Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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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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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Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Securities Law, Uncategorized | Comments (1)

Costs Associated with Investing in Mutual Funds

June 2nd, 2011

If you’ve invested in mutual funds, you should know that taxes can affect your investment, sometimes significantly reducing your net returns. To completely avoid federal taxes, consider investments such as tax free municipal bonds. Also be aware that some mutual fund investments are more tax efficient than others. Below is some basic information regarding mutual fund fees, expenses and income taxation, check with your professional tax preparer regarding your specific tax situation.

What other costs are associated with mutual funds?

In addition to taxes, mutual fund fees and ongoing fund expenses related to holding mutual funds affect your net returns. For instance, when you sell, buy, and exchange shares, you will likely pay sales loads and transaction fees. Additionally, as a mutual fund holder you must pay ongoing expenses, i.e. management fees and 12b-1 fees.

When you’re considering purchasing a mutual fund, be sure to consult the fee table located at the front of its prospectus. This table compares the costs of different funds. And be aware that just because high fees are associated with a fund doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a high-performing investment product.

Nontaxable capital returns
You can receive a return on a mutual fund without having to pay taxes on it. Usually, this happens when the return recovers some or all of your cost basis in the fund. Because they’re not strictly earnings, these returns are tax-free. You must, however, report them on your tax return.

Taxable dividend income
Many mutual funds pay dividends on a yearly, monthly, or quarterly basis to shareholders on a pro-rata basis. These dividends must be reported on your tax return for the year they were distributed.

Mutual fund dividends earned by individual shareholders often, but not always, qualify for taxation at capital gains rates. For instance, corporate stock dividends that a mutual fund receives and passes to shareholders usually qualifies for taxation at capital gains rates. If, however, mutual fund dividends are the result of other some other type of earning, such as interest, they’re taxed like ordinary income. Furthermore, special holding period requirements often must be met in order for dividends to qualify for long-term capital gain tax treatment.

Short-term capital gains
For tax purposes, short-term capital gain distributions are usually treated like dividends.

Long-term capital gains
Fund shareholders receive long-term capital gain distributions on a pro-rata basis. They must report these earning on their tax returns as long-term capital gains no matter how long they have held them.

Selling shares
When you sell shares in a mutual fund, usually you must pay tax on any capital gains earned. The taxable amount is ordinarily equal to the difference between the sale price and the original share purchase price. The tax owed on a gain depends on the rate at which the gain is taxed, which depends on how long you held the shares before selling them. In general, if you hold shares over a year before you sell them, any gain realized is considered long-term capital gain. On the other hand, if you sell after less than a year, any gains you earn will be considered short-term gain and taxed accordingly.

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Should Financially Challenged Cities File for Bankruptcy?

May 4th, 2011
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In 2008 amid numerous bank failures, the small burg of Vallejo, California, declared bankruptcy. Few noticed.
Today although banks have recovered, little Vallejo is still in bankruptcy. And cities across the nation face dire economic straits. Unsurprisingly, a growing number of people are beginning to wonder, “Will other cities follow Vallejo off the economic cliff?”

Financial advisor Meredith Whitney thinks so. According to an article in The New York Times by Roger Lowenstein, Whitney, who heads Meredith Whitney Advisory Group LLC, believes that conditions are ripe in 2011 for “hundreds of billions” of defaults by cities and other municipalities. In response to her ominous predictions, investors have jettisoned approximately $25 billion shares of mutual funds invested in municipal bonds.

But the outlooks of some financial analysts aren’t as grim. BusinessWeek.com reports that New York-based Roubini Global Economics LLC expect that only “about $100 billion of U.S. municipal bonds will default” –and that’s within five years, not one. Likewise, Moody’s and other credit agencies don’t envision an epidemic of defaults. According to them, compared to economically troubled countries like Spain and Greece, cities carry much less debt relative to their economic size. And as for their bankruptcies causing panic throughout the economy? No.

Nevertheless, whether many or a few municipalities default on municipal bonds, the losers will be everyday citizens first and investors second. As services such as education take massive budget cuts, the first to feel the sting will be public employees like teachers.

So is bankruptcy really a good way out for cities facing economic crises? Probably not. Even in a state of default, cities have to function, and their responsibilities to their citizens don’t stop when bankruptcy starts. Perhaps the best solution would be for taxpayers to agree upon the services they’re willing and able to fund.

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