Ripples From Stanford Scheme Still Felt in Memphis

By Andy Meek

The court-appointed receiver who’s unwinding the now-defunct operations of Stanford Financial Group – once fueled by money from a giant Ponzi scheme – is preparing to sell off Stanford property in Collierville.

The receiver is looking to sell a unit in The Oaks at Schilling Farms Condominiums in Collierville at a public auction March 8 at the offices of Marx-Bensdorf Realtors, 959 Ridgeway Loop Road. The starting bid is $198,000.

The receiver has entered into a stalking horse contract, which specifies the starting minimum bid that will be required.

Also, a group representing Stanford investors is seeking to recover at least $7.37 million Stanford apparently donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital; its fundraising arm, ALSAC; and the Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital Foundation.

The investor group filed a federal lawsuit this week in federal court in Texas. Court documents purport to show 39 separate payments made to the defendants spread over 35 months, with multiple payments in some months.

“St. Jude received charitable donations and sponsorship fees in good faith directly from Stanford Financial Group,” said Emily Callahan, chief marketing officer, ALSAC/St. Jude, in a prepared statement. “The funds were spent immediately on our mission of saving kids’ lives in the U.S. and around the world and finding cures for catastrophic diseases in children.

“While our hearts go out to those impacted by the Stanford investment issues, it would hurt our charitable mission to have to return the money already spent directly on clinical care and support for children suffering from cancer and other deadly diseases, including bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy treatments, on education and training of doctors and nurses who help kids worldwide, and on groundbreaking research. We remain committed to focusing every minute on our lifesaving mission of finding cures and saving children.”

The hospital entities were far from the only ones that benefitted from Stanford’s largesse.

Before federal officials shut down Stanford in 2009, the company that once had an office in the East Memphis Crescent Center was a generous benefactor of several causes in Memphis.

The formerly Houston-based company was a corporate sponsor of the National Civil Rights Museum and a contributor to the Greater Memphis Arts Council, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis and the Ave Maria Foundation of Memphis, according to a report from Stanford about its community investments. Stanford’s charitable foundation also was based in Memphis.

In the most recent edition of Stanford’s in-house magazine before the company was shut down, Stanford was shown seated among a quartet of children. All of them are smiling, and one is sitting on the businessman’s knee.

The Houston-based company provided financial support to the hospital as its “corporate charity of choice,” according to the magazine.

Tony Thomas, the son of St. Jude founder Danny Thomas, said in the magazine that Stanford’s chairman “has been a blessing for us and for the children and patients of St. Jude. … His support has resulted in $15 million in the last three years.”