IID Cautions Investors to be Wary of Speculative Energy Investments

INSURANCE DIVISION CAUTIONS INVESTORS TO BE WARY OF SPECULATIVE ENERGY INVESTMENTS

IID joins in advisory issued by North American Securities Administrators Association today.

 

DES MOINES, June 18, 2013 – With energy demands and a desire for energy independence increasing globally, investments in traditional and alternative energy resources are being promoted more often and are becoming attractive to investors and con artists alike, the Iowa Insurance Division (IID) said today.

In an investor advisory, the IID explains the most common ways energy investment products may be offered, why investors need to be cautious and how investors can protect themselves when considering investments in traditional or alternative energy offerings. The advisory is available here.

“Many of these investments are highly risky and illiquid and therefore are not appropriate for many investors,” said IID’s Securities Administrator, Jim Mumford. “It is not unusual for unscrupulous promoters to use the lure of current events or innovative technologies to take advantage of unsuspecting investors by engaging in fraudulent practices.”

Mumford said promoters sometimes prey on investors interested in socially responsible products by labeling them as “green energy” investment opportunities. The phrase “green energy” implies that the products are ecologically friendly. Iowans are particularly attuned to alternative energy efforts because of the state’s lead position in wind-powered energy production and as a producer of ethanol.  While Iowa’s wind farms are primarily privately owned by utility companies and are very real, in some cases of proposed investment in other “green” projects, the promoters may be operating a fraudulent shell company and not producing anything.

According to the most recent enforcement survey by the North American Securities Administrators Association, of which IID  is a member, oil and gas investments were the fourth most common product at the heart of state securities enforcement cases, with about 40 percent of responding jurisdictions reporting energy-related enforcement cases. Recent energy-related cases include:

·         In May 2013, the Texas State Securities Board announced the sentencing of a Texas man to 25 years in state prison for stealing money from two elderly women who had been told they could earn annual returns of at least 15 percent from oil and gas projects in North Dakota. The projects did not exist.

·         In May 2013, based on a referral from the Missouri Securities Division, federal prosecutors obtained the convictions of five people involved in sham energy company that proved to be a get-rich-quick scheme that cost thousands of investors more than $10 million.

·         In March 2013, the Ohio Division of Securities reported the sentencing of an Ohio man to 5 years in prison after he pled guilty to 44 counts, including securities fraud, grand theft, theft from the elderly, and the sale of unregistered securities involving the sale of approximately $162,000 in unregistered securities, including oil futures. Investors were told that their investments were safe, secure and that there was no way they could lose their money.

·         In Iowa in January 0f 2013, a cease and desist order was issued against unlicensed individuals believed to be operating a “boiler room” investment sales operation in Colorado who sold unregistered securities that were represented as joint venture units in oil wells.

·         In Iowa, a cease and desist order was issued in May of 2013 against Darrell D. Smith, Energae and I-Lenders, LLC.  Smith was alleged to have converted funds from insurance client accounts and invested them in several energy related ventures, including Energae, an undeveloped ethanol project.

For more information about the risks associated with energy investments, contact the IID at  (877)955-1212.