funneling funds through LaPierre. The SEC alleges Blount's efforts were rewarded because Langford, who served as president of the County Commission from November 2002 to November 2007, selected Blount Parrish to participate in $6.4 billion of Jefferson County bond offerings and swap agreement transactions from March 2003 to December 2004. Blount Parrish's fees for these transactions comprised over 70% of the firm's annual revenue during the relevant period, according to the SEC's complaint.
The SEC alleges that of the five municipal bond offerings at issue, Blount Parrish participated as lead or co-underwriter on three municipal bond offerings, and as a remarketing agent on a fourth bond offering. In connection with all five bond offerings, Langford signed the official statements, which were intended to disclose material information to investors, on behalf of Jefferson County. In its role as underwriter or remarketing agent as to four of the bond offerings, Blount Parrish reviewed the official statements and distributed those materials to investors in connection with its sale of these securities. The official statements did not disclose Blount's payments to Langford.
The SEC further alleges that Langford directed that Blount Parrish be included in four security-based swap transactions, including a $1.5 billion transaction which was the largest swap transaction in Jefferson County's history. Langford signed letter agreements with the counterparties to the swap transactions representing that Jefferson County had requested and approved fee payments to Blount's firm for services to Jefferson County in connection with the swap transactions. Other than the swap counterparties, the fees Blount Parrish received on these swap transactions were substantially larger than those received by other professionals on the deals. However, according to the SEC's complaint, neither Langford nor Blount disclosed to Jefferson County Blount's payments to Langford.
The complaint charges Langford, Blount and Blount Parrish with violations of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and Rule 10b-5 thereunder; Blount and Blount Parrish for violations of Section 15B(c)(1) of the Exchange Act and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board Rules G-17 and G-20; and LaPierre with aiding and abetting Blount and Blount Parrish's violations. The complaint seeks judgments against each defendant providing for permanent injunctions, disgorgement with prejudgment interest and a civil money penalty. The SEC previously prevailed in subpoena enforcement actions filed against Langford and Blount, both of whom had refused to either testify or assert a valid privilege when questioned about these payments during the SEC's investigation. [Securities and Exchange Commission v. Larry P. Langford and William B. Blount, Case No. 07-23271-MC-Huck-Simonton (S.D. Fla., filed December 17, 2007)] [Litigation Release No. 20400/ December 17, 2007]
The SEC's investigation is continuing.