Story Series: 1 Global Capital
Alan Heide, the former CFO of defunct Hallandale Beach-based 1 Global Capital, was sentenced to 5 years in prison earlier this week for his role in the company’s securities fraud. He is one of three individuals that have pled guilty so far and the first to be sentenced.
The other individuals, attorney Jan Douglas Atlas and former 1 Global COO Steven Allen Schwartz are awaiting their sentencing.
Additional individuals are still expected to be charged.
Federal prosecutors have asked a Court to consolidate criminal cases against 1 Global Capital defendants Alan Heide and Jan D. Atlas on the basis that there is substantial overlap between them and that additional individuals are expected to be charged. “Considerable judicial resources may be conserved if, going forward, a single judge is chosen to preside over all 1 Global-related cases,” prosecutors argue. The number of forthcoming defendants was not revealed but has been described as “multiple additional co-conspirators.”
The case, far from over, is being characterized as an active investigation.
Heide, 1 Global’s former CFO, pled guilty on August 23, 2019. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 18th. Atlas, an attorney who provided fraudulent legal cover for 1 Global via knowingly false opinion letters, pled guilty to 1 count of securities fraud in October. He is scheduled to be sentenced on January 10th.
Hallandale Beach-based 1 Global Capital was once ranked among the largest alternative small business funders by deBanked. That all changed in July 2018 with a sudden bankruptcy filing that revealed concurrent investigations being carried out by the SEC and a US Attorney’s Office.
Prosecutors are calling the company a multi-faceted securities fraud and Ponzi scheme that victimized at least 3,600 investors across the country. While the company took in more than $330 million, $100 million of it is expected to be returned to investors through a bankruptcy court liquidation.
The company’s former chairman and CEO has already consented to judgment with the SEC and agreed to be liable for disgorgement of $32,587,166 + $1,517,273 in interest and a civil penalty of $15,000,000. Shortly thereafter, the SEC reported that he had satisfied the judgment in full with the exception of the stipulation that he sell his condo. Although he has not been criminally charged, prosecutors say that Heide and Atlas both ultimately took direction from, and reported to the company’s former chairman and CEO.
Individuals familiar with the firm may recall that 1 Global Capital was previously reported as being named 1st Global Capital. However, another company bearing the same name sued them for trademark infringment. Since then, news related to the South Florida ponzi scheme have referred to the company by its legal name, 1 Global Capital, LLC.
Jan Douglas Atlas, a Florida attorney that was arrested last month for his role in the 1 Global Capital debacle, entered a plea of guilty on Wednesday to 1 count of securities fraud. 74-year-old Atlas also agreed to be disbarred.
The charges stem from his willingness to sign an opinion letter that claimed investment opportunities being offered by 1 Global were not securities when he knew that they actually were.
1 Global collapsed last year amid investigations by the SEC and US Attorney’s office and the discovery of a massive discrepancy in the company’s accounting records. Atlas is the 2nd person to be criminally convicted. 1 Global’s chairman consented to judgment with the SEC but has not been criminally charged. Court records indicate he has already satisfied the vast majority of the SEC’s judgment.
The set of facts established by prosecutors and Atlas in his guilty plea suggest that additional individuals could still be criminally charged.
Another individual has been criminally charged in connection with the 1 Global Capital securities case. 74-year-old Jan Douglas Atlas, a securities attorney, was charged with 1 count of securities fraud by the US Attorney in South Florida on Tuesday for authoring opinion letters in 2016 that falsely described that the investments were not securities nor subject to federal securities laws or registration requirements.
The charges allege that Atlas “came to understand” that individuals representing 1 Global were not interested in accurate legal advice based on real facts and that they instead wanted false legal cover that would advance the desired outcome to continue to profit from 1 Global. He allegedly made false and misleading statements despite knowing the true nature of how the investments worked and that they were in fact securities as defined under federal securities laws.
“Atlas’s opinion letters were used and relied upon by 1 Global employees and agents to continue to raise money illegally,” the Department of Justice said in an announcement.
Atlas was also compensated by receiving a percentage of the commissions generated from the fundraising scheme to the tune of $627,000 paid to his personal checking account. These payments were not disclosed to his employer, Kopelowitz Ostrow, as required.
Atlas was also separately charged by the SEC.
His employer was not charged with any wrongdoing in either action. Atlas was previously listed as a partner at the firm but is no longer on the firm’s website.
Atlas is the second individual to be criminally charged in connection with 1 Global Capital. The first individual, Alan Heide, who served as 1 Global Capital’s CFO, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit securities fraud. He is scheduled to be sentenced on December 12th.
Update: Alan Heide has pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
The former CFO of 1 Global Capital, Alan Heide, was stacked with bad news on Thursday. The US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida lodged criminal charges against him at the same time the Securities & Exchange Commission announced a civil suit for defrauding retail investors.
Heide was criminally charged with conspiracy to commit securities fraud.
According to the criminal complaint:
It was a purpose of the conspiracy for the defendant and his conspirators to use false and fraudulent statements to investors concerning the operation and profitability of 1 Global, so that investors would provide funds to 1 Global, and continue to make false statements to investors thereafter so that investors would not seek to withdraw funds from 1 Global, all so that the conspirators could misappropriate investors’ funds for their personal use and enjoyment.
He is facing a maximum of 5 years in prison.
1 Global Capital CEO Carl Ruderman, who recently consented to judgment with the SEC, has not been charged criminally to-date. However, he is mentioned throughout the pleading against Heide as “Individual #1 who acted as the CEO of 1 Global.”
Civil charges were simultaneously lodged by the SEC.
According to the SEC’s complaint:
Although 1 Global promised investors profits from its short-term merchant cash advances to businesses, the company used substantial investor funds for other purposes, including paying operating expenses and funding Ruderman’s lavish lifestyle. The SEC alleges that Heide, a certified public accountant, for nine months regularly signed investors’ monthly account statements that he knew overstated the value of their accounts and falsely represented that 1 Global had an independent auditor that had endorsed the company’s method of calculating investor returns.
According to an SEC statement, Heide agreed to settle the SEC’s charges as to liability, without admitting or denying the allegations, and agreed to be subject to an injunction, with the court to determine the penalty amount at a later date.
1 Global Capital filed for bankruptcy last year after investigations by the SEC and US Attorney’s Office hampered their ability to raise capital. Ruderman’s recent settlement with the SEC put him on the hook for $50 million to repay investors.
Update 10/4/19: According to the docket, Ruderman has satisfied the judgment in full, with only the sale of his condo remaining.
The SEC’s lawsuit against Carl Ruderman, the former CEO of Hallandale Beach-based 1 Global Capital, has come to an end. He has consented to judgment in a settlement and the penalties are devastating, papers filed on friday with the Court show.
Specifically, Ruderman is liable for disgorgement of $32,587,166 representing profits gained as a result of the conduct alleged together with prejudgment interest on disgorgement of $1,517,273 and a civil penalty of $15,000,000. He must also sell his Condominium and disgorge 50% of the equity. Online real estate websites estimate his property to have 5 bedrooms, 8 bathrooms, and be worth in the range of $5,000,000 – $6,000,000.
1 Global Capital filed for bankruptcy last year after its business was hampered by investigations being conducted by the SEC and US Attorney’s Office. The SEC brought its case against Ruderman and his company a month later and alleged that it “fraudulently raised more than $287 million from more than 3,400 investors to fund its business offering short-term financing to small and medium-size businesses.” The investments were alleged to be unregistered securities and that millions of the funds raised from investors were misappropriated by Ruderman. The settlement stipulates that he does not admit or deny the allegations.
No criminal charges have been brought to date.
The SEC settlement was technically entered into in June but had to be reviewed and approved by the five SEC commissioners.
The unopposed motion for judgment was filed last week. It was signed by the judge on Monday, August 12th.
Henry J. “Trae” Wieniewitz, III was charged by the SEC on Monday for his role in allegedly selling unregistered securities in two companies, 1 Global Capital (the now defunct merchant cash advance provider) and Woodbridge Group of Companies (a purported real estate lending business revealed to be a $1.2 billion ponzi scheme).
“Wieniewitz and Wieniewitz Financial raised more than $11.4 million and reaped approximately $500,000 in commissions from unlawful sales of Woodbridge securities, and raised more than $53 million and obtained approximately $3 million in commissions from unlawful sales of 1 Global securities,” the SEC stated.
Wieniewitz was not a registered broker-dealer nor associated with a registered broker-dealer.
A settlement was announced simultaneously. “Wieniewitz and Wieniewitz Financial settled the SEC’s charges as to liability without admitting or denying the allegations, and agreed to be subject to injunctions, with the court to determine the amounts of disgorgement, interest, and penalties at a later date,” an SEC statement said.
Separately, the owner of Woodbridge and two former directors of the company were recently charged criminally.
No criminal charges have been brought to date in the 1 Global Capital saga. That could change. 1 Global Capital revealed in 2018 that it was being investigated by the US Attorney’s office. That along with the SEC investigation prompted the company to file for bankruptcy. The SEC subsequently brought civil charges.
Documents filed in the SEC case against 1 Global’s former owner, Carl Ruderman, have since revealed that at least one former employee had been approached by the FBI about the operations of 1 Global.
Last month, it appeared Ruderman and the SEC were heading towards a settlement.
One notable fact about 1 Global Capital is that the company participated in the largest merchant cash advance in history at $40 million. That transaction has become a point of significant controversy and litigation. The recipient of those funds, a conglomerate of car dealerships in California, have shut their doors.
The SEC filed a motion for summary judgment against defendant Carl Ruderman last week as part of its ongoing lawsuit against 1 Global Capital and related parties. The motion applies to Ruderman on Count 1 of the SEC’s amended complaint alleging violations of 5(a) and (c) of the Securities Act of 1933 in addition to summary judgment on Ruderman’s second affirmative defense alleging the instruments he and Defendant 1 Global Capital LLC sold were not securities.
Ruderman has until June 18th to file his opposition to the motion.
1 Global Capital founder Carl Ruderman suffered a major setback in his case with the SEC earlier this month, when the Court ruled that his company’s Syndication Partner Agreements and Memorandums of Indebtedness were in fact, securities. Ruderman had filed a motion to dismiss the SEC’s claims against him personally but the Court struck it down.
1 Global sold its notes to more than 3,400 investors in at least 25 states, who collectively invested at least $287 million. The company declared bankruptcy last year amid parallel criminal and civil investigations that hampered its ability to raise capital. The SEC filed suit soon after but no criminal charges have been brought to date.
In the ensuing legal discovery, it was revealed that the company funded the largest merchant cash advance in history, a collective $40 million funded over several transactions to an auto dealership group in California. Those dealerships closed not longer after 1 Global Capital’s bankruptcy. Those closures have sparked a lawsuit of its own and with it the revelation that several of 1 Global Capital’s competitors had also funneled millions into the dealerships.
The Court’s ruling in the motion to dismiss whereby the investments were deemed securities can be downloaded here.
Since 1st Global Capital went out of business, the company’s treasure trove of leads has been up for sale. Beginning in October, 41 companies were propositioned by 1st Global Capital’s bankruptcy advisors to make a bid on the company’s data. Ten companies actually entered into non-disclosure agreements to access a data room. That led to four official proposals which was narrowed down to two formal negotiations and ultimately the selection of one final stalking horse bidder.
In Advance Capital’s high bid came in at $105,000 for data that includes 57,000 non-funded applications and 4,760 funded applications. That dollar figure is actually an upfront fee against future commissions because the arrangement requires the buyer to pay 1st Global Capital a commission for every merchant on the list that they end up funding in-house or elsewhere. The total purchase price therefore is likely to exceed $105,000 over time. The buyer is not permitted to stack any merchant on the list.
As the stalking horse, In Advance’s bid will be honored unless new companies outbid them between now and January 7. If two or more qualified bids are received, a formal auction will take place on January 8. A hearing on the outcome will take place on January 9.
The notorious $40 million merchant cash advance deal has a new twist, even more cash advances. On Friday, the now-bankrupt 1st Global Capital filed a lawsuit against Momentum Auto Group, related entities, and 4 merchant cash advance companies including Capital Stack.
According to documents filed in the case, Momentum Auto was behind on taxes and loans to floor plan lenders to the tune of $15.5 million in February this year. That’s in addition to their inability at the time to pay 1st Global Capital and other MCA funders millions of dollars in advanced funds.
To fix the problem, 1st Global Capital established themselves as the senior creditor in which they required rival funders to enter into Subordination And Standstill agreements. In return for 1st Global Capital keeping Momentum Auto solvent with additional funds, the subordinate funders were only permitted to collect a fraction of their originally-stipulated daily payments (and only if Momentum Auto had adequate liquidity and cash flow, otherwise they were not allowed to collect anything at all until 1st Global had been paid in full). In the case of Capital Stack, it was agreed they could only debit 20% of what they were normally entitled to. For others it was 10%.
1st Global Capital says both restrictions were violated, that the funders collected above their agreed percentage and that they also collected from Momentum Auto despite the business not having adequate liquidity and cash flow. As relief, 1st Global Capital is seeking that each MCA funder return all funds they collected from Momentum Auto Group to 1st Global Capital.
Momentum Auto Group is a conglomerate of car dealerships in California that shut their doors in November. Soon after, lawsuits flew, and in one case the judge has ordered the dealerships be placed into receivership.
1st Global Capital is itself in receivership, having filed bankruptcy in July this year. The company and its founder were also charged with fraud by the SEC after they allegedly relied on the sale of unregistered securities to more than 3,400 investors nationwide.
Subject to approval in two courts, 1 Global Capital LLC (aka 1st Global Capital) has confirmed it will consent with the SEC to be permanently enjoined and restrained from violating securities laws. The papers were submitted to the Court yesterday.
Though the terms include 1st Global Capital’s California counterpart, 1 West Capital, LLC, there is no connection to the separate securities charges pending against company founder and former CEO Carl Ruderman. Ruderman is seeking to dismiss those charges. According to court records, his reply to the SEC’s opposition is due this Friday.
The SEC is not impressed with 1st Global Capital’s attempt to dismiss the charges it stands accused of. Yesterday, the SEC filed opposition papers, writing “Having defrauded thousands of investors out of almost $300 million, Defendant Carl Ruderman now asks the Court to let him escape the consequences of his actions by dismissing the Amended Complaint against him based on a series of inaccurate and incomplete facts, incorrect legal standards, and infirm legal arguments.”
1st Global and Ruderman (who was the company’s owner and CEO), argued that the SEC does not have subject matter jurisdiction and that the notes between 1st Global and investors were not securities.
“Ruderman misstates the standards for evaluating whether a note is a security, and does not even bother to address the separate test for determining whether an investment qualifies as an investment contract,” the SEC claims. “The investment 1 Global offered and sold to investors was a security.”
Parallel to the SEC case, bankruptcy proceedings are continuing to move forward as well.
There has been no word on criminal charges since 1st Global revealed it was being investigated by the US attorney’s office in July.
How would you like to be the funder to do a $40 million MCA transaction? According to the Securities & Exchange Commission, a deal of such magnitude was one of the many negligent acts that 1st Global Capital CEO Carl Ruderman did with investor money. Though the SEC refers to the merchant as an auto dealership in California, it’s roughly 9 dealerships with common ownership that collectively gross more than $550 million a year in sales. It’s the deal of a lifetime except that the ISO who brokered it has become the largest unsecured creditor to file a claim in the 1st Global bankruptcy. Records show they are owed approximately $3.9 million in unpaid commissions.
And its performance has not been without challenges, according to emails disclosed in the SEC case.
In April 2018, 1st Global employees discussed what to do about the dealerships’ lingering cash flow problems after becoming aware that the owner intended to either recapitalize the debt or sell the dealerships. The choice by then had come down to either continuing to fund them or to cut their losses, an email says.
“If they were to become insolvent, everyone loses,” wrote the Director of Accounting and Finance.
1st Global continued to fund them. The $40 million (approximate amount) was not disbursed all at once but in increments over the course of a year.
One week before 1st Global filed for bankruptcy, they signed a Binding Letter of Understanding with the dealerships acknowledging that the owner would be selling them. At that time the merchant had unpaid taxes of at least $9 million and had an outstanding receivable balance with 1st Global of $43 million. The Letter said that 1st Global would accept “whatever amount it receives [..] at this point as complete satisfaction” of the current RTR when the business is sold. 1st Global also agreed to forever release the dealerships’ owner personally from all legal claims. It was signed by Carl Ruderman 8 days before he resigned.
The merchant has not returned deBanked’s inquiries. The banker named in the Binding Letter as having been exclusively hired to sell the dealerships, told deBanked over the phone that he has never heard of 1st Global. 1st Global ceased operations on July 27th. The SEC filed a complaint against Ruderman and the company on August 23rd and an amended complaint on September 26th. The dealership transaction is used as an example of malfeasance in it twice.
No longer candidates for the largest merchant cash advance in history, two ancient deals that were famous during their eras for their size, ended up in default, and in doing so showed the industry that there was such a thing as too big.
One was a $4 million advance made by Strategic Funding Source in 2011 to a tourist attraction being produced at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Mob Experience, billed as the most technologically advanced interactive presentation of historical artifacts ever devised and set up in a 26,000 square foot total immersion facility, it was predicted to bring in 1.5 million visitors per year. But the deal quickly spiraled out of control, the exhibit shut down, and allegations of fraud were lodged in court. Though the Mob Experience was dubbed the largest merchant cash advance in history, it depends on whether or not you’re counting common ownership of multiple businesses as individual deals or one deal.
Dozens of advances made by Global Swift Funding in 2007 and 2008 to businesses controlled by the same west coast-based restaurateur, led to Global Swift’s demise. When the “restaurant king,” as he was known, filed for bankruptcy across all of his entities, Global Swift had outstanding future receivables with his businesses of approximately $8 million. Dan Chaon, a then representative of Global Swift, told a local newspaper at the time that the restaurateur was “a helluva sales-talk artist… he provided false financial statements, and everyone got caught up in that game.”
Many of those purchases were made in February of this year for a total of $92,492. The cryptocurrency market has slumped since then. Bitcoin, for example, is down 35%.
In May, less than three months before 1st Global filed Chapter 11, a purchase of $61,000 in cryptocurrency was addressed to TraNexus Ireland LTD. TraNeXus is an Ireland-based travel technology blockchain company that is currently raising capital via an Initial Token Offering (aka an Initial Coin Offering, ICO). “TraNexus is committed to changing the way people travel and revitalizing the travel and tourism industry by making travel easier, greener, more valuable and more fun,” the company says of itself in a recent press release. 1st Global Capital owner Carl Ruderman is something of a vanguard in the global tourism business whose acumen includes ownership of Elite Traveler magazine.
Separately, 1st Global is alleged to have funded a $40 million merchant cash advance to an auto dealership in California. Though it remains unconfirmed, industry insiders say it wasn’t even a 1st position deal and that the dealership had multiple advances.
On Wednesday of this week, the SEC served a subpoena on a JPMorgan Chase in Miami demanding all documents and payments related to 1st Global, Ruderman, and his companies.
The Securities & Exchange Commission unsealed a 10-count complaint against 1 Global Capital LLC (“1st Global Capital”), its owner Carl Ruderman, and related parties on Wednesday.
The South Florida firm “fraudulently raised more than $287 million from more than 3,400 investors to fund its business offering short-term financing to small and medium-size businesses,” the complaint begins.
Investors were offered low-risk, high-return investments that 1st Global would use to fund merchant cash advance deals. Ruderman, who owned the company through a trust, misappropriated $35 million of the funds, paying a lot of it to himself and companies he controlled that had nothing to do with MCA, the SEC alleges. Beyond that, millions more went towards other pet projects like a $50 million purchase of distressed credit card debt.
But the deception went deep, the complaint lays out. 1st Global touted a default rate of only 4% despite the fact that 15-18% of their deals over the last 2 years had resulted in collections lawsuits.
By October 2017, the statements investors received showing their monthly performance were faked with the value and performance significantly inflated. By June 2018, one line item on monthly statements (labeled “cash not deployed”) reported that investors collectively had $70 million in idle cash ready to be put into deals. Meanwhile, the company itself only had about $20 million in all of its bank accounts combined, money that was being used for everything including operating expenses, salaries, and commissions.
1st Global’s alleged auditor, Daszkal Bolton, LLP, says they never audited 1st Global’s statements and haven’t had anything to do with the company since 2016. Nonetheless, 1st Global placed Daszkal Bolton’s name on statements given to investors and stated on their website that investor balances were validated by an accounting firm quarterly.
New light was shed into the bankruptcy filing of 1st Global Capital this morning. The investigations by the SEC and the US Attorney’s office are related to possible securities law violations, “including the alleged offer and sale of unregistered securities, the alleged sale of securities by unregistered brokers, and the alleged commission of fraud in connection with the offer, purchase, and sale of securities.”
The company is also being investigated by several states attorneys general where individuals were solicited to invest into merchant cash advance deals.
No charges have been filed in these investigations to-date, but they have prevented the company from being in a position to raise new capital.
There are more than $283 million in unsecured lender claims. Of the 20 largest creditors, all of them are individuals or their retirement accounts.
The company’s two main executives, Carl Ruderman and Steven A. Schwartz, relinquished their powers and resigned on Friday. Darice Lang, the company’s operations director, will stay on and report to the newly appointed Chief Restructuring Officer.
The company’s 1,000+ individual unsecured creditors (syndicates) loaned money to be invested in merchant cash advances and would receive a monthly statement to see how their money had been allocated. They also had access to a portal to track their accounts.
Of the $283 million owed to the individuals, the company’s unaudited financials reflect $238 million in A/R (primarily MCAs outstanding), $21 million of intercompany accounts, and $17.3 million in unrestricted cash.
1st Global generated $22.6 million in revenue in 2017 and $29.3 million in revenue in the first 6 months of 2018.
UPDATE: A joint motion filed this morning explained that the companies were forced to file bankruptcy “in order to address a sudden and acute liquidity crisis and to preserve their assets and business operations for the benefit of the individual lenders and all other constituencies. As a result of the investigations commenced by the US Attorney’s Office and Securities and Exchange Commission, with which the Debtors have been and will continue cooperating, the Debtors have ceased their pre-petition effort to raise capital.”
1 Global Capital LLC filed for Chapter 11 on Friday, according to a voluntary petition filed in the Southern District of Florida. The company’s estimated assets and liabilities exceed $100 million while the number of estimated creditors was listed as between 1,000 and 5,000.
A related company, 1 West Capital LLC, also filed for Chapter 11.
Greenberg Traurig, LLP has been retained to assist on the companies’ behalves.
In a joint motion filed this morning, both entities described themselves as “providing direct merchant cash advances to small businesses across the United States.”