The chief investment officer of troubled Stanford Financial Group appeared today in federal court in Houston as new details emerged showing the head of the firm borrowed $1.6 billion from the troubled company’s assets. Laura Pendergest-Holt, who looked pale and solemn in a black pantsuit, faces charges she obstructed the Securities and Exchange Commission investigation of the Stanford scandal by lying about her knowledge of the firm’s activities and by omitting key details.
Pendergest-Holt agreed to waive a probable cause hearing, allowing her case to be moved to Dallas, where the SEC charges were filed. But her attorney, Dan Cogdell, argued against a $1 million bond sought by Justice Department attorney Paul Pelletier.
Pendergest-Holt was arrested Thursday in Houston, where Stanford Financial Group is based. The firm’s chief executive, Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford, is accused of perpetrating an $8 billion investment swindle. FBI agents served Stanford with legal papers last week, and he was ordered to surrender his passport, but has not been charged with a crime.
Cogdell noted today that Pendergest-Holt had to get a salary advance of $10,000 to travel to Houston for the SEC interview because her assets have been frozen and she needed the money for expenses. However, FBI Special Agent Vanessa Walter testified that Pendergest-Holt had earned a base salary of $350,000 in 2007 and $375,000 in 2008, with bonuses of about $700,000 each year.