The indictment against Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is pretty straightforward, but also leaves plenty of questions. Paxton turned himself into Collin County authorities on Monday after a grand jury indicted him on securities fraud violations. He’s promising to fight the charges and his attorney said Paxton wanted to tell his side of the story. Paxton’s testimony is going to be important if he hopes to keep his political career alive. It’s going to be very interesting to see what happens and when the case will actually go before a jury. Special prosecutors are still going to have to provide jurors with explicit evidence showing Paxton knowingly broke the law. That may be easier said than done.
The prosecutors are probably banking on getting Paxton convicted on at least the investment services charge. It almost seems like a slam dunk because Paxton has already been fined by the Texas State Securities Board.
THE GRAND JURY for the County of Collin, State of Texas, duly selected, impaneled, sworn, charged and organized as such by the 416th District Court for the said County at the July Term, A.D. 2015 of the said Court, upon their oaths present in and to said Court that WARREN KENNETH PAXTON, JR., hereinafter styled Defendant on or about the 18th day of July, 2012 and before the presentment of this indictment, in the County and State aforesaid, did then and there knowingly and intentionally render services as an investor investment advisor representative to James and Freddie Henry and the aforesaid WARREN KENNETH PAXTON, JR., was then and there not duly registered as an investment advisor representative by and with the Securities Commissioner of the State of Texas.
The question becomes whether Paxton knowingly violated the law. His spokesperson said last year it was an administrative oversight and no crime happened. The questions start to pop up because of who the complaint involves: James and Freddie Henry. WFAA reported James Henry told the grand jury he went to financial adviser Fritz Mowery after asking Paxton.
Henry said he did not recall being told about the fee-sharing arrangement, but indicated that he was not bothered by it. He said he would trust Paxton and Mowery without reservation.
It’s seems pretty obvious this wasn’t a case of Paxton going to a client and saying, “Hey…there’s this guy I know,” he was asked. What’s going to be interesting to see is whether Paxton’s attorneys call members of the Securities Board to testify in the Attorney General’s defense about what happened. It would make sense because they were the ones who handed down the $1K fine. Paxton has admitted to breaking the law, but prosecutors may have a tough time proving it was on purpose. It isn’t known if the grand jury had access to the Securities Board testimony or a transcript of it.
The second and third indictments are more ambitious and have the most questions attached. They’ll be combined here to save space and because they’re the same, just with different names.
THE GRAND JURY for the County of Collin, State of Texas, duly selected, impaneled, sworn, charged and organized as such by the 416th District Court for the said County at the July Term, A.D. 2015 of the said Court, upon their oaths present in and to said Court that WARREN KENNETH PAXTON, JR., hereinafter styled Defendant on or about the 26th day of July, 2011, and before the presentment of this indictment, in the County and State aforesaid, did then and there engage in fraud in connection with the offer for sale and sale of common stock of SERVERGY, INC., being a security to wit: stock, to BYRON COOK and JOEL HOCHBERG , hereinafter styled the complainant, in an amount involving $100,000 or more, by intentionally failing to disclose to the complainant, to wit: that WARREN KENNETH PAXTON, JR. had not, in fact, personally invested in SERVERGY, INC., and that WARREN KENNETH PAXTON, JR. would be compensated, and had, in fact, received compensation from SERVERGY, INC., in the form of 100,000 shares of SERVERGY, INC. stock, the said information being material fact.
There is a little bit of political intrigue here because Byron Cook is a Republican state representative in Corsicana. What doesn’t make sense is why did Paxton allegedly not tell Cook and Hochberg he was involved in Servergy? It seems like common sense for Paxton to tell investors he had a personal stake in it. What the indictment isn’t clear on is if Paxton had already put in his own money into Servergy or if he was promised shares for getting clients. If it was the former, then again, it makes no sense for him to not tell someone. If it was the latter, then that might constitute fraud, but it might not. Servergy had been in business for two years in 2011, so Paxton may have put his money in there already. This will again have to come out at trial, but something doesn’t sit well on this. No idea what, but it doesn’t sit well.
The entire indictment is honestly another case of overcriminalization within the U.S. Paxton is a little uncouth for not telling clients he was getting a finders fee for sending them to Mowery, but should it really be a crime? It doesn’t seem like he was stealing anyone’s money, unless the feds are able to determine he was involved in Servergy’s possible bad dealings. There are ways to settle things without getting the law involved, which is what a 2009 lawsuit Paxton and Mowery faced tried to do. Is it the government’s business to know who is registered as what? These are questions which really need to be answered, regardless as to whether Paxton is guilty or innocent. There are too many laws in the U.S. (which isn’t always a popular topic) and this could be another example of that. It’s just food for thought because this doesn’t really seem like an actual corrupt politician, just someone who really should have better business ethics.
Paxton isn’t going to resign (and he should due to the potential political fallout), but The Dallas Morning News makes a pretty good point he should at least delegate authority. It’s still possible Paxton is completely innocent of all charges, even if he admitted to violating state securities law in 2014. Right now things don’t look great, but it depends on what the jury thinks. Hopefully, his trial will not be a dog and pony show and the truth will come out.