Articles Posted in Wachovia

Two former Wachovia Securities LLC brokers, Eddie W. Sawyers and William K. Harrison, have been charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with six counts of securities fraud. The two men, who previously operated Harrison/Sawyers Financial Services, are accused of defrauding at least 42 elderly investors of their retirement savings, which resulted in some $8 million in financial losses. The SEC is seeking a permanent injunction against the two men and their representatives from further violations of securities regulations, as well as the repayment of the funds (with interest) and civil penalties.

Per the SEC, between December 2007 and October 2008, Sawyers and Harrison, who are related by marriage, pitched investments with Harrison/Sawyers Financial Services to Wachovia clients. They claimed the investments were “foolproof,” a “sure thing,” and an opportunity to make a 35% without risking their principal investment. This was not, however, the case. One couple, who Sawyers convinced that they should invest $100,000 later discovered that only $16,000 remained in their account.

The SEC claims that the two men solicited unsophisticated clients who were heavily invested in equities and mutual funds and had a conservative investment approach. Sawyers and Harrison also transferred assets to online options-trading accounts under their control.

While some online optionsXpress accounts were set up in clients’ names, others were in accounts under the name of Harrison’s spouse Deana or under both both their names. Clients did not receive statements from the group.

After getting a client’s signature on a blank-trading authorization form, Deanna Harrison would then be appointed the client’s power of attorney and agent for the accounts. In 2008, Sawyers and Harrison allegedly took out $234,000 from three client accounts as compensation for their services.

The SEC says that in a resignation letter to Wachovia, Harrison confessed to misdirecting about $6.6 million from 17 Wachovia clients to trade online. He also admitted that he ran the online trading without getting the authorization of Wachovia or the investors.

Wachovia says that the minute they discovered the alleged securities fraud, it notified its primarily regulator, cooperated with regulators and law enforcement, and took proactive steps to give clients that were impacted full restitution.

Related Web Resources:
Former Wachovia brokers charged with defrauding elderly customers in Surry, losing $8 million, Winston-Salem Journal, December 17, 2010
SEC accuses 2 NC brokers of defrauding clients, Bloomberg/AP, December 16, 2010
Wachovia, Stockbroker Fraud Blog
Institutional Investor Securities Blog
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The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California has ruled that a married couple and their investment vehicles are not Wachovia “customers” and, therefore, they are not entitled to bring their stock loan related claims against Wachovia Securities Financial Network LLC and financial adviser George Gordon III to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration. Judge Saundra Brown Armstrong granted Wachovia and Gordon’s request for a preliminary injunction.

Per the statement of claim submitted to FINRA, Gregory and Susan Raifman initiated arbitration as trustees of a family trust, as Gekko Holdings Inc. members, and as the beneficial owners and assignees in interest of Helicon Investments Ltd. The Raifmans accused Wachovia and Gordon of committing securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duties, and violations of the California Securities Act and the rules of both the New York Stock Exchange and National Association of Securities Dealers.

The Raifmans contended that Gekko and Helicon each went into three separate stock loan transactions that Derivium Capital LLC, a third party, had promoted so they could borrow up to 90% of their stock holdings’ value without triggering capital gain on the stock sale. After the three-year loan term ended, the Raifmans were to pay the loan balance and get back or surrender their collateral or renew their loan.

To execute their plan, the Raifmans opened a Wachovia account for the trust in 2003 and transferred nearly $3 million in ValueClick (VLCK) shares into an account owned by a Derivium affiliate. Almost 12 months later, Helicon placed 300,000 ValueClick shares into another Derivium affiliate’s Wachovia account under a 90 percent stock loan agreement. Gekko later deposited 200,000 ValueClick shares in the same account (and also under a 90 percent stock loan agreement).

It wasn’t until 2007 that the Raifmans found out that their Value Click shares had been sold as soon as they were placed in the Derivium affiliates’ accounts. They also had not known that the sales proceeds had been loaned back to them while Wachovia and Derivium kept 10 – 14% of the sales proceeds.

The Raifmans attempted to start the arbitration process in July but Gordon and Wachovia filed their complaint seeking enjoinment against the couple, Helicon, and Gekko. They also requested a stay of the arbitration proceedings. The financial firm and investment adviser contended that they did not have an agreement with the defendants, who were not their customers and therefore not entitled to FINRA arbitration. The district court agreed.

Related Web Resources:
Wachovia Securities LLC v. Raifman

Arbitration and Mediation, FINRA Continue reading

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)
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A new judge will preside over the case against two former brokers accused of defrauding over 130 Nebraska investors of over $20 million. Gage County District Judge Paul Korslund takes over for Sarpy County District Judge David Arterbur, who recused himself over possible conflicts.

Prosecutors are accusing Brian Schuster and Rebecca Engle, previously affiliated with Wachovia Securities LLC, Capital Growth Financial LLC, and VSR Financial Services Inc., of improperly selling risky investments to former clients when they worked together between 2000 and 2007. The two of them entered not guilty pleas to eight felony counts of securities fraud.

The investments under dispute were sold to investors while Capital Growth employed the two brokers. Investors say they bought securities in American Capital Corp. and Royal Palm. PrimEdge Inc. eventually bought both companies and Schuster became PrimEdge chief executive and president.

Over 200 investors will share a settlement of approximately $900,000 to be paid by the brokers’ ex-employers. Quanta Specialty Lines Insurance Co. will pay for most of it on behalf of Capital Growth. However this recovery is just a small portion of the over $20 million dollars in broker fraud losses that investors are claiming.

The majority of investors that have filed securities fraud lawsuits and arbitration claims were either nearing retirement or already retired when they were defrauded. They had wanted to make stable, low risk, conservative investments and they claim that the former brokers made investments for them in risky ventures without fully explaining what was involved. Engle and Schuster, however, say they shouldn’t be prosecuted for securities fraud because investors acknowledged the risks in writing.

Related Web Resources:
Judge appointed in fraud cases of ex Neb. Brokers, AP, December 22, 2009 Insurer to Pay Bulk of $900K Settlement in Nebraska Fraud Case, Insurance Journal, July 23, 2009 Continue reading

Wachovia Securities, LLC and related entities will offer to refund $324.6 million in auction-rate securities from Pennsylvania investors. The Pennsylvania Securities Commission announced the ARS repurchasing agreement on August 11. Wachovia must also pay the commonwealth a $2.52 million assessment for the part the broker-dealer played in the ARS market.

According to Robert Lam, the commission chairperson, Wachovia failed to properly supervise its agents that dealing with investors over the sale of auction-rate securities, as well as engaged in business practices that were “unethical or dishonest.” Commissioner Steven Irwin said Wachovia sold and marketed ARS as liquid investments even though they were long-term investments that were involved in a complicated auction process. The auction-rate securities market failed in 2008.

Right before the ARS market went downhill, over 1,300 Pennsylvania retail investors held ARS that they had purchased from Wachovia. Now, the broker-dealer will repurchase the ARS.

The Pennsylvania commission is investigating other firms over any alleged misconduct committed that caused investors to get stuck with frozen ARS that they had been told were liquid, similar to cash. The commission has made it clear that they will not allow members of the securities industry to take part in dishonest or unethical business practices.

Wachovia sold more than $12.8 billion in ARS to investors throughout the US. Securities regulators in different states have pushed for Wachovia and other brokerage firms, such as Wells Fargo, Citigroup, Bank of America, and UBS to buyback the frozen auction-rate securities that investors were left with after the market dropped. Broker-dealers are accused of misrepresenting ARS to clients and that despite knowing that the market was about to collapse continuing to sell ARS to investors.

Related Web Resources:
Pennsylvania Securities Commission Orders Wachovia to Refund Over $300 Million to More Than 1,300 for Auction Rate Securities, Earth Times, August 11, 2009
Wachovia to Buy Back $325 Million in ARS, Wall Street Journal, August 11, 2009 Continue reading

FINRA is fining Wachovia Securities, LLC $1.4 million for its alleged failure to provide customers with product descriptions and prospectuses between July 2003 and December 2004, as well as for related supervisory failures. A probe conducted by the SRO determined that the broker-dealer did not provide the prospectuses to clients in 6,000 of about 22,000 transactions during this time period. These 6,000 transactions’ market value was about $256 million.

Per FINRA rules and by law, broker-dealers are required to give potential clients hard copy prospectuses. The SRO, however, discovered a number of deficiencies related to prospectus delivery by Wachovia Securities related to:

• Collateral mortgage obligations • Exchange-traded funds • Preferred stocks • Secondary purchases of equity non-syndicate initial public offerings • Corporate debt securities • Mutual funds • Equity syndicate initial public offerings • Alternative investment securities • Auction market preferred securities
According to FINRA Enforcement Chief and Executive Vice President Susan L. Merrill, failure to provide the investing public with prospectuses and other offering documents deprives customers of valuable data that they need to make “informed investment decisions.”

Per FINRA, reasons Wachovia Securities did not give prospective customers the required prospectuses included:

• Business units’ failure to report to the proper department that prospectus delivery was required • Coding errors • Failure to supervise and monitor outside vendors under contract to deliver prospectuses • Inadequate supervisory systems, procedures, and polices
When the activity allegedly at issue occurred, Wachovia Securities, LLC was a non-bank affiliate and subsidiary of Wachovia Corporation. This year, the latter merged with Wells Fargo & Co..

By agreeing to settle, Wachovia Securities is not admitting to or denying the allegations. The broker-dealer, however, has agreed to an entry of the SRO’s findings.

Related Web Resources:
FINRA Fines Wachovia Securities $1.4 Million for Prospectus Delivery Failures, Related Supervisory Violations, FINRA, June 25, 2009
Wachovia Fined $1.4 Million By Finra For Not Sending Prospectuses, June 30, 2009 Continue reading

Wachovia Capital Markets LLC and Citigroup Global Markets Inc. will settle allegations by the Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation that the firms misled investors who bought auction rate securities by paying a combined $880.3 million-$717 million for Citigroup and $159 million for Wachovia-to reimburse clients. The OFIR says the firms misled clients into thinking ARS were liquid like cash and were surprised when the market collapsed, freezing their assets. OFIR claims the securities were sold and marketed as if they were conservative investment and that the firms did not give investors information about the risks involved.

Both firms will also pay $2.3 million to Michigan to resolve the ARS charges. Citigroup will pay $1.72 million per an administrative consent order and Wachovia will pay $654,000. According to OFIR, 90% of the funds will be placed in a general fund for the state, while the rest will go to the Michigan Investor Protection Trust for consumer education about a number of issues, including investment fraud.

Just this March, Wachovia and Citigroup said they would pay back California investors over $4.7 billion after the investment firms were accused of misleading investors about investing in ARS. Also last month, the North American Securities Administrators Association set up a Web site so investors could find out how to file arbitration claims for damages stemming from ARS losses.

Citigroup, Wachovia in $876M Mich. ARS Buyback, The Bond Buyer, April 17, 2009
Michigan regulators detail settlement with Citigroup, Wachovia over auction rate securities, Associated Press, April 16, 2009

Related Web Resources:
North American Securities Administrators Association

Michigan Office of Financial and Insurance Regulation
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The Texas State Securities Board has fined Wachovia Securities $4 million for misleading investors about auction-rate securities. The Wells Fargo & Co unit must also have completed buying back ARS from investor clients in Texas by June 30.

This is the final step in the auction-rate securities case against Wachovia in which a tentative settlement agreement was reached last year when Wachovia Securities agreed to pay back over $8.5 billion in ARS from investors throughout the US.

It is also part of Texas’s efforts to deal with problems related to securities. The nearly $4 million is Texas’s share of the $50 million penalty Wachovia said it would pay. Last December, the Texas State Securities Board issued a final order mandating that Citigroup pay the state $3.6 million for making misrepresentations to investors about the auction-rate securities.

According to the Texas order, Wachovia Securities created misconception when it told investors that ARS were like cash and could be retrieved at nearly any time. The order accused Wachovia and its registered securities agents of knowing that the ARS market was in trouble yet neglecting to provide investors with this information. Wachovia Securities is one of the registered securities dealers in Texas.

UBS Financial Services, Merrill Lynch, and Citigroup are among the large investment firms that reached similar billion-dollar settlements with state regulators and the Securities and Exchange Commission. The collapse of the auction-rate securities market in February 2008 left many investors with frozen ARS that they thought were going to remain liquid and safe.

Wachovia Securities Ordered To Pay Texas $4 Million In ARS Probe, CNNMoney.com, March 17, 2009
Texas State Securities Board
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Two Wachovia units have agreed to fines totaling over $4.5 million for violations related to the sales of unit investment trusts and mutual funds. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced the fines last week. By agreeing to settle, Wachovia, which is now owned by Wells Fargo Bank, is not admitting to or denying wrongdoing.

Wachovia Securities is being fined $4.4 million for failing to give investors sales-charge discounts for eligible unit-investment-trust-transactions, for not making sure investors were given the benefit of net-asset-value transfer programs whenever they were applicable in mutual fund purchases, and for unsuitability violations involving Class B and Class C mutual fund shares.

FINRA also says Wachovia Securities neglected to provide breakpoint and rollover discounts connected to over 20,000 unit-investment-trust purchases. As a result, customers ended up paying excess sales charges worth about $2.7 million.

When a customer pays a sales charge, NAV transfer programs let clients redeem fund shares and use these proceeds to purchase shares in a different mutual fund without having to pay another sales charge. FINRA cites Wachovia’s failure to ensure that investors availed of these kinds of programs as the reason customers ended up paying front-end charges they shouldn’t have or purchasing share classes that were accompanied by higher fees. Also, Wachovia Securities Financial Network must pay a $150,000 fine for the improper sale of Class B shares. Both firms were cited for inadequate supervisory procedures connected to the transactions.

According to FINRA enforcement chief Susan Merrill, failing to recommend an appropriate share class or present existing discounts creates additional costs to investors. She cautioned that regulated firms should take into account all applicable factors when making recommendations to clients.

Wachovia says that its units have returned over $5.4 million to customers affected by the violations.

Related Web Resources:
FINRA Fines 2 Wachovia Units Over $4.5 Million For Sales Violations

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

Wachovia Securities

Wachovia Securities Financial Network
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Wachovia Securities, LLC and the Securities and Exchange Commission have reached a finalized settlement to resolve charges that the company mislead investors when selling billions of dollars worth of auction-rate securities. Under the terms of the agreement, Wachovia would purchase ARS from non-profit organizations, individuals, and clients with accounts worth up to $10 million. This phase ended on November 28, 2008 and Wachovia has bought back over $6.2 billion in ARS from clients as of that date.

During a second buyback phase running from June 10 – 30, 2009, Wachovia will repurchase ARS it sold to its other clients. Fulfillment of the terms of the settlement will give thousands of investors over $7 billion in liquidity.

The terms of Wachovia’s agreement with the SEC are similar to the ones it reached with the North American Securities Administrators Association and New York Attorney General Andrew M Cuomo’s office, which mandated that Wachovia pay a $50 million fine and buy back the ARS it sold to investors. Following completion of this latest settlement’s terms, the SEC will determine whether Wachovia needs to pay a fine. By agreeing to settle, Wachovia is not admitting to or denying wrongdoing.

The SEC, the North American Securities Administrators Association, and Cuomo have alleged that sales representatives purposely misled investors about ARS liquidity in 2008 (even though they knew as early as late 2007 that the ARS market was beginning to collapse) when they claimed the securities were equivalent in liquid to cash. The market fell on February 14, 2008 when Wachovia and other broker-dealers stopped supporting the auctions, causing segments of the ARS market to freeze and leaving thousands of clients without any means of recovering their funds.

Just recently, Cuomo’s office concluded its probe into Wachovia’s ARS activities and issued an Assurance of Discontinuance.

Related Web Resources:
SEC Finalizes ARS Settlement to Provide $7 Billion in Liquidity to Wachovia Investors, SEC.gov
Read the SEC Complaint

NY State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo’s Office
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