A federal judge in Atlanta has sharply criticized the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission for what he described as a seven-year “relentless pursuit” of a Tennessee businessman and his lawyer partner while “studiously ignoring Bernard Madoff and the largest Ponzi scheme in American history.”

In an order handed down July 28, U.S. District Senior Judge Marvin H. Shoob rejected the SEC’s attempt to collect more than $10 million in fines and penalties from Steven C. Wyer, Tennessee attorney Kurt V. Beasley and their defunct capital investment company, Merchant Capital LLC.

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