The IPT was created in 1993 to focus on investor education as part of an earlier settlement involving charges of Wall Street misconduct. (Given Wall Street's record, it's unlikely the IPT will run out of money.)

The nonprofit had about $19.7 million in funds at the end of April, according to its latest report. Much of that is from the 2003 research analyst settlement that provided at least $300,000 for each state. Those with larger populations are eligible for more.

Craig Goettsch, one of the five trustees, says they had considered broadening the IPT's mission years ago but decided against it.

"A lot of organizations and a lot of foundations sponsor and fund financial literacy," he says. "There is virtually no one doing investor education."

Others agree with the IPT's focus.

"The settlement funds were put into place because of investment-related issues," says Amanda Blanks, investor education coordinator for Virginia. "It makes sense that it would go toward investor education."

Despite restrictions, some states have made good use of their IPT money — which can serve as examples to Maryland's agencies and nonprofits.

Oregon ran a series of public service announcements last summer on investment topics, such as how to check out a broker, and launched a website for investors. Hampton University in Virginia held a town hall meeting featuring securities regulators talking about investing before an audience made up mostly of students, Blanks says.

Indiana surely would win the award for most clever with its program to combat Internet investment fraud. The state created online ads for investments in fake companies. If you click on the ad to invest, a warning message from the Indiana securities commissioner pops up.

In North Carolina, a group produced a documentary on an investment scandal that hit residents there. And a Wisconsin-based nonprofit held a 10-hour online investor education course for North Carolinian credit union employees — who are among the first to notice if customers are victims of fraud, according to George Jeter, spokesman for the North Carolina secretary of state.

The largest chunk of the settlement money, $3.1 million, was set aside for California, and less than a third of that is left.

Andrew Roth, director of education and outreach for California, says the most expensive project was financing — along with other states — three seasons of "MoneyTrack," a public television series that still airs in California and around the country.

Among its other programs, California launched Troops Against Predatory Scams, in which state officials visited military installations to provide investor education and discuss the warning signs of fraud. The state also published an educational booklet for service members and their families.

Roth says the IPT money has come in handy for states like his.

"It's a wonderful resource," he says, "especially in this time of stress on state budgets nationwide."

He's right. And Marylanders should take advantage of that resource, too. Details on how to apply for grants are available at investorprotection.org.

eileen.ambrose@baltsun.com

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