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SEC sanctions firm for false advertising

The SEC late last month sanctioned the Colorado investment advisory firm which sponsors the ICON Funds for using "inflated" figures in describing the firm's private account performance.

Meridian Investment Management Corp. of Englewood, Colo. and its former president Michael Hart agreed to pay a total of $85,000 in penalties for allegedly false and misleading statements the firm made in Internet postings, newsletters and performance sheets from 1993 to 1996 about investment returns. The SEC alleged in an administrative action filed Dec. 28 that Meridian failed to deduct certain expenses from Meridian's private account performance returns. The allegations were unrelated to the ICON Funds, which were introduced in 1997.

Meridian and Hart agreed to a censure. Meridian also agreed to pay a penalty of $70,000 and Hart a penalty of $15,000 to settle the case. The SEC also ordered Meridian's current president and former vice president, Craig T. Callahan, not to commit future securities laws violations. Each of the parties settled the case without admitting or denying the SEC's allegations.

Robin Shipman, Meridian's general counsel, said the allegations involved past conduct and that Meridian has complied with SEC standards since 1996. Meridian has approximately $500 million in assets under management, roughly $370 million of which is in the 11 ICON Funds, Shipman said.