Arnold Breitkreutz, Base Finance Ltd. and Susan Elizabeth Way

Lead Securities Regulator

Alberta Securities Commission (ASC)

Type of Misconduct Committed

• Deceiving investors
• Operating a Ponzi scheme

Case Description

Base Finance was created by Breitkreutz in 1984 as a private mortgage investment company. He was the sole director and shareholder, and Way was the office manager and sole employee.

From August 2004 to September 2015, Base Finance raised about $137 million from hundreds of investors. Investors were led to believe they were providing short-term loans to Base Finance for its mortgage-lending business. Many thought their investments were secured by mortgages on real estate located in Alberta. In reality, investors were being deceived and Base Finance was instead investing in oil and gas interests in the United States. There was little evidence to suggest that Base Finance was operating a legitimate mortgage-lending business.

In September 2015, an RBC representative contacted the ASC about suspicious activities in Base Finance’s account. The ASC began an investigation and issued an order to freeze Base Finance’s RBC account. In October 2015, the Alberta Court of Queen’s Bench ordered Base Finance into receivership and at the beginning of November 2015, the ASC issued an order that all trading in securities of Base Finance cease.

At the time of receivership, Base Finance reportedly owed approximately $122 million to about 240 investors. It had paid approximately $125 million to existing investors from other investors’ funds as purported returns. However, by the time the scheme collapsed, most of the investors – many of them elderly – recovered little, if anything. Many elderly investors invested their retirement savings and lost their hard-earned savings. Their lives, and the lives of those around them were significantly impacted.

On March 2, 2018, an ASC panel found that Breitkreutz, Way and Base Finance contravened the Securities Act (Alberta). The panel noted that they deceived hundreds of investors in a Ponzi scheme that is considered among the worst frauds perpetrated in Alberta.

On February 21, 2019, sanctions were ordered as noted below.

Penalties Issued

The ASC panel ordered that:

  • Breitkreutz must pay an administrative penalty of $1 million, a disgorgement order of $2,671,406 and investigation and hearing costs of $100,000;
  • Way must pay an administrative penalty of $150,000, a disgorgement order of $362,049 and investigation and hearing costs of $50,000; and
  • Breitkreutz, Base Finance and Way are subject to extensive market-access bans. Among an array of other bans outlined in the decision, Breitkreutz and Base Finance are permanently banned from trading in or purchasing securities and derivatives. Way is banned from trading in or purchasing securities and derivatives for 20 years or until the monetary orders against her are paid, whichever is later.
  • On June 18, 2021, Way was sentenced to three years in a federal penitentiary for her role in this Ponzi scheme. A date for Breitkreutz’s sentencing will be set on July 8, 2021.

Key Takeaways for Investors

Here are key takeaways that investors can learn from the Base Finance case:

Always check that the person or firm is registered to sell securities

Lack of registration is a key red flag of fraud and in this case, Base Finance, Breitkreutz and Way were not registered to sell securities. This simple step is a great way to start protecting yourself from investment fraud. Click here to check if your investment adviser or firm is registered. If they’re not, seek professional advice and proceed with extreme caution.

Do your research and watch for signs of potential fraud

When it comes to your money, the best decisions are informed ones. You should always err on the side of caution, do your own research and check the registration of anyone selling an opportunity before giving away your money.

Additional Information

For more information about the Ponzi scheme operated by Base Finance, Breitkreutz and Way, visit the ASC website.