District Court denies request to set aside $120.2 million judgment in Belizean real estate scheme
On August 24, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland denied a request to set aside a more than $120.2 million judgment against several defaulted defendants involved in an international real estate investment development scheme. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the FTC initiated the action in 2018 against several individuals and corporate entities, along with a Belizean bank, asserting that the defendants violated the FTC Act and the Telemarketing Sales Rule by advertising and selling parcels of land that were part of a luxury development in Belize through the use of deceptive tactics and claims. In 2019, a settlement was reached with the Belizean bank requiring payment of $23 million in equitable relief, and in 2020, the district court ordered the defaulted defendants to pay over $120.2 million in redress and granted the FTC’s request for permanent injunctions (covered by InfoBytes here and here).
In their motion, the defaulted defendants argued that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in AMG Capital Management, LLC v. FTC (which unanimously held that Section 13(b) of the FTC Act “does not authorize the Commission to seek, or a court to award, equitable monetary relief such as restitution or disgorgement”—covered by InfoBytes here) nullified the judgment. The district court disagreed, stating that the AMG Capital decision does not render his judgments in the case void and that “[i]n its Opinion rendered before the Supreme Court reached its decision, the Court considered the effect that a decision in AMG Capital adverse to the FTC might have, reasoning that: ‘this Court’s findings of fact and determinations as to liability—including contempt of court and violations of the Telemarketing Services Rule —would not be affected by a decision in AMG.’” Moreover, the court pointed out that immediate denial of the motion is also warranted because the defaulted defendants failed to comply with a local rule requiring submission of a memorandum of law in support of their motion. The court asked, “In failing to do so, they have skirted among other fundamental questions: What authority do they, as defaulted defendants, involved as part of a common enterprise with virtually all other [d]efendants, have to upset a final and valid judgment against them after willfully defaulting?”