Charles Schwab Corp. doesn’t want the Securities and Exchange Commission to file securities claims over the YieldPlus mutual fund. Schwab contends that it never misrepresented the fund when it compared it to money market funds. The brokerage firm also says that it did not mislead investors, give certain ones more information than others, or let other Schwab funds cause financial harm to Charles Schwab YieldPlus Funds investors.
While the SEC has yet to file YieldPlus-related claims against Schwab, it did send the brokerage firm a Wells notice last year notifying that it may sue. Schwab had switched about half of its assets in the YieldPlus fund into mortgage-backed securities without shareholder approval. Following the housing market collapse, what was once the largest short-term bond fund in the world fund, with $13.5 million in assets in 2007, lost 35% before dividends. As of February 28, Bloomberg data shows that the mutual fund had $184 million in assets.
Even though the Investment Company Act of 1940, Section 13(a) states that a shareholder vote must take place before a company can do other than what its policies allow when it comes to which industries investments can be concentrated in, Schwab says it didn’t need approval because although the fund changed how mortgage-backed securities were categorized, it did not change its fundamental concentration policy.
However, in a March 19 court filing, the SEC said Schwab’s decision in 2006 that mortgage-backed securities without federal insurance aren’t subject to the fund’s 25% cap on “industry” investments and that these securities are not an industry was not just an act of “rejiggering.” Schwab invested almost 50% of the YieldPlus funds assets in these securities-despite the fact that its 1999 registration statement says that the fund will not concentrate investments in one industry. The SEC says that shareholder approval should have taken place not because the fund revised its classification about mortgage-backed securities as an industry but because 25% of the fund’s assets were invested in mortgage-backed securities.
In their securities fraud lawsuits, shareholders have accused Schwab of misleading them when describing the fund as “marginally riskier” than cash.
Related Web Resources:
Schwab Seeks to Fend Off SEC Lawsuit Over YieldPlus, Bloomberg/Business Week, March 23, 2010
The Charles Schwab Corporation : Schwab YieldPlus Funds Investor Shares or Schwab YieldPlus Funds Select Shares, Securities.Stanford.Edu
Securities and Exchange Commission