Almost a year and a half after US District Judge William Duffey Jr. dismissed the SEC’s lawsuit accusing Morgan Keegan & Co. of misleading thousands of auction-rate securities investors about the risks involved with these investments, he must now rule on the same case again. This latest trial in federal court comes after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Montgomery, Alabama dismissed Duffey’s decision on the grounds that he erred when he concluded that the verbal comments made by brokers to four clients were immaterial because of disclosures that were on the retail brokerage firm’s website. Morgan Keegan is a Raymond James Financial (RJF.N) unit.
In SEC v. Morgan Keegan & Company Inc., regulators are claiming that the brokerage firm told its clients that over $2B securities came with no risk, even as the ARS market was failing, and that the investments were short-term and liquid. The commission filed its ARS fraud lawsuit against the broker-dealer in 2009.
During opening statements at this latest trial, prosecutors again contended that the brokers did not tell the investors that their cash could become frozen indefinitely. Reports Bloomberg News, orange grower John Tilis, who is a witness in this case, said that he decided to invest $400K in ARS in 2007 because he thought they were a safe place to keep his money until he had to pay taxes in April the next year. Tilis claims that the firm’s broker had informed him that he would be easily able to get his funds when he needed them. Yet when Tilis attempted to do so, he said that all the broker would tell him is that the ARS couldn’t be sold. (Morgan Keegan later refunded his principal.)
The SEC is arguing that Morgan Keegan found out about a number of failed auctions in November of 2007. In March 2008, one month after even more auctions had begun failing, the brokerage company started mandating that customers that wanted to buy ARS sign statements noting that they were aware that it might be some time before the investments became liquid again.
Meanwhile, Morgan Keegan is maintaining that it did not fail to inform clients about the risks involved in auction-rate securities, which had a history of being very “safe and liquid.” The firm contends that not being able to predict the future is not the same as securities fraud (Duffey noted this same logic when he dismissed the SEC lawsuit last year), and that even prior to the SEC lawsuit, it bought back $2B in ARS from clients. Morgan Keegan says that those who took part in the buyback program did not lose any money.
Morgan Keegan Trial Judge to Decide SEC Case He Dismissed, Bloomberg, November 26, 2012
U.S. SEC fraud lawsuit vs Morgan Keegan revived, Reuters, May 2, 2012
SEC v. Morgan Keegan & Company Inc. (PDF)
More Blog Posts:
The 11th Circuit Revives SEC Fraud Lawsuit Against Morgan Keegan Over Auction-Rate Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 8, 2012
Court Upholds Ex-NBA Star Horace Grant $1.46M FINRA Arbitration Award from Morgan Keegan & Co. Over Mortgage-Backed Bond Losses, Stockbroker fraud Blog, October 30, 2012
Morgan Keegan & Company Ordered by FINRA to Pay $555,400 in Texas Securities Case Involving Morgan Keegan Proprietary Funds, Stockbroker fraud Blog, September 6, 2011
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