Articles Posted in Bear Stearns

Adam Siegel, an ex-Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) bond trader, has plead guilty to fraud over his involvement in a multi-million dollar scheme in which he lied to customers so that they would pay higher prices for bonds. Siegel, 37, served as the co-head of RBS’s U.S. Asset-Backed Securities, Mortgage-Backed Securities and Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities Trading groups. He supervised and traded fixed income investment securities, including collateralized loan obligations (CLOs) and residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS).

According to prosecutors, Siegel and others lied about the asking price of sellers to buyers, as well as the price that buyers were willing to pay to sellers, while pocketing the difference. He made misrepresentations so that customers would pay higher prices while those selling bonds would end up getting deflated prices, both of which benefitted RBS.

Sometimes, he and co-conspirators would make misrepresentations to buyers by telling them that a fake third-party was selling the bonds. This allowed the firm to charge an unwarranted commission.

Continue reading

Reuters and Bloomberg are reporting that according to person familiar with the case, JPMorgan Chase (JPM) has consented in principal to resolve a class action case related to Bear Stearns’ sale of $17.58B of faulty mortgage securities for $500 million. JPMorgan purchased Bear Stearns in 2008.

The agreement settles claims that Bear Stearns violated federal securities laws when, from May 2006 to April 2007. it sold certificates backed by over 47,000 primarily subprime and low documentation “Alt-A” mortgages in over a dozen offerings. Almost all certificates were eventually reduced to “junk” status even though 92% of them had been given “trip-A” ratings previously.

The plaintiffs, led by the New Jersey Carpenters Health Fund and, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi, claim that offering documents included misleading and false statements about underwriting guidelines that Bear’s EMC Mortgage unit and other lenders used, as well as inaccuracies related to associated property appraisals. According to the lawsuit, because of the omissions and false statements, the class bought certificates that were a lot risker than what they were represented as and unequal in quality to other investments that received the same credit rating.

Morgan Stanley (MS) has let go of Galen Marsh, a 30-year-old financial adviser in its wealth management group, for stealing client information and allegedly making some of the data that he took available online. Some 350,000 of the brokerage firm’s 3.5 million wirehouse clients were affected. About 900 clients’ account names and numbers were briefly posted on the Internet.

Morgan Stanley discovered that Marsh had downloaded the client data, including account numbers, names, states of residence, and asset values. In a statement, the firm said that there is no proof of any financial loss sustained by the clients whose information was stolen. (Social security numbers and account passwords were not taken.)

The firm says it is notifying the clients who were affected. It has also reached out to regulators and law enforcement.

After months of back-and-forth, the US Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) have agreed to a $13 billion settlement. The historic deal concludes several of lawsuits and probes over failed mortgage bonds that were issued prior to the economic crisis. It also is the largest combination of damages and fines to be obtained by the federal government in a civil case with just one company. JPMorgan had initially wanted to pay just $3 billion.

The $13 billion deal is the largest crackdown this government had made against Wall Street over questionable mortgage practices. US Attorney General H. Eric Holder and other lead DOJ officials were involved in the settlement talks with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other senior officials.

The settlement is over billions of dollars in residential mortgage backed securities involving not just the firm but also its Washington Mutual (WAMUQ) and Bear Stearns (BSC) outfits. The government claims that the RMBS were based on mortgages that were not as solid as what they were advertised to be.

New York’s highest court has revived a declaratory judgment action against D & Liability insurers after finding that the Securities and Exchange Commission order mandating that Bear Stearns (BSC) pay $160M in disgorgement failed to establish in a conclusive manner that payment could not be insured. The securities lawsuit is J.P. Morgan Securities, Inc., et al. v. Vigilant Insurance Company, et al.

Claiming that Bear Stearns engaged in market timing mutual fund trades and illegal late trading and for certain clients over a four-year period, the SEC wanted $720M in sanctions from the firm. The financial firm, however, argued that the activities only caused it to make $16.9M in revenues. A settlement was reached ordering Bear Stearns to pay $160M in disgorgement and $90M in penalties, with the firm not having to deny or admit to the Commission’s claims.

A declaratory action followed with a plaintiff in the New York Supreme Court seeking to have D & O insurers pay for $150M of the $160M disgorgement. Citing New York law, the insurers argued that the case should be dismissed, noting that under state law disgorgement is not insurable. A lower court turned down these contentions, denying the motion.

A Financial Industry Arbitration panel has decided that ex-UBS Financial Services broker Pericles Gregoriou can keep $1 million of the signing bonus he was given when he joined the financial firm even though he left the company earlier than what the terms of the hiring agreement stipulated. Gregoriou worked for the UBS AG (UBS) unit from ’07 to ’09.

This is an unusual victory for a broker. They usually find it very challenging to contest demands by a financial firm to give back unpaid bonus money. However, the FINRA panel said that Gregoriou was not liable for the $1 million damages. Also, the
panel denied Gregoriou’s counterclaim against UBS and a number of individuals. He had sought $3.24 million.

In a securities fraud case involving two former Bear Stearns employees against the SEC, “reluctantly,” the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York approved a settlement deal involving Matthew Tannin and Ralph Cioffi. The defendants are accused of making alleged representations about two failing hedge funds.

The ex-Bear Stearns managers faced civil and criminal charges in 2008 for allegedly misleading bank counterparties and investors about the financial state of the funds, which ended up failing due to subprime mortgage-backed securities exposure in 2007. Cioffi and Tannin were acquitted of the criminal allegations in 2009.

Senior Judge Frederic Block approved the agreement wile noting that the SEC has limited powers when it comes to getting back the financial losses of investors. He asked Congress to think about whether the government should do more to help victims of “Wall Street predators.”

Per the terms of the securities settlement, Tannin will pay $200K in disgorgement and a $100K fine. Meantime, Cioffi will also pay a $100K fine and $700K in disgorgement. Although both are settling without denying or admitting to the allegations, they also have agreed to not commit 1933 Securities Act violations in the future and consented to temporary securities industry bars—Tannin for two years and Cioffi for three years.

In other securities law news, the U.S. District for the District of Columbia dismissed the lawsuit that investors in Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scam had filed against the government. The reason for the dismissal was lack of subject matter jurisdiction.

The investors blame the SEC for allowing the multibillion dollar scheme to continue for years and they have pointed to the latter’s alleged gross negligence” in not investigating the matter. The plaintiffs contend that the Commission breached its duty to them. Judge Paul Friedman, however, sided with the government in its argument that the investors’ claims are not allowed due to the Federal Tort Claims Act’s “discretionary function exception,” which gives the SEC broad authority in terms of when to deciding when to conduct probes into alleged securities law violations.

While recognizing the plaintiffs’ “tragic” financial losses, the court found that investors failed to identify any “mandatory obligations” that were violated by SEC employees that executed discretionary tasks. The plaintiffs also did not adequately plead that the SEC’s activities lacked grounding in matters of public policy.

Meantime, the SEC has named ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) executive Thomas J. Butler the director of its new Office of Credit Ratings. The office is in charge of overseeing the nine nationally recognized statistical rating organizations that are registered, and it was created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The office will conduct a yearly exam of each credit rating agency and put out a public report.

UBS loses case to recoup bonus from ex-broker, Reuters, February 6, 2012

Court Clears SEC Deal With Former Bear Execs Tannin, Cioffi, Bloomberg/BNA, June 20, 2012

Strike Four: Another Federal Court Dismisses Madoff Investor Lawsuit Against SEC, Compliance Week, June 20, 2012

Former Exec to Head Office of Credit Ratings, The Wall Street Journal, June 15, 2012

More Blog Posts:
SEC Wants Proposed Securities Settlements with Bear Stearns Executives to Get Court Approval, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 28, 2012

AARP, Investment Adviser Association, Among Groups Asking the SEC to Make Brokers Abide by 1940 Investment Advisers Act’s Fiduciary Duty
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 14, 2012

Investor Groups, Securities Lawyers, and Business Community Comment on the JOBS Act Reg D’s Investor Verification Process, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 24, 2012

Continue reading

The Securities and Exchange Commission is seeking district court approval of its proposed securities fraud settlement with two ex-Bear Stearns & Co. portfolio managers. The SEC presented its second plea to the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York earlier this month.

In a letter to the court, the SEC cited the Second Circuit Appeals Court’s decision earlier this month to stay a district court judge’s ruling turning down the Commission’s proposed $285M settlement with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. It said that the order in that matter “supports approval and entry” of this pending consent judgment.

If the settlement is approved, former Bear Stearns portfolio managers Matthew and Tannin and Ralph Cioffi would settle SEC charges accusing them of misleading bank counterparties and investors about the financial condition of two hedge funds that failed because of subprime mortgage-backed securities in 2007. Per the terms of the proposed settlement, Tannin would pay $200,000 in disgorgement plus a $50,000 fine and Cioffi would pay $700,000 in disgorgement and a $100,000 fine.

This is the second attempt by the SEC and the defendants to the court for settlement approval after District Court Judge Frederic Block cited concerns made by Judge Rakoff, who is the one who threw out the proposed $285M settlement in the SEC-Citigroup case and ordered both parties to trial. The Second Circuit has since stayed those proceedings. (In the securities case between the SEC and Citigroup, the regulator had accused the financial firm of misrepresenting its involvement in a $1 billion collateralized debt obligation that the latter and structured and marketed five years ago.)

In other SEC news, the Commission has honored its commitment to providing greater transparency when it comes to cooperation credit by notifying the public that it credited an ex-AXA Rosenberg senior executive for his substantial help in an enforcement action against the quantitative investment firm. AXA Rosenberg is accused of concealing a material error in the computer code of the model it used to manage client assets.

The SEC said it would not take action against the former executive not just because of the help he provided, but also because the alleged misconduct in question was one that mattered so much. Fortunately, the SEC was able to give clients back the $217 million they lost, as well is impose penalties of $27.5 million. This was the Commissions first case over mistakes in a quantitative investment model.

Meantime, the International Organization of Securities Commissions’ Technical Committee says it has updated the data categories for information it plans to collect in a global survey of hedge funds that will take place later this year. Modified reporting categories include general information about firms, funds, and advisors, geographical focus, market and product exposure for strategy assets, leverage and risk, trading and clearing.

According to IOSCO, responses to the survey will bring together an array of hedge fund information that regulators can look at to determine systemic risk. The committee believes that having securities regulators regularly monitor hedge funds for systemic risk indicators/measures will be beneficial and provide necessary insight into possible issues hedge funds might create for the global financial system. This will be IOSCO’s second survey on hedge funds.

SEC, Citing 2d Circuit Order, Asks Court To Approve Deal With Bear Stearns Execs, BNA Securities Law Daily, March 20, 2012

SEC Credits Former Axa Rosenberg Executive for Substantial Cooperation during Investigation, SEC, March 19, 2012

IOSCO publishes updated systemic risk data requirements for hedge funds, HedgeWeek, March 23, 2012

More Blog Posts:
Securities Fraud: Mutual Funds Investment Adviser Cannot Be Sued Over Misstatement in Prospectuses, Says US Supreme Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 16, 2011

Janus Avoids Responsibility to Mutual Fund Shareholders for Alleged Role in Widespread Market Timing Scandal, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 11, 2007

SEC Chairwoman Defends ‘No Wrongdoing’ Settlements, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 27, 2012

Continue reading

Ambac Assurance Corp., a mortgage insurance company, claims that not only did JP Morgan Chase & Co. resist repurchasing loans from Bear Stears-created bonds, but also, it demanded that a lender buy back the bad mortgages. Ambac made the claim in a proposed amended securities lawsuit against Bear Stear’s EMC Mortgage unit. JP Morgan now owns Bear Stearns.

Ambac filed its securities lawsuit in 2008, claiming that ex-Bear Stearns mortgage executives that currently head mortgage divisions at Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, and Ally Financial defrauded and cheated investors, while hiding their actions from the public. Its complaint lists more than $600 million in claims with $1.2 billion in damages from the bad mortgage securities that it insured against and invested in. The insurer is now adding the claim of fraud to its case.

According to the complaint, on March 11, 2008, Bear Stearns, who had bought loans and packaged them into bonds for investors to buy, sought to have a lender repurchase mortgages in bonds that Syncora Guarantee Inc. had insured because it claimed that they did not meet promised standards of quality. This, at the same time that Bear Stearns refused, per Syncora’s demands, that it buy back the loans over the same flaws.

Bear traders allegedly sold the toxic mortgage securities to investors and then resold the bad loans with early payment defaults to banks that originated them. Because investors were not notified that the time allowed for early default payments had been cut, this allowed the investment bank to swiftly securitize defective loans without giving investors time conduct due diligence.

Former EMC analysts have stepped forward admitting that they were ordered to falsify loan-level performance data and that the information was passed on to ratings agencies, who would then approve Bear’s billion-dollar deals. They also claim that senior traders were taking money that should have gone to the security holders that bought the bonds and loans from Bear. Due diligence standards were allegedly ignored. Executives allegedly made tens of millions of dollars in compensation.

Ambac claims that Bear knew that what traders were doing in its mortgage trading division yet chose to conceal the defective loans and ignore contractual obligations. The insurer is now holding JP Morgan accountable for the accounting fraud that began at Bear. Ambac also contends that JP Morgan has continued to ignore the vast off-balance sheet exposure linked to its contractual repurchase agreements.

Related Web Resources:
E-mails Suggest Bear Stearns Cheated Clients Out of Billions, The Atlantic, January 25, 2011

Ambac Says JPMorgan Refused Mortgage Repurchases It Also Sought, Bloomberg Businessweek, January 25, 2011

JP Morgan and Chase, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, February 3, 2011

Continue reading