Auction-Rate Securities Probes Lead to More Enforcement Actions and Final Settlements with Investment Firms

Another state has filed an individual enforcement against brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel, Nicolaus, & Co. Inc. On May 7, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission’s ‘s Division of Securities and Retail Franchising filed its civil lawsuit accusing the broker-dealer of making misrepresentations and false statements related to the sale of auction-rate securities, as well as failing to properly supervise its sales representatives that sold ARS to Virginia residents.

Just this March, Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan had sued Stifel, Nicolaus, accusing the investment firm of making misrepresentations to over 100 ARS clients that were told that the securities were liquid, conservative investments. In May, Carnahan reached an agreement with two Bank of America Corp subsidiaries. Under the agreement, the bank would pay a $1.37 million fine and provide relief to numerous Missouri entities that bought $400 million in ARS.

Meantime, state officials are looking into whether TD Ameritrade Holding Corp., Charles Schwab Corp., and E*Trade Financial Corp also engaged in ARS-related violations. Broker-dealers that have reached preliminary settlements with federal and state regulators over their misrepresentation of ARS to clients include Citigroup Inc., Deutsche Bank AG, Credit Suisse Group, JP Morgan Chase & Co, Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Merrill Lynch & Co. Inc., Royal Bank of Canada, Morgan Stanley, Wachovia Corp, and UBS AG.

Per the agreements, settlement parties would repurchase up to $56 billion in illiquid ARS at par from charities, retail investors, and mid-sized and small businesses, as well as pay $522 million in penalties. The agreements with Bank of America, Wachovia, and Citigroup have been finalized.

Last month, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced final settlements reached with NatCity Investments Inc. of Cleveland (a $300,000 fine), M & T Securities Inc. of Buffalo (a $200,000 fine), M & I Financial Advisors Inc. of Milwaukee (a $150,000 fine), and Janney Montgomery Scott LLC of Philadelphia (a $200,00 fine). FINRA also announced that SunTrust Investment Services Inc. and SunTrust Robinson Humphrey Inc. decided not to finalize their preliminary settlements. FINRA is still investigating both firms’ activities pertaining to ARS.

Related Web Resources:
Virginia sues Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. over auction rate securities, St Louis Business Journal, May 15, 2009
FINRA Announces Agreements with Four Additional Firms to Settle Auction Rate Securities Violations, FINRA, May 7, 2009
Carnahan Finalizes $400 Million Bank of America Auction Rate Securities Settlement, Missouri Secretary of State, May 14, 2009
Carnahan sues Stifel Nicolaus over auction rate securities, St Louis Business Journal, March 12, 2009
Our stockbroker fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP are committed to helping investors that have suffered auction-rate securities losses recoup their losses. Contact our securities fraud law firm today.

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