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.
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Only 4% of Student Loan Auction Rate Securities Have Been Refinanced to Date
According to this Bloomberg article, only 3 billion of the 85 billion in outstanding student loan Auction Rate Securities have been refinanced to date. Furthermore, due to these securities’ low interest rates, the prospects for an immediate solution are bleak. The article further reported that approximately two-thirds of publicly traded companies that are holding student loan auction rate securities have marked down the value of the securities, sometimes as much as 35%.
If you were sold student loan auction rate securities by a brokerage firm who represented that they were safe and/or liquid, and you would like to discuss your legal options, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.
Criminal Probe Initiated Regarding Auction Rate Securities Sales
According to this Wall Street Journal article, federal prosecutors in New York are investigating sales of auction rate securities by two former Credit Suisse brokers. According to the article, the investigation allegedly involves representations made that the auction rate securities were backed by student loans, when in fact they were actually backed by CDO’s (collateralized debt obligations). This appears to be the first reported criminal investigation related to Auction Rate Securities Sales.
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.
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.
Auction Rate Securities Redemption Analysis
In this Barron’s article, the author sets out one of the more complete analyses we have seen regarding the various types of frozen Auction Rate Securities, and their likelihood (or unlikelihood) of being redeemed or sold in the future. The various types of ARS reviewed in the article include Municipal Issuers, Taxable Closed-End Funds, Municipal Closed-End Funds, Student Loans, and Collateralized Debt Obligations (CDO).
According to the article, the bleakest outlook is seen for the ARS backed by Student Loan Funds and CDOs which comprise about one-third of the ARS market ($105 billion of the $333 billion market). Only about $1 billion of the $85 billion in student loan ARS have been refinanced to date due to high refinancing costs and little incentive to refinance the comparatively low rates these ARS are paying.
The Collateralized Debt Obligation ARS are an even thornier issue. The Barron’s article states that the $20 billion in these ARS won’t be redeemed and that some may have invested in subprime mortgage securities. The chart at the end of the article estimates the market price of these securities at 50 cents on the dollar.
Many brokerage firms marketed and sold ARS to investors as safe, liquid alternatives to money market funds. If you are stuck with frozen ARS and you would like a free consultation to discuss your legal options with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco.
Schwab YieldPlus Losses
In a decline that has been described as “one of the more spectacular meltdowns in mutual fund history” by this San Francisco Chronicle article, the Schwab YieldPlus fund has declined by over 25% this year.
The Schwab Yield Plus fund was supposed to be an ultra short term bond fund which was a “smart alternative for your cash,” but investors who expected the safety of a money market fund have suffered significant damages. As shown by this Morningstar report, the fund invested almost 50% of its assets in mortgage related securities.
Investors who invested in the Schwab YieldPlus fund expecting a cash or money market alternative and subsequently lost a portion of their savings should contact an attorney to discuss their legal options. Greco & Greco is a law firm experienced in filing arbitration claims against brokerage firms based on misrepresentations, omissions, securities fraud, and other wrongful conduct.
Some Auction Rate Securities to be bought back at discount
The Missouri Higher Education Loan Authority announced this week that it would begin buying back a portion of its auction rate securities at a discount on the Restricted Securities Trading Network. See the related news stories in Forbes and the St. Louis Business Journal.
This news is a mixed blessing for investors stuck with these or other auction rate securities. While such a buy-back will finally allow them to escape from these investments, they will probably have to take a loss on the investment if it is bought back at a discount on a secondary market. Many investors around the country were sold auction rate securities by major brokerage firms who incorrectly claimed they were safe, liquid, cash equivalents. This has turned out to not be the case as evidenced by the collapse of the auction markets earlier this year. Such sales practices can form the basis for claims of federal and state securities fraud among other causes of action.
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.
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.
Posted by W. Scott Greco on 03/03/08.
Auction Rate Securities (ARS) • Bonds • Brokerage Firms • A.G. Edwards • Banc of America • Bear Stearns • Citigroup • Deutsche Bank • Ferris Baker Watts • Lehman Brothers • Merrill Lynch • Morgan Keegan • Morgan Stanley • Piper Jaffray • RBC Dain Rauscher • Suntrust • UBS • Wachovia • FINRA • State Regulators • Massachusetts • Suitability • Permalink
Fraud charges by SEC against Former UBS broker
Fraud charges related to the sale of a hedge fund operated as a ponzi scheme were settled with a former broker of UBS according to this CCH Wall Street article.. The SEC alleged in its Complaint that the UBS broker made misrepresentations regarding the GLT Venture Fund, L.P. while raising $14.1 million for the fund. The broker agreed to pay disgorgement and civil penalties in addition to an injunction forbidding future violations.
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.
Morgan Stanley Fined Over Failure to Produce E-mails in Arbitrations
Morgan Stanley was fined $3 million and forced to pay $9.5 million in restitution to arbitration Claimants as a result of its failure to produce emails in response to document requests in arbitrations with customers. According to the FINRA press release, Morgan Stanley incorrectly represented in the arbitration proceedings that “the destruction of the firm’s email servers in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on New York’s World Trade Center resulted in the loss of all pre-9/11 email.”
The unknown at this point is the amount of financial benefit gained by Morgan Stanley by this behavior through arbitration settlements and awards, and whether this benefit far exceeds the relatively small punishment ordered by FINRA.
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.
Merrill reduces value of assets linked to subprime mortgages
Merrill Lynch warned last week that it was reducing the value of certain securities linked to subprime mortgages, thereby reducing its third quarter profits. Reuters article.
Securities Fraud Guilty Plea for IPOF Fund Manager
A fund manager who had utilized Ferris Baker Watts accounts for his IPOF fund plead guilty in Cleveland, Ohio to securities fraud related to stock price manipulation. According to this Baltimore Sun article, David A. Dadante lost $28 million dollars of investors? monies in a scheme that started as a ponzi scheme and led to at least four different illegal trading techniques to artificially increase the price of a specific stock, Innotrac.
The Baltimore Sun has extensively covered the involvement of Ferris Baker Watts in this matter in these linked articles, which discuss the early retirement of several executives since the investigation began, a 2003 company memo regarding concerns, and internal flags of potential problems in Dadante?s accounts.
Stephen J. Glantz, a former Ferris broker, has recently been charged with related securities fraud by federal prosecutors in Cleveland. According to this Baltimore Sun article, the Ferris broker is charged with engaging in unauthorized trading in his clients’ account to aid Dadante’s scheme.
Suitability of Hedge Funds
Hedge funds are largely unregulated investment funds which are typically limited to investment by accredited investors, i.e. high net worth individuals, pension funds, and other institutional investors. These funds are not restricted by many of the regulations and disclosure requirements of mutual funds, and they have evolved into a widely diverse industry investing in an array of traditional and non-traditional investments.
As set out in the NASD Notice to its Members linked below, the NASD / FINRA has expressed its concern regarding the sale of hedge funds by its representatives to retail customers. The Notice emphasizes that the risks and disadvantages associated with hedge funds must be fully disclosed to retail customers, and the sales representative or member must use due diligence to investigate the fund and must make a customer specific determination of suitability for the customer?s situation.
NASD Notice to Members
Morgan Stanley fined for corporate bond overcharges
As set out in this FINRA press release Morgan Stanley was fined and forced to pay restitution to retail customers for overcharging for corporate bond sales and for “having an inadequate supervisory system for monitoring the pricing of corporate fixed income securities sold to customers.”
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