Archive for the ‘Broker Fraud’ Category

Goldman Exec’s Op-Ed NY Times Article Airs Investment Banking Firms Self Interest at its Clients’ Expense

April 9th, 2012

In a recent New York Times editorial, Goldman Sachs exec Greg Smith voiced his opinion on the real impetus behind stockbroker malpractice: the avarice of brokerage firms.  According to Smith, the greed of investment banking firms is so great that it impels them to put extreme pressure on stockbrokers to sell with the best interest of the firm in mind — without regard for the financial wellbeing of clients.  As stated by Mr. Smith:”My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly

Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Category...

Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Category:Goldman Sachs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.”

 

Smith is not alone in his opinion, which is seconded by others in the world of finance, including Rall Capital Management’s Bob Rall, a fee-only advisor, and Russell G. Thornton, a VP at Wealthcare Capital.  According to Rall, wirehouse firms do not focus on yield to the client (YTC). Instead, they focus on selling their proprietary investment products. And when a broker focuses on his or her own interests and the interests of brokerage firms rather than on client interests, the result is often a breach of fiduciary duty and stockbroker malpractice.     

 What Is a Wirehouse Broker?

A wirehouse broker works for a wirehouse brokerage firm (a national firm that has numerous branches). Ordinarily, wirehouse brokers are full-service stockbrokers who offer clients an array of services, from researching investment opportunities to buying and selling products.  They are supposed to function as fiduciaries, not as sales reps for their firms.

 

Because wirehouse brokers have access to the numerous resources of the major brokerage house for which they work, including the house’s own investment products, they have long been considered superior to independent brokers—that is, until the financial debacle of 2007-08, which was precipitated by stockbroker fraud and the unethical practices of firms in pushing their proprietary investment products above more suitable client options.

Does Your Broker Put Your Financial Wellbeing First?

Today more than ever, investors must carefully examine the performance of their financial advisors in order to avoid investment loss.

Is your broker behaving more like a sales rep for a brokerage house than a fiduciary who is committed to your financial wellbeing? Is your broker aggressively pushing a firm’s proprietary products? Or is he or she offering sound investment advice based upon research and your unique needs and financial situation?

If you believe you have suffered investment loss due to a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of your broker, contact a stockbroker fraud lawyer today at Carlson Law, (619) 544-9300.

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Variable Annuity Contract Thief Gets 10-Year Sentence – Hartford and Nationwide Life Insurance Companies

January 25th, 2012

In October 2011, a former Agent for Hartford and Nationwide Life Insurance companies pled guilty to charges of theft and received a 10-year prison sentence. By Matthew J. Ryan’s own admission, he exploited weaknesses in the insurance companies’ practices and procedures in order to steal from the variable annuity contracts Hartford and Nationwide issued to his clients.

Ryan created fake companies and bogus “transfer forms” which he had his clients sign. The bogus forms gave Ryan the ability to divert funds from his customers’ variable annuities and, ultimately, into his own accounts. Hartford and Nationwide honored thousands of Ryan’s transfer requests, despite the fact that the fraudulent documents were obviously illegitimate. The fraudulent documentation was not detected until 2010. By that time, however,  the former
agent had diverted an excess of $3M over a period of five years.

Two additional insurance companies have settled claims made by Ryan’s fixed variable annuity customers. Currently, combined suits of more than $3M against Nationwide and Hartford are pending.

Are you a former client of Mathew J. Ryan? Do you believe that your variable annuity contract assets have been or are being illegally diverted or invested unsuitably? If the answer to any of
these questions is yes, contact investment fraud lawyer Daniel Carlson at Carlson Law in San Diego for a free consultation. As an experienced investment recovery attorney, Mr. Carlson may be able to help you recoup all or part of financial loss.

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Principal Protected Notes, Lehman Brothers and UBS Financial Services Arbitrations

June 14th, 2011
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A recent class action suit against Lehman Brothers as well as an enforcement proceeding against UBS Financial Services by New Hampshire has encouraged investors to hire investment recovery litigators and pursue claims against firms selling Lehman Brothers principal protected notes in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. According to New Hampshire’s claim, UBS engaged in broker malpractice by failing to disclose the risky nature of principal protected notes (PPNs). As a result, New Hampshire investors lost 2.5 million.
Principal Protected Notes
Principal protected notes (PPNs) are structured investments that have been around for years. Like all structured investments, PPNs connect CDs and fixed income notes to the performance of currencies, commodities, equities and/or other assets. Structures investment products are legitimate investments, and principal protected notes are a legitimate form of them.
Structured investments may have partial or full principal protection. Some pay a variable sum at their maturity. Others pay by coupons that are connected to a particular index or security. Given their risk and return reports, structured investments in general are appropriate for the portfolios of many investors.
In short, they are unsecured promissory notes connect to referenced securities, and as such they are not without risks. Unfortunately, according to claimants, investment firms committed broker malpractice by marketing these products to customers as safe investment alternatives.
Marketing of PPNs to Retail Investors
Beginning in 2005, PPNs became a particularly popular type of structured investment for retail customers. Noting their increased sales to non-institutional customers, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) expressed concern that brokers were committing a breach of fiduciary duty by marketing principal protected notes to retail customers as “conservative” investments with “predictable current income.” In fact, the agency issued a notice to brokerage firms in September of 2005 that clear guidance regarding the risks involved in these financial products should be given to retail customers.
PPNs, Lehman Brothers & Bankruptcy
When PPNs mature, investors typically receive a return on the principal from the borrower. In this case, the borrower was Lehman Brothers. Unfortunately for investors, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, even the principal on these notes became unprotected. Lehman’s PPN obligations on the notes were unsecured–and behind secured notes in the creditor bankruptcy line up.
The Case Against Lehman Brothers
Unsurprisingly, investors are now seeking to recover their financial losses. Although the specific allegations of claimants vary, all assert that Lehman Brothers, selling brokerages like UBS Financial Services and others, committed broker malpractice by falsely marketing PPNs as conservative investment product alternatives.
Specifically, claimants allege, these PPN products were depicted as 100 percent principal protected if investors held them to maturity.
Brokers also presented the PPNs as principal protected if the indices underlying them held their value. Furthermore, firms and brokers did not warn customers of the risks involved in investing in PPNs, nor did they warn them about what would happen if the underlying backer of the notes, Lehman Brothers, defaulted. Customers were also not made aware of the Lehman Brothers’ decline and that its fall could affect their investment’s value, making it in effect worthless.
It’s also been alleged that firms continued to push PPNs after Bear Stearns collapse, a failure which should have been a clear indicator or “red flag” of the risks involved in investing in banks that hold large numbers of subprime mortgages. It’s also been alleged that firms pushed PPNs on retail customers at a time when they themselves were reducing their PPN holdings. The accuracy or falsity of these claims has yet to be determined. But if firms did indeed recommend PPNs while reducing their own holdings, litigators are likely to claim broker fraud rather than simply failure to disclose.
Did your financial advisor mislead you into investing in PPNs, causing you to suffer financial loss as a result? If so, you need the advice of an investment recovery counsel. Contact Carlson Law in San Diego at 619-544-9300 today for a free consultation.

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FINRA CEO Says Brokers Must “Push and Pull” for Private Placement Information

June 6th, 2011

Often, investment advisors, stockbrokers and brokerages who unsuitably push Reg. D Private Placements on investors claim that any financial losses investors subsequently experience occur despite their due diligence. However, these private investments pay high fees that can induce some financial professionals to look the other way, focusing on the fifteen percent fee rather than the best interests of their clients in recommending these high-risk investments without the required due diligence having been performed. With the smell of large commissions and enormous fees in the air, it’s probably easy for brokers to rationalize away all of the drawbacks, risks, and any lack of appropriate due diligence for private placement investments.

Luckily for investors the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has decided to come down hard on the sales of Reg. D Private Placements. At a yearly meeting of the agency, FINRA CEO and Chair Richard Ketchum explained that in the future brokers who promote and sell private placements must “push and pull” for the necessary due diligence information in order to avoid liability and assure that they’re making sound investment recommendations for their clients. That means doing a lot more than reading basic investment documents and attending “canned” meetings if questions needed to be asked.

At Carlson Law we pursue brokerage firms and financial professionals who recommend inappropriate, high-risk private placements to clients. For elderly investors, conservative investors, and those with a net worth of less than $1 million or a yearly income of less than $200,000, private placements may be per se inappropriate investments. If you’ve suffered financial loss due to stockbroker malpractice, contact Carlson Law in San Diego today at 619-544-9300.

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Did Goldman Sachs Play an Unwholesome Role in the Recent Financial Crisis?

June 2nd, 2011
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According to an article published by Reuters on June 2, 2011, Goldman Sachs has been subpoenaed by the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office for information regarding its role in events which precipitated the recent worldwide financial crisis. Earlier this year, the Wall Street Journal reported that the U.S. Department of Justice also plans to subpoena Goldman Sachs.

Both federal and New York prosecutors want more information about documents discovered through a U.S. Senate subcommittee probe regarding the part Wall Street played in the collapse of the housing market. According to the subcommittee report, as the market began to drop in late 2006 and 2007, Goldman Sachs offloaded much of its subprime mortgage risk to innocent clients. The firm also purportedly took its time fulfilling customer requests to close out their failing accounts.

Last year, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil fraud suit against Goldman Sachs for its failure to disclose information linking it to complex mortgage securities. While the firm settled the charges, it refused to respond to the charges.

Are these current subpoenas a serious problem for Goldman Sachs? Financial experts disagree. Dick Bove, a Rochdale Securities analyst, says authorities are simply looking for someone to punish and Goldman Sachs seems like a likely candidate. Still, according to reporter Brad Hintz, any legal action against Goldman Sachs—whether successful or not—is bound to hurt the firm. Hintz advises that the company “make amends.” Other analysts maintain that the investigations will prove fruitless and have little impact on the company.

Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs has issued a public statement that it will “cooperate fully” with the Manhattan DA.

If you experienced financial loss during the recent financial crisis due to stockbroker malpractice, contact a stockbroker attorney at Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

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Is It Really Too Late? Fraud, Statutes of Limitations & Recovering Investment Losses

May 26th, 2011
Wall Street, Manhattan, New York, USA

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Although it’s been three years since financial misconduct on Wall Street rocked the nation, investors still have opportunity to recoup some or all of their financial loss.

If you suffered financial loss during the recent crisis, your broker, brokerage or financial advisor may be legally responsible for that loss. A variety of legal actions can be brought against financial professioals for malpractice, such as negligent investment misrepresentation for making inappropriate investment product recommendations, intentinal securities fraud and inapropriate account turnover/excessive trading or “churning” to name only a few examples.

“Each state has different statutes of limitations for different kinds of claims,” explains Daniel Carlson of Carlson Law, a securities litigation firm in San Diego. “Your ability to file for damages depends on where you live and the kind of claims you have. While one state may have a three-year statute of limitations for all claims, others may have deadlines as long as 10 years for claims like breach of fiduciary duty. And in some states, the ‘discovery rule’ applies to fraud. That means the statute of limitations’ clock doesn’t start ticking until an investor ‘discovers’ he or she has been defrauded.”

Defrauded investors may also be able to file claims in more than one state. “It depends upon where you live, where you transacted business with your broker and whether the account agreement has a ‘choice of law’ provision indicating the state law that applies in the event of any claims,” Carlson says.

“And of course there’s more than one way to file a claim,” he adds. “If there are several options available, a good litigator will choose the state and the claims that give their clients the best chance of success.”

Did you experience financial loss due to your financial advisor’s misconduct? Did your broker lie to you about an investment? Did he or she give you advice inappropriate to your financial goals? Don’t wait any longer to fight for the compensation you deserve. Remember, legal deadlines do exist, and your time could be running out.

To discuss your options, contact Carlson Law at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation with an experienced investment recovery lawyer.

“Even if claims seem to have exceeded the applicable statute of limitations, defrauded investors should still contact an attorney,” Carlson advises. “By using all the legal means at their disposal, securities fraud attorneys can sometimes still recover client losses through arbitration even after a statute of limitations has expired.”

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Did Wall Street Bankers Commit CDO Fraud?

May 25th, 2011
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In 2009, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) began a civil fraud investigation of over a dozen banking firms that traded and sold mortgage-backed collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). This investigation has engendered subsequent probes into the behavior of Wall Street firms.

Did Wall Street bankers defraud investors by selling them CDOs in order to make a profit for themselves—and a few special clients—when the mortgage market collapsed? Federal prosecutors believe so. In fact, in the spring of 2010, they launched a criminal investigation into the matter, and it’s still ongoing.

Investigators allege that a number of major Wall Street banks (including Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley and UBS) created CDOs in order to sell and then bet against (short) them in the event of a crash. These CDOs include Baldwin 2006-I and AB Spoke, which Morgan Stanley sold investors, and Carina, Cetus and Virgo, which Citigroup, Deutsche and UBS may have sold for fraudulent purposes.

New York’s Attorney General Andrew Cuomo has also begun an investigation into the behavior of Wall Street banks regarding CDOs. Investigators allege that Citigroup, Credit Agricole, Credit Suisse, Deutsche Bank, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley and UBS gave credit rating agencies misleading data in order to inflate CDO ratings. These agencies in turn have been harshly criticized and even sued for assigning high scores to numerous toxic CDOs.

Furthermore, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of Manhattan and the SEC are collaborating to determine if Wall Street banks misrepresented CDOs to their clients, failing to disclose pertinent facts when trading, marketing and selling them to clients.

Since hearings in Congress revealed that fraudulent conduct on Wall Street precipitated the nation into financial crisis, prosecutors have taken legal action against two traders for Bear Stearns without success. However, legislators are calling for more prosecutions, and criminal probes into Wall Street’s activities widening.

The SEC has subpoenaed Citigroup, Deutsche Bank, J.P. Morgan Chase and UBS, asking that they turn over a wide range of paperwork, including prospectuses and offering documents (final copies as well as drafts) and lists of investors associated with mortgage-related transactions. The SEC has also filed an action in federal court against Goldman Sachs, claiming that a trader on behalf of the company created an investment product designed to fail so that one of the company’s pet hedge-fund clients could bet against it and profit at the expense of less favored Goldman investors. Goldman is purportedly seeking to settle the case out of court.

From 2005 to 2007, diverse Wall Street banks issued CDOs totaling $1.08 trillion. The research firm Thomson Reuters reports that Citigroup, Deutsche Banks and Merrill Lynch issued the greatest dollar amount. J.P. Morgan, Morgan Stanley, UBS and Goldman were numbers five, seven, ten and 14 on the list, respectively.

If you believe that you’ve suffered financial loss due to CDO fraud, contact Carlson Law at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation today. The investment recovery litigators at Carlson Law are dedicated to getting justice for securities fraud victims.

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Justice for Morgan Keegan Investors an Ongoing Struggle

May 23rd, 2011
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Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., a financial services division of Regions Financial Corporation, has been the subject of numerous regulatory investigations in the last few years.

Originally founded by Allen B. Morgan, Jr., James Keegan and two other businessmen in 1969, Morgan Keegan didn’t grow on a large scale until the 1980s when it began acquiring other brokerage houses, beginning with the Mississippi-based Geary & Patterson. By 1990, it had purchased a total of four investment houses, and it was hungry for more. From 1992 to 1997, it bought seven additional firms as well as a sports agency, Athletic Resource Management.

Morgan Keegan itself was purchased in 2001 by Regions Financial. Regions incorporated its brokerage unit into the firm, creating a division specializing in asset management, investment banking and securities brokerage.

In April 2011, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) as well as various state regulatory agencies and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil suits against Morgan Keegan.
According to many investor complaints filed with FINRA, State and SEC suits and investigations, from 2004 to 2007, the company marketed Select Intermediate Bond Funds and Select High Income Funds as low-risk securities to investors who had requested safe, short-term corporate commercial paper investments. Furthermore, Morgan Keegan did not inform clients that most of their assets (over 50 percent) were invested in sub-prime, illiquid, untested investment structures, such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).

When the mortgage market collapsed in 2007, investors lost big. According to the SEC, the company and two of its top execs, Thomas Weller and James Kelsoe, purposely hid the plummeting value of their risky investments through 262 so-called “price adjustments.”

The result of Morgan Keegan’s blatantly behavior was predictably catastrophic for their clients. Thousands of investors, hoping to recoup their financial loss, have filed or will file arbitration claims against Morgan Keegan with FINRA.

Unfortunately, although regulators unanimously agree that Morgan Keegan committed acts of egregious fraud that financially harmed clients, investor claimants in FINRA proceedings, generally individual or family trust investors, have thus far experienced very mixed success in recovering their losses. Why? They’ve consistently been denied access to documents necessary to their cases by FINRA arbitration panels.

Despite the fact that Morgan Keegan has publically admitted it’s been the subject of multiple regulatory investigations, the thousands and thousands of documents relating to these investigations have been denied to claimants and their counsel because many arbitrators have refused to order that Morgan Keegan produce this potentially damning paperwork. Consequently, time and time again, arbitration panels have rendered decisions on claims without having all the relevant facts.

Clearly, this must change if investors are to receive just compensation for their financial loss. And with persistent, long-term petitioning by defrauded investors and their lawyers, no doubt it will change.

If you feel you have been a victim of investment fraud or negligence, contact Carlson Law in San Diego. Carlson Law specializes in investment recovery litigation and arbitration. Call 619-544-9300 now for a free consultation.

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Citigroup Must Pay Claimants $54M in Damages in MAT/ASTA Investment Fund FINRA Arbitration

May 17th, 2011

In April 2011, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. was ordered by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel to pay damages of more than $54M for its misconduct in managing and promoting a wide range of investment products, including MAT/ASTA municipal bond hedge funds.

The three claimants will receive 100 percent of the compensatory damages they sought, which total $34,058,948, as well as 8 percent interest and $17,000,000 in punitive damages. Furthermore, Citigroup must pay claimants’ attorney fees, expert witness fees, hearing session fees and the nonrefundable portion of the claimants’ filing fee.

The settlement process focused on the company’s poor handling of MAT/ASTA municipal arbitrage funds, including MAT Two, MAT Three and MAT Five; MAT Finance; ASTA Three and ASTA Five; and ASTA Finance. Without regard to their high-risk nature, the funds were promoted as alternatives to municipal bond portfolios. Furthermore, Citibank falsely characterized them as having strong risk-control features. FINRA found that Citibank not only falsely marketed MAT/ASTA funds, but that it also seriously mismanaged them.

If you believe that Citigroup Global Markets mishandled your investments but have yet to file a claim, don’t delay. Contact an experienced investment recovery lawyer in San Diego at Carlson Law today. It may not be too late to recoup your financial loss and stand up for your rights as an investor.

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Is Your Broker Guilty of “Switching” Mutual Funds to Generate Fees?

May 13th, 2011
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Ordinarily, mutual funds are long-term investments. And ordinarily, brokers who switch shares among funds with comparable investment goals have committed a violation if the switch serves little or no legitimate financial purpose other than earning him or her a fee. Such switching not only increases the fees investors pay, but it also puts them at risk of increased tax liability.

Often, investors are unaware that their broker has increased their investment costs and risks by “switching” their mutual funds. Mutual funds are intended to be held for a substantial length of time, not traded like individual stocks. To do so results in considerable charges that don’t apply to common stocks. Furthermore, the majority of mutual funds, by their very nature, may already be diversified and do not need to be traded unless there’s been a major change in the allocation of their assets or the fund manager’s market focus is narrow to the extent that it increases investor risk.

Mutual fund switch transactions are a violation of FINRA acceptable sales practices. If you believe you may have experienced financial loss due broker switching, contact an investment recovery lawyer at Carlson Law. Your broker’s misconduct may constitute a viable claim on your part for damages.

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