The opinion of the court was delivered by: KOLLAR-KOTELLY
This matter is before the Court on the application of Plaintiff Securities and Exchange Commission (Commission) for an order holding Relief Defendant Charles Smith in civil contempt for his violation of the Court's Judgment requiring disgorgement of $ 126,584, plus prejudgment and postjugment interest, reinstating an asset freeze, and requiring an accounting. The Court issued an Order to Show Cause to the defendant dated October 8, 1997, with the requirement that any opposition be filed by October 23, 1997. The Court also set a show cause hearing for October 30, 1997. The Court has considered the Commission's Application, supporting Memorandum, and Exhibits, opposing papers submitted on behalf of the named defendant, including the suggestion of an automatic stay as a result of defendant's filing of a petition in bankruptcy, the Commission's response, and arguments upon the application heard by telephone conference on October 29, 1997, and at a hearing on October 30, 1997, at which Mr. Smith submitted on the papers the issue of civil contempt, and the full record herein. The Court makes the following findings of fact and conclusions of law.
Jurisdiction of the Court
On July 2, 1997, defendant Smith filed a Voluntary Bankruptcy Petition under Chapter 7 individually, and on behalf of Atlantic Pacific Guarantee (APG) and Fedsure Investors Trust in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Central District of California. The Voluntary Bankruptcy was brought to this Court's attention on October 23, 1997, with the filing of an opposition by defendant Smith to the order to show cause. The Court has concluded that this contempt proceeding is not automatically stayed by the bankruptcy petition for two reasons: 1) the Court is conducting this contempt proceeding to uphold the dignity of the Court and to vindicate the authority of the Court to enforce its orders, and 2) the applicability of 11 U.S.C. § 364 (b)(4) & (5) as it relates to income and asset identification and an accounting, and not the enforcement of the judgment. The Court is mindful that by reason of the stay, this Court cannot issue an order requiring a payment of the disgorgement or enforcing the judgment. However, this Court can take actions consistent with a civil contempt proceeding. The Court has the right to determine whether or not defendant Smith has defrauded the Court by not paying the disgorgement due well before the bankruptcy stay. Although the filing of the bankruptcy petition has frustrated the ability of the Commission to collect the disgorgement, the Court can properly limit its inquiry into how the future damage to the Commission can be mitigated. See In re Weil, C.A. No. 95-21570-BKC-RBR (Bankr. S.D. Fla.) (order entered July 21, 1995); see also Kearns v. Orr, 168 B.R. 423 (Bankr. D. Kan. 1994); National Labor Relation Board v. Sawulski, 158 B.R. 971 (Bankr. E.D. Mich. 1993); Stovall v. Stovall, 126 B.R. 814 (N.D. Ga. 1990).
1. It is undisputed that defendant Smith has not paid the disgorgement of $ 126,584 and the interest accrued. On July 19, 1996, this Court entered its Final Judgment in this case against APG and defendant Smith with their consent. The disgorgement was to be paid in 90 days from the entry of the order. Defendant Smith has claimed an inability to make the payment. The underlying suit involves investors in Kenton Capital Ltd. who were promised unrealistic returns, with no risk to their principal in an investment market that did not exist, and whose repayment of their investment was guaranteed by relief defendants Smith and APG. The disgorgement represents an amount that Kenton Capital Ltd. had received from its investors and had passed on to APG and defendant Smith as fees. Defendant Smith has never explained how the money received as fees was expended.
2. Defendant Smith is the president and sole shareholder of APG, and APG is the immediate successor of Fedsure Investors Trust in which defendant Smith was the Trustee.
3. Since the entry of the judgment, defendant Smith allegedly has paid back personal loans or returned what he claims were borrowed assets. The Court cites the following examples: 10 million dollars worth of stock was returned to the original chairman of Fedsure, Roger Thompson, (C. Smith Tr. 439-40); a $ 50,000 certificate of trust listed as an APG asset was returned to the company which issued it (Pl. Ex. 125; C. Smith Tr. 339-43); medical receivables of 20 million dollars, and $ 60,000 in a credit union account are disputed funds which defendant Smith is willing to surrender by not contesting the ownership in court (Pl. Ex. 136; C. Smith Tr. 314, 316-19, 337-38); $ 119,000 was listed on the APG asset list, now unaccounted for, at a time when there have been no major APG expenditures. (C. Smith Tr. 335-37; Pl. Ex. B).
4. In addition, defendant Smith has a business associate, Quincy Quinn, with whom he shares an office. Defendant Smith has claimed that he returned 2.5 million dollars worth of fixed assets to Mr. Quinn, as well as $ 40,000 out of corporate funds to repay a personal advance from Mr. Quinn. However, Mr. Quinn invoked his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself when asked questions about his relationship with defendants Smith, APG, and Fedsure Investors Trust. (Pl. Ex. 115; C. Smith Tr. 66-68, 337-38, 350-53; Quinn Tr. 24-38; C. Smith Tr. 377, 382; Quinn Tr. 34-38.) Mr. Quinn's invocation of his right not to incriminate himself casts serious doubt as to whether Mr. Smith actually made the transfers to Mr. Quinn, as well as about the validity of any alleged transfer of assets or funds, assuming that has occurred. The Court's skepticism is greatly heightened by Mr. Quinn's actions.
5. Defendant Smith has provided neither any supporting documentation that evidences that these loans exist or that the return of assets was legally required, nor any documentation to support the fact that these loans or assets were actually repaid or returned. The Court has only defendant Smith's bald and conclusory statements in his affidavit to support his purported actions. The Court is unwilling to accept his word without more support.
7. As for income, defendant Smith has stated that his income most recently was $ 26,000 a year. However, the Commission has uncovered deposits of over $ 70,000 in eight months since the Court's order entering Final Judgment. (C. Smith Tr. 21-23, 106, 177-80, 282, 149-53; Pl. Ex. 153, 159, 146, 145, 147; Pl. Ex. G, H, I, J. L, M, N, P, Q). When pressed, Smith has admitted that in 1996 he had an income of approximately $ 100,000. (Pl. Ex. 153; C. Smith Tr. 467-68). He also admitted depositing $ 25,000 in an account for a nest egg for his wife. (Pl. Ex. 153; C. Smith Tr. 466-67, 469-70; C. Smith Aff. PP 16 and 17).
8. Defendant Smith has also variously listed his net worth as $ 500,000 on one investment account, and $ 100,000 on his bankruptcy petition. ...