Articles Posted in Citigroup

Affiliated RIAs of Raymond James to Get Access to Firm’s Alternative Investments

The Raymond James Alternative Investment Group will give its affiliated registered investment advisers access to hedge funds, private real estate, managed futures, private equity, and alternative mutual funds beginning next month. The move is part of Raymond James’ (RJF) attempt to strengthen its RIA platform.

Already, it has added more support services for investment advisers in the areas of marketing, practice marketing, and succession planning. The financial firm also brought in four regional director for recruiting and existing practices while cutting equity ticket charges and waving certain individual retirement account fees.

District Court Approves Citigroup’s Arbitration Award in Securities Case Against the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority

A judge held that a tribunal did not behave in manifest disregard of the law and that its refusal to provide two documents that the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority had asked for did not make the proceedings “fundamentally unfair.” The court confirmed an award issued in Citigroup Inc.’s (C) favor, which found that the ADIA did not succeed in showing that the arbitration panel’s New York choice of law decision and evidentiary rulings warranted that the award be vacated.

The securities case is Abu Dhabi Investment Authority v. Citigroup Inc.

Citigroup Global markets Inc. (C) has consented to pay $2M to settle claims by the state of Massachusetts that a research analyst improperly disclosed information about Facebook (FB) before the company’s initial public offering. According to Secretary of the Commonwealth William F. Galvin, the financial firm neglected to supervise this person, who allegedly gave research information to a media technology site. Galvin says that this disclosure violated state securities laws, a nondisclosure arrangement between Facebook and Citigroup, and FINRA and NASD rules. While Citigroup has admitted to the statement of facts, it has not denied or admitted violating SRO rules and securities laws.

Per the allegations In re Citigroup Global Markets Inc., Mass. Sec. Div., the junior analyst emailed the information to AOL Inc.-owned media site TechCrunch. The data contained projections by a senior analyst about the IPO. Citigroup is accused of not detecting or preventing the disclosure until responded to a subpoena issued by Massachusetts. Also implicated in the order was a senior Citigroup analyst accused of giving data about YouTube Inc. revenue estimates to a French magazine without getting the communication approved first.

The Facebook IPO in May has attracted a lot of attention from regulators and lawmakers. One reason for this is allegations that analysts gave certain investors select data about the offering. There was also the problem of technical glitches that arose when trading began. Securities lawsuits and congressional and regulatory probes ensued.

To compensate investors that suffered losses from the technical snafus, Nasdaq Stock Market LLC is proposing a $62 million reimbursement fund. Now, the Securities and Exchange Commission is asking for more comment about this proposed fund. As of October 26, most of the 11 letters it had received had voiced objections. For example, some took issue with the $40.527 benchmark price that was used to figure out how much members are owed, while others didn’t like how only a limited number/kinds of orders are eligible for compensation: sells that were priced at $42 or under that failed to execute, sales in this price range that were executed at a lower price, purchases priced at $42 that went through but weren’t confirmed right away, and purchases at the same price that not only went through and weren’t confirmed but also efforts were made to cancel them. Qualified market participants wanting to take part in the compensation program would have to relinquish other related claims that might also be valid.

Citi fined $2 million over Facebook IPO, fires two analysts, Reuters, October 26, 2012

Read the Consent Order resolving the proceedings between Massachusetts and Citigroup(PDF)


More Blog Posts:

Citigroup Inc. CEO Vikram Pandit Resigns, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 16, 2012

Citigroup Inc.’s $590M CDO Putative Class Action Settlement Gets Preliminary Approval from District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 13, 2012

Massachusetts Commonwealth Secretary William Galvin Sues UBS for Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 30, 2012 Continue reading

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has given preliminary approval to the putative class action settlement reached between Citigroup Inc. (C) and its shareholders. Citigroup has agreed to pay $590 million over allegations that it misled the plaintiffs about its exposure to tens of billions of dollars collateralized debt obligations that were backed by residential mortgaged-backed securities and instead hid its toxic assets on its books. The plaintiffs contend that they sustained huge losses as a result. A settlement hearing for final approval is scheduled in January 2013.

The preliminary deal reached between the parties is the third largest shareholder class action settlement to be reached related to the 2008 financial crisis. Automated Trading Desk LLC shareholders, led by founder David Whitcomb and ex-ATD executive Jonathan Butler, are spearheading this securities case. (Citigroup had paid $680 million to buy ATD in 2008.) Other plaintiffs include pension funds in Ohio, Colorado, and Illinois.

Per the plaintiff shareholders, who purchased Citigroup shares between February 26, 2007 and April 18, 2008, it was around this time that Citigroup was involved in a “quasi-Ponzi scam” to make it seem as if its assets were doing well. The financial firm allegedly made material misrepresentations about CDO exposure-instead, claiming that it had sold CDOs worth billions of dollars and was no longer contending with their related risks-and failed to let investors know that it had guaranteed the securities (even transferring the guarantees it had established so the risks would be hidden).

The plaintiffs are also accusing Citibank of failing to do write-downs of the instruments in a timely manner during the class period ,even though it was aware that the subprime crash would cause great harm to its CDO holdings, and repackaging securities that no one wanted to buy into new CDOs so its exposure to the securities would be concealed. Also, per the amended complaint, Citigroup allegedly failed to modify its valuations when the CDO indexes revealed a huge drop in the securities values. Instead, the financial firm depended on higher valuations provide by sales it made to itself or from ratings firms.

Although Citibank is settling, it continues to deny the shareholder plaintiffs’ allegations. It claims it reached the agreement to get rid of the “burden and expense” of allowing this litigation to proceed. It also is saying that it is a different company now than what it was at the start of the economic crisis. Meantime, the interim lead plaintiffs have said they agreed to settle because it would be a “significant benefit” especially in light of the risk that the Settlement Class might not get anything if they had lost the CDO securities lawsuit.

Citigroup agrees to $590 million subprime settlement
, The Washington Post, August 29, 2012

Citigroup Pays ATD Executives Again in $590 Million Deal, Bloomberg, August 30, 2012

In re Citigroup Inc. Sec. Litig., S.D.N.Y., No. 07 Civ. 9901 (SHS), 8/29/12 (PDF)

More Blog Posts:
Wells Fargo Securities Settles for Over $6.5M SEC Charges Over Allegedly Improper Sale of ABCP Investments with Risky MBS and CDOs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 14, 2012

Citigroup’s $285M Mortgage-Related CDO Settlement with Raises Concerns About SEC’s Enforcement Practices for Judge Rakoff, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 9, 2011

Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and UBS to Pay $9.1M Over Leveraged and Inverse ETFs, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 3, 2012 Continue reading

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second has vacated the convictions of six brokers who were criminally charged in a front-running scam to give day traders privileged information via brokerage firms’ squawk boxes. The case is United States v. Mahaffy.

Judge Barrington Parker said that confidence in the jury’s verdict was undermined because the government did not disclose a number of SEC deposition transcripts “pursuant to Brady v. Maryland, 373 U.S. 83 (1963).” Also, noting that there were flaws in the instructions that the jury was given, the second circuit vacated the honest-services fraud convictions that they had issued against the defendant.

The brokers, who were employed by different brokerage firms, had been charged for conspiring to provide A.B. Watley day traders confidential data about securities transactions. This entailed putting phone receivers close to the broker-dealers internal speaker systems so that the traders could make trades in the securities that were squawked before the customer orders were executed.

Clifford Jagodzinski has filed a lawsuit against Morgan Stanley & Co. (MS), Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and Citigroup (C). He claims that he was fired from his job at Morgan Stanley as a complex risk officer because he reported that an investment adviser was churning accounts and earning tens of thousands of dollars while defrauding clients. Jagodzinski filed his case in federal court.

He contends that even though he always received excellent job evaluations during the six years he worked for Morgan Stanley, he was terminated as an employee 10 days after he told supervisors that unless the financial firm started reporting unauthorized trades it would be violating SEC regulations. Jagodzinski said that the financial firm told him to sign a confidentiality agreement with a non-disparagement clause and then proceeded to hurt his career by claiming that he was let go because of poor performance. He wants reinstatement and punitive and compensatory damages of over $1 million for whistleblower violations.

Jagodzinski believes that his trouble started after he told his supervisors, Ben Firestein and David Turetzky, that Harvey Kadden, one of the firm’s new wealth managers, was allegedly flipping preferred securities so that he could make tens of thousands of dollars in commissions, while causing his clients to sustain financial losses or make little gains as he exposed them to risks that could have been avoided. Jagodzinski said that while he was initially praised for identifying the alleged misconduct, his supervisors told him not to look into the matter further. He believes this is because Morgan Stanley had given Kadden a $25 million guarantee, and due to their high expectations of him, they didn’t want to hurt his book of business.

Jagodzinski said that he encountered similar resistance when he notified the financial firm of other violations, including those involving Bill Siegel, another financial adviser that he accused of making unauthorized trades. Once again, he says he was told not to investigate or report the alleged violations further-even though (he says) Siegel admitted to making 80 unauthorized trades for one client and other ones for other clients. Although Turetsky allegedly told him that this was because he didn’t want Siegel fired, Jagodzinski suspects that his supervisor was more concerned that the defendants would have to pay penalties and fines. He also said that when he reported his concerns that yet another financial adviser was not just engaging in improper treasury trades but also abusing drugs, his worries were again brushed aside.

An employee who gets fired for blowing the whistle on a company or a coworker can have grounds for filing a wrongful termination lawsuit. If the wronged employee is a whistleblower, he is entitled to certain protections, which include being shielded from retaliation on the job for stepping forward and doing what is right.

Worker Says He Caught Morgan Stanley in the Act, Courthouse News Service, August 3, 2012

Ex-Morgan Stanley Risk Officer Sues Bank Over Firing, Bloomberg, August 1, 2012


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Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Protection Amendment Must Be Applied Retroactively, Said District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 21, 2012

SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower In Early Phase of Evaluating Reward Claims, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 23, 2012

District Court Denies UBS Summary Judgment in Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblower Lawsuit, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 27, 2012 Continue reading

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

The SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations has put out an alert reminding broker-dealers about what their supervisory and due diligence duties are when it comes to underwriting municipal securities offerings. According to the examination staff, there are financial firms that are not maintaining enough written evidence to show that they are in compliance with their responsibilities as they related to supervision and due diligence. OCIE Director Carlo di Florio stressed how sufficient due diligence when determining the operational and financial condition of municipalities and states before selling their securities, is key to investor protection.

The SEC has also issued an Investor Bulletin to provide individual investors with key information about municipal bonds. Its Office of Investor Education and Advocacy wants to make sure investors know that the risks involved include:

Call risk: the possibility that an issuer will have to pay back a bond before it matures, which can occur if interest rates drop.

Credit risk: The chance that financial problems may result for the bond issuer, making it challenging or impossible to pay back principal and interest in full.

Interest rate risk: Should US interest rates go up, investors with a low fixed-rate municipal bond who try to sell the bond prior to maturity might lose money.

Inflation risk: Inflation can lower buying power, which can prove harmful for investors that are getting a fixed income rate.

Liquidity risk: In the event that an investor is unable to find an active market for the municipal bond, this could stop them from selling or buying when they want to or getting a certain bond price.

As a municipal bond buyer, an investor is lending money to the bond issuer (usually a state, city, county, or other government entity) in return for the promise of regular interest payments and the return of principal. The maturity date of a municipal bond, which is when the bond issuer would pay back the principal, might be years-especially for long-term bonds. Short-term bonds have a maturity date of one to three years.

In other stockbroker fraud news, Citigroup Inc. (C) subsidiary Citi International Financial Services LLC has agreed to pay almost $1.25 million in restitution and fines to settle claims by FINRA that it charged excessive markups and markdowns on corporate and agency bond transactions between July 2007 and September 2010. The SRO says that the markdowns and markups ranged from 2.73% to over 10% and were too much if you factor in the market’s condition during that time period, how much it actually cost to complete the transactions, and the services that the clients were actually provided. FINRA also claims Citi International failed to exercise “reasonable diligence” to ensure that clients were billed the most favorable price possible. To settle the SRO’s claims, Citi International will pay about $648,000 in restitution, plus interest, and a $600,000 fine.

Also, a man falsely claiming to be an investment advisor has pleaded guilty to securities fraud. Telson Okhio, president of the purported financial firm Ohio Group Holdings Inc., has pleaded guilty to wire fraud over a financial scam that defrauded one Hawaiian investor of about $1 million.

Okhio solicited $5 million from the investor while claiming that the money would be invested in the foreign currency exchange market using a $100 million trading platform. He said the investment was risk-free and would earn 200% during the first month. Okhio is accused of immediately taking $1 million of the investor’s money and placing the funds in his personal account. He faces up to 20 years behind bars.

Investor Bulletin: Municipal Bonds, SEC.gov
Individual Posing as Investment Advisor Pleads Guilty to Wire Fraud Charges, FBI, March 16, 2012

FINRA Fines Citi International Financial $600,000 and Orders Restitution of $648,000 for Excessive Markups and Markdowns, FINRA, March 19, 2012

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

CFTC Says RBC Took Part in Massive Trading Scam to Avail of Tax Benefits, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 4, 2012
Wirehouses Struggle to Retain Their Share of the High-Net-Worth-Market, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, April 6, 2012 Continue reading

Last month, a US judge refused Citigroup‘s request to overturn a $54.1M arbitration award that a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel had ordered the financial firm to pay investors Gerald D. Hosier, Jerry Murdock Jr. and Brush Creek Capital. The award was the largest amount ever granted to individuals in a securities arbitration proceeding.

Following Citigroup’s request that a United States district court toss out the award, details from what were confidential proceedings have been unsealed. According to the New York Times, documents viewed by the arbitrators show that on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 signifying the highest risk (usually only assigned to products that potentially carried the risk of an investor losing everything), Citigroup rated these investments as having a 5 rating for risk. Is it no wonder then that investors could and would go on to lose 80% of what they had investments.

The investments, which were municipal arbitrage portfolios, are known as ASTA/MAT. Citigroup Global Markets sold them through MAT Finance LLC.

Per internal e-mails, after the investments began declining in value in early 2008, when Citigroup wealth management head Sallie Krawcheck asked for the MAT’s risk rating,” She was told that it was “3-5.” Also, customers were never told about the 5 rating that their investments were previously given. The Times also reported that during a conference call involving brokers whose clients had sustained losses, the portfolio manager was directed to not discuss internal guidelines, which contained different information than what was in the prospectus that investors had received.

Citigroup eventually would offer to buy back the investments at a discount price but only if investors agreed to not file a securities fraud lawsuit against the financial firm. (Brokers have said they felt pressured by Citigroup to get investors on board with this. For example, a memo with the heading “Fund Rescue Options “noted that if the broker’s client let Citigroup repurchase the instruments, this would not be noted in his/her U-5 regulatory record. If, however, the client chose to sue, then this would appear in the broker’s U-5.)

In their securities fraud case, Claimants accused Citigroup of failure to supervise, fraud, and unsuitability. After the FINRA arbitration panel ordered them to pay the investors, Citigroup argued that panel members had ignored the law and contended that despite verbal statements made to investors, the latter had signed agreements acknowledging that the risk of losing everything was a possibility. Judge Christine Arguello would go on to affirm the FINRA panel’s decision. While the majority of the award was compensation for the claimants’ investment losses, about $17 million was for punitive damages.

Secrets of a Sales Machine, NY Times, January 14, 2012
Citigroup Slammed With $54 Million Award by FINRA Arbitrators in MAT/ASTA Case, Forbes, April 12, 2011

More Blog Posts:
Citigroup Request to Overturn $54.1M Municipal Bond Arbitration Ruling Denied by Judge, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 27, 2011
Citigroup Global Markets Settles for $725,000 FINRA Fine Over Failure to Disclose Conflicts of Interest, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 20, 2012
Citigroup Global Markets Inc. Sues Two Saudi Investors in an Attempt to Block Their FINRA Arbitration Claim Over $383M in Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 22, 2012 Continue reading

FINRA says that Citigroup Global Markets will pay a fine of $725K for not disclosing specific conflicts of interest during public appearances made by research analysts and in research reports. By settling, Citigroup is not denying or admitting to the charges although it has, however, consented to an entry of the findings.

According to the SRO, in research reports published between 1/07 and 3/10, the financial firm did not disclose possible conflicts of interest that existed in certain business connections, including the facts that the financial firm and its affiliates:
• Received revenue or investment banking from certain companies • Had an at least 1% or more ownership in companies that were covered • Managed public securities offerings • Made a market in certain covered companies’ securities
Also, FINRA says that Citigroup research analysts did not reveal these same conflicts when bringing up the covered companies during public appearances.

As a result of these alleged failures to disclose, FINRA contends that Citigroup kept investors from knowing of possible biases in the research recommendations that it made. FINRA says that such disclosures are essential in order to make sure that investors are given all of the information they need when making decisions about investments.

The SRO said that the reason Citigroup did not provide the required information is that the database for identifying and creating disclosures experienced technical difficulties and/or was inaccurate. FINRA also cites a lack of proper supervisory procedures that could have prevented such inaccuracies and disclosure failures. However, Citigroup did self-report a number of the deficiencies and has taken remedial steps to remedy them.

A financial firm can be held liable when failure to disclose key facts about an investment leads to an investor sustaining financial losses. In many instances, such omissions are made to hide or diminish the risk involved in the investment. While some omissions are intentional, others can occur due to inadequate supervision or the lack of proper systems and procedures to make sure such failures to disclose don’t happen.

It is a broker’s obligation to fairly disclose all the risks involved in a potential investment. (Misrepresenting material facts is another way that risks are concealed and investors end up losing money.

It doesn’t matter whether malicious intent was involved. If a broker-dealer concealed OR failed to disclose key information related to your investment and you suffered financial losses on your investment, you may have a securities fraud case on your hands that could allow you to recover your losses.

Citi settles with Finra over alleged conflicts at its brokerage, Investment News, January 20, 2012
Finra Fines Citigroup $725,000 For Alleged Research Violations, The Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2012
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

More Blog Posts:
Citigroup’s $285M Settlement With the SEC Is Turned Down by Judge Rakoff, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 28, 2011
Citigroup Global Markets Inc. Sues Two Saudi Investors in an Attempt to Block Their FINRA Arbitration Claim Over $383M in Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 22, 2011
Securities Fraud Lawsuit Against Citigroup Involving Mortgage-Related Risk Results in Mixed Ruling, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 30, 2010 Continue reading

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