December 29, 2013

FINRA Arbitration Panel Says Wells Fargo Must Repurchase $94M of Auction-Rate Securities from Investors

A Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) brokerage unit must buy back almost $94 million in auction rate securities from the family who said their adviser misrepresented the investments. The claimants are the relatives of deceased newsstand magnate Robert B. Cohen, who founded the chain Hudson News. Cohen died in 2012.

His family contends that Wells Fargo Advisors and one of its advisors made misleading and fraudulent statements about municipal auction-securities. They are alleging breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and fraud in their municipal auction-rate securities fraud claim.

Now, the firm must buy back at face value the municipal ARS it helped Cohen, his family, and affiliated business purchase. The transactions started beginning March 2008.
(The FINRA arbitration panel, however, denied the Cohens punitive damages and compensation.)

Since the financial crisis that broke that year, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley (MS), Merrill Lynch (MER), UBS Wealth Management (UBS), Oppenheimer (OPY) and others have repurchased billions of dollars in auction-rate securities and consented to millions in fines to settle charges that they did not correctly supervise employees that provided investment advice, as well as failed to properly inform investors about the debt securities.

Many customers thought they were investing in securities that were liquid, like cash. They were therefore dismayed to discover that when the crisis hit and their auction-rate securities became frozen they could not access their money.

Our auction-rate securities fraud lawyers continue to help investors recoup their losses related to the financial crisis of 2008. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

Wells Fargo Unit (WFC) Ordered to Buy Back Auction-Rate Securities, The Wall Street Journal, December 27, 2013

Wells Fargo to repurchase $94M in securities from family clients, Investment News, December 27, 2013


More Blog Posts:
Credit Suisse Must Face ARS Lawsuit Over Subsidiary Brokerage’s Alleged Misconduct, Says District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 11, 2013

Financial Firms Update: Morgan Stanley Now Owns Smith Barney, Wells Fargo & JPMorgan Defeat Estimates, MLB All-Star Sues UBS for $7.6M, & Ray Lucia, His Firm Fined Over “Buckets of Money” Strategy, Stockbroker fraud Blog, July 12, 2013

Securities Lending Trial Against Wells Fargo & Co. is Underway, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 21, 2013

July 12, 2013

Financial Firms Update: Morgan Stanley Now Owns Smith Barney, Wells Fargo & JPMorgan Defeat Estimates, MLB All-Star Sues UBS for $7.6M, & Ray Lucia, His Firm Fined Over “Buckets of Money” Strategy

Morgan Stanley Buys Smith Barney from Citigroup
Morgan Stanley (MS) now owns Smith Barney, which it just bought from Citigroup (C) for $9.4 billion. Smith Barney’s new name is Morgan Stanley Wealth Management. Based on its new number of financial advisers, the deal makes Morgan Stanley the largest Wall Street firm and comes in the wake of Federal Reserve approval.


Wells Fargo & JPMorgan Defeat Analysts’ Estimates
JPMorgan Chase (JPM) says it experienced a 31% rise in second quarter earnings, surpassing analysts expectations it would garner $5.47 billion on $24.84 billion, and, instead generating, $6.5 billion in earnings and $25 billion of revenue. A year ago for the same period, revenue for the financial firm was at $22 billion.

Meantime, Wells Fargo (WF) is also reporting a 19% profit rise for Q2. This is its 14th quarterly profit increase in a row and 9th consecutive record report. While net income for the same period last year was at $4.6 billion, its net income second quarter for 2013 was $5.5 billion.


5-Time MLB All-Star Sues UBS for $7.6 Million
Retired fiive-time Major League Baseball All-Star Mike Sweeney is suing UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) and his former broker there for $7.6 million. Per the securities fraud case, broker Ralph A. Jackson III invested half of Sweeney’s portfolio, worth millions of dollars, in high-risk private placements that failed.

Sweeney contends that he was an inexperienced investor who trusted Jackson to make sure his money was being invested conservatively. He says that over a five-year period, the UBS broker put $6.85M of his portfolio in private-equity investments that were misrepresented to him as safe and suitable, as well $2.7M into other investments without his consent. Sweeney, who hit it big when he signed with the Kansas City Royals, claims he lost $4.9M.


Ray Lucia, His Firm Fined Over “Buckets of Money” Strategy
Financial adviser and nationally syndicated radio host Ray Lucia and his firm Raymond J. Lucia Cos. Inc. must pay fines for allegedly providing misleading information related to his wealth-management strategy known as “Buckets of Money." The Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing the California adviser of causing retirees to believe that his approach would allow them to make income that was inflation-adjusted for life.

Now, an administrative-law judge has taken away Lucia’s adviser registration and fined him $50,000. His firm, which must pay $250,000, also has lost its license. Judge Cameron Elliot found that for years, Lucia misrepresented any purported back-testings’ validity in seminars about saving for retirement. The SEC contends that Lucia and the firm hardly, if at all, conducted any back-tests.

Morgan Stanley Completes Purchase of Smith Barney Venture, Bloomberg, June 28, 2013

JPMorgan Chase and Wells Fargo Beat Estimates, Crossing Wall Street, July 12, 2013

Retired Slugger Sue UBS for $7.6 Million, Courthouse News, June 17, 2013

Ray Lucia, firm fined buckets of money over investment claims, Investment News, July 9, 2013


More Blog Posts:
Ameriprise Financial, Securities America, & Three Other Brokerage Firms Reach $9.6M Non-Traded REIT Securities Settlement with Massachusetts Financial Regulator, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 22, 2013

Credit Suisse Must Face ARS Lawsuit Over Subsidiary Brokerage’s Alleged Misconduct, Says District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 11, 2013

Securities Case Over Insuring The $160M in Disgorgement Paid to the SEC Goes Back to Trial Court, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 6, 2013

June 4, 2013

FINRA Orders Wells Fargo & Banc of America’s Merrill Lynch Ordered to Pay $5.1M for Floating-Rate Bank Loan Funds Sales

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. says that Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (MER) and Wells Fargo Advisors LLC must pay $5.1 million for losses sustained by customers who bought floating-rate bank loan funds.

According to the SRO, brokers at Banc of America and Merrill recommended the purchase of floating-rate bank loan funds to customers who didn’t have investment goals, risks tolerance, or financial conditions that were consistent with the features and risks of these kinds of mutual funds. Instead, these were customers whose risk tolerance levels were conservative and wanted to preserve principal. FINRA says that the sale recommendations were made even though there wasn’t reason to believe that floating-rate bank loan funds would be suitable for these investors.

In regards to the allegations against Wells Fargo, FINRA, in its acceptance, waiver and consent letter, said that brokers there warned about the funds but that the firm failed to act on their worries. The SRO says that the brokers had even confused the funds with bank certificates of deposit and other less risky investments.

Now, Wells Fargo Advisors, which is Wells Fargo Investments, LLC successor must pay $1.25 million and pay back 239 customers about $2 million in losses while Merrill Lynch, as Banc of America Investment Services, Inc.’s successor most pay 214 customers about $1.1 million and a $900,000 fine. By settling, the two financial firms are not denying or admitting to the allegations. They are, however, consenting to an entry of FINRA’s findings.

It was in July 2011 that the SRO issued a warning to investors about going after returns in floating-rate loan funds. These funds tend to invest in loans that financial institutions extend to entities that have lower than investment-grade credit quality. The companies that put out these high interest rate loans usually posses a high debt-to-equity ratio. Meantime, the loans’ yields are usually higher than investment-grade bonds. A fund invested in these loans can be appealing in a rising or low interest rate atmosphere because along with higher yields, the funds’ interest rate goes up when rates rise.

That said, the market for floating-rate loans is pretty unregulated and the loans don’t trade on an organized change. This makes them generally illiquid and hard to value. Often, funds that invest in these loans are promoted as products that aren’t as vulnerable to fluctuation in interest rate while providing inflation protection. That said, the loans in the fund are subject to substantial liquidity, credit, and valuation risk.

If you sustained losses in floating-rate bank loan funds and you feel that these funds were recommended to you even though they may not have been suitable for your investment needs or goals, you may have grounds for a FINRA arbitration case or a securities fraud lawsuit. Contact our securities law firm today.

FINRA Orders Wells Fargo and Banc of America to Reimburse Customers More Than $3 Million for Unsuitable Sales of Floating-Rate Bank Loan Funds, FINRA, June 4, 2013

Wells Fargo, Merrill to pay $5.1 million to settle charges over bank loan funds, Investment News, June 4, 2013


More Blog Posts:
Investors of Highland Floating Rate Funds File Securities Fraud Claims and Lawsuits Over Poor Performance, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 10, 2012

Chase Investment Services Corporation Ordered by FINRA to Pay Back $1.9M for Unsuitable Sales of Floating-Rate Loan Funds and UITs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 19, 2011

FINRA Chief Ketchum Calls for Brokers To Better Inform Investors of Fixed Income, Structured Product Risks, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 29, 2013

May 11, 2013

Wells Fargo Settles Securities Lawsuit Over Medical Capital Holdings Ponzi Scam for $105M

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) has consented to pay $105M to investors of the now failed Medical Capital Holdings Inc. The bank had served as trustee for Medical Capital securities.

The medical receivables financing company got about $2.2 billion from thousands of investors between 2001 and 2009 via the private placement offerings that were promissory notes. The private placement was a high commission financial instrument that promised annual returns of 8.5% to 10.5%. Per court filings, investors paid Medical Capital nearly $325 million in administrative fees. Dozens of independent brokerage firms sold the notes.

It was in 2009 that the SEC accused affiliates of Medical Capital of committing securities fraud against investors. The financial scam was quickly shut down and the company soon entered receivership but investors got back just half their money. Many of them would go on to file a securities lawsuit against trustees Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) and Wells Fargo accusing the financial firms of failing to fulfill their role as trustees by neglecting to detect the fraud. Meantime, many of the brokerage firms that sold the MedCap notes are no longer in business because they sank from the securities arbitration payments and legal costs that followed as a result.

Even as Wells Fargo is settling this MedCapital securities case, the bank maintains that it did nothing wrong and that the one to blame is Medical Capital. This settlement comes a few months after Bank of New York Mellon resolved similar claims against it for $114M.

In that class action securities case, investors are sharing a $90.68M payment, with $13.6M going to legal fees and another $1.8M to expenses. Bank of New York Mellon also denied any wrongdoing.

Wells Fargo Settles Medical Capital Investor Suit for $105 Million, Wall Street Journal, April 30, 2013

Wells Fargo agrees to pay $105M to end MedCap suit, Investment News, May 1, 2013

Bank of NY Mellon to pay $114 million in Medical Capital accord, Reuters, February 22, 2013


More Blog Posts:
Medical Capital Fraud Lawsuit Against Wells Fargo Must Proceed, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 10, 2013

FINRA Bars Former Wells Fargo Advisors Broker that Bilked Child with Cerebral Palsy, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 26, 2012

December 28, 2012

Stockbroker Fraud Headlines: Wells Fargo Banker Charged Over $11M Insider Trading, Morgan Stanley to Resolve Facebook IPO Action for $5M, & SEC Accuses Canadian Broker of Inadequate Day Trader Supervision

Wells Fargo Banker and 8 Others Accused of Alleged $8M Insider Trading Scam
The U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina is charging Wells Fargo (WFC) investment banker John Femenia and eight alleged co-conspirators with involvement in an alleged $11 million insider trading scam. Femenia is accused of stealing confidential data from his employer and its clients about acquisitions and mergers that were pending. He then either directly or via others tipped his co-conspirators, receiving kickbacks in return.

According to the N.C. government, the insider trading scam resulted in $11M in profits. While six of the co-conspirators opted to plead guilty to conspiracy to commit insider trading, Femenia and the other two have been indicted on multiple charges of conspiracy and insider trading. The same defendants, and another person, are also named in the SEC lawsuit over the scheme.


Morgan Stanley to Settle Massachusetts’ Facebook IPO Allegations for $5M
Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC (MS) will pay $5 million to settle the Massachusetts securities regulator’s allegations that the financial firm’s investment bankers improperly affected research analysts over Facebook Inc.’s (FB) IPO. The financial firm was the initial public offering’s lead underwriter. (It was just in October that Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (C) also settled with the Massachusetts regulator for $2M claims that an analyst acted improperly by making available confidential data about Facebook prior to the latter’s going public.)

Per the allegations, After Facebook’s CFO told a Morgan Stanley senior investment banker that the social media company’s projected revenue might be lower than predicted, the banker supposedly told the CFO to take certain steps to make it seem as if all investors were being given access to this information. This banker also allegedly organized calls with research analysts to give them this new information. The analysts would go on to modify their estimates but only told institutional investors about it.


Canadian Brokerage Firm Agrees to Industry Bar for Alleged Inadequate Day Trader Supervision
Biremis Corp. and its cofounders Charles Kim and Peter Beck agreed to a permanent industry bar for allegedly neglecting to properly supervise overseas day traders who were then able to allegedly use the brokerage firm’s order management system to take part in layering, which is a manipulative trading practice that involves the placing of orders that will not be executed to fool others into trading at an artificial price. The orders are later cancelled.

The Securities and Exchange Commission contends that Biremis, which allows up to 5,000 traders on up to 200 trading floors in 30 nations to access US markets, did not deal with repeated incidents of layering committed by the overseas traders despite the red flags. The brokerage firm, Kim, and Beck have agreed to settle the Securities and Exchange Commission allegations without denying or admitting to the alleged misconduct.

Ex-Wells Fargo Banker Among Nine Hit With Insider Trading, Bloomberg/BNA, December 13, 2012

Mass. fines Morgan Stanley $5M over Facebook IPO, AP/ NECN, December 17, 2012

SEC Revokes Registration of Toronto-Based Broker and Bans Two Executives from U.S. Securities Industry for Allowing Layering, SEC, December 18, 2012


More Blog Posts:
SEC Intends to Examine 25% of Investment Advisers That Had To Register, Per Dodd-Frank Act, by End of 2014, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 26, 2012


Investment Advisor Securities Roundup: Two Firms Settle SEC Claims That They Impeded with Examinations, FINRA Defends SRO Model, IA Allegedly Duped Private Equity Investors, & CDO Misrepresentation Accusations Against GSCP Executive Are Dismissed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 10, 2012

GAO Says Most Financial Regulators Don’t Have the Procedures/Policies to Coordinate Dodd-Frank Rules, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 24, 2012

May 3, 2012

Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and UBS to Pay $9.1M Over Leveraged and Inverse ETFs

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), UBS AG (UBSN), Morgan Stanley (MS), and Citigroup Inc. (C) have consented to pay a combined $9.1 million to settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claims that they did not adequately supervise the sale of leveraged and inverse exchange-traded funds in 2008 and 2009. $7.3 million of this is fines. The remaining $1.8 million will go to affected customers. The SRO says that the four financial firms had no reasonable grounds for recommending these securities to the investors, yet they each sold billions of dollars of ETFs to clients. Some of these investors ended up holding them for extended periods while the markets were exhibiting volatility.

It was in June 2009 that FINRA cautioned brokers that long-term investors and leveraged and inverse ETFs were not a good match. While UBS suspended its sale of these ETFs after the SRO issued its warning, it eventually resumed selling them but doesn’t recommend them to clients anymore. Morgan Stanley also had announced that it would place restrictions on ETF sales. Meantime, Wells Fargo continues to sell leveraged and inverse ETF. However, a spokesperson for the financial firm says that it has implemented enhanced procedures and policies to ensure that it meets its regulatory responsibilities. Citigroup also has enhanced its policies, procedures, and training related to the sale of these ETFs. (FINRA began looking into how leveraged and inverse ETFs are being marketed to clients in March after one ETN, VelocityShares Daily 2x VIX Short-Term (TVIX), which is managed by Credit Suisse (CS), lost half its worth in two days.)

The Securities and Exchange Commission describes ETFs as (usually) registered investment companies with shares that represent an interest in a portfolio with securities that track an underlying index or benchmark. While leveraged ETFs look to deliver multiples of the performance of the benchmark or index they are tracking, inverse ETFs seek to do the opposite. Both types of ETFs seek to do this with the help of different investment strategies involving future contracts, swaps, and other derivative instruments. The majority of leveraged and inverse ETFs “reset” daily. How they perform over extend time periods can differ from how well their benchmark or underlying index does during the same duration. Per Bloomberg, leveraged and inverse ETFs hold $29.3 billion in the US.

“These highly leveraged investments were - and still are - being bought into the accounts of unsophisticated investors at these and other firms,” said Leveraged and Inverse ETF Attorney William Shepherd. “Although most firms do not allow margin investing in retirement accounts, many did not screen accounts to flag these leveraged investments which can operate on the same principle as margin accounts.”

For investors, it is important that they understand the risks involved in leveraged and inverse ETFs. Depending on what investment strategies the ETF employs, the risks may vary. Long-term investors should be especially careful about their decision to invest in leveraged and inverse ETFs.

Finra Sanctions Citi, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wells Fargo $9.1M For Leveraged ETFs, The Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2012

Leveraged and Inverse ETFs: Specialized Products with Extra Risks for Buy-and-Hold Investors, SEC

FINRA investigating exchange-traded notes: spokesperson, Reuters, March 29, 2012


More Blog Posts:
SEC to Investigate Seesawing Credit Suisse TVIX Note, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 30, 2012

Principals of Global Arena Capital Corp. and Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. Settle FINRA Securities Allegations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 6, 2012

Goldman Sachs to Pay $22M For Alleged Lack of Proper Internal Controls That Allowed Analysts to Attend Trading Huddles and Tip Favored Clients, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 12, 2012

Continue reading "Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and UBS to Pay $9.1M Over Leveraged and Inverse ETFs " »

April 26, 2012

FINRA Bars Former Wells Fargo Advisors Broker that Bilked Child with Cerebral Palsy

Ralph Edward Thomas Jr., a former broker has been permanently barred from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Thomas, who misappropriated money from three clients, including a child suffering from cerebral palsy, has been sentenced to a prison term of four years. He also must pay $836,000 in restitution.

According to prosecutors, the former broker stole the money over several years. More than $750,000 came from the child’s trust fund, which held the proceeds from a medical malpractice settlement he received for $3 million. During this time, he worked for Invest Financial Corporation, Harbor Financial Services, and Wells Fargo Advisors, which terminated him as their broker in 2010.

This case of securities fraud started after the child’s mom moved the trust to the bank in 2001. This gave Thomas control over the money. He would give out up to $1,500 of the child’s almost $6,300 in monthly annuity payments. He would then use withdrawal slips with the mother’s signature already written on it to buy cashier’s checks and take out money. He would deposit the checks in his personal accounts at other banks. In addition to the over $750,000 that he converted from the child’s account, Thomas converted $12,500 of the mother’s money.

Also, between February 2004 and July 2010, he defrauded an elderly client of over $42,000. He took out the money from her annuity account without telling her. He used the money to buy cashier’s check payable to cash or credit card companies where he had accounts.

In bilking these investors, Thomas violated FINRA rules 2010 and 2150 and NASD Rules 2110 and 2330. As part of the permanent bar, he can no longer associate with a FINRA member in any capacity.

Elderly seniors are among the most vulnerable members of society when it comes to being targets of financial fraud. The fraudster may be a financial professional, another professional with access to their funds, a relative, a caregiver, or a friend. Unfortunately, in the securities industry, there are brokers, insurance firms, investment advisers, brokerage firms, and other financial scam artists who will not hesitate to take advantage of an elderly person’s lack of investment knowledge, debilitating mental state, or isolation to take their money. In regards to children with disabilities, defrauding their trusts that have been set up as a result of their special needs or serious injuries can deprive them of the support and care they need to maintain their quality of living and pay for medical bills and other related expenses.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD, LLP, our FINRA securities fraud law firm has the experience to help elderly seniors, children and their families, and other individuals to pursue their financial losses. We have helped thousands of investors get their money back. One of our elder financial abuse lawyers would be happy to offer you a free case evaluation.

Finra bars broker who stole from sick child, Investment News, April 12, 2012

FINRA Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
Insurance Agent Convicted in Annuity Case Involving 83-Year-Old Dementia Patient, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 21, 2012

US Army Staff Sergeant Held in Afghan Civilian Massacre Was Once Accused of Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 20, 2012

SEC Seeks to Impose Tougher Penalties for Securities Fraud, Institutional Investor Securities Fraud, December 29, 2011


December 22, 2011

Wells Fargo-Sponsored Survey Finds that Sense of Security About Retiring Doesn't Necessarily Come with Affluence

According to a recent Wells Fargo & Co-sponsored survey, 23% of the 800 Americans with at $100,000 in investable assets who participated reported that they don’t feel confident that they will have enough money saved by the time they retire. 75% said they felt sure that they would have enough. The ones most likely to feel confident are the ones with a written a financial plan, trust that the stock market will take care of their investments, are married, have at least $250,000 in investable assets, and/or are male. Those who felt unsure about their finances for when they retire included those who are single, female, belong to the 40-59 age group, and/or have under $250,000 in investable assets.

Some of the Other Findings from the Survey:

• 48% of those in the 25 to 49 age range want to keep working during their retirement years.
• More men (42%) than women (34%) wanted to keep working even after hitting retirement age.
• Approximately three-quarters of those that are currently working believe that having a specific amount of money matters more than what age they are when they retire.
• Women without a written financial plan and/or with investable assets of over $100,000 but under $250,000 are more likely to believe that they won’t have enough money when they retire regardless of what they do now.
• Nearly 2 in 5 Affluent Americans feel like they should significantly reduce their spending now to save up for retirement
• One-third of those surveyed worry that they won’t be able to leave their children an inheritance because their savings will have to go toward their retirement
• Four in 10 prefer to enjoy life now rather than worry: These people are usually already retired (54%), seniors belonging to 60-75 age group (51%), Democrats (47%), and parents with kids that are already legal adults (44%)
• Parents with kids under 18 (71%), adults belonging to the 40-49 age group (62%), women (65%), and seniors age 50-59 (64%) are the ones most likely to worry about what will happen when they retire.

Unfortunately, there appears to a nationwide rise in investment fraud targeting baby boomers, many who are just (or on the verge of) retiring. The Wall Street Journal reports that many of these older investors found themselves placing their money in high-risk bets to compensate for the losses they suffered during the recently financial crisis.

There are approximately 77 million baby boomers currently live in the US. Of the 3,475 enforcement actions involving fraud in 2010, 1,241 affected investors were 50 years of age or older. According to securities regulators, this number is expected to hit a record figure this year. Enforcement actions involved free-lunch seminars, variable annuities, or the misuse of professional credentials. Common types of senior investment fraud included Ponzi scams, self-directed IRA’s containing bogus investments in gold, real estate, and oil wells, and promissory notes.

Our elder financial fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LLP represent seniors throughout the US. We know the toll that losing your savings can take on you and your family.
Retirement Fears Jump the Wealth Gap to Strike Many Affluent Americans, Wells Fargo Retirement Study Finds, Wells Fargo, December 14, 2011

Boomers Wearing Bull's-Eyes, Wall Street Journal, December 14, 2011


More Blog Posts:

Well Fargo Advisers to Pay $2 Million to Settle Claims that Broker Sold Unsuitable Reverse Convertible Securities to Seniors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 17, 2011

Texas Securities Fraud Over Sale of Allegedly Bogus Annuities to Elderly Seniors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 14, 2011

LPL Financial Ordered to Pay $100K for Lack of Adequate Oversight that Resulted in Unsuitable Investments for Clients, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 29, 2011

Continue reading "Wells Fargo-Sponsored Survey Finds that Sense of Security About Retiring Doesn't Necessarily Come with Affluence" »

December 17, 2011

Well Fargo Advisers to Pay $2 Million to Settle Claims that Broker Sold Unsuitable Reverse Convertible Securities to Seniors

To settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority securities fraud allegations against one of its brokers, Wells Fargo Advisers will pay a $2M fine, as well as repay an unspecified amount to elderly clients that were defrauded. Over 21 senior investors were reportedly targeted by Alfred Chi Chen, who sold them reverse convertible notes even though the majority of them were retired and/or had never invested in this type of complex instrument. A number of investors were in their 80’s and 90’s.

FINRA says that Chen made over $1M in commissions even as the investors sustained losses. He also is accused of not giving discounts on Unit Investment Trust (UIT) transactions even when clients were eligible. As part of its settlement, Wells Fargo will pay restitution to those that should have but did not get the discounts and those that were sold unsuitable investments.

FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement Brad Bennett said that Wells Fargo did not review the reverse convertible transactions to make sure that they were suitable and that investors were harmed as a result. The SRO also determined that Wells Fargo did not give certain clients that were eligible breakpoint and rollover and exchange discounts when they bought UITs because the financial firm’s procedures and systems were not sufficient to properly monitor unsuitable reverse convertibles and ensure that clients got the discounts for which they were eligible. (Discounts should be offered on UIT sales when purchases go beyond certain thresholds or involve termination or redemption proceeds from another UIT during the initial offering period.)

By agreeing to settle, Wells Fargo is not admitting to or denying FINRA’s allegations.

The SRO has filed a separate complaint against Chen, who allegedly exposed clients to risks that were not in line with their investment profiles. As of June 2008, 172 of the accounts he worked with held reverse convertibles. 148 accounts had concentrations over the 50% of their total holdings. 46 accounts had concentrations of over 90%.

Reverse Convertibles
These interest-bearing notes involve repayment of principal connected to an underlying asset’s performance. The specific terms of reverse convertibles may vary. An investor risks loss if the underlying asset’s value drops under a certain maturity level or during the reverse convertible’s term.

It is important for many elderly investors that their investments not expose them to too much risk. For an elderly senior to lose his/her life savings because a financial firm or broker behaved irresponsibly, committed securities fraud, or made an avoidable mistake is unacceptable.

Wells to pay $2M to settle claims broker sold unsuitable investments to seniors, Investment News, December 15, 2011

Wells Fargo Fined by Finra Selling Structured Notes to Aged, Bloomberg, December 15, 2011


More Blog Posts:

Broker-Dealers are Making Reverse Convertible Sales That are Harming Investors, Says SEC, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 28, 2011

RBC Wealth Management Unit Ferris Baker Watts to Pay Investors Restitution Over Reverse Convertible Notes Allegations, Says FINRA, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 23, 2010

Wells Fargo Settles for $148M Municipal Bond Bid-Rigging Charges Against Wachovia Bank, Institutional Investors Securities Blog, December 8, 2011

Continue reading "Well Fargo Advisers to Pay $2 Million to Settle Claims that Broker Sold Unsuitable Reverse Convertible Securities to Seniors" »

July 25, 2011

$75K FINRA Arbitration Award Against Wells Fargo Advisors LLC For Defaming an Ex-Employee in Form U-5 is Confirmed by District Court

In district court, Judge Samuel Conti has confirmed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel’s $75,000 arbitration award to Kenneth Schaffer against Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC. It was the financial firm that began proceedings against its former employer last year.

Schaffer accused Wells Fargo of “ending” his career when on a Form U5, which is a Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration, the firm provided descriptions of alleged infractions that he said were misleading and had prevented him from being offered another job. He claimed that the reasons given for his firing were pretextual and that he was actually let go over health issues. Schaffer also disputed Wells Fargo's claim that he owed them money for a promissory note. While he said that the financial firm had represented the note as a “sales bonus," Wells Fargo said that after terminating Schaffer’s employment was terminated on October 1, 2009, it should receive the entire $74,617.76 that was owed on a promissory note.

The FINRA arbitration panel, however, agreed with Schaffer and found the promissory notice “unconscionable.” It said that Wells Fargo therefore could not recover on it. The panel also said that because the Form U5 Termination Explanation was of a “defamatory nature," the financial firm was liable to Schaffer for compensatory damages. The court confirmed the arbitration award, while denying Wells Fargo’s motion to vacate, and entitled Schaffer to recover legal fees.

Our stockbroker fraud lawyers are experienced in recovering our clients' losses through FINRA arbitration. We also represent investors with securities fraud lawsuits in court.

Related Web Resources:
Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC v. Shaffer, Justia Dockets

Court Confirms FINRA Award Finding Wells Fargo Defamed Employee in Form U-5, BNA Securities Law Daily, July 13, 2011


More Blog Posts:

AG Edwards & Sons (Wells Fargo Advisors) to Settle Securities Charges it Sold Variable Annuities that Lacked Proper Documentation to Elderly Clients, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 4, 2011

NASD Form U-5 Notice of Termination Statements Are ‘Absolutely Privileged,’ Says A Divided New York Court of Appeals, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 9, 2007

Wells Fargo Advisors LLC Agrees to $1 Million FINRA Fine for Securities Charges Related to Mutual Fund Prospectus Delivery, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 12, 2011

May 12, 2011

Wells Fargo Advisors LLC Agrees to $1 Million FINRA Fine for Securities Charges Related to Mutual Fund Prospectus Delivery

FINRA is fining Wells Fargo Advisors LLC $1 million over the allegations that the financial firm did not deliver mutual fund prospectuses within the three days (as required by federal securities laws) and delays in the updating of material information about former and current representatives. Wells Fargo has agreed to the fine.

Per FINRA, about 934,000 clients who bought mutual funds two years ago were affected when Wells Fargo did not deliver prospectuses within three days of the transactions. Prospectuses were given to clients anywhere from one to 153 days late. The SRO contends that even after a 3rd provider notified the broker-dealer about the delay, Wells Fargo allegedly did not take corrective action to remedy the problem.

FINRA also says that the financial firm did not abide by the SRO’s rules when it wasn’t prompt in reporting required information about its representatives, both past and present. Securities firms must make sure that the information on their representatives' applications for registration on Forms U4 are current in FINRA’s CRD (Central Registration Depository). Termination notices, known as Forms U5, must also be updated. Financial firms have 30 days from finding out about a “significant event” to update the forms. Examples of such events are customer complaints, formal investigations, or an arbitration claim against a representative. FINRA says that Wells Fargo did not update 7.6% of its Forms U5 and about 8% of its Forms U4 between 7/1/08 and 6/30/09. This resulted in almost 190 late amendments.

By agreeing to settle, Wells Fargo is not denying or admitting to the securities charges. The broker-dealer has, however, consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.

Related Web Resources:
FINRA Fines Wells Fargo Advisors $1 Million for Delays in Delivering Prospectuses to More Than 900,000 Customers, FINRA, May 5, 2011

FINRA fines Wells Fargo $1M for prospectus delays, Forbes/AP, May 5, 2011

CRD, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority


More Blog Posts:

AG Edwards & Sons (Wells Fargo Advisors) to Settle Securities Charges it Sold Variable Annuities that Lacked Proper Documentation to Elderly Client, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 4, 2011

Wells Fargo Settles SEC Securities Fraud Allegations Over Sale of Complex Mortgage-Backed Securities by Wachovia for $11.2M, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 7, 2011

Wells Fargo to Pay $30M in Compensatory Damages to Four Nonprofits for Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 30, 2010

Continue reading "Wells Fargo Advisors LLC Agrees to $1 Million FINRA Fine for Securities Charges Related to Mutual Fund Prospectus Delivery" »

May 4, 2011

AG Edwards & Sons (Wells Fargo Advisors) to Settle Securities Charges it Sold Variable Annuities that Lacked Proper Documentation to Elderly Clients

Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan says that A.G. Edwards & Sons LLC will pay $755,000 to settle charges over improper annuity sales. The financial firm allegedly sold variable annuities without the necessary documentation to elderly clients. The Missouri’s Securities Division, AG began its investigation because an 18-year-old Missouri resident reported noticing irregularities after the liquidation of a variable annuity.

Per the investigation’s findings, AG Edwards, now known as Wells Fargo Advisors after Wachovia Corp. acquired it and the latter was later acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), sold the annuities to elderly clients but failed to maintain proper records of transactions. This lack of proper documentation prevented the annuity sales, which occurred between July 2006 and June 2007, from being in compliance with company policy and state law.

At least 31 Missouri investors were affected by this oversight. They will receive $381,993. The Missouri Investor Education and Protection Fund will get $375,000. The Missouri’s Securities Division will be reimbursed the $50,000 it cost to probe the investor complaint.

In a release issued last month, Carnahan said that she appreciated AG Edwards’s willingness “to work with my office.” She also reminded investors that if they believe their investment is at risk, they can always contact her office for help. Meantime, Wells Fargo Advisors says it is pleased that these “legacy issues” have been resolved.

Related Web Resources:
Carnahan Secures $380,000 for Missouri Seniors, Robin Carnahan, Missouri Secretary of State, April 19, 2011

Poor Record-Keeping Costs A.G. Edwards $755k, Annuity News Journal, April 29, 2011

AG Edwards pays $755,000 to end annuities probe, STL Today, April 20, 2011


More Blog Posts:
Protect Yourself from Texas Securities Fraud by Making Sure that the Company or Agent that Sells You Annuities Has a Valid Insurance License, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 13, 2010

Market Timing Violations Against AG Edwards & Sons Inc. Supervisors and Broker Upheld by the SEC, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 17, 2009

Continue reading "AG Edwards & Sons (Wells Fargo Advisors) to Settle Securities Charges it Sold Variable Annuities that Lacked Proper Documentation to Elderly Clients" »

September 9, 2010

Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wells Fargo, and Merrill Lynch Recruit Other Investment Firms’ Brokers

UBS AG unit UBS Wealth Management Americas recently recruited Bank of America Corp.'s Merrill Lynch financial adviser Nina Hakim to join its Westfield, New Jersey office. Hakim, who reportedly managed $300 million in client assets and generated $1.5 million in commissions and fees, will now report to UBS branch Manager Erik Gaucher.

Another new addition to the UBS team is Morgan Stanley Smith Barney adviser Raymond Schmidtke, who will be based in Seattle, Washington. According to regulatory records, Schmidtke, was employed by Citigroup Inc. for over two decades and stayed at the MS joint venture for a year. He reportedly had close to $100 million in assets under management and $1 million in annual production. He now reports to UBS branch manager Shawn MacFarlan.

In other investment adviser news, a team of now former Wells Fargo Advisors advisers has joined Morgan Stanley Smith Barney. Francis Schiavetti and Ben Dembin’s base will be the Boca Raton, Florida office. The team reportedly manages $107 million in client assets and produces approximately $1.2 million in commissions and annual fees. The two men both were employed by Wells Fargo and predecessor firm Wachovia Securities before joining the Morgan Stanley Smith Barney team.

In August, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined and censured Morgan Stanley $800,000 for not making public disclosures, which is required under the SRO’s rules that oversee research-analyst conflicts of interest. FINRA claims that the financial firm also did not comply with a key 2003 Research Analyst Settlement provision when it failed to disclose independent research availability in customer account statements. Every six months, for the next two years, Morgan Stanley must now review a sample of its research reports and certify that they are in compliance with FINRA’s rules.

Related Web Resources:
Hires Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Brokers, Fox Business, August 24, 2010

Morgan Stanley Adds Team From Wells Fargo, Faces FINRA Fine, Investment Advisor, August 24, 2010

FINRA Fines Morgan Stanley $800,000 for Deficient Conflict of Interest Disclosures in Equity Research Reports and Public Appearances by Research Analysts, FINRA, August 10, 2010

Continue reading "Morgan Stanley, UBS, Wells Fargo, and Merrill Lynch Recruit Other Investment Firms’ Brokers" »

June 3, 2010

Wells Fargo to Pay $30M in Compensatory Damages to Four Nonprofits for Securities Fraud

A jury has ordered Wells Fargo to pay four Minnesota nonprofits $30 million in securities fraud damages. The Minnesota Medical Foundation, the Minneapolis Foundation, the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Reinsurance Association, and the Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi Foundation for Children had accused the investment bank of investing their funds in high risk securities and then failing to disclose until it was too late that the investments were going down in value. The same jury has yet to decide the issue of punitive damages

The jury found that Wells Fargo violated the Minnesota Consumer Fraud Act and breached its fiduciary duty to the nonprofits. In the investment program that the Minnesota nonprofits participated in, Wells Fargo would hold its clients’ securities in custodial accounts and use the money to issue temporary loans to brokerage firms for their trading activities. Each brokerage firm posted collateral of at least 102% the worth of the borrowed securities’ value.

While the investment bank had promised that the nonprofits money would be placed in liquid, safe investments, the plaintiffs contend that Wells Fargo put their money in high-risk securities, including asset-backed and mortgage-backed securities. They say that even as the collateral investments’ value became less stable in 2007, the investment bank continued to place more of the nonprofits’ securities out on loan. The nonprofits also claim that when two of the SIV’s went into receivership and they asked Wells Fargo to either redeem their interests or return the securities, the investment bank refused to do so until the collateral investments were sold and the nonprofits made up a shortfall in value.

While the nonprofits are asking for over $400 million in damages, Wells Fargo’s lawyers argue that the actual damages to the plaintiffs was just $14.3 million. According to the bank, “the investments made by Wells Fargo on behalf of our clients in the securities lending program were in accordance with investment guidelines and were prudent and suitable at the time of purchase." Apparently ignoring the claim or puntive damages, the investment bank says it is pleased that the plaintiffs were denied the full amount of damages they had sought. Wells Fargo continues to maintain that it didn’t invest in high-risk securities and that the nonprofits had the choice to get out of the investments if they were willing to pay 102% of the collateral.

Related Web Resources:
Wells Fargo ordered to pay $30 million for fraud, MRNewsQ, June 3, 2010

Wells Fargo Wins Minnesota Verdict on Punitive Damages (Update), BusinessWeek, June 3, 2010

Continue reading "Wells Fargo to Pay $30M in Compensatory Damages to Four Nonprofits for Securities Fraud" »

March 31, 2010

UBS, JP Morgan, Lehman, Bank of America, and Other Banks Included on List of Co-Conspirators in CDR Bid-Rigging Scam

Over two dozen bankers at Wall Street investment firms have been listed as co-conspirators in a bid-rigging scheme to pay lower than market interest rates to the federal and state governments over guaranteed investment contracts. The banks named as co-conspirators include JP Morgan Chase & Co, UBS AG, Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc., Bear Stearns Cos., Bank of America Corp, Societe General, Wachovia Corp (bought by Wells Fargo), former Citigroup Inc. unit Salomon Smith Barney, and two General Electric financial businesses.

The investment banks were named in papers filed by the lawyers of a former CDR Financial Products Inc. employee. The attorneys for the advisory firm say that they “inadvertedly” included the list of bankers and individuals and asked the court to strike the exhibit that contains the list. The firms and individuals on the co-conspirators list are not charged with any wrongdoing. However, over a dozen financial firms are contending with securities fraud complaints filed by municipalities claiming conspiracy was involved.

The government says that CDR, a local-government adviser, ran auctions that were scams. This let banks pay lower interests to the local governments. In October, CDR, and executives David Rubin, Evan Zarefsky, and Zevi Wolmark were indicted. They denied any wrongdoing. This year, three other former DCR employees pleaded guilty.

While the original indictments didn’t identify any investment contract sellers that took part in the alleged conspiracy, Providers A and B were accused of paying kickbacks to CDR after winning investment deals that the firm had brokered. The firms were able to do this by allegedly paying sham fees connected to financial transactions involving other companies.

Per the court documents filed in March, the kickbacks were paid out of fees that came out of transactions entered into with Royal Bank of Canada and UBS. The US Justice Department says the kickbacks ranged from $4,500 to $475,000. Financial Security Assurance Holdings Ltd divisions and GE units created the investment contracts that were involved.

Approximately $400 billion in municipal bonds are issued annually. Schools, cities, and states use money they get from the sale of these bonds to buy guaranteed investment contracts. Localities use the contracts to earn a return on some of the funds until they are needed for certain projects. The IRS, which sometimes makes money on the investments, requires that they are awarded on the basis of competitive bidding to make sure that the government gets a fair return.

Related Web Resources:
JPMorgan, Lehman, UBS Named in Bid-Rigging Conspiracy, Business Week, March 26, 2010

U.S. Probe Lays Out Bid Fixing, Bond Buyer, March 29, 2010

Read the letter to District Judge Marrero (PDF)


Continue reading "UBS, JP Morgan, Lehman, Bank of America, and Other Banks Included on List of Co-Conspirators in CDR Bid-Rigging Scam " »

December 11, 2009

Edward Jones and Merrill Lynch Brokers Like Where They Work, While UBS Representatives are the Least Happy

According to Registered Rep magazine’s latest Broker Report Card, 98% of Edward Jones brokers say their securities firm is the best place to work. 78% of Merrill Lynch brokers ranked their investment firm as the number the one workplace.

Findings were compiled from Internet surveys taken by 898 captive brokers last October. Other results:

• 73% of Morgan Stanley Smith Barney representatives gave their firm the top spot.
• 53% of Wells Fargo Advisors (includes Wachovia Securities and AG Edwards) brokers said their place of work was #1.
UBS received the least accolades from its workers, with just 1/3rd of its brokers ranking it as the best securities firm workplace.

However, UBS brokers were at the top of the heap for self-reported metrics. According to UBS advisers, they claim an average $101.2 million for assets under management and gross production of $696,032. Other firms:

Merrill Lynch representatives: $655,250 average gross production; $97.1 million under management
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney brokers: $84.9 million under management ; $619,961 in production
Wells Fargo representatives: $80.2 million in client assets; $542,350 in production
Edward Jones representatives: $364,258 in average production; $58.6 million in assets under management

Yet, as Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas, LLP founder and stockbroker fraud lawyer William Shepherd points out, “securities brokers at large firms with average production receive about 30% of their gross production in pay. Brokers at Edward Jones receive about half. Thus, the take home pay for the brokers is not as different as is indicated. In any event, it is notable that the average stockbroker earns about $200,000 per year, a college degree is not required to gain a license, and the training takes only 4 months.”

Related Web Resources:
UBS Reps Least Happy Among Big-Firm Brokers, Wall Street Journal

Registered Rep

June 12, 2009

Brokers Renew Push for Investors to Buy Structured Products

Brokers are once again getting behind structured products, hoping that investors will bite. While sales of structured products during 2008’s 4th quarter—at $5.8 billion—was down 75% from the year’s 1st quarter, sales are starting to go up. One reason for this is that certain structured products, such as return-enhanced notes and principal protected notes, are considered safer than reverse convertibles, which led to some of the worst losses for investor.

Ideally, structured products are supposed to provide sturdy profits, while limiting losses, and brokers like them because the commissions are high. However, representatives must still account for why these products haven’t delivered the way investors were told they would. Many investors that bought structured products from Lehman Brothers, such as the Lehman principal-protected notes, incurred some large losses. Some of these notes were bought through a UBS Financial Services office in Houston, Texas.

Until the bear market struck, structured products did incredibly well, and sales almost doubled to $105 billion in 2007 before dropping to $70 billion last year when structured products, collateralized debt loans, and credit default swaps played a huge role in the global financial collapse.

Reverse convertibles are considered the most high-risk structured product—short-term bonds with a large interest that can seriously hurt investors if the underlying stock drops dramatically. Investors can end up with shares with a value far below the principal. For example, 78-year-old Dominic Annino says he invested $300,000 in IndyMac shares and JetBlue shares and lost money after the stocks fell. He filed an arbitration complaint with FINRA and claims that the broker that sold him the Wells Fargo reverse convertibles never fully explained to him what he was getting himself into. Still, brokers are hoping that last year’s stock market fiasco won’t discourage investors from trying structured products again.

Twice Shy On Structured Products? Wall Street Journal Online, May 28, 2009

Understanding Structured Products, Investopedia

Continue reading "Brokers Renew Push for Investors to Buy Structured Products" »

June 9, 2009

Morgan Keegan, Charles Schwab and Others Fight as Wells Fargo Unit Settles Claims of Misrepresented Securities in Short Term Bond Funds

Evergreen Investment Management Company, a Wells Fargo unit, has agreed to a $40 million settlement with federal and state regulators over allegations that it misrepresented securities in short-term bond funds. The settlement could be a sign that other fund providers, including Morgan Keegan, Charles Schwab Corp., and Fidelity Investments, may face similar lawsuits. Already bond providers are facing securities fraud lawsuits and arbitration claims from clients that experienced heavy losses from investing in debts that were either high risk or became illiquid.

The Massachusetts Securities Division and the Securities and Exchange Commission had accused Evergreen and one of its affiliates of inflating the value of its Ultra Short Opportunities Fund by up to 17%. The SEC says that this inflated value allowed the fund in 2007 and 2008 to be ranked high compared to other peer funds, when its true value should have placed it closer to the bottom of its class. At the time of the alleged violations, Evergreen was a Wachovia Corp. subsidiary.

With the housing crisis getting worse, Evergreen is accused of not using the information it had access to about mortgage-backed securities when engaging in the valuation process. Evergreen dealt with the fund by adjusting the prices on specific holdings, but only notified a select number of investors about the reasons for the re-pricings, as well as the possibility of adjustments in the future.

The investors that were given this information managed to leave the fund before their shares’ value went down even more. However, the other shareholders that did not receive the preferential information were left at a disadvantage. In June 2008, Evergreen closed the Ultra Short Fund, which, at the time, had $403 million in assets.

By agreeing to settle, Evergreen is not admitting to or disagreeing with the SEC’s findings. As part of the agreement, the Wells Fargo unit will pay $33 million to fund shareholders, $3 million in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, a $4 million SEC penalty, and $1 million to Massachusetts.

Evergreen settles state, US charges for $40 mln, Reuters, June 8, 2009

Settlement in Mutual Fund Case, NY Times, June 8, 2009

Continue reading "Morgan Keegan, Charles Schwab and Others Fight as Wells Fargo Unit Settles Claims of Misrepresented Securities in Short Term Bond Funds " »

May 21, 2009

Wells Fargo Sued Over ARS Sales by California Attorney General for $1.5 Billion

California Attorney General Edmund G Brown, Jr. is suing Wells Fargo Investments LLC, Wells Fargo Institutional Securities, and Wells Fargo Brokerage Services for $1.5 billion. Brown is accusing the Wells Fargo affiliates of violating state securities laws and misleading California investors with false statements about auction-rate securities.

According to the California Attorney General’s securities fraud lawsuit, the Wells units engaged in fraud and deception to sell the securities, neglected to properly train and supervise the agents that sold the ARS, marketed the securities to investors that shouldn’t have been investing in them, and regularly misrepresented the securities when marketing them.

Brown says that nearly 40% of the ARS that the Wells defendants sold are owned by Californians. ARS investors included individuals, non-profits, small businesses, and others that were never fully informed about the risks of investing in theses securities.

ARS sales pitches by Wells Fargo representatives reportedly continued even though there were warnings as early as 2005 from the Financial Accounting Standards Board and others that auction-rate securities should not be considered cash-like equivalents. In November 2007, a Wells Fargo Bank's Trust Department reportedly sent a memo warning against buying ARS.

Following the collapse of the $330 billion ARS market in February 2008, some 2,400 Californians, who were told that their ARS were liquid like cash, were unable to access their investments that ranged in worth from $25,000 to millions.

Brown says he is suing the Wells units because unlike Citigroup, UBS, Wachovia, and Merrill Lynch, the affiliates have not been able restore the securities’ cash value. The California Attorney General wants Wells Fargo to restore the securities’ value, disgorge any associated profits, and pay civil penalties at $25,000/violation.

Wells Fargo Chief Executive Officer Charles W. Daggs says the investment bank is disputing the claims made in the California Attorney General’s lawsuit. He also noted that Wells was among the first in the investment bank industry to voluntarily give clients with frozen securities significant liquidity. Daggs says that since April 2008, these clients have been able to access 90% of their ARP holdings’ par value via non-recourse loans with favorable rates.

Related Web Resources:
Calif. AG sues Wells Fargo for $1.5 billion, News Daily, April 23, 2009

Read the Attorney General's Complaint Against Wells Fargo (PDF)


Continue reading "Wells Fargo Sued Over ARS Sales by California Attorney General for $1.5 Billion" »

February 26, 2009

Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo Chief Executives Among Those Defending Bailout Fund Use

Earlier this month, the chief executives of the eight biggest banks in the United States, including Citigroup, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Goldman Sachs addressed the House Financial Services Committee in an attempt to persuade US lawmakers that billions of dollars in bailout funds were used as intended—to increase consumer and business lending and improve balance sheets. The banking heads also admitted to certain mistakes and promised that compensation in the future would be commensurate with performance.

Under the Capital Purchase Program, the federal government gave the banks $125 billion in cash infusions in November. Bank of America and Citigroup also received $20 billion each in Treasury investments.

At the session, some of the bank executives gave testimony regarding activities performed since they received the government’s financial assistance. For example, Kenneth Lewis, Bank of America’s chief executive, says that during 2008’s fourth quarter, the bank committed to $115 billion in new loans.

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup’s chief executive, said his bank had provided $75 billion in new loans for the fourth quarter. He also said that Citigroup had used $36.5 billion to expand personal loans, mortgages, and credit lines for businesses, families, and individuals, as well as to create secondary market liquidity. He said Citigroup had cancelled an order for a $50 million jet.

While the executives were contrite, Committee Chairman Barney Frank criticized them for giving executives bonuses, in addition to salaries. Lawmakers also asked the banks’ executives to stop home foreclosures until the Obama Administration can executive a $50 billion plan on mortgage modifications and other assistance for borrowers that are experiencing problems.

John Stumpf, Wells Fargo's chief executive, said that his bank could hold off on foreclosing on loans in which it is the investor or owner. Pandit said Citigroup could support a moratorium for borrowers that live on properties facing foreclosure. Lewis said Bank of America could place a moratorium on home foreclosure for two or three weeks.

Related Web Resources:
Foreclosures halt by Bank of America, Citigroup, JPMorgan, Wells Fargo, UB-News.com, February 14, 2009

Fed Urges Banks to Put Bailout Funds Into Loans, Not Dividends, Bloomberg.com, February 24, 2009

Continue reading "Bank of America, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, and Wells Fargo Chief Executives Among Those Defending Bailout Fund Use" »