Jury weighs fraud case against Texas tycoon brothers

Reuters
Texas investor Samuel Wyly exits the Manhattan Federal Court
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Texas investor Samuel Wyly exits the Manhattan Federal Court April 22, 2014. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

By Nate Raymond

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A jury began deliberations on Thursday in the trial of Texas tycoon Samuel Wyly and his late brother, Charles Wyly, whom the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accuses of engaging in a $550 million civil fraud.

The federal jury in Manhattan is weighing whether to hold Sam Wyly and his brother's estate liable for fraud in connection with civil claims by the SEC that they engaged in a "scheme of secrecy" involving undisclosed stock trading in offshore trusts.

The eight women and four men on the jury include a former model, a speech pathologist and a nurse. Jurors briefly convened on Wednesday to pick a forewoman, a former owner of an auto parts business.

No verdict was reached on Thursday. Jurors are expected to reconvene on Friday morning.

The SEC sued the Wylys in 2010, accusing the brothers of using a maze of trusts in the Isle of Man to conceal trading from 1992 to 2004 in four companies on whose boards they sat.

Those companies included Sterling Software Inc, Michaels Stores Inc, Sterling Commerce Inc, and Scottish Annuity & Life Holdings Ltd, now called Scottish Re Group Ltd.

The SEC said the scheme resulted in $550 million in profit.

The Wylys denied wrongdoing, contending they were not legally the beneficial owners of securities held in the trusts and had no duty to disclose them.

The SEC also contends the Wylys earned $31.7 million from insider trading in Sterling Software after deciding to sell the company in 1999.

Those claims would be heard separately by U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin, who would also decide what if any monetary penalty to impose.

Stephen Susman, the Wylys' lawyer, told jurors Tuesday the SEC was intent on "ruining the reputations of Sam and Charles Wyly and jeopardizing the financial security that they, in the twilight of their years, tried to create for their family."

Sam Wyly, 79, last appeared on Forbes' list of the 400 richest Americans in 2010 with a net worth of $1 billion. Charles Wyly died in a car crash in 2011.

The case is SEC v. Wyly et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 10-05760.

(Editing by Tom Brown and Matthew Lewis)