Articles Posted in Collateralized Mortgage Obligations

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has filed a securities fraud case against Hank Mark Werner. The self-regulatory organization is accusing the New York broker of churning the account of a 77-year old widow who is blind, and engaging in unsuitable and excessive trading involving her account. FINRA claims that Werner charged the elderly customer over 243K in commissions while he churned her accounts for over three years and caused her to sustain about $184K in losses.

According to FINRA, Werner, who had been the broker of the elderly widow’s husband since 1995, until he passed away four years ago, started aggressively trading her accounts after he died. The SRO claims that Werner did this to earn excessive commissions.

From 10/12 to 10/15, Werner placed more than 700 trades in over 200 securities while charging the elderly customer commission or a markup on every sale and purchase. Because she was seriously debilitated, blind, and needed in-home care, the woman was totally dependent on Werner to let her know how her account was doing.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that it is fining Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. $2.8M in the wake of certain alleged supervisory failures that the SRO says led to the financial firm billing clients unwarranted fees. The financial firm paid back the $32M in remediation to affected clients, in addition to interest.

According to FINRA, from 4/03 to 12/11, Merrill Lynch lacked a satisfactory supervisory system that could ensure that certain investment advisory program clients were billed per the terms of their disclosure documents and contract. As a result, close to 95,000 client account fees were charged.

Also, due to programming mistakes, Merrill Lynch allegedly did not give certain clients timely trade confirmations. These errors caused them to not get confirmations for over 10.6 million trades in more than 230,000 customer accounts from 7/06 to 11/10. Additionally, FINRA contends that Merrill Lynch failed to properly identify when it played the role of principal or agent on account statements and trade confirmations involving at least 7.5 million mutual fund buy transactions. By settling, Merrill Lynch is not denying nor admitting to the charges. It is, however, agreeing to the entry of FINRA’s findings.

Ilya Eric Kolchinsky, a former Moody’s Investors Service executive, is suing the credit ratings agency for defamation. This is one of the first lawsuits involving a Wall Street company and an ex-employer that blew the whistle on it. Kolchinsky is seeking $15 million in damages in addition to legal fees.

Kolchinsky claims that Moody’s tried to ruin his reputation after he publicly talked about problems with its ratings model. Kolchinsky, who supervised the ratings that were given to subprime mortgage collateralized debt obligations (many of these did not live up to their triple-A ratings), testified before Congressional panels about his concerns. He addressed the potential conflicts that can arise as a result of the issuer-pay ratings model, which lets banks and borrowers that sell debt securities pay for ratings. He alleged securities fraud and claimed that the ratings agency placed profits ahead of doing their job. He also claimed that Moody’s lacked the resources to enforce its rules.

Kolchinsky contends that Moody’s began attacking him through the media and that the statements that the credit ratings firm issued have caused him to become “blacklisted by the private sector financial industry.” Moody’s suspended him last year. In his civil suit, Kolchinsky notes that he was attacked by the credit ratings agency even though it went on to adopt some of his recommendations.

The recently passed financial reform bill provides greater protections for whistleblowers while offering financial rewards for those brave enough to tell regulators about their concerns. However, it is unclear whether Kolchinsky’s complaint will benefit from the new law because his case involves alleged actions that occurred prior to the bill’s passing.

Related Web Resources:
Former Moody’s Executive Files Suit, New York Times, September 13, 2010
Exec who blew whistle on Moody’s ratings sues for defamation, Central Valley Business TImes, September 14, 2010
Wall Street Whistleblowers May Be Eligible to Collect 10 – 30% of Money that the Government Recovers, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 29, 2010 Continue reading

A class-action securities complaint has been filed against Charles Schwab & Co. on behalf of investors that own Schwab Total Bond Market Fund (Nasdaq: SWBLX) shares that were purchased after May 31, 2007. The securities fraud lawsuit accuses Charles Schwab of causing the fund to deviate from its fundamental business objective, which was to track the Lehman Brothers U.S. Aggregate Bond Index, and of violating the California Business & Professions Code.

According to the plaintiffs’ legal representation, the defendant caused investors to suffer financial losses when it started investing in high-risk mortgage backed securities without letting shareholders know. Per the fund’s prospectus, Charles Schwab is supposed to obtain shareholder approval through a vote.

The plaintiffs contend that by investing 25% of the fund’s portfolio assets in high-risk, non-agency collateralized mortgage obligations (CMO’s) and mortgage-backed securities that were not part of Lehman’s US Aggregate Bond Index, Charles Schwab failed to stay true to its stated fundamental investment objective. They claim that this deviation led to tens of millions of dollars in shareholder losses because of the decline in the non-agency mortgage-backed securities value. According to their lawyers, the investors ended up experiencing a negative 12.64% in differential in total return for the fund compared to the Lehman Bros. U.S. Aggregate Bond Index from August 31, 2007 to February 27, 2009.

The investor plaintiffs are seeking restitution for all class members and for the return of management and other associated fees collected after the fund’s alleged deviation from its fundamental business objective.

Related Web Resources:
Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Charles Schwab & Co., Star Global Tribune, September 7, 2010
Plaintiffs charge Total Bond Market Fund deviated from stated investment strategy, Investment News, September 7, 2010

Related Blog Stories Resources:
Schwab Must Pay SSEK Client $604,094 Over California Yield Plus Fund Investments, Says FINRA Arbitration Panel,, April 22, 2010
Securities Law Firm Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP Investigates Investor Claims Related to Short Term Bond Funds,, August 9, 2008 Continue reading

HSBC Securities has agreed to pay $375,000 to settle Financial Industry Regulatory Authority charges that it recommended the unsuitable sale of inverse floating rate collateralized mortgage obligation to retail clients. The SRO is also accusing the investment bank HSBC of inadequate supervision of the suitability of the CMO sales and failure to fully explain the risks involved in CMO investments to clients. The investment bank has already reimbursed clients $320,000.

Per FINRA, six HSBC brokers made 43 unsuitable inverse floater sales to “unsophisticated” retail clients. Even though HSBC requires that a supervisor approve all retail clients sales larger than $100,000, 25 of the sales were larger than this amount. 5 resulted in $320,000 in losses for clients. According to FINRA executive vice-president and acting enforcement chief James S. Shorris, the clients’ financial losses could have been prevented.

FINRA contends that HSBC brokers were not given enough training and guidance about the risks involved with CMOs. They also were not specifically told that inverse floaters were only suitable for investors with high-risk profiles.

FINRA also says that HSBC was not in incompliance with a rule requiring brokerage firms to offer specific educational collateral prior to a CMO sale to anyone that is not an institutional investor. FINRA says that not only did HSBC’s registered representatives not know that they were required to offer this material, but also the brochures that were offered did not meet content standards regarding required educational information.

By agreeing to settle, HSBC is not admitting or denying the allegations.
Related Web Resources:
FINRA Fines HSBC $375,000, On Wall Street, August 19, 2010
FINRA fines HSBC for unsuitable sales of CMOs, Banking Business Review, August 20, 2010

Collateralized mortgage obligation, SEC Continue reading

The plaintiffs of some 166 of the 221 cases filed against Merrill Lynch & Co. since January 1, 2009 are alleging securities fraud-related violations. This means that Bank of America Corp, which acquired the broker-dealer at the beginning of the year, has assumed responsibility for the outcome of these civil cases. Some of these investor fraud claims were filed as late as last month.

Some cases discuss Merrill’s involvement in the marketing, underwriting, and selling of securitizations, or asset-backed securities. Other cases delve into Merrill’s dealings in the auction-rate securities market. A number of the securities fraud cases against Merrill are class action lawsuits. Merrill Lynch is the lead defendant in many of the cases and one of several financial firms named in the other complaints.

Some of the Securities Fraud Cases Against Merrill Lynch:

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) have each began their own investigations into the sales and marketing practices of certain collateralized mortgage obligations (CMOs),

FINRA sent more than 12 broker-dealers a sweeps letter requesting more information about: the sales of principals only, interest only, and inverse floater trenches of CMOs and details about actions taking place between June 30, 2006 and July 31, 2007.

FINRA specifically requested:

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