Sept. 2, 2008                                                         Contact:Lucas Hamilton


      Film warns Montanans about dangers of investment fraud; provides fraud prevention tips and info
      State Auditor John Morrison announced today that his office is teaming up with AARP to feature the documentary film Fraud Under the Big Sky at special screenings in cities around Montana. The 22-city tour will kick-off with an eastern Montana swing in Glasgow on September 8 and will culminate with an awards ceremony in Billings on October 9. State Auditor John Morrison will be joined by staff from his office to provide information and answer questions.
      Fraud Under the Big Sky is an hour-long documentary highlighting two major cases of securities fraud in Montana: the Tom O’Neill and Piper Jaffray case in Butte, and the Pat Davison case in Billings. The documentary, which is narrated by Montana’s own television and film star J.K. Simmons, tells the stories of many of the victims and former associates of the perpetrators, and features interviews with state and federal authorities.
      Funded by a grant from the Investor Protection Trust, the Montana State Auditor’s Office developed Fraud Under the Big Sky as part of its continuing effort to educate investors about the dangers of fraud. The documentary screenings are free and open to the public. A buffet meal will be served at each event.
      Fraud Under the Big Sky highlights two different types of investment fraud cases that were jointly prosecuted by the State Auditor’s Office and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. The O’Neill/Piper Jaffray case reveals how Tom O’Neill “churned” his client’s accounts, making an excessive number of unauthorized trades, in order to generate huge commissions for himself. Pat Davison conducted a Ponzi scheme. A Ponzi scheme usually offers abnormally high short-term results in order to entice new investors. The high returns that a Ponzi scheme advertises (and pays) require an ever-increasing flow of money from new investors in order to keep the scheme going. Ponzi schemes eventually collapse because there are little or no underlying earnings from the money received by the perpetrator.
      “Fraud can happen to anyone, and that’s what this documentary shows,” said Morrison. “It not only highlights these two cases, it teaches people how to prevent fraud from happening in the first place. It describes the resources offered by the State Auditor’s Office and explains how we can assist Montanans.”
      “As a victim of investment fraud, I learned a lot through this experience,” said Jerry Dernbach, one of ten victims featured in the film. “I would suggest to anyone and everyone that you do your homework before you invest.”
      Due to limited seating at each event, an RSVP is requested. To RSVP or to find out more about times and locations log onto or call the State Auditor’s Office at 1-800-332-6148.