Film on 'Innocence' full of irony for Parker
MIDDLEBURY — Storyteller and Addison resident Mac Parker held a press conference Friday appealing to Vermont’s Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities & Health Care Administration (BISHCA) to work “cooperatively with me to bring this situation to a speedy and successful resolution.”
“I am not seeking to avoid my responsibility for any mistakes or potential violations I may have committed,” Parker said in a prepared statement. “I am simply looking for ways to resolve the situation in a positive manner.”
BISHCA filed a complaint against Parker this past November to consider whether Parker violated state law in the way he solicited financing for a movie called “Birth of Innocence.” At issue is whether Parker raised money through what he claims were promissory notes or loans, or by selling what amounted to investment securities, or stock, as claimed by BISHCA. Parker himself had drafted the original agreements with lenders without the advice of an attorney and had, he said, mistakenly called the agreements “investments,” although the language in the agreement had clearly outlined guaranteed payment of interest on the loans and full repayment of the loan amount at any time a lender wanted.
The state claims that almost $10 million has been raised through more than 640 investors over the past decade, numbers that his attorney, Wanda Otero-Ziegler, could not confirm until they get through all the paperwork. She suggested the $10 million figure could be close, while thinking the number of investors seemed high. She suggested there would be about 400 current lenders, with, perhaps 140-plus others who had been early lenders and whose loans had already been repaid.
A motion for dismissal of the case is currently facing the Washington County Superior Court, pending time needed to accumulate the documents and data necessary for an accurate accounting of all the transactions that have taken place over the 10 years — the length of time Parker and many others have worked on the film.
Otero-Ziegler, who works with the law firm of Langrock, Sperry & Wool in Middlebury, where the press conference was held, emphasized that the state’s complaint against Parker has “no indication of wrongful intent on his part or any criminal allegation.”
Parker’s defense is that the arrangements with lenders were essentially loans and not securities and that the loans were of the type that would not necessitate a state license. If the defense is successful, the ruling would invalidate the state’s case against Parker.
The press conference was held, Otero-Ziegler said, to allow Parker to address the community directly (he had been advised not to speak to the media about the complaint until the court had made its ruling), and to allow lenders to add their voice to the controversy. For their part, a group of 175 or more lenders have argued that BISHCA is not representing their best interest and is harming Parker’s ability to complete the film and to begin seeing the revenue from its release.
Meanwhile the state has frozen Parker’s assets and his ability to pay back any lenders until its investigation is complete or the superior court rules on the motion to dismiss. The state’s decision to freeze Parker’s assets is just one of the actions taken by BISHCA that has riled investors.
“The decisions taken by BISHCA represent the very worst of what the government should be about,” said Christopher White of Addison, who has acted as the liaison of more than 175 lenders to Parker who oppose BISHCA’s action and expressed their support of Parker. White said more than 100 lenders had filed affidavits with the court explaining their understanding of the agreements with Parker were as loans made with interest payments due to them, not as stocks or securities. Many of those same lenders have raised more than $15,000 in a legal defense fund on Parker’s behalf.
In his prepared statement, Parker reporter that a “silent partner” and co-producer of the film, Dr. Louis James Soteriou, had not recently been in contact and had, in effect, backed out of his obligations. As payment for his work and advice on the film, Parker said Soteriou had received $3 million over the past decade, while verbally promising Parker he would be jointly responsible for the repayment of loans to lenders.
“Now, at this critical time, he has abruptly disappeared, leaving a trail of broken promises and violated financial commitments. In a project that is all about the power of innocence, innocence has been abused. Like my lenders, I am a trusting person. Sadly, this person I have trusted so deeply has chosen to exploit innocence, instead of cherishing it.”
Parker said Soteriou was a “healer” and served as one of the creative forces for the film. “In the pursuit of higher knowledge and the greater potentials of a human life, there is a long and honored tradition of working with trusted teachers. Unfortunately, there is also a long history of teachers who abuse and manipulate that trust. I thought I was dealing with an honorable teacher who was as committed to living up to his word as I am. Painfully, I was wrong. Not wrong to trust, but in my assessment of this one man. I still trust the power and the truth behind this film — the power of innocence — and my lenders can still trust the power behind my commitment to them.”
Asked what Parker hoped BISHCA would do specifically to cooperate with him, he cited the need for the state to release his frozen assets so he could finish the last two to three months work on the film, and to help him come into compliance with any state requirements of which he was unaware. That would allow him, he said, to release the film and realize the potential revenue stream that would help repay the lenders.