State to open criminal case against Fain

Published 8:04 pm Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The state insurance commissioner’s office said Tuesday its fraud unit will open a criminal investigation into the business practices of a former insurance executive with Seminole County ties.

John Oxendine, the Georgia Insurance Commissioner, announced in a news release that he has directed his fraud unit to begin the criminal investigation of former Southeastern U.S. Insurance Inc. (SEUS) Chief Executive Officer M. Clark Fain III.

“After reviewing financial transactions made by the company, I find no other recourse but to open a criminal investigation into the actions of Mr. Fain,” Oxendine said. “I can only compare the bookkeeping methods of the company to those of Enron.”

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Enron was the Texas-based energy company that filed for bankruptcy in 2001, which at the time was the largest bankruptcy in the history of the United States. The scandal behind the bankruptcy was the fact that Enron used accounting loopholes and poor financial reporting to hide billions in debt from failed deals.

Department analysts became suspicious of SEUS when they learned that the company had engaged in a questionable transaction regarding a hunting club that it owned in Seminole County.

At Oxendine’s insistence, SEUS unwound the transaction. However, the department also discovered that the company was overstating assets while significantly understating liabilities.

“Indications are that this is a case of corporate greed,” Oxendine said.  “The questionable accounting engaged in by the company ultimately has a huge negative impact on the lives of decent, innocent citizens.”

On Oct. 27, Judge Thomas R. Campbell of the Superior Court of Fulton County granted a request by Oxendine to liquidate the assets of SEUS after Fain made a questionable $10 million loan.

The loan to SEUS was to provide capital that went to finance “acquisition and improvement of various parcels of property in South Georgia and to fund various expenses for land and property improvements.”

Among the properties were a 6,000-acre hunting reserve, complete with an 1846 plantation house converted to a hotel on the Chattahoochee River along the Florida-Georgia border.

On Dec. 29, an auction conducted on behalf of the Insurance Commissioner’s Office was held in Donalsonville of some of Fain’s assets, which included property, farm equipment, vehicles, luxury furniture and other items to recoup the loss of SEUS.

SEUS provided workers compensation insurance to 53 municipalities and 29 board of education and 18 county commissions, public utilities and nonprofit entities. Fain’s company had approximately 209 workers compensation policyholders at the time of liquidation, the news release said.