Posts Tagged ‘Investment Fraud’

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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Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation | Comments (1)

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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Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (4)

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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Promoting Real Estate Loans to Fund Private Placement and Limited Partnership Investments

May 11th, 2011

Making financial investments with money from a loan on your home is generally a poor, high risk activity. And it’s a particularly poor idea when the investment is a private placement that’s speculative and unable to be liquidated easily or traded publically. Brokerage houses that encourage clients to take out extra mortgages or home equity loans in order to buy risky investments in limited partnership and private placements are often held liable for their customers’ financial loss.

In 2009, the Ameritas Investment Corporation was fined $100,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for not supervising one of its brokers whose deceptive financial recommendations to customers included home refinancing to purchase securities. The broker was fined $60,000 by FINRA, and her license was suspended for five years.

If your broker encouraged you to take out real estate loans in order to invest in any private securities, limited partnerships or other investments, you should seek the advice of a securities attorney. Contact Carlson Law for a free consultation.

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Variable Annuity Exchanges & Replacements: Annuity Loss – Annuity Fraud – Did You Get Shafted by Your Broker?

May 11th, 2011

There is a continuing problem for investors relating to the improper sale or switching by investment advisors of variable annuities that can be annuity fraud and result is annuity losses. Many older investors have been counseled by their brokers to replace their old variable annuity contracts with new ones. In many cases it may be unsuitable and result in the creation of fees and commissions for the advisor, surrender charges for the investor and new long term non-liquid investment. Furthermore, adding insult to injury, in some cases advisors have neglected to exercise due diligence by assuring that the exchange of those annuities was tax free under Internal Revenue Code (Section 1035).

If done properly, exchanging variable annuities should be tax free.
In a tax-free 1035 exchange, the owner of a variable annuity replaces the current contract with a new contract. No tax is paid on the investment gains or income from the old variable annuity. If, however, an investor gives up his or her old annuity for cash and then uses that money to buy a new annuity, he or she will have to pay taxes on the old annuity.

Variable annuities can be fraught with hidden costs.
An additional problem with variable annuities is that exchanging and replacing them often results in surrender charges. Customers must pay these charges when annuities are surrendered before the end of their given surrender period. Usually, that’s six to eight years from the purchase date. Because surrender charges reduce the amount of money available for reinvestment in a new annuity, they also lower an investor’s potential return. And if that weren’t bad enough, the new replacement annuity has a new surrender period, so funds are ordinarily locked into place for another six to eight years.

In general, seniors shouldn’t invest in them.
Because of the risks, high fees and surrender charges associated with variable annuities, they’re poor financial choices for most investors over 65. In fact, California law requires that selling agents prove that an annuity replacement is of “substantial benefit” to their senior clients.

FINRA oversight of variable annuities is increasing.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has recently implemented new rules regarding broker recommendations to purchase and exchange variable annuities, making variable annuities one of the few securities products with its own suitability requirements. These new rules require that brokerage firms put supervisory procedures into practice for the detection and prevention of “inappropriate exchanges.”

Should you contact a securities attorney?
If you’re an older investor whose financial advisor has advised to exchange or replace variable annuities, resulting in a loss in your annuity either fraom annuity fraud or simple negligence, call Carlson Law for a free consultation at 619-544-9300. Furthermore, if your broker failed to facilitate a tax-free 1035 exchange of variable annuities, contact our firm. Your broker may be liable for any or all fees, taxes and financial loss you incurred as a result.

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Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (4)

AG Edwards & Sons Pays $775,000 to Settle Improper Conduct Charges

May 11th, 2011
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In early May 2011 Robin Carnahan, Missouri’s Secretary of State, announced that A.G. Edwards & Sons LLC will pay $755,000 in order to settle charges that they improperly handled annuity sales. The investment firm, now a part of Wells Fargo Advisors, purportedly sold variable annuities to elderly customers sans proper documentation.

The State of Missouri Investigates AG Edwards
An investigation by the Securities Division of the State of Missouri into the conduct of AG Edwards began after a client reported “irregularities” following the liquidation of his variable annuity.

Upon investigation, it was discovered that the firm sold variable annuities to elderly investors without maintaining proper records of the transactions. Because proper documentation was lacking, the annuity sales were not in compliance with the company’s own policies and Missouri state law.

Investors Are Compensated
Approximately 31 investors were impacted by this lack of due diligence on the part of the brokerage firm. In compensation, AG Edwards will pay them $381,993. They will also pay for the costs of the investigation and contribute $375,000 to the Missouri State Investor Education and Protection Fund.

In an April 2011 press release, Carnahan said she appreciated AG Edwards’ willingness to cooperate with state officials. Moreover, she urged those who fear for the safety of their investments to seek help.

California Law Protects Elderly Investors
Did you know that California law requires brokers to provide compelling reasons for the exchange or sale of variable annuities belonging to clients 65 or over? If you feel that your variable annuities have been mishandled by a broker, contact Carlson Law.

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Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation | Comments (2)

Is Your “Senior Specialist” a Con Artist?

May 6th, 2011

Elder abuse isn’t just physical and/or emotional. It can also be financial. If you’re an older American, protect yourself from financial loss by being aware of scams and scammers in your community.

Today, investment advisors who claim to be “senior specialists” can pose a threat to your security. Although some of these “specialists” have completed educational courses and exams, others have little or no training. Can they reduce your taxes just because you’re a senior citizen? Can they protect you from normal market risks? Or get you out of probate costs? The answer is no—on all three counts. As with most scams, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If you’re 55 or older, a so-called “senior specialist” may invite you to a free dinner and seminar. If you attend, be on your guard. You’ll probably be pressured to contact the presenter after the presentation. Very often seniors are advised to liquidate their portfolios and buy financial products from the “specialist,” who then receives a high commission. Unfortunately the products that are often sold, such as variable annuities and equity indexed annuities, have long holding periods and early withdrawal penalties, which can make them particularly unsuitable for older people.

If you’re approached by anyone claiming to be a “senior specialist,” check his or her credentials with your state securities regulator. The specialist may be an unregistered investment advisor. To learn how to contact the regulator where you live, go to http://www.nasaa.org/QuickLinks/ContactYourRegulator.cfm. To check a broker’s complaint and disciplinary record, visit “FINRA Broker Check” at http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck/.

If you think you’ve been the victim of investment fraud at the hands of a “senior specialist,” contact Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300. We may be able to help you recover your financial loss.

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Ameriprise Puts Securities America Up for Sale

May 6th, 2011

After filing its first quarter financials, the parent company of Securities America, Ameriprise, announced plans to sell the embattled firm. Securities America, which is in the process of negotiating settlement of a class action suit filed against it for investment fraud, allegedly sold clients hundreds of millions of fraudulent Medical Capital and Provident Royalties securities.

An April 25, 2011, article in Investment News (“Ameriprise Shopping Securities America”) describes Securities America as financially strong. A follow-up article on the 26th, however, puts that somewhat into question as it announced a whopping $115 million first quarter loss. Nevertheless, Ameriprise asserts that Securities America can operate without disruption thanks to its parent company’s sound financial backing.

Can Ameriprise find a buyer for Securities America? According to Ameriprise management, it’s in the process of “identifying” one now. The sale, it claims, would let the company “focus on growth opportunities” while Ameriprise focuses on “Ameriprise branded-advisor business.” The company also claims that the sale would not affect settlement of the current securities lawsuit.

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Wells Fargo/Wachovia Respond to Broker Fraud Charges with Payouts to Investors

May 5th, 2011
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According to articles by analysts Liz Skinner (Investment News), Jean Eaglesham and Dan Fitzpatrick (Wall Street Journal), Wells Fargo & Co. has consented to dish out a whopping $11.2 million to investors. What’s the reasoning behind this generous payout? The financial giant is hoping to lay rest to charges by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that its Wachovia Capital Markets LLC affiliate engaged in investment fraud by price gouging customers.

According to SEC charges, Wachovia engaged in broker fraud when they fleeced investors by grossly overcharging them for collateralized debt obligations (CDOs). CDOs, which are mortgage-backed securities, were sold by Wachovia at a rate 70 percent higher than their own estimate of their mark-to-market value. Although several individuals were the victims of this flagrant swindle, the primary injured party was the Zuni Tribe of American Indians.

And Wells Fargo may not be the only culprit on Wall Street that dealt in overpriced CDOs. Wall Street investment firms have sold $1 trillion worth of CDOs. Were those sales examples of investment fraud, too? The SEC is looking into it by subpoenaing records from JP Morgan, UBS, Deutsch Bank and Citigroup—and arranging preemptive settlement discussions with suspect firms.

Recently, firms on Wall Street have been hard hit by SEC actions and lawsuits filed by securities fraud attorneys—and for good reason. Their promotion and sale of trillions of dollars in complex, illiquid securities backed by risky subprime mortgages was a major precipitating factor in the recent banking crisis.

At Carlson Law, we believe that these SEC investigations foreshadow future arbitration awards against firms that sold CDOs. For further questions and information, contact our securities fraud attorney in San Diego today.

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Who’s Scamming Granny? The Answer Might Surprise You

May 4th, 2011
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It’s sad but true: every day in America, more and more retirees find themselves victims of investment fraud. Although they constitute just 15 percent of the total population, the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) estimates that seniors make up 30 percent of those victimized through fraudulent investment schemes.

What makes older Americans such prime targets? Many find themselves with smaller nest eggs than they’d imagined. On top of that, they’re often getting disappointingly small returns on the investments that they do have thanks to historically low interest rates. The result? They’re prime targets for scam artists.

Although financial “professionals” are sometimes the guilty parties, family members are the most frequent perpetrators. A 2004 survey of state adult protective services revealed that grown children (32.6 percent) are the likeliest culprits, followed by other family members (21.5 percent) and spouses (11.3 percent).

Think that you’ve been the victim of investment fraud? Then consider contacting an experienced investment attorney who can offer advice regarding your options. At Carlson Law, we’ll provide you with an initial consultation over the phone, review pertinent documents with you and recommend how you should proceed—all at no cost.

Lawmakers, regulators like the SEC, and securities firms all need to address the growing problem of senior citizen investment fraud. Meanwhile, seniors themselves can take steps to protect themselves from financial abuse by following these “10 Tips to Protect Your Nestegg,” courtesy of the North American Securities Administrators Association.

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