A federal appeal’s court this afternoon affirmed an Orange County judge’s ruling in favor of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which pursued ex-National Football League (NFL) star Willie Gault in what officials called “a wide-ranging [securities] fraud scheme” that resulted in his $200,000 fine.
The U.S. District Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit rejected the contention by Gault, who played for the Chicago Bears and Oakland Raiders, that federal judge James V. Selna, who is based inside the Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse in Santa Ana, botched his civil trial.
The Ninth Circuit panel was not impressed with the retired football player’s business acumen, writing in the opinion, “Gault certified that he was responsible for establishing and maintaining internal controls [at Heart Tronics, Inc. where he was once listed as CEO], but testified that he “didn’t know what internal controls were” at the time he made the certification. By definition, one cannot certify a fact about which one is ignorant, or which one knows is false.”
SEC investigators discovered the company wildly inflated sales numbers to attract investors, but Gault claimed Selna improperly blocked a legitimate defense by refusing to allow a college professor to testify that his internal controls guarantee meant close to nothing to persons considering an investment.
The panel also found that Selna did not abuse his discretion by imposing penalties of $200,070 on Gault or blocking him from serving as an officer or director of any publicly-traded company “until he demonstrates knowledge of federal securities laws.”
Gault, a Georgia native, played football at the University of Tennessee, qualified for the U.S. Olympic team in 1980, set world records in track and helped the Bears trample the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XX with a 46-10 score.
R. Scott Moxley’s award-winning investigative journalism has touched nerves for two decades. An angry congressman threatened to break Moxley’s knee caps. A dirty sheriff promised his critical reporting was irrelevant and then landed in prison. The U.S. House of Representatives debated his work. Federal prosecutors credited his stories for the arrest of a doctor who sold fake medicine to dying patients. Moxley has won Journalist of the Year honors at the Los Angeles Press Club; been named Distinguished Journalist of the Year by the LA Society of Professional Journalists; and hailed by two New York Times Magazine writers for his “herculean job” exposing Southern California law enforcement corruption.