Court freezes assets of Bedford financial adviser Nicholas B. Rowe
MANCHESTER - The Superior Court for North Hillsborough County on Wednesday froze the assets of a Bedford investment adviser and his wife at the request of the state Bureau of Securities Regulation.
The bureau is seeking $2.4 million in restitution for the New Hampshire customers of Nicholas B. Rowe and his Bedford-based investment firm, Focus Capital, which were the target of enforcement actions by the state in September.
At that time, state officials alleged that Rowe preyed on elderly widows and older investors, putting their money into high-risk securities that lost $2.4 million over five years while charging exorbitant fees and lying about his credentials.
In addition to restitution, the bureau issued a cease-and-desist order against Rowe and Focus Capital.
He faces the possible loss of his license as an investment adviser, administrative fines and costs, pending the outcome of an administrative hearing before a hearings examiner at the Bureau of Securities Regulation office in Concord on Jan. 28.
In a separate action, Rowe agreed to arbitration with his former clients through the Financial Industry Regulatory Agency (FINRA), the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. Jeff Spill, deputy director of the Bureau of Securities Regulation, said he learned on Tuesday that the FINRA arbitrator ruled against Rowe to the tune of $1.8 million.
State securities officials went to court on Wednesday to freeze Rowe's assets.
"The FINRA award, in effect, renders Rowe and Focus Capital insolvent," Spill said, "so we asked to court to take immediate action."
Judge David A. Garfunkel agreed to impose a restraining order, an injunction and an asset freeze, pending a hearing next week, when Rowe's attorneys will have a chance to make their case.
The hearing will also determine whether a receiver should be appointed to take control of the assets at stake.
In their court filing, lawyers for the Bureau of Securities Regulation wrote that the restraining order should also freeze the assets of RedBlack Software, Address Realty and Lisa J. Rowe that are "reasonably traceable to assets received from Focus Capital Wealth Management or Nicholas Rowe."
When the complaints first surfaced, Rowe said he was blindsided by the charges and would aggressively defend his record as an investment adviser.
"I've been in the business for more than 20 years," he said. "In that time I have never violated any law or even any principle of law."
Rowe was not available for comment on the recent FINRA arbitration award or the court actions by state securities officials.