Governor Charles Crist signed a bill giving attorney general Bill McCollum additional ammunition in the battle against securities fraud. This is very important as Florida is home to one of the largest retiree populations in the country and retirees are often the most targeted and most vulnerable to this type of financial fraud. Investor confidence, seen as a key component of a economic turnaround, has been shaken of late by various high profile ponzi schemes and other securities fraud cases. This bill will give the AG the tools and power to hopefully bring about the changes needed to restore the lost confidence. The full article from the South Florida Business Journal appears below.
On the same day Bernard Madoff is being sentenced for his involvement in a multimillion dollar Ponzi scheme that left thousands financially devastated, Gov. Charlie Crist signed into law a bill that gives Florida’s top law enforcement officer new tools in the battle against securities fraud.
During a ceremonial bill singing Monday at the Miami-Dade County Courthouse, Crist, with Attorney General Bill McCollum and some of the bill’s sponsors at his side, signed the Investor Protection Act (HB 483).
It gives McCollum’s office, with approval from the Office of Financial Regulation, the authority to investigate and prosecute large-scale securities scams under the state’s securities law.
Previously, white-collar criminal prosecutions fell under the racketeering statute, which is harder to prove. Prosecutions also were limited to the office of the state’s attorney, McCollum pointed out.
Crist noted that this kind of authority was lacking during his tenure as attorney general and that this law would put “teeth” into the state’s prosecutorial powers.
The law enhances the Office of Financial Regulation’s enforcement powers by increasing penalties for violators and strengthening the license registration requirements for securities dealers. Penalties double from $5,000 to $10,000 as a result of the law, which goes into effect Wednesday. State authorities will also be able to pursue civil lawsuits to recover lost money, McCollum said.
McCollum worked with Rep. Tom Grady, R-Naples and Sen. Garrett Richter, R-Naples on the legislation. Both attended the signing. Sen. Dan Gelber, D-Miami Beach, a bill sponsor, also attended Monday’s ceremony.
Grady is a securities attorney and expert in securities regulation who drafted the bill and sponsored it in the House.
“Now the attorney general will have the tools to do the job,” said Grady, prior to the signing.
“Our economy will grow stronger if investors have confidence in our financial markets,” he said in a statement.
“By increasing the tools available to the state to prosecute violators of our securities laws, we protect investors and foster needed trust in the system.