Kathy Mier still remembers the feeling she got in the pit of her stomach when she heard that federal agents had raided the downtown Baton Rouge offices of the Stanford Group. It was February 16, 2009, and Mier, a retired school teacher who lives with her husband, Louis, on a spacious tract just north of Zachary, was watching the local 10 p.m. news.
“He was already in bed when the story came on,” Mier says. “I ran to the bedroom and woke him up and said, ‘Louis, I think we’ve lost all our money with Stanford.’”
As it turned out, the Miers lost some $240,000 with the collapse of Stanford—her $70,000 retirement pension from the East Baton Rouge Parish School System and his $170,000 rollover IRA from Georgia-Pacific, where he’d worked for decades as a storeroom clerk. It didn’t wipe them out entirely but it represented a significant portion of their savings, money they need today more than ever. She is now 72; he is 80 and suffering from the advanced stages of Parkinson’s Disease.
“This is the time when I wish we had it to fall back on,” she says. “We need so much help in the house taking care of Louis.”
It has been exactly 10 years since the collapse of the Ponzi scheme on which the Stanford Group’s fortune was built, and the Miers have yet to recoup the money they lost in the scam. They are not alone. More than 18,000 victims worldwide invested in the bogus certificates of deposit offered by Stanford’s Antigua-based bank. Collectively, they have claimed losses that exceed $5 billion. They are still waiting to be made whole. For many, it’s already too late.
The victims ran the gamut. Wealthy investors like Lafayette oilman Michael Moreno and Baton Rouge developer Mike Wampold lost millions. Middle-class retirees from Exxon and other plants along the river lost lifetimes of savings from their companies’ generous 401(k) plans.