States District Court for the District of Massachusetts, 99CV11009RCL)

The Commission announced the filing today of a Complaint in the United States District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Richard J. Briden ("Briden"), an Ashland, Massachusetts business consultant and two corporations Briden founded, Empowerment Funding Group, LLC ("Empowerment") and Infopro Group, Ltd. ("Infopro"). The Commission's Complaint alleges that Briden conducted a fraudulent offering of prime bank securities over the Internet. He also sold interests in another prime bank trading program to seven investors. As the Commission and several courts have stated, prime bank instruments do not exist. By this conduct, Briden violated the registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.

The Commission's Complaint alleges that, since at least early 1998, Briden, through his two companies, offered over the Internet prime bank trading programs which required a $1 million minimum investment. Briden used Internet websites, electronic bulletin board postings and Internet e-mails to offer the programs. Briden falsely promised investors as much as a 100% return per week in risk-free trading programs. Briden claimed that no funds would leave the investor's bank account. The Complaint alleges that Briden stood to earn a commission of up to 30% of the investor's return. Briden convinced at least three individuals to provide him with proof of $1 million to invest and signed powers of attorney giving him the authority to "commit" the funds to invest in a prime bank trading program. Briden never successfully invested any funds in these "Million Dollar Programs."

The Complaint also alleges that Briden convinced seven investors, three of whom were from Massachusetts, to invest $295,000 in another "risk-free" prime bank trading program. This program was known as "Acorn," symbolic of the fact that it was willing to accept investments of less than $1 million. The Complaint alleges that Briden promised the investors a return of 640% per 40 week period. Briden was to earn 30% of any returns. In October 1998, Briden wired the seven investors' money to a bank account in the name of Mutual Assets Limited ("Mutual") in Guernsey in the Channel Islands. The investors have not received any of their promised return.

The Commission alleges that Briden has explained the failure to pay returns with excuses such as, bank holidays, the sickness of some of the traders, bank mix-ups and various other reasons. According to the Commission's Complaint, however, the funds are now beyond Briden's control and never will be invested in any legitimate manner.

The Commission's Complaint alleges that in connection with this scheme, Briden, Empowerment and Infopro violated Sections 5(c) and 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 ("Securities Act"), Sections 10(b) and 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 ("Exchange Act"), and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. The Commission seeks permanent injunctions prohibiting the defendants from violating these provisions. In addition, the Commission seeks the imposition of civil monetary penalties pursuant to Section 20(d) of the Securities Act and Section 21(d)(3) of the Exchange Act .

The investigation is continuing.