A United States judge has ordered two New Zealand incorporated companies to pay US$40 million ($53.3 million) to 200 American investors.

The New Zealand Companies Office website lists First Capital Savings & Loan's registered office as a company ultimately owned by a Tauranga woman.

The company, its sole director Jeff Lowrance, and another New Zealand incorporated company, Swiss Providence - now struck off - are defendants in a case brought by more than 200 small investors in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

The Associated Press reported this year that the investors had filed a federal law suit alleging losses of US$40 million over investments with Lowrance and his company.

The investors had opened overseas foreign currency exchange accounts with hopes of 7 per cent monthly returns. They say Lowrance and his company failed to make live market trades, transferred money from one client's account to another to keep up the appearance of earnings, and used proceeds for personal gain and other business ventures, including an alternative newspaper Lowrance started called USA Tomorrow.

The investors' lawyer, Wanda Howey-Fox, told AP the scheme was "a small version" of a Bernard Madoff-style Ponzi scheme.

She said some investors opened accounts with US$10,000 and others put in as much as US$750,000.

After a hearing in July, Chief Judge Karen Schreier of the US District Court in South Dakota has ruled in favour of the investors on their claims of "fraud in the inducement, fraudulent mismanagement of accounts, and breach of contract".

Because Lowrance and his associated entities did not file a response to the claims, the investors were entitled to "entry of default judgment in their favour", the judge said.

The investors could also apply for costs and seek a ruling on damages.

The original lawsuit sought interest, US$50 million from Lowrance, US$50 million from his other business entities and US$150 million in punitive damages.

Lowrance's address is listed on the Companies Office website as Panama City. However, it is not known where he is, Howey-Fox's office said.

The investors had not received any of the money owing to them, a spokeswoman said.

First Capital Savings & Loan's registered contact is a company called Auckland Compliance, which has one director also with a Panama City address.

That company is owned by an entity called Overseas Capital, which has a director in Panama. Overseas Capital is in turn owned by Auckland Bancshares, whose sole director and shareholder is Tauranga woman Joan-Lesley Hansford-Jensen.

The Herald spoke to Hansford-Jensen's husband, Darryl Jensen, a Tauranga taxi firm owner, in March.

Mr Jensen said he was responsible for setting up the companies his wife was a director of. He was aware of First Capital Savings & Loan but could not say what it did.