Bank exec overseeing senior living-related bond offerings fined $55,000

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A former bank executive responsible for a department overseeing what later was determined to be a series of fraudulent bond offerings by Atlanta businessman Christopher Brogdon will pay a $55,000 fine and will never work in corporate trust work related to municipal securities again under the terms of a judgment announced Tuesday by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

The judgment against Marrien Neilson was made March 3.

Neilson, as senior vice president at BOKF, NA, a subsidiary of Oklahoma-based BOK Financial, was mainly responsible for the failures of the bank's corporate trust department while overseeing the bond offerings managed by Brogdon, the SEC said. The businessman had been charged with fraud in November 2015 and subsequently was ordered by a federal court to repay more than $86 million to investors who had given him money to purchase and renovate senior living facilities.

Brogdon amassed almost $190 million through dozens of municipal bond and private placement offerings in which investors purportedly earned interest from revenues generated by the assisted living community, nursing home or other retirement housing projects supported by their investment, according to the SEC. He secretly commingled investor funds instead of using the money to finance the project described to investors in the disclosure documents for each offering, however, the commission alleged. Then, from the commingled accounts, he diverted investor money to other business ventures and personal expenses, according to the agency.

According to a cease-and-desist order filed by the SEC in September, BOKF, NA, failed in its gatekeeper role as indenture trustee and dissemination agent for Brogdon's bond offerings. BOKF and Neilson, the commission said, became aware that Brogdon was withdrawing money from reserve funds for the bond offerings and was failing to replenish them, and that he had not filed annual financial statements for the offerings. BOKF and Neilson also knew that the care facilities that served as collateral for one of the bond offerings had been closed for many years, according to the order. Neilson, however, allegedly warned others that disclosing these and other problems could impair future business and fees from Brogdon, upset bondholders and cause regulatory issues for bond underwriters. Therefore, they decided not to inform bondholders as required, the SEC said.

The order required BOKF, NA, to pay more than $1.6 million to settle charges that it had concealed several problems and red flags from investors in the Brogdon bond offerings.

The SEC also had filed the complaint against Neilson in September.

March 3, Judge Kevin McNulty of the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey ordered Neilson to pay $29,624.03, the amount of the bonus she received for her work on the Brogdon offerings; interest totaling $4,208.92; and a civil penalty of $21,167.05.

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