Ex-UBS Broker is Accused of Inflating Customer’s AccountThe Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jeffrey Hamilton Howell from the broker-dealer industry. The former broker is accused of giving a customer bogus weekly account statements that overvalued an account by up to $3M. The alleged misconduct is said to have occurred between 9/2008 and 11/2014.According to FINRA, Howell sent the customer over 300 Stock Tracking Reports that misstated the client’s portfolio in amounts ranging from $289K to approximately $3M. He purportedly used his personal e-mail to send the customer some of the fake reports. This left UBS with records and books that were not accurate.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has announced that PNC Investments will pay nearly $225K in restitution for charging retirement clients too much for mutual fund investments. According to the regulator, the brokerage firm did not apply waivers for investors in certain Class A share mutual funds even though there was a waiver for front-end charges for eligible customers.
Instead, said FINRA, PNC Investments sold Class A shares customers with a front-end load or other shares that had a back-end load and higher fees and expenses, some of which were charged on an ongoing basis. Because of this, certain customers were charged excessive fees and paid them.
FINRA said that PNC Investments charged 121 customer accounts in excess of $191,740 for mutual funds—although the actual amount, with interest, was closer to $224,750. PNC will pay restitution to eligible investors.
The brokerage firm self-reported the overcharges after reviewing its own conduct last year to assess whether it was issuing the sales waiver to those that were eligible. FINRA said that the broker-dealer experienced lapses in supervision, did not keep up written policies and procedures that were adequate, and failed to help advisers assess when to waive the sales charges.
Former Colts Football Player Sues Bank of America for $20M
Dwight Freeney, formerly with the Indianapolis Colts and currently an NFL free agent, is suing Bank of America (BAC) for securities fraud. He and his Roof Group LLC say they were bilked of over $20 million.
In his securities fraud case, Freeney contends that the bank’s wealth management division is to blame for taking part, aiding, and abetting in the scam that cost him money. He noted that Bank of America went after him in 2010 to become one of its high net worth and affluent clients.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sanctioned thirteen financial firms, including UBS Financial Services (UBS), Charles Schwab and Co. (SCHW), J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM), and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF), for the improper sales of Puerto Rican junk bonds. A $100,00 minimum denomination had been established in junk bonds of $3.5 billion made by Puerto Rico several months ago. An SEC probe, however, revealed that there had been 66 instances when firms sold the bonds in transactions of under $100,000.
Municipal bond offerings are supposed to have a set minimum denomination that determines the smallest amount that a firm can sell to an investor during a single transaction. Typically, municipal issuers will establish high minimum denominations for junk bonds with a greater default risk. This is done to limit the bonds from ending up in the accounts of investors who may not be able to handle the risks.
The firms and their fines: UBS Financial Services for $56,400, Charles Schwab & Co. for $61,800, Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) for $61,200, Wedbush Securities Inc. for $67,200, Hapoalim Securities USA for $54,000, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) for $100,800, Interactive Brokers LLC for $56,000, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF) for $60,000, Investment Professionals Inc. for $67,800, Riedl First Securities Co. of Kansas for $130,000, J.P. Morgan Securities for $54,000, National Securities Corporation for $60,000, and Lebenthal & Co. for $54,000.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Century Securities Associates, Inc. and Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. must pay almost $1 million over the sale of inverse and leveraged exchange-traded funds. Stifel Financial Corporation (SF) owns both firms.
According to the SRO, for more than four years Century and Stifel recommended non-traditional ETFs that were not suitable to customers because a number of its representatives did not fully comprehend the products’ features or the risks involved. The instruments were marketed to retail investors with conservative investment goals. A number of customers ended up holding the investments for long periods and they suffered net losses.
The regulator says that Century and Stifel failed to set up proper training for their representatives and lacked the reasonable supervisory systems for the sale of these non-traditional ETFs. Instead, the firms oversaw these investments the way they did traditional ETFs. Also, they did not set up a procedure to deal with the risk for the longer-term holding periods involving these complex investments.
The SEC is charging Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and its former Senior Vice President David W. Noack with securities fraud over the sale of unsuitable, high-risk complex investments to 5 Wisconsin school districts. Stifel and Noack allegedly misrepresented the risks involved in investing $200 million in synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and did not disclose certain material facts. The investments proved a “complete failure.”
The Five Wisconsin School Districts:
• Kimberly Area School District • Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 • School District of Waukesha • School District of Whitefish Bay • West Allis-West Milwaukee School District
All five school districts are suing Stifel and Royal Bank of Canada in civil court. Robert Kantas, partner of Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP, is one of the attorneys representing the school districts in their civil case against Stifel and RBC. Attorneys for the school districts issued the following statement:
“We believe that Stifel, Royal Bank of Canada and the other defendants defrauded the five Wisconsin school districts, along with trusts set up to make these investments. In 2006, these defendants devised, solicited and sold $200 million ‘synthetic collateralized debt obligations’ (CDOs), which were both volatile and complex, to these districts and trusts. While represented as safe investments, these were in fact very high risk securities, which were wholly unsuitable for the districts and trusts. In an attempt to protect taxpayers and residents, the districts hired attorneys and other professionals to investigate the investments and the potential for fraud. Then, with a goal of seeking full recovery of the monies lost in this scheme, a lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2008 to seek fully recovery of the losses and maintain and protect valuable credit ratings of these districts. To date, more than 3 million pages of documents have been obtained and examined by the attorneys for the districts. The districts also properly reported to the SEC the nature and extent of the wrongdoing uncovered. Over the past year, they have provided the SEC with volumes of documents and information to facilitate its investigation.”
In its complaint filed in federal court today, the SEC says that Stifel and Noack set up a proprietary program to assist the school districts in funding retiree benefits through the investments of notes linked to the performance of CDOs. The school districts invested $200 million with trusts they set up in 2006. $162.7 million was paid for with borrowed funds.
The SEC contends that Stifel and Noack, who both earned substantial fees even though the investments failed completely, took advantage of their relationships with the school districts and acted fraudulently when they sold financial products that were inappropriate for the latter. The brokerage firm and its executive also likely were aware that the school districts weren’t experienced or sophisticated enough to be able to evaluate the risks associated with investing in the CDOs. Both also likely knew that the school districts could not afford to suffer such catastrophic losses if their investments were to fail. Despite this, says the SEC, Noack and Stifel assured the school districts that for the investments to collapse there would have to be “15 Enrons.” They also allegedly failed to reveal certain material facts to the school districts, including that:
• The first transaction in the portfolio did poorly from the beginning.
• Within 36 days of closing, credit rating agencies had placed 10% of the portfolio on negative watch.
• There were CDO providers who said they wouldn’t participate in Stifel’s proprietary program because they were worried about the risks involved.
The SEC claims that Stifel and Noack violated the:
• Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Section (10b))
• The Securities Act of 1933 (Section 17(a))
• The Securities Act of 1934 (Section 15(c)(1)(A))
The Commission is seeking, permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, financial penalties, and prejudgment interest.
Related Web Resources:
SEC Charges Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and Executive with Fraud in Sale of Investments to Wisconsin School District, SEC.gov, August 10, 2011
SEC Sues Stifel Over Wisconsin School Losses Tied to $200 Million of CDOs, Bloomberg, August 10, 2011
Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)
More Blog Posts:
Wisconsin School Districts Sue Royal Bank of Canada and Stifel Nicolaus and Co. in Lawsuit Over Credit Default Swaps, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 7, 2008
SEC Inquiring About Wisconsin School Districts Failed $200 Million CDO Investments Made Through Stifel Nicolaus and Royal Bank of Canada Subsidiaries, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 11, 2010 Continue reading
According to local new services, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is asking five Wisconsin school districts for additional information about the $200+ million in synthetic collateralized debt obligations that they purchased through Stifel Nicolaus and Royal Bank of Canada subsidiaries in 2006. The CDO’s are now reportedlyworthless.
The districts collectively bought the CDOs with $35 million of their own money and more than $165 million borrowed from Depfa bank. Since then, the entire investment has failed. In March, Depfa noticed default on the district trusts which had been established for the investments and took the $5.6 million in interest that had been earned since the purchase was made.
In their 2008 securities fraud lawsuit against the investment firms, the districts accused the defendants of deceptive practices and fraud. School officials contend that they were misled into investing in CDO’s because of a Stifel product that was supposed to build trusts for post-retirement teacher benefits. They say that they weren’t told that that they could lose their entire investment because of the 4 – 5% default rate among companies within the CDO. They also contend that they were never advised that their investments included sub-prime mortgage debt, credit card receivables, home equity loans, and other risky investments.
Stifel Financial Corp. is reporting an 80% increase of earnings during its first quarter, which ended on March 31, compared to last year. Nearly 57% of its operating profit and 64% of revenue came from its global wealth management group. The profit increase came even as the financial firm slowed down its recruitment of new brokers. On its financial adviser roster, just 45 names were added, as Stifel made the decision not to engage in recruitment wars with larger firms that have enhanced their recruiting packages in an effort to bring in new people who can help the firms rehabilitate their reputations in the wake of the 2008 market collapse. Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC, and other investment banks are reportedly offering leading brokers up to 300% of the revenue they produced in the last 12 months.
While Stifel increased its adviser roster by over 500 in 2009, absorbing over 300 advisers from UBS Financial Services Inc.’s wealth management group and 56 retail branches, this year the financial firm seems to be focusing more energy on creating a more balanced revenue mix. By merging (a $300 M deal), with Thomas Weisel Partners Group Inc. Stifel’s retail and investment-banking/capital revenue will be brought into balance.
According to Investment News, Ron Kruszewski, Stifel chief executive and chairman, as saying that the ex-UBS brokers that are now working for Stifel are working at about 80% of their potential. Seeing as many of them started with the financial firm toward the end of last year, it may take a little longer for them to fully transfer their client assets and achieve complete operational efficiency.
Related Web Resources:
Stifel backs off recruiting wars — and profits soar, Investment News, April 29, 2010
Stifel Financial Corp. Announces First Quarter Results, Marketwatch, April 29, 2010 Continue reading
Stifel, Nicolaus and Co. Inc. has reached an agreement with Missouri Secretary of State Robin Carnahan over the broker fraud committed by former Stifel securities broker Girard Munsch. As part of the deal, the three Missouri investors will get back $78,000 in commissions that they paid and the broker-dealer will pay over $130,000 in payments, penalties, and costs.
Over three years, Munsch made over 500 trades in accounts owned by three Missouri investors. He has admitted that during some of the transactions, he was the only one to benefit. One investor, Marie Ganninger, says that she started investing with the former Stifel broker after her husband passed away. She chose to go with Munsch because he was the broker of one of her relatives. She will be getting back the commissions she paid.
The state of Missouri went after Stifel for failing to properly supervise Munsch and neglecting to notice or take action when he made unsuitable recommendations and excessive trades.
In 2007, the former Stifel broker entered into a consent order. He was ordered to pay $50,000 in investor restitution for broker misconduct, and his license was suspended. He retired and can no longer work as a broker in Missouri.
Please do not despair if you lost money because of broker fraud. There are legal remedies available that can allow you to recoup your investment losses.
Stifel to return $78,000 to investors, pay $130,000 in penalties, St. Louis Business, March 11, 2010
Consent order in the matter of Girard Augustus Munsch, Jr., State of Missouri Continue reading
Even as Stifel Financial Corp. continues to deal with securities fraud lawsuits and claims accusing the broker-dealer of misrepresenting the risks associated with investing in auction-rate securities, the company exhibited a 73% increase in 3rd quarter earnings due to a growth in transaction revenue.
Its profit posted at $22.1 million, an increase from earlier this year when it’s posted profit was $12.8 million. Net revenue hit $289.7 million-a 32% increase. Principal transaction revenue went up 81%, hitting $123.2 million. Commissions went up to $90.9 million-that’s a 2.5% increase.
Stifel has been working to turn its business into a full-service investment bank and its subsidiary, Stifel, Nicolaus, & Co., recently completed its buy of 56 UBS Financial Services Inc. branches, which it purchased for at least $46 million. Stifel says the deal should increase the company’s earnings within the first year.