Northern Trust bank may have played a role in a real-estate scheme that defrauded several professional hockey players out of roughly $13.5 million.
Former financial advisor Phil Kenner and his partner Tommy Constantine were convicted last July on fraud, conspiracy and money laundering charges. Kenner, whose time as a college hockey player gave him inroads into the NHL, used several players’ (including Michael Peca, Bryan Berard and Owen Nolan) retirement accounts as his personal bank account while they were under the impression that the money was being invested in real estate ventures through Northern Trust lines of credit.
According to federal prosecutors, Kenner maxed out these lines of credit to fund his own lavish, jet-setting lifestyle. Once the funds were exhausted, Kenner could no longer pay the interest, so the bank, apparently unaware of his misdeeds, closed the lines of credit and seized the accounts used as collateral. Northern Trust escaped from the prosecution largely unscathed.
However, The New York Daily News was recently approached by a whistleblower named Aaron Mascarella, a former vice president of lending at the bank, with a series of potentially damning secret recordings that suggest that Northern Trust executives were aware of the fraud while it was in progress and did not do enough to stop it or alert the clients involved to satisfy the bank’s fiduciary duties.
Interestingly, Mascarella was a key witness for the prosecution in Kenner’s trial, but did not directly criticize Northern Trust’s role in the case in his testimony at that time. He did, however, imply that he may have lost his job at the bank in 2011 as a result of a difference in opinion over how the bank was handling these clients.
“Northern Trust did nothing to protect its clients and continued collecting interest and investment management fees until the money was all gone,” Mascarella told the Daily News.
At Kenner's trial, it was revealed that he demanded that the bank refrain from “bothering” the NHLers and ordered all monthly account statements to be sent directly to him. Mascarella alleges that bank officials were more than happy to oblige and went out of their way to avoid interactions with the NHL clients so as not to inadvertently alert them to the suspected fraud.
As for the tapes themselves, the Daily News presents only excerpts that are taken out of context, so their true value is anyone’s guess. However, snippets like: “You wanna sue us? Go ahead, because we have like all the financial resources on planet earth,” don’t paint a particularly rosy picture if genuine.
Ultimately, Mascarella maintains that “Northern Trust had a fiduciary responsibility to do more especially given the number of obvious red flags.”
In response to Mascarella's allegations, Northern Trust issued the following statement:
"Northern Trust has cooperated fully with authorities and has not been accused by authorities of any wrongdoing related to this matter."