Archive for the ‘Securities Law’ 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

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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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Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (0)

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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McClellan Offers $1 M Settlement in Deloitte Insider Trading Case

February 7th, 2012

Annabel McClellan, the wife of Arnold McClellan, who was formerly the head of Deloitte Tax LP’s Mergers and Acquisitions, has settled a lawsuit

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alleging that she provided confidential information regarding mergers to family members.  If the judge accepts Annabel’s $1M settlement, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has agreed to drop comparable charges against her husband.

According to the Commission, Annabel gave confidential insider information to her sister, Miranda Sanders, and Miranda’s husband James, on at least seven occasions. The Sanders used the information to make trades that earned them millions of dollars. The SEC claims that James Sanders, who is the proprietor of a financial firm, not only used the tips for his own advantage but also to the benefit of his partners and customers, who also made millions. The SEC further alleges that James took positions with companies in the U.S. that Annabel told him were targeted for acquisition. According to Annabel, her husband was unaware that she was providing confidential information to her sister and brother-in-law.

By settling the lawsuit, Annabel is neither admitting nor denying the charges against her. However, she has pled guilty to lying to the SEC during their investigation of the insider trading scam.

Annabel and Arnold McClellan were first charged by the SEC in 2010 after investigations were conducted simultaneously by the SEC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Insider trading is breach of fiduciary duty on the part of a financial officer.
As such, it negatively affects the stock market in various ways. Most obviously, it hurts investor confidence. When a company’s confidential information is used for the benefit of a few, it may also harm the company, ultimately causing financial loss. When insider trader occurs, who is held responsible for this breach of trust? All of the parties involved. That includes the individual who passes the tip along and the person who receives it, as well as anyone who trades based upon illegally obtained insider information.

Are you are aware of an insider trading situation that has been detrimental to your financial welfare? If you feel that you are, contact a securities litigation attorney immediately. For a free consultation, contact security lawyer Dan Carlson of Carlson Law in San Diego today.

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FINRA REACTS TO SEC CHARGES THAT IT MISHANDLED DOCUMENTS

December 7th, 2011
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According to the October 11 issue of Investment News, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a complaint against the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), alleging that requested staff meeting minutes were altered by a FINRA director before they were delivered to the SEC in August 2008. The alterations, according to the SEC, rendered the meeting notes incorrect and incomplete.

Although FINRA currently serves as a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for stockbrokers, it has recently aspired to assuming that role for financial advisors, too. Given the SEC’s complaint, however, those aspirations are in jeopardy.

Ironically, it was FINRA, not the SEC, that first brought the problem of the tampered documents to light. After reporting the problem to the SEC, FINRA appointed a new director in its Kansas office where the tampering occurred. The SRO has also updated its protocols for the handling of documents and instituted extensive ethics training for its employees.

But for the SEC, these measures aren’t enough. The commission has ordered that FINRA hire an independent consultant to review the SRO’s training and in-house procedures, and to make recommendations for improvement. The goal? Ensuring that in future the SEC consistently receives reliable and accurate paperwork from FINRA.

Within 30 days of receiving the consultant’s findings and recommendations, FINRA’s board must either implement the suggestions for improvement or protest them. Alternatives to any recommendations that FINRA finds impractical or cumbersome must then be determined and agreed upon by both the board and the consulting agent.

In settling the charges made against it by the SEC, FINRA is neither denying nor admitting them. As an SRO that ensures the compliance of brokers with SEC regulations, however, FINRA recognizes that its own employees must comply with any and all requests made by the SEC.

At Carlson Law, our securities fraud attorneys represent those who have suffered financial loss due to stockbroker misconduct. To learn more about issues in finance today that may affect your wellbeing, check out other blogs 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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Performance Fee Thresholds for Investors to be Raised by the SEC

June 9th, 2011
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High net-worth investors will enjoy lower fees—that is, if the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) proposed changes to performance based fees proceed as planned.

The SEC intends to increase the dollar thresholds investors must meet before financial professional can charge them performance based fees. Currently, the thresholds are determined under two provisos of Rule 205-3 of the Investment Advisers Act: (1) brokers must have a reasonable belief that the client has a net worth of more than $1.5M, or (2) they must manage a minimum of $750,000 worth of investments for the client.

According to investment recovery lawyer Daniel Carlson of Carlson Law Firm, APC the current Act contains inherent risks for the average investor because it could encourage brokers to take big risks in order to make bigger fees: “If a high-risk investment fails, brokers don’t experience the financial consequences personally, but investors, particularly retirees, can end up losing everything.”

The SEC says it will issue an order revising the test for allowing performance fees to (1) a reasonable belief that the investor has $2 million in net worth or (2) $1 million of assets under management. In addition, the SEC order will exclude an investors primary residence from consideration in the 2 million dollars net worth evaluation, add a method for factoring inflation into the dollar amount tests.

If you are a high net-worth investor and have been exposed to unsuitable risk, you may have a claim for recovery of your losses.  Contact Carlson Law at 619-544-9300 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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