The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has taken legal action against Vista Financial Advisors, accusing the New York-based investment advisor of significantly inflating its regulatory assets under management (RAUM). The SEC alleges that Vista Financial Advisors claimed $10 billion in regulatory AUM on its 2022 Form ADV filing without providing evidence to support the figure.
According to the lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court, Vista and its CEO, Ruben Williams, failed to respond to repeated requests from the SEC to substantiate or correct the reported RAUM. The SEC’s complaint states that Vista’s assets did not come close to the claimed $10 billion in RAUM.
In the subsequent year, Vista reported a staggering increase in assets, filing a Form ADV that listed its RAUM at just under $11.5 trillion. This amount would imply that Vista managed almost 10% of all assets in the registered investment advisor (RIA) sector. However, the SEC’s investigation revealed that Vista actually managed less than $25 million, which is the minimum threshold for registering as an advisor with the agency.
Vista’s 2023 ADV indicated that it had 32 high-net-worth clients. If evenly distributed, each client would have an average worth of over $359 billion per client—a figure that exceeds the net worth of Bernard Arnault and his family, who currently top Forbes’ list of the wealthiest people with $211 billion. Elon Musk came in at second place on the list with a net worth of $180 billion.
The SEC’s lawsuit demonstrates its commitment to maintaining transparency and integrity in the investment industry. As the legal proceedings unfold, it will be interesting to see how the allegations against Vista Financial Advisors unfold.
Vista and Williams Under Scrutiny by SEC
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has launched an examination into Vista, a newly registered advisory firm, as part of its regulatory program. However, the firm seems to be evading communication with the SEC, leaving the commission unable to verify any real assets managed by Vista.
Vista claims to manage over $180 billion in assets for a foreign trust, but the SEC has found deficiencies during its examination. The commission issued investigative subpoenas to obtain information about Vista’s asset count and ownership structure, but the firm failed to respond or provide testimony.
According to the SEC’s complaint, Vista’s CEO and Chief Compliance Officer, Williams, has limited experience in the securities industry. Williams, a 30-year-old resident of Tennessee, obtained his Series 65 investment advisor license in September 2021. Despite being responsible for compliance at Vista, Williams has not retained a defense attorney in response to the SEC’s investigation.
The SEC also accuses Vista of failing to disclose one of its co-owners and misrepresenting the distribution of stakes among its other owners.
In light of these allegations, the SEC is seeking an injunction against Vista and Williams, as well as requesting unspecified civil monetary penalties.