The Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges today against Windsor Jones LLC and its United Kingdom-based principal Anthony Collins for allegedly raising at least $4 million through the fraudulent and unregistered offer and sale of purported fine wine investments to at least 12 investors.
According to the SEC’s complaint, between November 2017 and September 2021, Windsor Jones, through Collins, its sales representatives, and marketing materials, represented to investors, many of whom are elderly, that Windsor Jones would buy investment-grade wines for the investors, later sell the wine at a profit, and would share in a portion of the profits with investors. As alleged in the complaint, they falsely represented to investors that their money would solely be used to purchase and store wine, the wine could be expected to achieve a return ranging between 10% to 30%, and the company would not receive any compensation or profit until the wine was sold. As alleged in the complaint, in reality, Windsor Jones LLC used no more than 32% of the investors’ money for the purchase and storage of wine, made minimal payments to investors, and misused investor funds by spending them on a variety of non-wine uses, including approximately $367,000 for credit card payments, $176,000 for shopping at UK-based fine watch companies, $870,000 for commissions and payments to sales representatives and other individuals, and $340,000 to Collins himself. According to the complaint, they also failed to disclose that they charged a mark-up of 30% to 50% to investors on their purchases of wine, and paid sales representatives an up-front commission of 8% to 10% from investor funds.
The SEC’s complaint, filed in the Central District of California, alleges that Collins and Windsor Jones LLC violated the registration provisions of Sections 5(a) and 5(c) of the Securities Act of 1933, the antifraud provisions of Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, and Section 10(b) the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Rule 10b-5 thereunder. It also seeks injunctive relief, disgorgement plus prejudgment interest, civil penalties, and a prohibition on Collins serving as the officer or director of a public company.
The SEC’s investigation, which is continuing, has been conducted by BeLinda Mathie and Pesach Glaser and supervised by Steven Klawans of the SEC’s Chicago Regional Office. The SEC’s litigation will be led by Alyssa Qualls. The SEC appreciates the assistance of the Iowa Insurance Division, Securities and Regulated Industries Bureau; the Texas State Securities Board; and the Washington Department of Financial Institutions, Securities Bureau.