December 2, 2013

Lawyers, Investor Advocates Want to Know More About SEC Supervision Of FINRA’s Arbitrator Selections

The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA) is working with consumer rights group Public Citizen to get the US Securities and Exchange Commission to release documents about its oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s selection of the arbitrators who preside over disputes between broker-dealers and investors. According to PIABA President Jason Doss, because customers are “forced” into only having securities arbitration as a resolution venue when they sign documents to set up brokerage accounts (in the event of future disputes), they should be allowed to know how FINRA decides who hears the arbitration cases.

PIABA is a lawyers’ group that represents investors with securities arbitration claims. Contending that this is an issue of “transparency,” the attorneys have been trying to gain access to these documents for the last few years.

The group’s efforts started in 2010 with a Freedom of Information Act query to the SEC asking for documents that address how the regulator inspects FINRA’s process for selecting arbitrators and looking into their backgrounds. However, even though FOIA grants the public access to federal agency records, it has exemptions. (The exemption exists to protect sensitive matters, such as customer’s private financial data.)

The Commission invoked such an exemption as its reason for turning PIABA’s request. The group made a second attempt to get the documents but this also proved unsuccessful and the lawyers’ group then sued the SEC. They lost their case earlier this year.

Now, Public Citizen’s legal arm has submitted a brief for PIABA in a federal appeals court to overturn the district court’s ruling, which allowed the records to stay undisclosed. (In June, after Reuters reported that a FINRA arbitrator presiding over a securities arbitration case involving Goldman Sachs had been criminally indicted in the past, FINRA modified the way it vets its arbitrators, of which there are about 6,000. Previous to that arbitrators were only vetted once as candidates for the job. Now they must be vetted yearly.)

Still, it will be up to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit to determine what kind of examination reports are in the exemption that the SEC is claiming. PIABA wants the court to restrict the exemption reports regarding the financial activities of an institution while allowing disclosure of information about FINRA’s administrative duties.

The SSEK Partners Group represents investors with securities arbitration claims against broker-dealers, investment advisers, brokers, hedge fund managers, mutual fund managers, and others. You want to work with an experienced FINRA arbitration lawyer that knows how to pursue your claim.

Our securities law firm knows how upsetting it can be to sustain financial losses caused by professional misconduct or negligence. We are here to help our investor clients recover their investment losses.

Investor advocates push to see trove of arbitration records, MSN, December 5, 2013

Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association

Public Citizen


More Blog Posts:
Broker-Dealer National Planning to Pay $6.2M FINRA Arbitration Award to Two Minnesota Investors Over REITs, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 3, 2013

Financial Firms in the Headlines: UBS Charges Financial Planning Fees, MF Global Customers Seek to Cap Ex-Leaders’ Legal Defense Expenses, Ex-Thompson REIT CFO is Suspended, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 2, 2013

US Hedge Fund Industry is Worried About Tax Implications Under EU Directive, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 27, 2013

November 7, 2013

Lawmakers & Industry Folk Address the DOL Amending the Definition of Fiduciary, Reg A Plus Offerings, Oversight, Rogue Brokers, and Expungement Rules

US House Passes A Bill Prohibiting the US Labor Department DOL From Amending Its Definition of “Fiduciary” Until SEC’s Uniform Conduct Standard is Established
A bill that would not allow the Department of Labor to amend its rules regarding the definition of the term “fiduciary” until after Securities and Exchange Commission adopts its own rule that places broker-dealers and investment advisers under a uniform standard of conduct has passed in the US House of Representatives. The DOL has been trying to revise its definition of “fiduciary” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Those who voted to prohibit revising the definition have been worried about possibly ending up with two rulemakings that were inconsistent with one another.


Reg A Plus Offerings and Their Oversight Get Capitol Hill Debate
At a Senate Banking Committee’s Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee hearing about developments involving the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act, discussion ensued about Reg A Plus offerings. The SEC has yet to put out a proposal about “Reg A Plus,” which is the term used by its staff to refer to the new Reg A threshold.

Per the JOBS ACT’S Title IV, the SEC has to put in place a rule that will give exemption to certain offerings of up to $50 million (the current Reg A exemption is $5 million). While Reg A plus offerings would be exempt from SEC registration, they will have to adhere to state level registration unless found on a national securities exchange or sold to a “qualified purchaser.” Already, some in the industry are calling for a “workable definition” of what constitutes a “qualified purchaser” so that certain offerings would be exempt from state registration requirements.

There are those who believe that Reg A Plus offerings would benefit “Main Street businesses” that are not the likeliest candidates for other JOBS Act provisions. That said, the existing blue sky registration process puts in place additional limitations and burdens that might discourage those who would use a new Reg A Plus exemption.

Meantime, the North American Securities Administrators Association has put out a proposal (and is seeking comment) on streamlining the review of Reg A Plus offerings by the states. NASAA says long standing state policies will have to be modified and a “peel back” of certain requirements is necessary to make the offerings more viable.


Sen. Markey Worries About Rogue Brokers, Expungement of Violations from Public Records
In letters to the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, US Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass) expressed his concerns about the high rate of broker-dealers that are able to get certain complaints removed from their records. Markey co-authored the bill that eventually led to the creation of FINRA’s BrokerCheck, which is the online database that provides information about the records of broker-dealers and brokers that the public can access. However, he worries that with such a high expungement rate for these advisers, investors are not getting an accurate picture of these people’s records.

The senator from Massachusetts believes that expunging settlement deals from a broker’s records should be prohibited. Meantime, FINRA said it has started to make changes to preserve the integrity of its BrokerCheck system and enhance investor protections.

Markey also voiced worry about a report in the Wall Street Journal noting that millions of dollars in arbitration awards aren’t paid because some firms file for bankruptcy instead. Markey wants the SRO to make brokerage firms carry insurance to cover arbitration awards. He is dismayed that there are thousands of brokers who keep selling securities even after being kicked out by FINRA. He told the SRO that it needs to do a better job of finding “rogue brokers” who stay in business even though they’ve been expelled.


The SSEK Partners Group represents individual and institutional investors that have sustained losses from broker fraud. Contact our stockbroker fraud law firm today.


U.S. House passes bill to delay fiduciary rules at SEC, Labor Dept, Reuters, October 29, 2013

NASAA Outlines Plan for Streamlined State Review of JOBS Act-related Multi-State Offerings, North American Securities Administrators Association, October 30, 2013

Senator: Finra too weak to go after deadbeat broker, Investment News, October 25, 2013


More Blog Posts:

Judge Dismisses Shareholder Lawsuit Suing Bank of America For Allegedly Concealing AIG Fraud Case, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 6, 2013

JPMorgan’s Admission to CFTC of “Reckless” Trading Could Lead to More Securities Fraud Cases, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 4, 2013

Why did UBS Financial Advisors Recommend Puerto Rico Muni Bonds to Elderly and Retired Investors?, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 6, 2013

September 4, 2013

FINRA Fines Expected to Drop 41% in 2013

Even though the number of disciplinary actions from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has dropped just slightly this year, fines paid to the SRO are expected to be 41% lower from what was assessed in 2012.

In its Disciplinary and Other FINRA Actions report for the first half of 2013, FINRA said there were $23 million of fines—compare that to the same time period last year when the SRO fined brokerage firms and associated individuals $39 million. The total in fines it would assess for 2012 would reach $78 million. This year’s total is estimated to reach $46 million.

One reason for the decline might be that FINRA had already brought its biggest cases related to the market collapse. A decrease in supersize fines of those over $1 million has also occurred during the year’s first six months. However, in July, the SRO reported fining a financial firm $7.5 million while another had to pay investor restitution of $1.5 million. Supersize fines were also imposed on other broker-dealers.

ThinkAdvisor lists the leading five enforcement issues for FINRA for the first half of this year (figures were reported in Disciplinary and Other FINRA Actions): municipal securities, with 25 case at $4.3 million; electronic communication, with 25 cases at $2.5 million; mutual funds with 18 cases at $21 million; suitability, with 31 cases at $1.7 million; and short selling, with 16 cases at $1.5 million.

FINRA
FINRA is the biggest independent regulator of securities firms in the US—4,215 broker-dealers (and their branches) and about 633,620 brokers. It is here to protect investors and ensure market integrity.

FINRA Arbitration
Many securities cases are resolved via FINRA arbitration. You want to work with an experienced FINRA arbitration lawyer that can help your recover your investment fraud losses. Our securities fraud law firm represents investors throughout the country.

FINRA Fines On Track to Fall 41% This Year, ThinkAdvisor, September 6, 2013

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

US Securities and Exchange Commission

More Blog Posts:
FINRA Enhances Its Arbitrator Vetting Policy, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 26, 2013

Citigroup Must Pay $11M Claimant for Royal Bank of Scotland Investment Losses, Says FINRA Arbitration Panel, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 7, 2013

GAO Wants SEC to Look At Other Criteria for Who Qualifies As An Accredited Investor, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 31, 2013

August 7, 2013

Citigroup Must Pay $11M Claimant for Royal Bank of Scotland Investment Losses, Says FINRA Arbitration Panel

A FINRA arbitration panel has decided that Citigroup (C) and Edward J. Mulcahy, one of the firm’s ex-branch managers, has to pay $11 million to investor John Fiorilla. Fiorilla is a legal adviser to the Holy See who went to Citigroup because he wanted to de-risk a $16 million stock position in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

According to the claimant, he asked Citigroup to employ derivatives to assist in hedging his position against losses but the firm did not fulfill the request. When the market failed in 2008 his account suffered over $15 million in losses.

Fiorilla is claiming breach of contract, failure to control and supervise, breach of fiduciary duty, gross negligence, negligence, and other violations. His claim against Mulcahy is over an alleged failure to supervise.

The FINRA arbitration panel says Citigroup has to pay $10,750,000 and 9% interest from 5/1/09 until full payment of the award is reached. Mulcahy, who retired from Citigroup recently, must pay $250,000 and interest.

Citigroup denies the securities fraud allegations and is disappointed with the arbitration ruling.

Arbitration
Arbitration is one venue through which securities disputes between parties are resolved. To be eligible to be heard before a FINRA panel, cases must involve a FINRA-registered individual or entity and an investor (including broker v. investor, broker-dealer v. investor, brokerage firm and stockbrokers v. investors) or multiple FINRA-registered entities and/or individuals (such as broker v. broker, broker v. brokerage firm). Claims need to be submitted within six years that the events leading to the dispute happened.

Investors have to arbitrate before FINRA if this is mandated in their written agreement together, the dispute is with a FINRA member, and involves that member’s securities business. Industry members must arbitrate their disputes with each other before FINRA if a brokerage firm/broker’s securities business activities are involved. Brokerage firms and brokers have to enter into FINRA arbitration if the investor requests it.

The best way to increase the chances your FINRA securities case will come out in your favor is to hire an experienced FINRA arbitration lawyer.

Citigroup Ordered to Pay Investor $11 Million, On Wall Street, August 10, 2013

Arbitration Overview, FINRA


More Blog Posts:
Texas Money Manager Sued by SEC and CFTC Over Alleged Forex Trading Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 6, 2013

GAO Wants SEC to Look At Other Criteria for Who Qualifies As An Accredited Investor
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 31, 2013

Sonoma County Files Securities Lawsuit Over Libor Banking Debacle, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 2, 2013

July 14, 2012

Goldman Sachs Execution and Clearing Must Pay $20.5M Arbitration Award in Bayou Ponzi Scam, Upholds 2nd Circuit

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit is allowing a $20.5M award issued by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel against Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing LP to stand. The court turned down Goldman’s claim that the award should be vacated because it was issued in “manifest disregard of the law” and said that the clearing arm must pay this amount to the unsecured creditors of the now failed Bayou hedge fund group known as the Bayou Funds, which proved to be a large scale Ponzi scam.

Goldman was the prime broker and only clearing broker for the funds. After the scheme collapsed in 2005, the Bayou Funds sought bankruptcy protection the following year. Regulators would go on to sue the fund’s funders over the Ponzi scam and the losses sustained by investors. Meantime, an Official Unsecured Creditors’ Committee of Bayou Group was appointed to represent the debtors’ unsecured debtors. Blaming Goldman for not noticing the red flags that a Ponzi fraud was in the works, the committee proceeded to bring its arbitration claims against the clearing firm through FINRA. In 2010, the FINRA arbitration panel awarded the committee $20.58M against Goldman.

In affirming the arbitration award, the 2nd Circuit said that in this case, Goldman did not satisfy the manifest disregard standard. As an example, the court pointed to the $6.7M that was moved into the Bayou Funds from outside accounts in June 2005 and June 2004. While the committee had contended during arbitration that these deposits were “fraudulent transfers” and could be recovered from Goldman because they were an “initial transferee” under 11 U.S.C. §550(a), Goldman did not counter that the deposits weren’t fraudulent or that it was on inquiry notice of fraud. Instead, it claimed the deposits were not an “initial transferee” under 11 U.S.C. §550 and the panel had ignored the law by finding that it was.

Offering a rejoinder, the court agreed with the district court that Goldman’s argument for manifest disegard doesn’t succeed due to the recent case of Bear Stearns Securities Corp. v. Greddin, during which the Southern District of New York upheld the arbitration favoring the Creditors’ Committee. The court said it therefore could not conclude that arbitrators “manifestly disregarded the law” when they applied the legal principles in Greddin to impose on Goldman transferee liability.

The appeals court also found that arbitrators did not manifestly disregard the law as this relates to the $13.9M in transfers from the original Bayou fund to four new ones in March 2003. It affirmed the lower court’s decision that prejudgment interest should be awarded to the committee per the federal rate in 28 USC §961 and not the New York statutory rate.

If you are an institutional investor that was suffered financial losses due to fraud, contact our securities fraud law firm today.

Goldman Sachs Execution & Clearing LP v. Official Unsecured Creditors’ Committee of Bayou Group LLC

2d Circuit Agrees Goldman Clearing Arm Must Pay $20.5M Bayou Arbitration Award, Bloomberg/BNA, July 6, 2012

Goldman Battles Bayou Decision, The Wall Street Journal, October 15, 2011


More Blog Posts:

Goldman Sachs to Pay $22M For Alleged Lack of Proper Internal Controls That Allowed Analysts to Attend Trading Huddles and Tip Favored Clients, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, April 14, 2012

$698M MBS Lawsuit Seeking Damages from Goldman Sachs Group Can Take on Class Action Status, Says District Judge, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, February 23, 2012

Ex-Goldman Sachs Director Rajat Gupta Pleads Not Guilty to Insider Trading Charges, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 26, 2011

July 12, 2012

Institutional Investor Roundup: Evergreen Ultra Short Investor Lawsuit Settled for $25M, FINRA Launches Pilot Program for Huge Claims, Ex-AmeriFirst Funding Manager’s Conviction Appeal is Rejected, & EU Regulator Examines Credit Raters’ Bank Downgrade

Evergreen Investment Management Co. LLC and related entities have consented to pay $25 million to settle a class action securities settlement involving plaintiff investors who contend that the Evergreen Ultra Short Opportunities Fund was improperly marketed and sold to them. The plaintiffs, which include five institutional investors, claim that between 2005 and 2008 the defendants presented the fund as “stable” and providing income in line with “preservation of capital and low principal fluctuation” when actually it was invested in highly risky, volatile, and speculative securities, including mortgage-backed securities. Evergreen is Wachovia’s investment management business and part of Wells Fargo (WFC).

The plaintiffs claim that even after the MBS market started to fail, the Ultra Short Fund continued to invest in these securities, while hiding the portfolio’s decreasing value by artificially inflating the individual securities’ asset value in its portfolio. They say that they sustained significant losses when Evergreen liquidated the Ultra Short Fund four years ago after the defendants’ alleged scam collapsed. By settling, however, no one is agreeing to or denying any wrongdoing.

Meantime, seeking to generally move investors’ claims forward faster, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has launched a pilot arbitration program that will specifically deal with securities cases of $10 million and greater. The program was created because of the growing number of very big cases.

Under the voluntary program, parties would be able to “customize” the arbitration process. The SRO says it wants parties to have a “formal” approach that gives them greater control and flexibility over their claims, including “additional control” over choosing arbitrators and “expanded” discovery.

In other securities news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has turned down ex-AmeriFirst Funding Inc. manager Jeffrey Bruteyn’s appeal to his criminal conviction. Bruteyn was convicted of 9 counts of securities fraud in 2010 for running a scam that used the sale of secured debt obligations to defraud investors of millions of dollars.

The SDO’s were sold to raise capital for AmeriFirst Funding, which financed used car buys. Bruteyn is accused of making the sales by generating promotional materials that overstated insurance coverage while understating investor risk and falsely telling investors that that his family, which owned Hess Corp. (HES) would cover any losses sustained. Bruteyn was ordered to pay $7.3M in restitution and sentenced to 25 years in prison and three years of supervised release.

In Europe, regulators are examining the recent decisions made by credit rating agencies Moody’s (MCO), Fitch, and Standard & Poor's to downgrade banks affected by the eurozone sovereign debt crisis and the economic contraction. The European Securities and Markets Authority says it wants make sure that “transparent” and “rigorous” analyses were part of the credit raters’ decision-making process. ESMA is especially interested in a “block” rating that Moody’s issued to a number of Spanish banks last month.

ESMA is allowed to fine credit rating agencies for not following correct methodology or applying proper resources. It can also force a credit rater’s “de-registration.”

Throughout the US, our institutional investment fraud lawyers are committed to helping our clients recoup their losses from securities fraud.

$25 Million Settlement Submitted In Re Evergreen Ultra Short Opportunities Fund Securities Class Action, Yahoo Finance, July 2, 2012

FINRA Announces Pilot Program for Large Cases, FINRA, July 2, 2012

US v. Bruteyn

EU market regulator is suspicious of rating agencies, RT, July 2, 2012


More Blog Posts:

CFTC Accuses Peregrine Financial Group of Securities Fraud Related to $200M Customer Funds Shortfall, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 10, 2012

Will the JOBS ACT Will Expand Private Offerings But Hurt Public Markets?, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 6, 2012

SEC to Push for Money Market Mutual Fund Reform Provisions Despite Opposition, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 6, 2012


April 5, 2012

Merrill Lynch to Pay Brokers Over $10M for Alleged Fraud Over Deferred Compensation Plans

A Financial Industry Arbitration panel has ordered Merrill Lynch (BAC) to pay over $10 million to two brokers who claim the financial firm wrongly denied their deferred compensation plans to vest. Per the FINRA arbitration panel, senior management at Merrill purposely engaged in a scam that was “systematic and systemic” to prevent its former brokers, Tamara Smolchek and Meri Ramazio, from getting numerous benefits, including the ones that they were entitled to under the financial firm’s deferred-compensation programs, so that it wouldn’t be liable after the acquisition. The panel accused Merrill of taking part in “delay tactics” and “discovery abuses.”

Some 3,000 brokers left Merrill after Bank of America Corp. (BAC) acquired it in 2008. A lot of these former employees are now claiming that they were improperly denied compensation.

Smolchek and Ramazio alleged a number claims related to their deferred compensation plans’ disposition. Causes of action against Merrill included breach of duty of good faith and fair dealing, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, unjust enrichment, constructive trust, conversion, defamation, unfair competition, tortious interference with advantageous business relations, violating FINRA Rule 2010, fraud, and negligence.

Broker employment contracts usually mandate that an employee stay with a financial firm for several years before they are entitled to vest the money they are earning in their tax-deferred accounts. However, several of Merrill’s deferred compensation programs allow brokers that have left the firm for “good reason” to have their money vest.

The FINRA panel expressed shock that after the departure of 3,000 Merrill advisers following the Bank of America acquisition, the firm did not approve a single claim for vesting that cited a “good reason” under the deferred compensation programs. Per Merrill’s own analysis, had it approved the vesting requests, the financial firm might have paid anywhere from the hundreds of millions to billions of dollars in possible liability.

Per the compensation ruling, Merrill has to pay Ramazio $875,000 and Smolchek $4.3 million in compensatory damages for unpaid deferred compensation, unpaid wages, lost wages, lost book, lost reputation, and value of business. The FINRA panel also awarded $1.5 million in punitive damages to Ramazo and $3.5 million to Smolchek.

The same day that the decision was issued, Merrill filed an appeal. The financial firm wants the ruling overturned, claiming that it never received a fair hearing and that panel chairwoman Bonnie Pearce was biased. Merrill contends that Pearce did not disclose that her husband is a plaintiff’s lawyer who sued the financial firm for customers and brokers in at least five lawsuits. Merrill is accusing Pearce of “overt hostility.”

Merrill Lynch Loses $10 Million Compensation Ruling, The Wall Street Journal, April 4, 2012

Merrill Lynch Savaged by FINRA Arbitrators in Historic Employee Dispute, Forbes, April 4, 2012


More Blog Posts:
Securities Claims Accusing Merrill Lynch of Concealing Its Auction-Rate Securities Practices Are Dismissed by Appeals Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 30, 2011

Merrill Lynch Faces $1M FINRA Fine Over Texas Ponzi Scam by Former Registered Representative, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 10, 2011

Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Ordered to Pay $1M FINRA Fine for Not Arbitrating Employee Disputes Over Retention Bonuses, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 26, 2012

Continue reading "Merrill Lynch to Pay Brokers Over $10M for Alleged Fraud Over Deferred Compensation Plans" »

January 11, 2012

Oppenheimer & Co. Must Buyback $6M in Auction-Rate Securities from Investor, Says FINRA Arbitration Panel

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel has ordered Oppenheimer & Co. to repurchase the $5.98 million in New Jersey Turnpike ARS that it sold Nicole Davi Perry in 2007. The investor reportedly purchased the securities through Oppenheimer Holdings Inc. (OPY).

Perry, who, along with her father, filed her ARS arbitration claim against the financial firm in 2010, accused Oppenheimer of negligence and breach of fiduciary duty. She and her father, Ronald Davi, were reportedly looking for liquidity and safety, but instead ended up placing their funds in the auction-rate securities. They contend that they weren’t given an accurate picture of the risks involved or provided with a thorough explanation of the securities’ true nature.

Oppenheimer disagrees with the panel’s ruling. In addition to buying back Perry’s ARS, the financial firm has to cover her approximately $134,000 in legal fees.

It was just in 2010 that Oppenheimer settled the ARS securities cases filed against it by the states of New York and Massachusetts. The brokerage firm consented to buy back millions of dollars in bonds from customers who found their investments frozen after the ARS market collapsed and they had no way of being able to access their funds.

Oppenheimer is one of a number of brokerage firms that had to repurchase ARS from investors. These financial firms are accused of misrepresenting the risks involved and inaccurately claiming that the securities were “cash-like.” A number of these brokerage firms' executives allegedly continued to allow investors to buy the bonds even though they already knew that the market stood on the brink of collapse and they were selling off their own ARS.

ARS
Auction rate securities are usually corporate bonds, municipal bonds, and preferred stock with long-term maturities. Investors receive interest rates or dividend yields that are reset at each successive auction.

ARS auctions take place at regular intervals—either every 7 days, 14 days, 28 days, or 5 days. The bidder turns in the lowest dividend yield or interest rate he or she is willing to go to purchase and hold the bond during the next auction interval. If the bidder wins at the auction, she/he must buy the bond at par value.

Failed auctions can happen when there are not enough bidding buyers available to acquire the entire ARS block being offered. A failed auction can prevent ARS holders from selling their securities in the auction.

There are many reasons why an auction might fail and why there is risk involved for investors. It is important that investors are notified of these risks before they buy into the securities and that they only they get into ARS if this type of investment is suitable for their financial goals and the realities of their finances.

Panel Says Oppenheimer Must Buy Back $6M In Auction-Rate Securities, Wall Street Journal, January 10, 2012

Oppenheimer settles with Massachusetts, NY, Boston, February 24, 2010

More Blog Posts:
Oppenheimer Funds Investors Can Proceed with Their Securities Fraud Lawsuit, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 19, 2011

Investors in Oppenheimer Mutual Funds Considering Opting Out of $100M Class Action Settlement Have Until August 31, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 6 2011

Raymond James Settles Auction-Rate Securities Case with Indiana Securities Division for $31M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 27, 2011

Continue reading "Oppenheimer & Co. Must Buyback $6M in Auction-Rate Securities from Investor, Says FINRA Arbitration Panel" »

December 27, 2011

Citigroup Request to Overturn $54.1M Municipal Bond Arbitration Ruling Denied by Judge

A US judge has denied Citigroup’s request that the $54.1M Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration award issued to investors that sustained losses in municipal bond funds be overturned. This is one of the largest securities arbitration awards that a broker-dealer has been ordered to pay individual investors. Brush Creek Capital, retired lawyer Gerald D. Hosier, and investor Jerry Murdock Jr. are the award’s recipients. However, these Claimants are not the only investors to come forward contending that they were told the funds were suitable for investors that wanted to preserve their capital.

The investor losses were related to several leveraged municipal bond arbitrage funds that saw their value significantly drop between 2007 and 2008. Citigroup Global Markets had sold the municipal bond funds through MAT Finance LLC. Proceeds were invested in longer-term muni bunds while borrowing took place at low, short-term rates. The strategy proved to be unsuccessful, resulting in investors losing up to 80% of their money.

According to The Wall Street Journal, when it issued its ruling the arbitration panel appeared to reject three defenses that financial firms usually make:

• The financial crisis, and not the financial firm, is to blame for the losses.
• Sophisticated, rich investors should have known what risks were involved.
• The prospectus had warned in advance that investors could lose everything.

The Claimants alleged fraud, failure to supervise, and unsuitability. They had sought no less than $48 million in compensatory damages, fees, lost-opportunity costs, commission, lawyers’ fees, and interest.

The FINRA arbitration panel awarded $21.6 million in compensatory damages, plus 8% per annum, to Hosier, $3.9 million in compensatory damages, plus 8% per annum, to Murdock, Jr, and $8.4 million in compensatory damages, plus 8% per annum, to Brush Creek Capital LLC.

All Claimants were also awarded $3 million in lawyers’ fees, $17 million in punitive damages, $33,500 in expert witness fees, $13,168 in court reporter expenses, and $600 for the Claimant’s filing fee.

Following the FINRA ruling, Citigroup contended that the arbitration panel had ignored the law when arriving at the award. The brokerage firm also claimed that investors could not have depended on verbal statements that the financial firm had expressed about purchases because the clients had acknowledged through signed agreements that they could lose everything they invested. By denying Citigroup’s request to throw out the arbitration award, Judge Christine Arguello, however, said that the court found Citigroup’s “argument wholly unpersuasive.”

A Crack in Wall Street’s Defenses, New York Times, April 24, 2011

Citigroup Slammed With $54 Million Award by FINRA Arbitrators in MAT / ASTA Case, Municipal Bond, April 12, 2011

Citigroup loses suit to overturn $54-million ruling, Reuters, December 22, 2011


More Blog Posts:

JPMorgan Chase to Pay $211M to Settle Charges It Rigged Municipal Bond Transaction Bidding Competitions, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 9, 2011

Citigroup Ordered by FINRA to Pay $54.1M to Two Investors Over Municipal Bond Fund Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 13, 2011

Citigroup’s $285M Mortgage-Related CDO Settlement with Raises Concerns About SEC’s Enforcement Practices for Judge Rakoff, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 9, 2011

Continue reading "Citigroup Request to Overturn $54.1M Municipal Bond Arbitration Ruling Denied by Judge" »

July 16, 2011

Wedbush Ordered By FINRA Panel To Pay $3.5M to Trader Over Withheld Compensation

A Financial Industry Regulator Authority Panel has ordered WedBush Securities Inc. to pay one of its traders over $3.5 million for refusing to properly compensate him. According to claimant Stephen Kelleher, he worked for the financial firm for years without consistently getting the incentive-base compensation that he was promised as a municipal sales trader. Kelleher started working for Wedbush in 2007 until right before the arbitration ruling was made.

Kelleher claims that Wedbush withheld nearly $5 million from him. While he regularly received his base salary, the bulk of his income, which was incentive-based compensation, was unevenly distributed and issued to him in May 2008, October 2009, and April 2010. Even then Kelleher contends that he did not receive everything he was owed.

In his FINRA arbitration claim, Kelleher alleged violation and failure to pay per labor laws, breach of contract, unfair business practices, and fraud. He sought over $6.1 million, including $4.17 million in compensation owed, close to $878,000 in interest, and penalties of $1 million and $2,100 over labor code violations. He also sought damages for civil code law violations, as well as punitive damages.

During the FINRA hearing, witnesses testified that it was Wedbush president and founder Edward W. Wedbush who made decisions about paying and withholding incentive compensation. Another Wedbush employee said that there were two years when he too didn’t get the incentive-based compensation that he was owed. The FINRA panel blamed Wedbush’s “corporate management structure” that required that Edward Wedbush, as majority shareholder, approve bonus pay at his discretion.

In addition to the $3.5 million, the FINRA panel also told Wedbush it has to give Kelleher the vested option to purchase 3,750 Wedbush shares at $20/share and another $375 shares at $26/share. Wedbush also must pay the Claimant for the $200 part of the FINRA filing fee that is non-refundable.

Wedbush intends to appeal the securities arbitration ruling.

Related Web Resources:
Wedbush ordered to pay $3.5M for ‘morally reprehensible failure', Investment News, July 11, 2011

FINRA Orders Wedbush to pay trader $3.5 million, OnWallStreet, July 1, 2011


More Blog Posts:
FINRA Panel Orders Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corporation to Pay $64M Over Losses Sustained by Rosen Capital Institutional LP and Rosen Capital Partners LP, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, July 14, 2011

Raymond James Must Pay $925,000 Over Auction-Rate Securities Dispute, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, September 1, 2010

Fisher Investments Inc. Ordered to Pay Retired Investor $376,075 Over Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 8, 2011

Continue reading "Wedbush Ordered By FINRA Panel To Pay $3.5M to Trader Over Withheld Compensation" »

July 14, 2011

FINRA Panel Orders Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corporation to Pay $64M Over Losses Sustained by Rosen Capital Institutional LP and Rosen Capital Partners LP

Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Corporation must pay hedge funds Rosen Capital Partners LP and Rosen Capital Institutional LP $63,665,202.00 in compensatory damages plus interest (9% from October 7, 2008). A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel issued the order which found the respondent liable.

In their statement of claim, made by the claimants in 2009, the hedge funds accused Merrill Lynch of reach of contract, fraud, breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing (the New York Uniform Commercial Code), and negligence related to the allegedly unexpected margin calls that caused the claimants to sustain financial losses.

Rosen Capital Partners and Rosen Capital Institutional had originally sought at least $90 million in compensatory damages, as well as punitive damages and other costs. Meantime, Merrill Lynch had sough to have the entire matter dismissed and that it be awarded all costs incurred from the suit and other relief as deemed appropriate.

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Read the details of the FINRA dispute resolution, Wall Street Journal (PDF)

New York Uniform Commercial Code, Justia

Merrill Lynch Professional Clearing Hit With $64 Million FINRA Arbitration Award, Forbes, July 6, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Raymond James Must Pay $925,000 Over Auction-Rate Securities Dispute, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 1, 2010

Fisher Investments Inc. Ordered to Pay Retired Investor $376,075 Over Breach of Fiduciary Duty, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 8, 2011

$750,000 Arbitration Award Against Stone & Youngberg LLC Confirmed by District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 30, 2011

September 1, 2010

Raymond James Must Pay $925,000 Over Auction-Rate Securities Dispute

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel says that Raymond James and financial advisor Larry Milton must pay Sherese and Rex Glendenning $925,000 over an auction-rate securities dispute. This is the third time this summer that Raymond James Financial Inc. (NYSE: RFJ) subsidiaries have been involved in an ARS dispute that was decided in FINRA arbitration. Since July 1, independent broker-dealer Raymond James Financial Services Inc. and brokerage firm Raymond James & Associates have been ordered to repurchase $3.5 million in ARS from clients.

The Glendennings set up their account with Raymond James in January 2008 before the market meltdown. Milton placed the couple’s $1.4 million in an ARS that contained sewer revenue bonds while failing to tell them about the risk involved.

The couple contends that Milton’s behavior wrongly gave them the impression that their investment was highly liquid and could be easily sold. However, Raymond James turned down their request to buy the ARS back at full value.

According to the Glendennings’ securities fraud attorney, the timing of the purchase was key to winning the award. The securities that they bought came up for auction for the first time thirty five days after they made the purchase. The auction failed and the couple were never able “ to go to auction.”

At the time of the ARS market crash in February 2008, Raymond James Financial clients held $1.9 billion in auction rate debt—now down to $600 million. To date, none of the securities regulators have sued the firm over ARS sales. Other financial firms, including Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. and Charles Schwab & Co. haven’t been as lucky.

Related Web Resources:
Raymond James pays more auction rate claims, Investment News, August 26, 2010

FINRA rules against Raymond James in auction rate securities case, Tampa Bay Business Journal, August 26, 2010

Stockbroker-Fraud Blog

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