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Securities Fraud Blog

Greco & Greco, P.C.

W. Scott Greco

Fight Investment Fraud

Greco & Greco's lawyers represent investors to recover losses caused by securities fraud, churning, lack of suitability, negligence, sales of unregistered securities, unauthorized trading, and other misconduct by stock brokers, investment advisors, financial planners and their firms.

For a Free Attorney Consultation, call us at 877-821-5550 orĀ 

State Regulators

Businesses left out of Auction Rate Securities Settlements?

As discussed in this Bloomberg article, the settlements reached by regulators regarding auction rate securities sales with many of the large brokerage firms fail to help medium to large businesses who were also sold ARS.  Although the required buyouts in the settlements with UBS, JPMorgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, and Wachovia Corp. reached $35 billion, this amount only approximates 18% of the $200 billion estimated to be still outstanding. 

Although the settlements call for the firms to use their best efforts to help institutional investors stuck with the frozen ARS, they fall short of requiring a buyback.  This situation may force mid-sized to large companies to seek redress on their own through the arbitration or court system.  Please contact Greco & Greco if your business is holding frozen ARS as a result of fraudulent sales practices of a brokerage firm.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 08/22/08.
ArbitrationAuction Rate Securities (ARS)Brokerage FirmsCitigroupJ.P. MorganMerrill LynchMorgan KeeganUBSWachoviaState RegulatorsPermalink

UBS Charged With Fraud in Auction Rate Securities Sales

The State of Massachusetts filed a Complaint today against UBS claiming UBS engaged in fraud and dishonest and unethical conduct with regard to its sales of Auction Rate Securities (ARS).  Link to Complaint and Exhibits.  In a 101 page Complaint, Massachusetts references voluminous emails it obtained from UBS supporting its claims, and further charges UBS with books and records violations for failures to produce additional documents.

The Complaint describes UBS’s “all-out” effort to market ARS, and especially “troubled student loan-backed auction rate certificates,” to offset increasing inventory from corporate investors who were selling the ARS due to concerns about the market.  Despite awareness of serious problems with the market, UBS was initiating conference calls in August 2007 with its financial advisors to encourage the sale of ARS to retail clients and “unload this paper.”

The Complaint further describes the incredible conflicts of interest surrounding the market:  “by setting up a situation where it was actively controlling whether auctions would clear and what rate they would clear at, UBS had (unbeknownst to its customers) set up a situation which put it in a fundamentally conflicted role between its desire to keep its underwriting clients happy with the promise of low financing costs and its “moral obligation” to retail customers to keep the auctions it had set up afloat.”

If you are an investor stuck with Auction Rate Securities, and you would like a free consultation to discuss your legal options with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 06/26/08.
Auction Rate Securities (ARS)Brokerage FirmsUBSState RegulatorsMassachusettsPermalink

Auction Rate Securities Failures

Auction Rate Securities and Auction Rate Preferred Securities (ARS) are securities made up of long term bonds or preferred stock with variable interest rates and yields.  The yields are periodically reset through Dutch auctions.  ARS are often marketed and sold by a single dealer with the only resale market being through a successful auction.  Problems have arisen in recent months as a result of the failures of the auctions, leaving investors in the lurch and unable to redeem the security.  As set out in this SmartMoney article, ARS have been marketed as a safe, liquid alternative to money market funds.  Investors believing they had their money in a safe liquid investment are understandably concerned by the failures in the marketplace for these securities, and our firm has been monitoring the situation closely and discussing the matter with concerned individuals and businesses.  Misrepresentations and omissions in the sale of a security can form the basis for a claim for securities fraud as well as other legal claims for recovery of damages.

As recently as 2006, the SEC censured 15 of the largest brokerage firms for sales and auctions of Auction Rate Securities. As stated by the SEC in its press release, “since the firms were under no obligation to guarantee against a failed auction, investors may not have been aware of the liquidity and credit risks associated with certain securities.”  The SEC further stated that “the firms violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933, which prohibits material misstatements and omissions in any offer or sale of securities.”  The fifteen firms which were censured were Bear, Stearns & Co., Inc., Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., Goldman Sachs & Co., J.P. Morgan Securities, Inc., Lehman Brothers Inc., Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, Morgan Stanley & Co. Incorporated/ Morgan Stanley DW Inc., RBC Dain Rauscher Inc., A.G. Edwards & Sons, Inc., Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., Piper Jaffray & Co., SunTrust Capital Markets Inc., Wachovia Capital Markets, LLC, and Banc of America Securities LLC.  Read the SEC Order here.

UBS appears to be the first firm to actually begin lowering the values of auction rate securities on its customers’ statements, as reported by many news sources on March 29 including this Reuters article.  Citing a Wall Street Journal article, Reuters reported that the markdowns could exceed 20 percent for some customers.  Additional concessions from other firms may be forthcoming as the first quarter of 2008 ends.

State Regulators, including Massachusetts, have also begun investigations of the auction rate securities market with Massachusetts reportedly issuing subpoenas to UBS, Merrill Lynch, and Bank of America. 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released an Investor Alert on March 31, 2008 regarding auction rate securities which purports to set out various options for investors stuck with these products.  FINRA, which claims to be a “trusted advocate for investors,” notably fails to mention contacting an attorney or filing an arbitration claim as options.  If you are an investor who was sold Auction Rate Securities, and you would like to discuss your legal options with an attorney, please Contact Greco & Greco.

Link to Securities-Lawyers.net Auction Rate Securities page.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 03/03/08.
Auction Rate Securities (ARS)BondsBrokerage FirmsA.G. EdwardsBanc of AmericaBear StearnsCitigroupDeutsche BankFerris Baker WattsLehman BrothersMerrill LynchMorgan KeeganMorgan StanleyPiper JaffrayRBC Dain RauscherSuntrustUBSWachoviaFINRAState RegulatorsMassachusettsSuitabilityPermalink

New York subpoenas firms in mortgage fraud probe

Reuters has reported here that the state of New York has subpoenaed three large Wall Street banks (Merrill Lynch, Bear Stearns, and Deutsche Bank) pursuant to a probe related to the creation of mortgage-backed securities.  The New York probe reportedly is looking into how mortgages were packaged together by Wall Street to create securities sold to investors and the banks’ relationship with credit-rating firms.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 01/11/08.
Brokerage FirmsBear StearnsDeutsche BankMerrill LynchCMOs / CDOsState RegulatorsNew YorkPermalink

News from SEC’s Senior Summit

The SEC reported at its 2nd Annual Senior Summit that it was working on codifying suitability rules as they apply to recommendations for the purchase of securities by stock brokers, and further clarifying sales practice principals for investment professionals.  If properly crafted, additional guidance in these areas should help prevent abuse of investors as well as provide additional tools for attorneys representing investors who have been abused by their stock brokers.

The SEC, FINRA, and state regulators also reported the results of their “free lunch” sweep of seminars targeted as seniors.  The findings included 59% of the brokerage firms involved failing to properly supervise the seminars, and 23% of the seminars including advice that was unsuitably risky for senior investors.

InvestmentNews article.

FINRA Investor Alert.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 09/21/07.
FINRASECState RegulatorsSuitabilityPermalink

Universal Leases found to be Unregistered Securities

As set out more fully below on our firm’s website (link below), the sale of Universal Leases in the name of Resort Holdings, Yucatan Resorts, and Avalon Resorts have been found by many states to be violations of securities laws prohibiting the sale of unregistered securities.  The federal government has alleged that these investments relating to timeshares were a ponzi scheme.  The link below further has a link to the FBI press release regarding the arrest of Michael Kelly.
Greco & Greco Universal Lease page

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 08/03/07.
Ponzi SchemeState RegulatorsArizonaCaliforniaColoradoIllinoisMarylandPennsylvaniaTexasUtahUniversal Lease - Resort Holdings, Yucatan, AvalonUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Morgan Stanley Fined $250,000 by Rhode Island

The Rhode Island Department of Business Regulation fined Morgan Stanley $250,000 for failing to supervise sales representatives at its Providence, Rhode Island office.  According to the Rhode Island press release below, the charges related to the replacement of mutual funds with more expensive mutual funds and variable annuities.
Rhode Island Press Release

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 07/20/07.
Mutual FundsState RegulatorsRhode IslandVariable AnnuitiesPermalink

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