Archive for the ‘Investment Fraud’ Category

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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FHFA Files Lawsuits Against 17 Financial Institutions to Recoup Investor Losses

November 9th, 2011
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In its roles as conservator for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) filed securities lawsuits against 17
financial entities in federal court as well as in the state courts of
Connecticut and New York in early September 2011. In the lawsuits the FHFA
alleges that the financial institutions, which range from Bank of America and
Citigroup to Deutsche  Bank and Credit
Suisse, violated numerous federal securities and common laws in their sales of
mortgage-backed securities. Citing the Securities Act of 1933, the FHFA seeks
both civil penalties and damages.

According to an FHFA press release, Bank of America and its
fellow financial institutions committed a breach of fiduciary duty when they provided
Fanny May and Freddie Mac with misleading loan descriptions. These
descriptions, which were part of sales and marketing materials, failed to
reveal the true character of the loans, particularly their risk factors. In
other words, they constituted banking fraud.

The current FHFA lawsuit is part of a continuing effort on
the part of Congress and regulators to deal with institutions that engaged in
practices that precipitated the financial crisis of 2008, a crisis in which
risky mortgage-backed securities played an important role. The Washington Post estimates that almost
$200 billion in risky securities were sold to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Regardless of possible negative effects on the financial
sector and on the recovery process of the housing market, the government appears
to be stepping up its efforts to recover the financial losses investors
incurred during the 2008 crisis. These recent FHFA lawsuits are comparable to
an earlier lawsuit in 2011 which the FHFA filed against  UBS Americas, Inc.

If you believe that you have
experienced investment loss due to the misleading marketing practices of a
banking institution, contact an investment recovery lawyer in San Diego today
at Carlson Law.

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Will the SEC File Investment Fraud Charges Against Credit-Rating Companies?

July 5th, 2011
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According to the Wall Street Journal, in May 2011 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledged that credit-rating agencies, desirous of pleasing the companies they rate, are sometimes less than objective in their evaluations. To mitigate this problem, the SEC has proposed that credit-rating firms operate under stricter guidelines.
This month, the Journal reports that the SEC is currently contemplating civil fraud charges against some of these credit-reporting firms for their part in the development of mortgage-bond deals that precipitated the recent financial crisis.
During its investigation, the SEC is examining the research done by Standard & Poor, Moody’s Investors Services, and other ratings agencies into the subprime mortgages (and additional loans) that underpinned recent ill-fated mortgage-bond deals. Was the research adequate? Or was it so slipshod as to constitute negligence or fraud?
Although a Standard & Poor spokesperson declined knowledge of any SEC investigation, she maintained that the ratings firm would cooperate with any request made by the SEC.
The SEC’s inquiry into ratings firms is part of its larger investigation into Wall Street’s culpability in the recent financial crisis. The investigation may or may not result in investment fraud charges being brought against the companies under scrutiny.

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Ambac & Others Agree to Pay $33M to Settle Fraud Allegations Surrounding Bond/Insurance Litigation

June 20th, 2011

Ambac Financial Group Inc., as well as several of its banking underwriters and insurers, has agreed to pay a total of $33M in order to settle claims of investment fraud. According to investors who experienced significant financial loss, the parties involved hid risks from investors about the mortgage debt it guaranteed.

The primary claimants in the case are the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi and the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago. These claimants allege securities fraud in regard to Ambac bonds and stocks purchased from October 25, 2006 to April 22, 2008.

According to the suit, Ambac gave out misleading information regarding the safety of the bonds it insured in order to inflate the value of the securities. Claimants further allege that Ambac, which insured instruments related to high-risk mortgages, hid its involvement in the subprime loan disaster, an involvement that became clear when the housing market collapsed in 2008. According to the suit, Ambac falsely claimed that it insured the “safest” transactions, when in reality it guaranteed billions of high-risk residential mortgage debt and collateralized debt obligations that were high risk in pursuit of big profit.

Once a federal court has approved the settlement proposal, Ambac will pay claimants 2.5M. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, HSBC Holding and Wachovia (now a part of Wells Fargo) will pay a combined total of $5.9 million. The four insurance companies involved will pay a total of $24.5M.

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of securities fraud, contact an investment recovery lawyer. Like the claimants in the Ambac case, you could recoup some or all of your financial loss through securities arbitration or litigation. Contact Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

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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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Halliburton Class Action for Securities Fraud, Case Reinstated – a Victory for Claimants

June 9th, 2011
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According to a June 6, 2011 article by James Vicini for Reuters (“Halliburton securities fraud lawsuit reinstated”) the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated a securities fraud class-action lawsuit filed against Halliburton in 2001 by pension and mutual fund investors on behalf of all buyers of Halliburton stock between June 1999 and December 2001.
Claimants in the case charge that Halliburton fraudulently overstated its engineering and construction revenues as well as the positive impact its merger with Dresser Industries would have on the company. At the same time, claimants allege, Halliburton misled investors regarding the company’s liabilities due to asbestos.
Because of these misrepresentations, claimants argue, Halliburton stock was artificially inflated and, when the company revealed the true state of its affairs, its stock fell dramatically, causing financial loss to investors.
The lawsuit had formerly been thrown out of court by a Texas federal judge who ruled that evidence of loss causation, a link between the claimants’ losses and the company’s actions, was insufficient. And an appeals court upheld that decision.
Their rulings created confusion among appeals courts regarding the necessity of claimants to prove loss causation early in the litigation process.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the judge and the appeals court, ruling that stock fraud plaintiffs do not have to prove loss causation simply in order to pursue a class-action lawsuit. That’s good news not only for claimants in the Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton case, but also for injured investors throughout the nation who’ve had their suits quickly dismissed due to insufficient initial proof of loss causation.

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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
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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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