Lead Securities Regulator
British Columbia Securities Commission (BCSC)
Type of Misconduct Committed
Alan Braun, the pastor of a church in Surrey, B.C., his son Jerry, and their associate Steven Maxwell persuaded two Ontario residents to give them and their companies money for purported real estate investments.
One investor, an Ontario resident, met Alan Braun while working at a seminary where Alan served on the board of trustees. Nine years later, Alan and Jerry solicited him for a real estate investment in Edmonton, promising that he would get his money back, plus a 50% return on his investment, in 60 days. He signed an investment contract to pay $150,000 within 60 days; to meet that obligation, he borrowed $149,000 from a friend.
Soon after, the investor shared the investment opportunity with another Ontario resident he knew through church connections. While visiting B.C. for spiritual and religious reasons, she entered into investment contracts with Alan Braun and Maxwell. A BCSC panel said that the Brauns “preyed upon a shared spirituality with the investor.” Jerry Braun and Maxwell drove her to her bank and assisted her in obtaining a $300,000 bank draft payable to Maxwell’s company.
Altogether, the Brauns and Maxwell received $450,000 from the two investors. Instead of using the money for the real estate investments, the Brauns and Maxwell spent it for other purposes, including their own personal expenses.
Alan Braun was ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $450,000 and another $323,500 in disgorgement, representing the amount he obtained from the fraud. Jerry Braun and his company, Braun Developments, was deemed liable for $157,000 of the $323,500 disgorgement imposed on his father, and was ordered to pay a $200,000 administrative penalty. Maxwell was ordered to pay an administrative penalty of $300,000 and a disgorgement of $120,500.
Allan Braun and Maxwell were permanently barred from acting as a company director or officer, working as a registrant or promoter, serving in a management or consultative capacity in the securities market, engaging in investor relations activities, relying on any of the Securities Act’s exemptions, and trading in or buying securities or exchange contracts (other than transactions for his own account through a registered dealer). Jerry Braun was barred from the same activities for at least 15 years (with certain exceptions), a prohibition that won’t be lifted until his penalties are paid.
Key Takeaways for Investors
Here are key takeaways that investors can learn from the case of Braun, Braun and Maxwell:
Avoid the “trust trap”
We tend to let down our guard when making investments with people we know and trust. Take a “trust but verify” approach – make sure you have confirmed all the facts you need, from independent sources, to make an informed decision.
Beware of “no risk, high return” investments
If anyone uses lines about guaranteed returns, or predictions of higher-than-normal returns, or even guaranteed higher-than-normal returns, walk away. The reality is, very few investments, except Guaranteed Income Certificates or government bonds, can legitimately promise a guaranteed return.
Don’t be pressured
If someone is rushing you to make an investment, slow things down. You do not want to rush this kind of decision – the stakes are too high.
To read more about the Braun & Maxwell case and the sanctions imposed on them, click here.