Archive for the ‘Negligent Misrepresentation’ Category

Reverse Convertible Note Investments

July 18th, 2013
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Daniel Carlson is a lawyer in San Diego focused on securities litigation who specializes in recovering investment losses for his clients.

A reverse exchangeable security (also known as a “reverse convertible”) is a type of structured investment product. These are complex investments that involve features, terms, and risks that are very difficult for investors to understand.

Firms that offer reverse convertible investments have been put on notice by FINRA of the high risk in these products in order to ensure that the promotional materials and public communications employed regarding these products are both fair and balanced. It is important that these materials do not understate the reality of the risks associated with reverse convertible investments. Moreover, member firms must also remember to make sure that their registered financial representatives comprehend the terms, costs, and risks associated with reverse convertible investments. With this understanding, these representatives should perform adequate analyses on each customer’s suitability prior to a recommendation and explain thoroughly all risks and returns involved.

Prior to a recommendation involving either the purchase or sale of a given security, financial firms must form a reasonable basis upon which to determine that the products not only suitable for at least some investors, but also suitable for each specific customer to whom the adviser recommends that particular product. The suitability of a reverse convertible investment must be reviewed carefully. This requires firms to comprehend and explain the risks, terms, costs, and conditions of these structured products. Firms must grasp a reverse convertible’s terms and features in a comprehensive manner. These include the reverse convertible’s payout structure, the volatility of the reference asset, the product’s credit, market and other risks, call features, and the conditions under which the investor would or would not receive a full return of principal.

Given that each reverse convertible is unique, firms have to perform this suitability analysis for each reverse convertible investment that they recommend.

A firm’s consideration of product benefits to a specific customer (like the promise of a certain coupon rate, for example) must consider the risk to the investor. Investment firms and advisors are required to deal fairly with customers when recommending investments or accepting orders for new financial products. Firms must make every effort to communicate clearly to customers any pertinent information regarding these products.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud, related to reverse convertible investments or another form of securities fraud, contact Daniel Carlson at the Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300. Also, be sure to follow my firm on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Merrill Lynch Defrauded Stockbroker Employees out of Deferred Compensation – Over 10 Million Awarded

June 1st, 2012

$10.2 awarded to former ML brokers; More lawsuits to follow

Two former Merrill Lynch (ML) stockbrokers have been awarded a total of $10.2 million by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel in their suit against the firm for deferred compensation fraud.

Rubbish Art - Bank of America Merrill Lynch London

In a written report, the panel found ML guilty of breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and “intentional misconduct” in its handling of deferred compensation settlements.

The FINRA panel awarded Tamara Smolchek $4.3 million in compensatory damages plus $3.5 million in punitive damages. Meri Ramazio was awarded $875,000 in compensation for her losses and an additional $1.5 million in damages.

ML is appealing the decision.

More lawsuits in the offing

Approximately 3,000 stockbrokers left ML after the company was acquired by Bank of America in November 2008.  Not a single broker received vesting rights—despite ML’s deferred-compensation policy, which states that employees who leave the company for “good reason” are eligible for rights to the money in their tax-deferred accounts.

Needless to say, many more former ML brokers are now seeking compensation through the court system.

If you are a broker who was denied deferred compensation by Bank of America/ Merrill Lynch, contact the securities fraud attorney Daniel Carlson at Carlson Law today for a free consultation 619-544-9300.

Carlson Law Firm Website http://www.securities-fraud-attorney-san-diego.com/

 

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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

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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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Boogie Investment Group to Call It Quits

March 15th, 2012

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently received a withdrawal request from Boogie Investment Group, a small brokerage house that sold failed Provident Royalties private placements to its investors. Of the 52 brokerage houses that sold Provident private placements, Boogie Investment is the eleventh to call it quits this year.

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Private placements amounting to roughly $410K were sold by Boogie, whose revenues dropped from 1.2M three years ago to $422K this last fiscal year. But reduced earnings aren’t the only reason Boogie is exiting the brokerage business. The company has been hard hit by securities litigation. The firm is not only fighting a class action suit comprised of investors to whom they sold Provident private placements, but it’s also contending with a suit filed by those who bought Provident Shale Royalties products. Moreover, Boogie is combating other lawsuits that are unrelated to its sale of Provident Royalties private placements.

FINRA has forcefully dealt with brokerage firms as well individual brokers who sold private placements, alleging that they failed in their due diligence, both in investigating the placements and in assessing their suitability for their clients.

Other defunct brokers who sold Provident Royalties private placements include Workman Securities, Investlinc Securities/Meadowbrook, WFP Securities, Okoboji Financial, Matheson Securities, United Equity, CapWest, Private Asset Group Inc., Community Banker Securities LLC, E-Planning Securities Inc., Empire Financial, GunnAllen Financial and Barron Moore.

Have you incurred investment loss due to broker misconduct? Contact a stockbroker fraud lawyer in San Diego. It may be possible for you to recoup some or all of your losses. For a free consultation, contact Daniel Carlson, Esq. at Carlson Law 619-544-9300.

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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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