Lawyers say they’ve reached what could be the largest settlement of a securities lawsuit in Oregon history.
At almost $235 million, the collection of settlements mark a change in fortune for investors harmed by the Lake Oswego-based investment firm known as Aequitas. Lawyers say Aequitas companies ran a Ponzi scheme that defrauded investors of millions of dollars before the firm was shut down in 2016.
Tuesday’s settlement still needs a judge’s approval. It springs from a class-action lawsuit brought by law firms Stoll Berne of Portland and Hagens Berman in Seattle on behalf of about 1,600 investors.
The defendants aren’t Aequitas companies.
Instead, the lawsuit aims to hold responsible the bankers, lawyers and accountants who helped Aequitas in its securities business. Oregon law makes it possible to sue third parties who allegedly participate or materially aid such transactions.
“Under the Oregon securities law, they are as responsible as Aequitas, even though there’s no requirement that the investors have to prove that any of the participants committed any type of fraud,” said lead counsel Keith Ketterling of Stoll Berne.
The defendants are the accounting firms Deloitte & Touche and EisnerAmper, the law firms Sidley Austin and Tonkon Torp, along with TD Ameritrade, Integrity Bank & Trust of Colorado, and Duff & Phelps. All have agreed to settlements.
When the liquidated assets of Aequitas are added to the settlement figures, compensation for investors could rise to about $300 million, minus attorney fees.