Toney Anaya. (Photo: William Pacheco via Wikipedia)
The former governor and attorney general of New Mexico settled fraud charges brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission stemming from his role as head of a company that the agency said was secretly controlled by two ex-crooks.
Toney Anaya, governor of New Mexico from 1983 to 1987 and attorney general of the state from 1975 to 1978, was charged in an administrative complaint filed Wednesday by the SEC, which also sued three other men and suspended trading in the company. Anaya, credited by the SEC with extensive cooperation, is barred from participating in any offering of a penny stock for at least five years and may still face financial penalties.
The SEC alleged that Natural Blue Resources Inc., which was created to acquire or invest in environmentally friendly companies, was wrongly controlled by two men with prior law violations—James Cohen, who served prison time for financial fraud, and Joseph Corazzi, who was previously charged with violating federal securities laws and barred from acting as an officer or director of a public company.
The two called themselves outside consultants, an “arrangement [that] enabled them to be de facto officers of Natural Blue and personally profit from the company without disclosing their past brushes with the law to investors,” according to the SEC.
Anaya, 73, was chairman and CEO of Natural Blue from August 2009 until January 2011. The SEC said he was aware of Cohen’s criminal record and Corazzi’s troubles with the SEC but did not disclose the information to investors.
Anaya “deferred to Cohen and Corazzi and allowed these so-called ‘consultants’ to dictate the company’s affairs,” according to the SEC complaint. Their influence extended to the company’s creation, selection of officers and directors, policy making and management, the SEC said.
The SEC said Anaya violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act, which prohibits fraudulent conduct in the offer or sale of securities, because information about the men was not disclosed in SEC filings.
“Investors in Natural Blue had a right to know who was running the company behind the scenes,” said Andrew Ceresney, director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, in a news release.
Paul Levenson, director of the SEC’s Boston Regional Office, added, “Natural Blue and its officers attempted an end-run around the rules designed to prevent recidivists from getting their hands on the controls of public companies.”
Anaya, who earned his J.D. in 1967 from American University Washington College of Law and now runs his own firm in Santa Fe, The Anaya Law Firm, was represented by Squire Patton Boggs partner Sotiris “Ted” Planzos, who did not immediately respond to a call seeking comment.
The SEC also settled charges with Erik Perry, who headed Natural Blue for six months after Anaya left. Perry, who was not represented by counsel, agreed to pay a $150,000 penalty and be permanently barred from serving as an officer or director of a public company and from participating in any offerings of penny stock.
Charges against Natural Blue, Cohen and Corazzi are pending.
Contact Jenna Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jgreenejenna.