Lawyer wants 34% of money recovered in Stanford case

The attorney supposed to clean up what the government says was Texas businessman R. Allen Stanford's multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme is managing to anger just about every party involved in the case.

The Securities and Exchange Commission and other stakeholders in the complicated and far-flung case say Dallas attorney Ralph Janvey, appointed by the court to track down billions of missing dollars, has instead become a rogue receiver who refuses to cooperate with the SEC.

"You know everyone in the courtroom is angry with you," said U.S. Judge David Godbey at a recent court hearing.

Stanford's attorneys say Janvey is "exceeding his authority." And John Little, the court-appointed examiner who represents the interests of jilted investors, said they feel Janvey's actions have been shocking and outrageous.

The latest flash point has been Janvey's demands for more than $27 million in fees for himself and the team of lawyers and consultants he hired to take over Stanford's business empire and track down the missing billions. The giant paycheck would come from the same pot of money he is amassing that is supposed to be divided among Stanford's allegedly defrauded investors.

The SEC has accused Stanford and some of his top company officials of running a $7 billion scheme by promising inflated returns to more than 20,000 investors on certificates of deposit at his bank in Antigua. Instead of investing the money, Stanford, who faces additional criminal charges in Houston, paid off old investors with deposits from new investors, according to the government.

Godbey has not ruled on Janvey's mid-May request for nearly $20 million, covering work through April 12. Nor has he ruled on Janvey's request last week for another $7.6 million to cover work for a seven-week period from mid-April to the end of May.

Janvey wants to pay himself and the more than 100 lawyers and consultants he has hired to work the case. But his requested share of the pie is 34% of the $81.1 million of cash on hand the receiver has under his control in a bank account, according to court records. While investors will be fortunate to get back just pennies on the dollar, the attorneys could walk away with millions.

Janvey is requesting nearly $800,000 in fees and expenses for his law firm. The bill also covers nearly $8.9 million in fees and expenses for the advisory firm FTI Consulting, and about $8.4 million for the law firm Baker Botts.

The SEC is fighting Janvey's bill, telling the judge it would be "inappropriate" to pay him the $1.1 million a week he asked for in a filing last week.

The agency complained that Janvey is employing too many high-priced lawyers, including nine partners at Baker Botts and six financial consultants from FTI Consulting who were charging at least $500 an hour. SEC lawyers also took issue with a bill from FTI charging $280 an hour for photocopying and creating shipping labels and binders.

Peter Henning, a professor at Wayne State University's law school and former SEC attorney, said Janvey is in a difficult spot because "these are not cheap cases."

"But there is a concern that it for firms becomes free billing," Henning said.

Securities experts say the relationship between receivers and the SEC is typically more cooperative than contentious. But the friction in this case led the agency, which recommended Janvey for appointment, to try to get a court order stripping him of some of his authority, a motion which was denied.

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