(Adds details from court documents, byline)
By Anna Driver
HOUSTON, March 31 Stanford Financial Group's
chief investment officer, who is charged with an $8 billion
fraud by U.S. regulators, filed a $20 million lawsuit accusing
the firm's former attorney of malpractice that led to her
Laura Pendergest-Holt, who faces one criminal count of
obstruction, said the actions of Thomas Sjoblom, a partner in
the Washington law firm Proskauer Rose LLP are the reason she
"has been wrongfully accused of a crime" and is incurring
"hundreds of thousands of dollars in attorney's fees,"
according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Dallas
Sjoblom could not immediately be reached for comment.
Pendergest-Holt, Stanford Chairman Texan Allen Stanford and
the company's chief financial officer James Davis are accused
by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission of a massive
scheme involving high-yield certificates of deposit issued by
Stanford's offshore bank in Antigua.
Pendergest-Holt, who is the only Stanford executive facing
a criminal charge, was arrested on Feb. 26. The U.S. Justice
Department said the executive concealed her role in and
familiarity with the Antigua bank's investments when she was
questioned earlier that month.
Pendergest-Holt accuses Sjoblom, who advised her before her
recorded SEC testimony, of representing the company's
interests rather than her individual interests.
In fact, the night before Sjoblom met Pendergest-Holt to
prepare her for her SEC testimony, the lawyer solicited a
multimillion dollar retainer from Allen Stanford to represent
him personally, the lawsuit said.
Shortly after Pendergest-Holt's testimony, Sjoblom notified
the SEC that his firm no longer represented Stanford, court
Pendergest-Holt, Davis and billionaire Allen Stanford have
had their assets frozen by a court-appointed attorney.
Pendergest-Holt had trouble raising $30,000 bail and
Stanford has so far been unable to hire an attorney to
represent him. He is in talks with noted Texas criminal
attorney Dick DeGuerin, however.
In court papers filed on Monday, Stanford denied all of the
government's charges and said he was forced to represent
himself because his funds were frozen and he had no money to
hire a lawyer.
Stanford also challenged the venue of the SEC lawsuit,
saying it should have been filed in federal court in Houston,
where his home office and one of his houses is located.
(Reporting by Anna Driver in Houston; Editing by Andre Grenon
and Gerald E. McCormick)