A legal expert says it could be easier to prove criminal rather than civil charges against the directors of Lombard Finance.
Two former justice ministers, Sir Douglas Graham and Bill Jeffries, could face up to five years in prison if they are found guilty of misleading investors.
The Securities Commission on Thursday laid criminal charges against them and fellow directors Michael Reeves and Lawrence Bryant.
The charges are in addition to civil proceedings by the commission.
Lombard Finance was placed in receivership two years ago owing $127 million to about 4400 investors.
Chapman Tripp securities law specialist Roger Wallis told Morning Report that normally a criminal charge is harder to prove - but not necessarily in this case.
He said the criminal case will only need to prove that the prospectus was untrue while the civil claim will be more complicated.
Mr Wallis said criminal charges are about punishing people, rather than getting money back for investors.