The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission doesn’t have to pay for what a judge called the "bacchanalian adventure" of two executives after agreeing to cover their travel costs to be questioned in a lawsuit.
The regulator’s obligation to pick up the tab for taking depositions of the two men, principals of a defunct Panamanian broker-dealer firm, Verdmont Capital SA, doesn’t extend to “exquisite" expenses like first-class flights from Panama City to London, a five-star hotel, a $1,000 bar tab and a two-day side trip to Madrid, U.S. District Judge William Pauley in Manhattan said in a ruling Thursday.
Pauley also denied expense requests from the two, Glynn Fisher and Taylor Housser, for a $100 bottle of Bierzo el Rapolao Perez, “a well-regarded Mencia varietal from the Leon Province of Spain,” and a tour of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London.
"The request that the government reimburse Verdmont’s principals for their saturnalian revelries is beyond the pale," Pauley wrote in a three-page order.
Robert Zito, the New York lawyer who represents Verdmont, said he told Pauley last month that the SEC hadn’t reimbursed any of the $17,551 in claimed expenses and asked that he order the SEC to pay.
"The SEC is in contempt of the judge’s order as it has reimbursed Verdmont nothing," Zito said in an e-mail Thursday. "The SEC refused to pay us anything, contrary to its representations. We won our motion, just not as much as we had hoped."
The SEC is suing Verdmont and several other defendants for their alleged role in aiding a $38 million pump-and-dump scam. Verdmont filed for liquidation in Panama in January.
The agency agreed to pay expenses for Fisher and Housser to be questioned by its lawyers in a “neutral jurisdiction” outside the U.S. to resolve a disagreement about whether they could be required to provide testimony. It was decided the deposition would take place in London, according to the judge.
After arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport in April, Fisher booked two $700-per-night rooms at the Lanesborough near Hyde Park, according to Pauley. The five-star hotel offers 24-hour butler service and “London’s finest cigar lounge,” according to its website.