Frequent CNBC talking head accused of fraud for bilking clients out of millions after shorting the market on Biden’s election

September 22, 2022, 9:46 AM UTC
Los Angeles
The L.A. courthouse.
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — A man who ran two California-based investment companies and frequently appeared as a TV financial news analyst was charged Wednesday with securities fraud for allegedly bilking clients out of millions of dollars, federal prosecutors said.

James Arthur McDonald Jr., 50, was charged with a single fraud count and could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted, the U.S. attorney’s office said in a statement.

McDonald, who lived in the Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia, is believed to be in hiding, the statement said. It wasn’t immediately clear whether he had an attorney who could speak on his behalf.

Prosecutors allege that McDonald concealed massive financial losses from some clients and used some investment money for personal expenses, spending some of it at a Porsche dealership and on a website that sells designer menswear.

McDonald was CEO of Hercules Investments LLC of Los Angeles and Index Strategy Advisors Inc. of Redondo Beach, and frequently appeared as an analyst on the CNBC financial TV news network, authorities said.

In late 2020, McDonald lost between $30 million and $40 million of Hercules client money after adopting “a risky short position” based on his wrong prediction that the stock market would drop because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the results of the U.S. presidential election, the U.S. attorney’s office said.

In early 2021, McDonald “solicited millions of dollars’ worth of funds from investors in the form of a purported capital raise for Hercules but misrepresented how the funds would be used and failed to disclose the massive losses Hercules previously sustained,” the statement said.

Also on Wednesday, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filed a civil complaint charging McDonald and Hercules with violations of federal securities law.

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