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Finally, Houston Has Its Very Own Financial-Meltdown Icon

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Houston has been pining since the Enron days. There's been a whole economic collapse going on, and it seemed like it was passing us by.

Not in terms of job losses, of course, although we're doing better than most. But if there are shady businessmen about bilking people out of billions, then dammit, one of them better be a Houstonian.

And now one officially is.

Rumors have been swirling about the Houston-based Stanford Group, headed by an eccentric (polite for "nuts") guy called Robert Allen Stanford. Today the hammer came down.

The Securites and Exchange Commission, using awfully hurtful words like "massive ongoing fraud," filed a complaint in federal court in Dallas against Stanford.

Says The New York Times:

Shortly after 10 a.m. Central time, about 40 police officers and other law enforcement officials simultaneously entered Stanford Group's two office buildings in Houston. Many of the law enforcement personnel carried large black briefcases.

Stanford group's headquarters are in two offices in Houston, one within a tower of the Houston Galleria shopping mall, and the other across the street.

A spokesman for Stanford Group declined to comment.

In its complaint, the S.E.C. said it could not account for the $8 billion in assets that were housed in the Antigua bank after issuing subpoenas for bank records and to various witnesses. Most witnesses, including Mr. Stanford, Mr. Davis, and the Antigua-based bank's president, failed to appear to testify nor did they produce documents shedding light on the assets.

So relax, Houston. We have our icon.

Ken Lay would be proud.

-- Richard Connelly

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