Where's our money? new lawsuit asks Oxford firms
- Article by: DAN BROWNING
- Star Tribune
- August 31, 2009 - 8:25 PM
First, some worried Ohio investors sued their Twin Cities money managers in an effort to get their cash out of an unusual foreign currency investment. Now, the money managers are pointing fingers.
Minneapolis investment adviser Bo Beckman filed a lawsuit in Hennepin County last week against former associate Trevor Cook, seeking an immediate accounting of the currency investments that Cook promoted through his Oxford Global Partners.
Cook and his Minneapolis company pitched a "paired currencies" arbitrage that promised double-digit returns without risk to capital. Beckman, who owns the Oxford Private Client Group, placed an undisclosed amount of his clients' money into the strategy.
He and his wife, Hollie, say in their lawsuit that they also invested in the program along with some family members.
Cook, meanwhile, claims he's being burned by former business associate L. Edward Baker of Minnetonka. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 21 in Hennepin County, he seeks the return of more than $200,000 that he had invested in March through Baker's "G5 Currency Funds." Until then, he said, he wants Baker's bank accounts frozen.
Baker's firm offered its G5 currency investments this year through a private placement, which lists Oxford Global as the investment manager. Cook, reflecting the complaints of other investors in the currency strategy, says he was supposed to be able to withdraw his money upon request. But he says that Baker is holding onto the money, "falsely claiming that Cook owes Baker Capital LLC $302,055.41 for expenses related to the establishment of the Baker Currency Funds."
Baker could not be reached for comment.
Concerns about the currency investment strategy surfaced in early July, when nine Ohio investors filed a federal lawsuit in Minneapolis complaining that they were unable to withdraw nearly $5 million that they had invested through Cook and his associates.
The lawsuit listed Beckman's Oxford Private Client Group, along with Cook and Oxford Global, among the defendants. Both of the Oxford firms operated from the Van Dusen mansion in Minneapolis at that time, and they were among an array of what the plaintiffs' attorneys called "confusingly intertwined" Twin Cities business entities that promoted the currency investment.
Most of the defendant businesses had the words Oxford, Universal Brokerage or the abbreviation UB in their titles. Some of the Universal Brokerage entities are associated with Pat Kiley, a 71-year-old radio talk show host who pitched the currency investments on his program.
After news of the lawsuit broke, investors around the country began demanding immediate withdrawals, and the investment program shut down, refusing to honor distribution requests. An attorney involved in the case estimated the number of accounts at about 1,000, representing perhaps $200 million or more in investments.
Cook, through his attorneys, has declined to comment.
Beckman contends that he's a victim. He filed his lawsuit Thursday in Hennepin County District Court in an effort to force Cook to disclose where the money went.
"The No. 1 question on everybody's mind is, 'Where's the money?' " said Andrew Luger, an attorney with Greene Espel who represents Beckman. "So we wanted to file a lawsuit that specifically addresses that issue: Where is the money?"
Many of the investors believed that their money was tied up in a bankrupt Swiss company called Crown Forex. But those who checked with the bankruptcy trustee overseeing that company's liquidation said they were told that their accounts didn't exist.
Luger told investors at a meeting last month that Beckman had hired a Swiss law firm to help find their money. He said Monday that he hopes to have some information for investors as soon as this week, but he declined to elaborate.
Luger also had told investors that Beckman was exploring the possibility of a class-action lawsuit against Cook and his associates. In an e-mail to investors Friday, he seemed to back away from that strategy.
"When we explored larger, more complicated lawsuits, we determined that they could drag on for a long time with no immediate answers," he wrote. "In conversations with many of you, it was clear that the sooner we can get answers, the better."
Luger said the accounting demand may be the quickest way get some answers. "The case was brought in the names of the Beckmans, but is designed to get answers for all," he wrote.
Luger, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Minneapolis, added that "there is a great deal of activity going on at the federal government level as well to get answers to these questions. We hope the government's work helps everyone locate their funds as well."
Dan Browning • 612-673-4493
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