SEC probes Marlins stadium financing

MIAMI -- The Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating the financing of the Miami Marlins' new downtown stadium.

SEC subpoenas to the city and Miami-Dade County are seeking a long list of documents and records, including those involving meetings and communications between government officials and executives with the Marlins and Major League Baseball.

The executives include baseball commissioner Bud Selig, ex-MLB president Robert DuPuy, Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria and the team's president, David Samson. Copies of the subpoenas, dated last week, were provided Monday by city and county officials to The Associated Press.

"We are trying to determine whether there have been any violations of federal securities laws," SEC senior counsel Drew Panahi said in a letter accompanying the county subpoena. "The investigation and the subpoena do not mean that we have concluded that Miami-Dade County or anyone else has broken the law."

The $634 million retractable-roof stadium, set to open for the 2012 season, has been controversial from the start because more than three-fourths of its costs are being borne by taxpayers. More recently, Miami city officials raised concerns about having to pay the county $2 million in property taxes for adjacent parking garages operated by the Marlins.

The 37,000-seat stadium is ushering in a new era for the Marlins, who changed their name and uniforms and have been on a spending spree for high-level free agents including ex-New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes and new closer Heath Bell. The Marlins are also pursuing St. Louis Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols.

City and county officials said they would cooperate in the SEC probe, which requires documents to be turned over Jan. 6. It wasn't immediately clear Monday if the Marlins also had received a subpoena; the team issued a statement saying it was aware of those received by the city and county.

At baseball's winter meetings in Dallas, Loria said the team will "work with the SEC and help them in any way possible. It's an ongoing matter. We're there to be helpful, but I don't really want to make any futher comments about it."

The parking garage tax issue is specifically mentioned by the SEC. Investigators also want records about the Marlins' ability to contribute to the stadium complex's financing, the team's revenues and profitability, and whether any Marlins employees gave "any payments, loans, campaign contributions or any offers of anything of value" to city, county or state government officials.

The SEC also wants detailed information about the bonds used to finance the stadium and whether investors might have been misled.

Not all SEC investigations end in enforcement actions, but enforcement actions typically end in settlements that can include fines and other penalties. Investigators can refer individuals or companies to the Justice Department for potential criminal prosecution.

The Marlins prevailed in a 2008 legal challenge to the financing plan mounted by billionaire Miami car dealer and former Philadelphia Eagles owner Norman Braman, who called it a colossal taxpayer rip-off. Braman then led a successful recall election campaign in March that unseated Carlos Alvarez as the county's mayor.