Morgan Keegan Founder Faces SEC Charges Over Mortgage-Backed Securities Asset Pricing in Mutual Funds

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Morgan Keegan founder Allen Morgan Jr. and several other former mutual fund board members for allegedly failing to supervise the managers accused of inaccurately pricing toxic mortgage-backed assets prior to the financial crisis. According to Reuters, this is a rare attempt by the regulator to hold a mutual fund’s board accountable for manager wrongdoing and it is significant. (Fund manager James Kelsoe hasconsented to pay a $500,000 penalty related to this matter and he is barred from the securities industry in perpetuity. Comptroller Joseph Thompson Weller consented to pay a $50,000 penalty.)

Last year, Morgan Keegan and Morgan Asset Management consented to pay $200 million to settle SEC subprime mortgage-backed securities fraud charges accusing them of causing the false valuations of the securities in five funds and failing to use reasonable pricing methods. (This allegedly led to “net asset values” being calculated for the funds.) The inaccurate daily NAVS would then be published and investors would buy shares at inflated prices. The funds’ value eventually declined significantly.

According to the Commission, the eight ex-board members violated laws mandating that fund directors help decide what a security’s fair value is when market quotations don’t exist. Instead of trying to figure out how fair valuation determinations work, the directors allegedly gave this task to a valuation committee but without providing “meaningful substantive guidance.”

Allen Morgan Jr., who is a Morgan Keegan cofounder, was CEO and Chairman until 2003.The seven other board members facing SEC charges include Kenneth Alderman, Mary S. Stone, W. Randall Pittman, Albert C. Johnson, James Stillman R. McFadden, Jack R. Blair, and Archie W. Willis III.

Already, Morgan Keegan is contending with over 1,000 arbitration lawsuits involving its bond funds that had invested in high risk MBS but were marketed as safe. When the subprime market collapsed, the funds lost up to 80% of their value.

Recently, Morgan Keegan and over 10,000 investors in a closed-end fund reached a $62 class million settlement. Lion Fund LP, the lead plaintiff and a Texas hedge fund, claimed that it had made a $2.1 million investment.

Morgan Keegan is owned by Raymond James (RJF), which bought the firm from Regions Financial Corporation. Other securities lawsuits still pending against it also involve conventional and open-ended funds.

Unfortunately, too many people and entities sustained huge losses because the risks of a number of types of securities leading up to the global crisis and the housing bubble’s implosion were downplayed by financial firms and their representatives. At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantars, our subprime mortgage-backed securities lawyers represent investors throughout the US. Contact our securities law firm today.

SEC Charges Eight Mutual Fund Directors for Failure to Properly Oversee Asset Valuation, SEC, December 10, 2012

SEC Order
(PDF)

More Blog Posts:
Judge that Dismissed Regulators’ Claims Against Morgan Keegan to Rule on ARS Lawsuit Again After His Ruling Was Reversed on Appeal, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 27, 2012

Morgan Keegan & Company Ordered by FINRA to Pay $555,400 in Texas Securities Case Involving Morgan Keegan Proprietary Funds, Stockbroker fraud Blog, September 6, 2011

Morgan Keegan Ordered by FINRA to Pay RMK Fund Investors $881,000, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 24, 2011

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