Securities commission charges founder of seed bank on Langley/Abbotsford border

The man behind two local non-profit groups is a former lawyer facing securities investigations and charges in both B.C. and the United States.

John Briner is listed as executive director of the Music Access Society in Aldergrove on that group’s website, and is the founder of a group dubbed the Abbotsford Seed Library.

He has also been at the centre of legal troubles for years, gave up his law practice in 2013, and has been found to have misappropriated $50,000 from a client’s accounts.

Briner is currently facing nine counts of contravening the British Columbia Securities Act. He is charged under a section for failing to comply with a decision under the act.

Briner allegedly failed to resign his position as director of three companies and acted or became a director or officer of six other companies, in violation of a past decision by the B.C. Securities Commission, said Neil MacKenzie, B.C. Crown Counsel spokesperson.

“We’re trying to farm full time now,” Briner told the Langley Advance.

He said he was seeking notoriety.

“We were just trying to do a good service for the community,” Briner said of the seed library.

Briner’s most recent legal issue is a citation by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission for abusive trading.

On April 17, the CFTC announced it was filing a civil enforcement act in a federal court in Chicago against Briner, Matthew J. Marcus, and Marcus’s firm Tech Power Inc.

The CFTC alleges that Briner and Marcus engaged in fictitious and non-competitive stock transfers.

Briner’s former law firm Metro West sold stocks to Tech Power by matching buy and sell prices on specific, rarely traded stocks.

By always selling at a loss to Tech Power, $390,000 moved from Metro West to Tech Power in what the CFTC dubbed a “money pass.”

The CFTC is now seeking “disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, civil monetary penalties, trading and registration bans, and permanent injunctions against further violations of the Commodity Exchange Act…”

The charge lists Briner as a “Vancouver lawyer” but he hasn’t practiced law since 2013.

Briner gave up his practice and had it placed under custodianship. He was under investigation by the B.C. Law Society at the time.

In December 2014, the B.C. Law Society found Briner to have committed professional misconduct.

He took $50,000 from a client’s trust, intended for repayment of a loan, and moved $10,000 of the money into his own general account in December of 2012.

On one day, he paid out several cheques from his general account, which had only had $1,396 in it before the $10,000 was deposited.

One cheque was for $2,458.78 and was listed as wages, with Briner himself as the payee.

Another cheque for $1,500 was to the “M Society.” The proceedings used initials for other people and organizations. The hearing record notes that Briner was the executive director of the society.

At the time, Briner was executive director of the Aldergrove-based Music Access Society, which also received donations from a number of local businesses and a grant from Langley Township for $2,500. It has not requested a grant since 2013, according to Township staff.

In 2010, Briner settled a complaint with the SEC, neither admitting to nor denying citations brought by the commission. Those issues arose from a firm called Golden Apple Oil and Gas, which the SEC characterized as a “pump and dump scheme.”

According to the SEC’s website, a pump and dump is a scheme in which promoters make false and misleading claims hyping a particular stock, usually of a small company. The goal is to create a buying frenzy that increases the stock value, letting the originators sell their stock at a profit, while the investors usually lose money.

Briner accepted a five-year ban on trading securities, and paid $91,000 in penalties. The B.C. Securities Commission also handed down a five-year reciprocal ban on any similar activities in this province.

In 2006, Briner was banned from trading on Over the Counter (OTC) markets in the U.S.

– With files from the Vancouver Sun

For more from the Vancouver Sun, click HERE.

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