$2.5 million penalty imposed on Pa. man liable for violating securities law

Judge orders Robert G. Bard to yield $450,000 taken from clients, including The Semper Fi Memorial Fund

February 15, 2012|By JENNIFER FITCH |

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A federal judge has imposed a $2.5 million penalty on a Fulton County, Pa., man who authorities say lied to investors about losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On Nov. 10, 2011, District Court Judge William W. Caldwell found Robert G. Bard and his firm, Vision Specialist Group LLC, liable for violating securities law.

The judge issued an order Feb. 2 setting the civil penalty at $2.5 million to be paid to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

Caldwell found that a permanent injunction barring Bard from controlling client funds and holding a job in the financial services industry is warranted. He also ordered Bard to yield $450,000 that was taken from his clients.


“Bard admits that he made false statements to 33 clients on 146 occasions over the course of two and a half years, misrepresenting the value of their accounts by an approximate total of $1,895,200,” the judge wrote in documents dated Nov. 10.

The Feb. 2 documents state Bard lied “about what type of securities and holdings they had, where the assets were, and the value of the assets. He charged at least one client excessive fees.”

He continued lying to clients for about three years, Caldwell wrote.

“There is no evidence that indicates defendants’ behavior was a result of an innocent mistake,” he wrote.

The Herald-Mail reported previously one of the investments was a memorial fund for a local Marine killed in Iraq. The Semper Fi Memorial Fund was established in 2006 by Warfordsburg, Pa., resident Nancy Szwydek, whose son, Steven Szwydek, was killed in 2005, while serving with theU.S. Marine Corps.

In a previous interview, Nancy Szwydek said checks she wrote on behalf of the Semper Fi Memorial Fund began to bounce. She said she notified the FBI in April 2009, and she lost personal retirement savings as well.

The judge’s order said the SEC asserted the maximum penalty under the statutes would amount to $18.98 million against Bard and $94.9 million against Vision Specialist. The defendants requested a penalty in the amount of $450,000 or less.

The parties were asked to present evidence about the egregiousness of the defendants’ conduct, the recurrent nature of the fraud, the defendants’ cooperation with authorities, the risk of substantial losses created by the defendants’ conduct, and the defendants’ current and future financial condition.

Nancy Szwydek said Wednesday night that she’s not sure if the memorial fund will ever get back the money it lost.

“I really don’t know what will happen down the road. We can only hope we can get some of the money back,” she said.

The fund, which pays to bring Fulton County high school students to Arlington National Cemetery every year, lost at least $15,000 in investments, according to Szwydek.

She said she felt “very fortunate to have a community to support us and keep it going.”

The memorial fund remains active thanks to various fundraisers, including a 5k run/walk that rotates among Southern Fulton, Central Fulton and Forbes Road school districts, Szwydek said.

“The 5k ... is very beneficial in keeping the fund going,” she said.

This year’s 5k will be April 21 at McConnellsburg (Pa.) High School beginning at 9 a.m.

Herald-Mail Tri-State Editor Bill Kohler contributed to this story.

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