Tue07222014

News

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments

Q&A with Anne Wojcicki: 23andMe founder, local resident discusses Los Altos investments


Anne Wojcicki

For the past several years, Anne Wojcicki (Wo-JIT-skee) has been quietly involved in efforts to spruce up downtown Los Altos. She and her husband, Google Inc. co-founder Sergey Brin, helped form Passerelle Investment Co., which own...

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Schools

Foothill fall registration opens Monday

Local residents interested in earning a specialized career certificate, associate degree or updated job skills can enroll beginning Monday when Foothill College opens fall registration.

In addition to its continuing-education courses, the college pr...

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Community

Sports

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High

Stewart accepts job as baseball coach at Los Altos High


Los Altos High administrators offered Gabe Stewart the job of head baseball coach at Los Altos High even before he could apply for it.

“They approached me – they wanted an on-campus coach,” said Stewart, an AP History teacher at ...

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Comment

A good start – now follow through: Editorial

The recent announcement of a five-year agreement between the Los Altos School District and Bullis Charter School is welcome relief for the entire community. After years of dispute and litigation, the pact is nothing short of a minor miracle.

Among t...

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Business

In the business of fostering business

In the business of fostering business


took over as Los Altos’ new economic development coordinator in May after spending the past two years working as city assistant planner. Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier

Sierra Davis is wearing a slightly different hat these days as a Los Altos cit...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

GORDON E. BRANDT

GORDON E. BRANDT

In May of 2014, Gordon E. Brandt passed away after a one and one half year battle with Lymphoma. He died peacefully at home, surrounded by his family.

Gordon was born in Los Angeles, CA on July 13, 1930. He graduated from Fremont High School in 19...

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Travel

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises

British Columbia: Richmond, Steveston, Victoria hold surprises


Courtesy of Tourism Richmond
Shops, restaurants and museums dot the boardwalk in British Columbia’s Steveston, a great site for strolling.

Picturesque British Columbia has long been on our bucket list, and we recently fulfilled that dream.

We...

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Stepping Out

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'

LA Youth Theatre, LA Stage Company join forces for 'Oz'


Joyce Goldschmid/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of “The Wizard of Oz” includes, clockwise from top left, Dana Levy (as Tinman), Rebecca Krieger (Cowardly Lion), Sarah Traina (Scarecrow) and Osher Fein (Dorothy).

Los Altos Youth Theatre and L...

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Spiritual Life

Stanford students study religion through campus artifacts

The inscriptions inside Memorial Church, the death mask of Jane Stanford and the nod to the Egyptian ankh symbol formed by Palm Drive and the Stanford Oval all have one thing in common: Each was a topic of discussion for the students enrolled in a un...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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Both sides move for decision in Ponzi case

In what may prove a last barrage of documents, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Los Altos resident Mark Feathers filed dueling requests for a judge’s final decision last month.

Feathers, accused of misleading investors in the funds he managed, asked U.S. District Judge Edward J. Davila for a summary judgment exonerating him.

His Los Altos-based company, SB Capital Corp., managed two funds that had gathered approximately $42 million from investors over the past five years. When the SEC seized them in June, an appointed receiver assessed the funds’ holdings at approximately 75 percent of their stated value, suggesting that investors lost some but not all of their money.

SEC prosecutor John Bulgozdy seeks more than $12.3 million from Feathers, the amount approximately representing what his 400 investors stand to lose as the business is dismantled, plus a $300,000 additional penalty. Bulgozdy did not suggest that Feathers necessarily had that money among his assets, currently frozen by the court.

In its case, the SEC depicts SB Capital as a company that had lost money on underperforming investments in recent years.

Bulgozdy presented evidence that Feathers had moved money around the business to disguise losses, present investors with the appearance of success and continue to pay himself.

Feathers, in turn, submitted documentation of SB Capital investor correspondence that he believes demonstrates that his company operated transparently and with investor notification and approval.

At the heart of the case lie questions of comprehension: Did investors understand, read and sign documents concurring with SB Capital’s business practices; and did the company break the law even if it had investor support?

Investor approval or deception?

One document, an SB Capital mailing introduced as evidence, illustrates the contending interpretations heard in court. In it, Feathers cheerily stated that fund note investments were “performing as agreed” but requested that investors sign a form allowing the company to make a loan to itself, or, as he defined it, “assume any deficit to the note amount through a receivable to the fund.” He assured them that “this action will not likely have any material bearing on future fund member earnings.”

According to the SEC’s interpretation, Feathers sought to borrow funds so that he could continue to return interest at a rate approaching 7.5 percent and fund his business, even as the investments failed to perform. Feathers alleged that this act of borrowing was explained in writing, but some investors interviewed by the SEC claimed they absolutely did not understand that their investments were not performing as well as returns seemed to indicate.

Campbell resident Robert Morris described investing larger and larger increments of money with Feathers’ company, as his account statements showed a rosy rate of return each month. He reinvested that return, sinking himself deeper into the enterprise.

“At no time did I understand that I was being asked to approve (SB Capital) borrowing money from IPF (Investors Prime Fund) or SPF (SBC Portfolio Fund), nor did I understand that I was being asked to ratify prior borrowing from the two funds,” he wrote in a declaration.

Decoding assets and liabilities

In addition to arguing that he fully met disclosure requirements, Feathers counters in his court filing that the borrowed money was used properly as “reimbursement of expense or for monies to be spent for expenses.”

David Gruebele, a consultant who worked with SB Capital on accounting issues, explained in a declaration that because SB Capital borrowed the money as a “due from” or manager’s note, it was recorded as an “asset” of the funds rather than an expense.

“I advised Mr. Feathers that (the funds) had distributed more to investors than the funds’ income at that point in time,” Gruebele said. “In response, Mr. Feathers usually assured me that additional income was going to be generated in the near future from new transactions that would balance the overdistributions and/or generate net management. From early 2010 through early 2012, the amount owed by (SB Capital) to the funds grew by millions of dollars.”

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