The Investors Knew the Risks? Nonsense… Another Platinum Colored Misrepresentation – To the Legal and Judicial Community – Follow the Money
Opinion and Analysis – LM – 30.4.19
The claim that investors in the litany of Platinum swindles [Echo Therapeutics, Black Elk, Seabrook’s COBA Fund , Glacial Energy Holdings and Agera Energy LLC, among many others] knew the risks is absurd, utterly absurd. Perhaps if one argues that they should have known that they were dealing with swindlers and therefore the Ponzi Scheme was foreseeable, there is some logic; but no. Such an argument does not hold water, particular in the environment of fiduciary duty and fair dealing. The entire premise is akin to blaming any victim for a crime perpetrated upon him or her. The major difference between the Platinum Ponzi Schemes and brutal, violent crimes is that the investors in Platinum Partners were disavowed of their finances with a measure of finesse, charm and savior faire. These guys did a better job of conning their victims out of money than Madoff. Madoff’s reputation preceded him, the impossible-to-believe-he-could-do-it criminal. With the Platinum Partners, for those of us who did years of research, it was obvious. For investors, the elegance of the schemes was extraordinary, which makes these crimes almost worse than a violent serial robber, thief or rapist. These guys based their entire swindle on betraying the trust of others.
While Platinum Partners’ investor group was comprised of a fair share of “big-boys” people who were accredited investors or otherwise knew the rules of the investment road, many who were dragged in were friends and people who trusted Platinum’s partners. They “put a little faith in their friends,” far too much faith. Many still do. And those entrusted with the money were pathological scammers, godless characters who thought little of their victims. Friends were nothing more than income sources at the end of the day; or a name to drop for legitimacy purposes.
Mark Nordlicht, Murray Huberfeld, Uri Landesman, David Levy are brilliant financiers, master manipulators, incredibly savvy and largely charming individuals. Jona Rechnitz and Jeremy Reichberg were peddling the Platinum wares with their friends in high places offering up a glamorous life to anyone dumb enough to take the bait. Jona Rechnitz began his career working side-by-side with diamond magnate Lev Leviev, one of the initial investors in Platinum through Africa Israel, a class-A mentor and the basis for an unbeatable resume. That Jona Rechntiz has made lying into an art form was just another piece to the greater picture of how this entire scheme was orchestrated.
The whole Platinum Partners endeavor had an air of legitimacy that even most savvy and experienced investors would have had a hard time seeing through. The Platinum Partners’ partners had friends and friends of friends and big names behind them. They painted a very rosy picture and very few high level newspapers covered the unrealistic nature of Platinum’s returns, one of the exceptions being Reuters (Reuters).
And Platinum chose their investors wisely. People like Norman Seabrook, the head of COBA, were simply not savvy enough to understand that all of the wining and dining was a show of just how stupid Murray Huberfeld thought Seabrook was. We have opined on this before. Sadly, Seabrook was nothing more than a dumb “shvartze” in the eyes of Huberfeld and Nordlicht. It’s a horrible and racist comment, admittedly. But, when examining the nature of the Platinum swindle, it’s simply reality. Seabrook did not have the financial savvy to understand he was being completely steamrolled with the investment being offered to him. And, well… the wining and dining and show of wealth, the trips to Israel and greetings from the un-“pious ones” at the Western Wall was too much temptation when coupled with the returns he was likely being promised and the side money and items being gifted. And with his investment into Platinum, the partners could turn around and show the next guy that they had value. If the head of the COBA investments gave his blessing to the fund, it had to be legitimate.
The NFL football players, and the payday loans offered to them by a link of Platinum associated entities, was another of the many schemes, a little more unsettling than the others. Investors who were inserting the flow of capital while being guaranteed returns of high interest and fees from NFL players who were on strike and would inevitably be paid. It was a “no-fail” cool trick. While the football players were paying interest rates and savage fees, the Platinum or associated investors were being showered with money. The Platinum associated fund that offered the loans and corresponding investment opportunities was allowing its investors a proverbial taste of fine wine, enticing as it was, and easy money. Little could those investors know that they were being hustled into other more dangerous financial waters.
While the payday loan piece of the Platinum Partners story has not gotten much press coverage in the grand Platinum fraud, nor have the football players involved, neither the investors nor the players themselves were savvy enough to know that they were being disenfranchised. The players sadly were vulnerable to both the NFL on one side and the fund that was backing them while they were on strike on the other. And these guys did not have the financial savvy or upper-crust white wealthy background to grasp that the millions they were to receive from the NFL was all too easily spent. The Platinum Partners were sharp enough in this game to know, understand and manipulate the mentality, the vulnerabilities and the financial struggles of these players. Many of those players lost thousands of dollars. All the while, a bunch of hedge fund guys and their investors sat in cushy Herman Miller chairs in their gilded offices and laughed all the way to the bank. The investors who were smart enough to get out might not have lost their shirts. Those who decided to try the next proverbial bottle of wine, were hooked both to the adrenaline and to the returns, little did they know, unless they did.
And what of the religious investors who saw the Yeshiva connection as a sign of integrity? Torah Usemorah loaned money to a failing hedge fund while the partners donated money to a different yeshiva, or not. Of course if a Yeshiva is going to loan money to a hedge fund, the fund must be worth its weight in salt, yes? No. This was just another part of the swindle. It gave the entire venture a different level of credibility, that of the religious kind. How were investors supposed to know that the Platinum Partners’ promised returns were a sham when the men in charge looked like G-d-faring philanthropists?
The picture that was painted was glorious and quite irresistible to investors and adrenaline junkies who sought high returns. Huberfeld’s friendships with Charlie Kushner (albeit a red flag for some) gave him some Wall Street cred. Few remembered that he had hired someone to take his SEC exams years earlier. And the forgiveness he got from the SEC was enough to show the world that if he was donned with his various SEC credentials, whatever he did was worth the forgiveness. And it was not. Someone who does ample due diligence would have stayed far away. But while Murray Huberfeld was convincing his Chabad friends to invest, Jona Rechnitz was peddling Platinum investments to people via his connections with seemingly credible organizations (Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Brooklyn Shomrim, his multiple connection to de Blasio and his Leviev history).
Mark Nordlicht was using his connections to the Westchester Torah Academy and a variety of his long-standing friendships with prominent Jewish families made him look like a reliable place to put some money. He wasn’t. He isn’t. He will never be. We will be surprised if Westchester Torah Academy doesn’t lose its shirt in the end also.
To blame the investors by stating that they knew the risks is a travesty, an affront to morality, ethics and the law. These men spent years and years cultivating and perfecting their ability to defraud the financial system, almost like a master fly fisherman does as sport. The difference is the the fly fisherman is an honest sportsman and doesn’t generally turn around and blame the fish for taking the bait.
The outcome of this case with all of its many tentacles and the various webs woven will determine how the next aspiring fraudster views the investment climate. If the SEC, the judicial system, and the taxing authorities do not take this seriously and are somehow swayed by the argument that “they knew the risks” the next fraud will be worse and it will likely come from the same people who will either be directly guilty or guilty by mentoring.
Platinum’s partners knew the “friarim” (loose translation – “suckers”) in the system and they are playing those adjudicating these cases for absolute fools. Our financial system is based upon trust. The Investors, defrauded of millions should be able to trust in the system and get justice. The money that was filtered out of these funds can be traced to the personal accounts and trust of the partners, their friends, their shuls or their children. It is not gone and it should be recovered with whatever means are necessary. No one should be fooled here.
To the legal and judicial community, you now know the risks of letting this go without justice.
LAW360 – By subscription only
Law360 (April 26, 2019, 9:10 PM EDT) — A New York federal judge accused Platinum Partners co-founder Mark Nordlicht on Friday of trying to “dazzle” a jury by having former U.S. Attorney General Michael B. Mukasey testify at his criminal trial, knocking down a subpoena targeting Mukasey and another attorney at Debevoise & Plimpton.
U.S. District Judge Brian M. Cogan granted Mukasey’s bid to quash a subpoena from Nordlicht, on trial for fraud related to the $1 billion hedge fund’s collapse, who’d said in a letter one day earlier that he wanted Mukasey, now of counsel for Debevoise, to testify about his representation of Platinum during a five-month period in 2013 that was “during the heart of the alleged conspiracy.”
Nordlicht said in his letter that “the mere fact of [Mukasey’s] representation is critical and of course has bearing.”
Read more at: https://www.law360.com/securities/articles/1154097/ex-ag-mukasey-won-t-testify-at-platinum-founder-s-trial?