Market Street Advisors Inc. is an Edison, NJ-based company that supports financial firms with back office technology.
Their solid, behind-the-scenes work for investment managers on Wall Street and elsewhere has never drawn much attention outside their industry — until now.
Their name is tainted, and it’s not their fault.
Recently, a small San Francisco firm called Market Street Partners was named as a central player in the Galleon hedge fund insider trading case. Humble Market Street Advisors cringed when prosecutors called the Raj Rajaratnam bust the largest such prosecution in history and some in the media — including us — mixed up Partners with Advisors.
Worse, that came after not one but two other prosecutions of similarly-named companies.
In April, the SEC charged Aurora, Colorado-based Market Street Advisors, LLC with being a Ponzi scheme. Authorities allege that between 1994 and 2009, the company’s principle, Shawn Merriman, raised at least $17 to $20 million from more than 60 investors and then spent it on himself (classic cars, art, homes) instead of investing.
In September, the North Carolina Department of Insurance announced the arrest of insurance agent Charles Mark Hall of Smithfield, NC on charges of embezzlement for ripping off a 90-year-old victim. His business? Market Street Advisors.
Now that’s bad luck. If you Google “Market Street Advisors,” the first link is the correct firm, but two of the first five results are the Colorado Ponzi scheme and the North Carolina fraud.
We spoke with Bevin Crodian of the good guys — Market Street Advisors Inc. — to tell us what it’s been like.
TBI: Who confuses names? Media? Customers? Both?
Was there a business impact?
Hard to determine. We are trying to avoid proving the case that any name mention is a good thing. Since we are not Hollywood starlets, we would prefer not to even go there.
What do you do to clarify the situation?
We have received no inquiries about this one yet, but for the previous instance, we created an explanatory document which we provided when we received an inquiry from either a client or prospect. Although we are a small firm, we all come from larger organisations, Smith Barney, Citigroup, Mellon, Security Pacific, SEI, etc. and we are well aware that for every inquiry there may be another 30-50 people who are thinking the same thing. However, we chose the course of responding individually and resisted putting out a mass mailing which we felt would even call more negative attention to ourselves. Our approach seemed to be correct since this tempest at least seemed to blow over pretty quickly.
Have you considered changing names?
This is an expensive proposition, plus we have created a certain amount of brand awareness in our space—middle and back office technology and operations for the asset management business. We have addressed this for other reasons, and it is not a practical option for us right now.
The largest cost to us for this process is the process of speaking to concerned friends, clients, prospects, and board members. The first one was probably 20 hours of the firms time. We aren’t golfers, here, this took time away from more positive activities.
Now you know. And if you’re starting a new firm, kindly don’t add another “Market Street” name to the mix.