Morris Enters Pay to Play Guilty Plea

November 22 2010 ( – A once well-known New York political consultant who stood accused of a key role in a pay-to-play scandal involving the state’s pension fund has pleaded guilty to a felony securities fraud charge.

The Associated Press reported that Henry “Hank” Morris faces up to four years in prison when he is sentenced February 1. He also will have to forfeit $19 million. “I intentionally engaged in fraud, deception … (and) corruption,” Morris said, his voice low, according to the news report.

Morris acknowledged getting millions of dollars in fees for himself and associates in exchange for helping money managers secure pension business, and he admitted soliciting campaign contributions for former state Comptroller Alan Hevesi from firms seeking state business, the Associated Press said (see NY Judge Tosses Some Morris Pay to Play Charges).

Money managers were told that if they wanted to get a piece of the pension fund’s investment pie, they could improve their chances by paying fees to Morris and other “placement agents,” state prosecutors said.

Morris was a political adviser to Hevesi, a Democrat who oversaw the fund as comptroller from 2002 until he resigned in an unrelated scandal in 2006.

Under the plea deal, Morris is permanently banned from the securities industry in New York and from doing business with the state. Hevesi and assorted other officials, political figures and investment advisers have already pleaded guilty.

Assistant Attorney General Ellen Biben called Morris’ plea “a significant victory in establishing, once and for all, that this conduct was not only unethical but was illegal,” the Associated Press said.