Massachusetts' top securities regulator on Thursday charged a unit of RCS Capital Corp with fraudulently casting shareholder proxy votes, alleging fake accents were used to impersonate investors.
An administrative complaint filed by Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin seeks penalties including a fine and the revocation of the broker-dealer registration of Realty Capital Securities, a Boston subsidiary of brokerage holding company RCS Capital.
A spokesman for the companies did not return messages.
Galvin's complaint states his investigation identified at least two cases of fabricated proxy votes concerning Business Development Corporation of America, an American Realty Capital-sponsored investment fund.
RCS Capital's former executive chairman, the well-known real estate investor Nicholas Schorsch, resigned last year. Schorsch also stepped down in December as executive chairman of American Realty Capital Partners, a real estate investment trust. Earlier this year it restated financial results after discovering intentional accounting errors. (http://reut.rs/1M9DxZ2)
In two instances, the complaint states, people who worked for Realty Capital "used a contrived accent" to impersonate shareholders and to cast proxy votes in favor of the fund's management, once at the fund's annual meeting and a second time at a special meeting.
Galvin's office said it obtained audio recordings of the votes being cast.
The complaint states investigators believe the voting irregularities were much more widespread than those two votes. Employees at Realty Capital, "facing intense pressure from management, replicated this fraudulent action over numerous proxy votes," the complaint states.
The case arose from information provided by an employee of Realty Capital, Galvin's office said.