The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a non-profit corporation that offers securities to fund mortgage and construction loans to young Amish families in Ohio will ensure that its investors receive more timely and accurate information under an agreement reached with the SEC.
The SEC investigated the Amish Helping Fund (AHF), which was formed in 1995 by a group of Amish elders interested in furthering the Amish way of life. AHF funds its loans by selling securities in the form of investment contracts. The SEC alleges that AHF’s offering memorandum, drafted in 1995, was not updated for 15 years and thus contained material misrepresentations about the fund and the securities being offered. Despite violating federal securities laws by disseminating a stale offering memorandum, the SEC found no evidence that AHF investors suffered any undue harm or investment losses as a result of these misrepresentations.
When informed of its alleged violations by the SEC, AHF immediately cooperated, updated its offering memorandum, and took other significant remedial steps in an expedited manner. Therefore, the SEC has entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) and will not file an enforcement action against AHF provided it adheres to the provisions of the agreement. AHF is entering into a DPA with the SEC as part of the Cooperation Initiative the Enforcement Division announced in 2010 to facilitate and reward cooperation in SEC investigations.
“Cooperation provides real and substantial benefits for companies that respond appropriately to the discovery of wrongdoing in their ranks,” said Robert Khuzami, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement. “Here, the SEC acknowledged and rewarded AHF’s cooperation because, among other things, it acted swiftly and completely in correcting the misleading statements provided to investors, agreeing to annual audits of the fund holding the securities, and implementing significant remedial measures to prevent future violations of the securities laws.”
AHF currently has nearly 3,500 investors, more than 1,200 borrowers, and approximately $125 million in mortgage receivables. The SEC staff has not found any evidence of a foreclosure during AHF’s history.
When the SEC informed AHF of its wrongful conduct, the fund immediately took steps to remedy the situation:
- AHF updated and corrected its offering memorandum and provided existing investors with a corrected copy of it.
- AHF offered all existing investors the right of rescission.
- AHF retained an independent certified public accountant to perform ongoing audits.
- AHF registered its securities offerings with the Ohio Division of Securities and consented to a cease-and-desist order with the agency.
Under the terms of the DPA, the SEC will refrain from filing an enforcement action against AHF if the company complies with certain undertakings. Among other things, AHF has updated and corrected its offering materials and agreed to register its new securities offerings and provide current investors with timely and accurate financial information.
The SEC’s investigation was conducted by Brian D. Fagel, John J. Sikora, Jr., and James L. Silverwood in the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office.