SEC Goes After Rule-Breaking EB-5 Lawyers in Batches

By David North on August 29, 2016

There apparently are so many rule-breaking lawyers in the EB-5 business that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) goes after them in batches.

On August 24, SEC announced that it had penalized three of them, all for failing to secure a legally required license to sell securities, and said that the trio (who apparently operated separately from each other) had agreed to cough up a total of three-quarters of a million dollars.

It is safe to assume that the three must have faced overwhelming evidence against them, otherwise they would not have paid the penalties. These were not ground-breaking cases, as we have provided many other examples of similar SEC citations in our interactive map of EB-5 Fraud and Follies.

The three dishonorees this time, all said to have collected funds while being "unregistered broker-dealers" in EB-5 transactions, are:

  • Thomas T.M. Ho, of Honolulu. He had to pay $37,500 in disgorgements, $2,500 in back interest, and a civil money penalty of $30,000 to SEC.

  • Mark A. Ivener and Ivener & Fullmer, LLP of Los Angeles. His penalties were $450,000 (a disgorgement) and $87,855 in interest.

  • Martin J. Lawler of San Francisco. He agreed to a disgorgement of $115,000 in commissions and an interest payment of $25,997.

The last two named are not minor players at the edge of the EB-5 business. For example, to quote from Lawler's website:

Among other prestigious awards and distinctions, attorney Lawler has been listed in Best Lawyers in America, Bar Registry of Preeminent Lawyers, has been designated a Northern California Super Lawyer by San Francisco Magazine, and received an American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA) top award.

Similarly, from the Ivener's firm's website:

Immigration Books and EB-5 and Business Immigration Articles by Immigration Attorney Mark Ivener:

The Los Angeles-based EB-5 Green Card attorney Mark Ivener is a prolific immigration law author. His books on immigration topics include:

"EB-5 Visas: International Investors & U.S. Taxes", by Gary Wolfe, Ryan Losi, and Mark Ivener.

"Handbook of Immigration Law", with David Fullmer, etc.

Ho, on the other hand, appears to be new to the game; he was assessed for only one illicit fee.

All three lawyers agreed to cease and desist future violations of this part of the Exchange Act.

All of this is a tap on the wrist, of course, but it is in the continuing tradition that most of the policing of the EB-5 program is done not by the Department of Homeland Security, but by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

I doubt that these evidences of their lawyerly skills will ever be reflected in their websites.