U.S. District Court Judge David C. Godbey issued an order at the request of Stanford court-appointed receiver Ralph S. Janvey unfreezing approximately 12,000 Stanford investor accounts held at Pershing LLC, the SEC announced yesterday. The court's order applies to customer accounts valued at $250,000 or less as of month-end February 2009, and is effective on March 9, 2009.

Robert Allen Stanford, chairman of the Stanford Group of Companies, is the subject of several fraud investigations and was charged last month by the SEC with various offenses for an alleged "massive ongoing fraud" involving $8 billion in certificates of deposits.

Customers can immediately begin the process of obtaining control of their accounts by arranging to transfer their accounts to a new broker-dealer. To do so, the customer should make arrangements with the new broker-dealer to open a new account.

Typically, the first step in opening a new account is for the customer to obtain and complete an account transfer form and a new account opening form. These forms are available from broker-dealers directly or on their Web sites. The completed forms are then submitted to the new broker-dealer who in turn will provide appropriate instruction to Pershing LLC regarding the transfer of the accounts. There is typically a small fee associated with the transfer of accounts from one broker to another.

The court has authorized the release of these accounts unless any of the following conditions apply:

* They are owned by Stanford shareholders, directors and certain employees.

* They are owned for the benefit of Stanford companies.

* They are managed by Stanford companies.

* They secure unpaid balances owed by customers or non-purpose loans made to customers.

* They are related to accounts in any of these categories by social security number, address or other similar indicators.