Articles Posted in Miscellaneous

A new rule proposed by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau would let consumers sue banks over a variety of financial products, including bank accounts, private student loans, money-transfer services, installment loans, payday loans, prepaid cards, and credit cards, and certain types of loans. The proposed rule would also prohibit arbitration clauses in consumer financial contracts, again giving more power to consumers.

The CFPB wants to prevent financial companies from employing mandatory arbitration clauses so as to inhibit class action securities cases involving significant quantities of plaintiffs. However, they would still be allowed to obligate consumers to resolve individual disagreements in arbitration. Companies that decide to include arbitration clauses in their contracts would have to notify the CFBP about the specifics of cases, including any awards and claims.

The CFPB said that according to a study it conducted in 2015, arbitration clauses were found in “hundreds of millions of consumer contracts” used by credit card users, private student loan lenders, banks taking insured deposits, as well as in prepaid card agreements and payday loan contracts in certain states.

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Daniel Thibeault, the ex-CEO of GL Capital Partners, has entered a guilty plea to criminal charges accusing him of bilking fund investors of $15M. According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Thiebeault used funds that were in the GL Beyond Income Fund to make fake consumer loans.

Meanwhile, investors were led to believe that their money was going toward buying or making real consumer loans. They hoped to make a return from the interest. Instead, the fake loans were reported as GL Beyond Income Fund assets to hide the money that Thibeault was misappropriating.
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U.S. natural gas driller Chesapeake Energy Corp. (CYC) has been halting investor payouts and cutting jobs to keep its cash flow from drying up. Now, with its shares dropping 51% following reports by Debtwire that the company has hired restructuring attorneys to help deal with its $9.8 billion debt, investors may have a reason to worry. During the first hour of trading alone on Monday, $838M in market value was eliminated.

Chesapeake has a debt load that is eight times larger than its market value. Even though it pumps more gas in the U.S. than any driller besides Exxon Mobil Corp., Chesapeake has $1.3B in debts that are scheduled to mature by the end of next year.

Last month, Standard & Poor’s reduced Chesapeake’s credit rating to CCC+, while issuing a negative outlook that gas and oil prices would stay on the weak end. S & P declared the natural gas driller’s debt leverage “unsustainable.

Investors are not the only ones at risk now that Chesapeake is in trouble. Oil and gas pipeline companies, many of which are master limited partnerships, with contracts worth billions of dollars could also take a hit. Companies with contracts with Chesapeake include Kinder Morgan Inc., Williams Companies Inc., Marathon Petroleum Corp’s unit MPLX LP, Columbia Pipeline Partners LP, and Spectra Energy Partners LP. Reuters reports that according to federal filings, Chesapeake said it is on the line for about $2B a year for pipeline space run by MLPs.
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With oil prices plummeting, investors may have reason for concern. This week, ConocoPhilip cut its dividend by two-thirds because of the drop in oil prices to $30/barrel. Its dividend went from 74 cents/share to 25 cents/share
And Conoco isn’t the only company whose dividends are in trouble because of cheap oil. In January, Noble Energy slashed dividend payout by 44%. Last year, Eni (E) in Italy also made a substantial dividend cut, as did pipeline company Kinder Morgan with a 75% cut in December. Investors are worried that big oil companies, such as Chevron (CVX) and ExxonMobil (XOM), may be next.

Such speculation wasn’t helped by the abrupt liquidation of a $600M leveraged fund bet on falling prices. According to Reuters, unknown investors in the VelocityShares 3x Inverse Crude Oil Exchange Traded Note left the fund after jumping in just last month. Over 1.8M shares of $602M were redeemed, which, according to FactSet Research data, is the largest ETN outflow over the past year. Credit Suisse (CS), the ETN’s issuer, was forced to repurchase short positions in quick measure.
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A number of diversified stock funds posted significant losses at the end of the January. For example, funds seeking underpriced stocks saw their holdings lose value as did value funds. Here is a list (From Morningstar):

· PIMCO RAE Fundamental Plus EMG (PEFIX)

· Templeton Foreign A

Unpaid debt incurred by oil companies to pay for new drilling equipment and rigs could lead to a number of them defaulting. According to CNN, many of these companies had expected prices for oil to hit the $100 range when they incurred the debt and are now contending with oil prices of about $45 and no sign of the original expectation being met in the near future.

Unlike a year ago, when low interest rates and junk bond markets helped spur the energy boom in the United States and inexpensive credit let companies invest in new technologies for oil drilling, there has been a rise in credit costs. At’s recent Fixed Income Conference, DoubleLine Capital founder Jeffrey Gundlach said that while US production of oil has slowed, the inventories for domestic crude oil levels have stayed high.

In August, Moody’s Investors Services said that it expected more US oil companies to default because banks have become stricter about lending standards and contracts that had committed to higher crude prices for production in the future get set to expire. The credit rating agency said that the energy sector would be a main default driver in 2016.
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The nation’s highest court has just made it easier for workers to sue their 401k plans for charging excessive fees for investments. The case is Tibble v. Edison International, and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously for the ex-workers of Edison International.

The plaintiffs contended that the plan fiduciaries’ decision to choose six retail-class mutual funds (out of the forty selected for the retirement plan) was based on the higher fees that these funds charged, compared to institutional class funds that were also allegedly available to investors. Under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA), retirement plans that are sponsored by an employer have a fiduciary obligation to choose investments that are appropriate and remove any that cease to meet the criteria set up in the investment policy statement.

Five years ago, the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California awarded the plaintiffs a $370,732 judgment over damages involving the high fees in three of the retail share class funds at issue. The claims against the other three funds are the ones that went to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and now the Supreme Court.

Just as the Department of Labor appeared poised to push out its proposal to impose a fiduciary standard on retirement advisers, financial industry members have once more stepped forward to try to implement certain changes.

Last month, financial industry trade groups met with White House aide Valerie Jarrett to express their worries. The groups are concerned that certain restrictions will limit how much compensation brokers that sell investments for IRAs would be able to get for their services. They believe that this will stop representatives from dealing with investors who have middle-range incomes.

Meantime, the DOL contends that the proposed rules are needed to protect retirees and workers from getting advice that may be tainted by conflicts of interest. For example, a broker might be tempted to sell a retirement investment product that comes with a high-fee, which could hurt a client’s savings.

In the last two years, millions of borrowers with mortgages have been moved from banks to nonbanks. This can result in problems for home loan borrowers.

A reason for this is that a lot of banks are getting rid of their mortgage servicing rights. 14 of the leading bank servicers, including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC), and Bank of America (BAC) have sold off over $1 trillion of these rights in the last two years. The primary buyers are nonbank servicers, which now handle one in every seven mortgages.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which is engaged in the oversight of nonbanks, enacted regulations earlier this year that extended rules for banks to nonbank servicers that collect mortgage payments and deal with foreclosures and modifications. Last month, the bureau also put out guidance on new regulations that specifies the way loan transfers to nonbanks should be dealt with, including a provision mandating that buyers and sellers conduct meetings in at timely manner to talk about the continuity of service before a mortgage is handed off. Sales contracts also must stipulate that mortgage documents need to be given to the new servicer. However, a recently released CFPB statement reported that some nonbank services are billing customers incorrectly, not honoring approved modifications, and losing paperwork.

According to, as 401(k) rollovers continue to boom, it is the brokers who are profiting while the retirees are sustaining losses. Now, these investors are speaking out.

It was in 2012 that former employees moved $321 billion from 401(K) plans to individual retirement accounts-a 60% rise from the last decade. Now, the IRA is holding about $6.5 million in 401(k)-like accounts.

Even though retirees typically can keep their savings in 401(K) plans, financial firm reps. do reach out to try and persuade them to move their funds to IRAs instead. Internet ads, cold calls, cash incentives, and storefront signs are used to draw retirees in, including the promise of wider investment choices compared to their current plans. In one example of an incentive promised, E*Trade (ETFC) Financial Corp. and Bank of America Corp.’s (BAC) Merrill Lynch offer anyone who rolls over a 401 (K) plan into an IRA up to $600. (However, this can result in additional expenses down the road.)

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