An adviser was barred from the industry for steering millions of dollars entrusted to him by pro-athlete clients into unsuitable investments that would benefit him personally and falsely claiming to be a CPA, according to the SEC.
The commission reached a settlement with Ash Narayan, the former managing director of the Orange County, California-office of RGT Capital Management, under which Narayan will be barred from associating with any broker-dealer or adviser.
An attorney for Narayan did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dallas Cowboys quarterback Mark Sanchez and other pro athletes had millions of their funds steered into a fledgling online sports entertainment and ticketing firm that counted Narayan as a board member, according to the SEC.
Narayan, an adviser to Mark Sanchez, a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys, and baseball pitchers Jake Peavy of the San Francisco Giants and Roy Oswalt of the Colorado Rockies, as well as other pro athletes, ran into trouble when he began funneling his clients' funds into the Ticket Reserve, a fledgling online sports entertainment and ticketing firm that counted Narayan as a board member, according to the SEC.
Representatives for Sanchez, Peavy and Oswalt were not immediately available for comment.
When the SEC
announced a court order freezing Narayan's assets in June, the commission said that the adviser had transferred more than $33 million of clients' money — often without their knowledge and through the use of forged signatures — into the Ticket Reserve in what amounted to a Ponzi-like scheme.
According to the SEC's complaint, Narayan's athlete clients had instructed him to place their money in safe and conservative investments to preserve their principal. Instead, Narayan was alleged to have moved their assets into the Ticket Reserve, while failing to disclose blatant conflicts of interest — the fees that he would receive, his spot on the firm's board, and his ownership of more than 3 million Ticket Reserve shares, the complaint shows. Further, Narayan falsely held himself out to be a CPA. Ticket Reserve executives were said to have covertly made finder's fee payments to Narayan under the guise of director's fees and loans.
The SEC alleged that Ticket Reserve "became dependent on the fraudulent cash infusions from Narayan's unsuspecting clients to stay in business." For his part, Narayan pocketed nearly $2 million in compensation from Ticket Reserve, "most of it directly traceable to funds stolen from his clients," according to the SEC. All the while Ticket Reserve was sustaining heavy losses.
Ticket Reserve, the commission further alleged, "made Ponzi-like payments to existing investors using money from new investors," and that Narayan, after he was fired from RGT, continued to move money that he had bilked from clients toward the ticketing firm.
RGT, for its part, has said that when it discovered how Narayan had been handling his clients' accounts, it promptly notified the SEC and took corrective action, including terminating Narayan in February of this year. The Dallas-based firm has since been engaged in its own litigation against individuals affiliated with Ticket Reserve.
Last month, in a final judgment issued by a federal court in Texas, Narayan was ordered to pay $1.498 million in disgorgement, along with $350,000 in civil penalties.
Kenneth Corbin is a Financial Planning contributing writer in Boston.