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The US District Court has approved an amendment to the proposed Charles Schwab Corporation Securities Litigation settlement. The Supplemental Notice of Proposed Settlement of Class Action has been sent to the affected class members, which includes those who may have held Schwab YieldPlus Fund shares on September 1, 2006 and gotten more of them between May 31, 2006 and March 17, 2008. Shares may have been obtained through a dividend reinvestment in the Fund or through purchase. Affected class members cannot have been a resident of California on September 1, 2006.

The Supplemental Notice notes that there has been a clarification in the release claims’ scope that affected class members will be giving Schwab if they decide to take part in the settlement. More claims than those in the federal securities class litigation are now included in the amended release. Class members now have another chance opt out of the class action complaint.

Exclusion Deadline: Your notice of exclusion must be postmarked no later than January 14, 2011 and cannot be received after January 21, 2011.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel is ordering Raymond James & Associates Inc. and Raymond James Financial Services Inc. to buy back $2.5M in auction-rate securities from an investor. Greg Merdinger has accused Raymond James Financial Inc. of failing to warn him about the risks associated with ARS. In 2009, he filed a claim accusing the broker-dealer of breach of both contract and fiduciary duty.

Merdinger claims that from October 2006 to February 2008, Raymond James & Associates Inc. recommended that he purchase the securities while claiming that they were more liquid than money market funds, which Merdinger wanted to invest in until he was persuaded otherwise. He contends that Raymond James never told him that the ARS could become illiquid and that even into February 2008, when the market froze, Raymond James continued to advise him to buy the securities. One more purchase was even made.

Raymond James Financial’s General Counsel, Paul Matecki, has been quick to note that the broker-dealer has provided evidence that it did not know that the ARS market was at risk of failing before February 2008 when it did collapse. He also claims that there is no evidence indicating that any of its employees knew that the securities would fail.

However, Merdinger’s securities lawyer says there are copies of emails showing that Raymond James Financial managers knew the ARS market was experiencing difficulties way before it collapsed. Early last year, Raymond James chief executive and chairman issued a letter, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, apologizing to clients for the role the investment bank played in their ARS buys.

In addition to the $2.5M ARS repurchase, Merdinger has been awarded 5% interest on the amount until Raymond James buys back the securities. He is also to receive an additional $86,000.

Related Web Resources:
Raymond James faces $2.5 million payback ruling, BizJournals, July 27, 2010
Raymond James Ordered To Buy Back $2.5M in Auction-Rates, WSJ, July 26, 2010
Tom James apologizes for auction rate security purchases, BizJournals, January 5, 20009 Continue Reading ›

Barbara Ann Radnofsky, the Democratic candidate for Texas attorney general, says that the state should sue Wall Street firms for securities fraud. Earlier this week, she published a legal brief accusing investment banks of being responsible for the financial crisis. Her Texas securities fraud briefing, which is modeled on the multibillion-dollar tobacco settlements from the 1990’s, is seeking approximately $18 billion in securities fraud damages and other reparations for Texas. She targets Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs Group, AIG insurance, and other leading financial firms, banks, and bond-rating agencies.

Radnofsky’s brief is not a securities fraud lawsuit, but it is a framework for one. She hopes that it will push incumbent Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to take action. She contends that if Abbott fails to sue the firms by September, “he is committing legal malpractice.” She is accusing him of failing to act despite the “clear evidence.”

Radnofsky has noted that the financial meltdown has forced Texas to make cuts to social programs, environmental enforcement, and child protective services. She says the “Great Recession” has lead to child illness, hunger, death, and abuse. She also contends that foreclosures and abandoned homes have severely affected neighborhoods.

A number of FINRA arbitration claims have been filed accusing former Linsco Private Ledger (LPL) financial advisor Raymond Londo of running a multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme to defraud investors. The claims allege fraud, conversion, misrepresentation and omissions, and negligence. LPL is accused of failing to supervise, discover, and stop the investment fraud scheme within a reasonable amount of time even though there were numerous signs, such as red flags and customer complaints, to indicate that Londo should have been more closely supervised or even fired.

Per the FINRA statement of claim, for nearly 10 years Londo accepted funds from LPL clients. He told them that he was investing their money in an LPL account where he could help them avail of exclusive investment opportunities. The former LPL financial adviser would then take the money he was supposed to invest and used it to support his lavish lifestyle and gambling addiction.

Linsco finally fired Londo in March 2008, but by then funds belonging to 95% of the victims had been stolen. Londo’s victims, located in different parts of the US, included his own neighbours, family members, and fellow country club members.

Soon after the Ponzi scam was discovered, Londo died.

LPL is one of the largest brokerage firms in the US. The alleged Ponzi scam surrounding Londo is not the first time the broker-dealer has been linked to securities fraud allegedly committed by one of its employees. In 2002, FINRA awarded more than $500,000 to an investor who claimed investment losses because LPL did not properly supervise one of its independent brokers.

In 2008, LPL Financial and Michael McClellan, one of its ex-brokers, lost a $1.8 million arbitration claim accusing them of securities fraud, violation of securities laws, unauthorized tradings, breach of fiduciary duties, and other violations.

Related Web Resources:
Former Financial Advisor Faces Stock Fraud Arbitration over Multi-Million Dollar Ponzi Scheme, Lawyers and Settlements, April 9, 2010
Securities Fraud Law Firm Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP Investigates Ray Londo, Londo Financial Group, and Linsco Private Ledger For Improper Lending/Borrowing of Client Funds, October 20, 2008 Continue Reading ›

Investors of Main Street Natural Gas Bonds are claiming that not only did brokers fail to disclose the risks associated with investing in them, but they also failed to inform their clients that the bonds could be affected by the financial health of Lehman Brothers. Wall Street firms had marketed and sold Main Street Natural Gas Bonds as conservative, safe municipal bonds when, in fact, they were Lehman Brothers-backed complex derivative securities. As a result, when the investment bank filed for bankruptcy in 2008 the bonds’ trading value dropped.

If you were an investor who lost money because you invested in Main Street Natural Gas Bonds that you were told were safe, conservative investments, please contact our stockbroker fraud lawyers immediately to request your free case evaluation. You may have grounds for a securities fraud claim.

Main Street Natural Gas

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed claims against Morgan Keegan & Co, Morgan Asset Management and employees James C. Kelsoe, Jr. and Joseph Thomas Weller for securities fraud that allegedly involved inflating the value of subprime mortgage-backed securities.

According to investors and a number of state regulators, RMK Funds (RMK Advantage Income Fund, RMK High Income Fund, RMK Multi-Sector High Income Fund, RMK Select High Income Fund, RMK Strategic Income Fund, and the RMK Select Intermediate Fund) were marketed and recommended as funds that would provide a consistent income level while the actual risks involved were misrepresented and the funds’ net asset value pricing was manipulated.

The SEC’s enforcement division is accusing Morgan Keegan of failing to put into place reasonable procedures to internally price the portfolio securities in five funds, and as a result, being unable to accurately calculate the funds’ “net asset values.” These inaccurate daily NAVs were published while investors bought shares at inflated prices.

The enforcement division is also accusing fund portfolio manager Kelsoe of acting arbitrarily when he told Morgan Keegan’s Fund Accounting department to adjust prices in a manner that would make certain portfolio securities’ fair value go up. He had his assistant send about 262 “price adjustments” to Fund Accounting between at least January and July 2007.

On numerous occasions, adjustments were arbitrary, disregarded lower values that other dealers had quoted for the same securities, and neglected to reflect fair value. They were entered into a spreadsheet to determine the funds’ NAVs-even though there were no supporting documents. Kelsoe also is accused of regularly telling Fund Accounting to disregard broker-dealers’ month-end quotes that should have been used to validate the prices Morgan Keegan had assigned to the securities in the funds, as well as manipulated pricing quotes he received from at least one broker-dealer.

The Division of Enforcement is accusing Weller, a CPA who belonged to the Valuation Committee and served as the Fund Accounting Department head, of failing to fix the deficiencies in the valuation procedures, as well as not ensuring that fair-valued securities were accurately priced or that NAVs were correctly calculated.

Related Web Resources:
SEC Charges Morgan Keegan and Two Employees With Fraud Related to Subprime Mortgages, SEC.gov, April 7, 2010
SEC Order (PDF)

Morgan Keegan, 2 Employees Face SEC Fraud Charges, The Wall Street Journal, April 7, 2010 Continue Reading ›

U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts says that Credit Suisse Group AG must pay STMicroelectronics NV the rest of the $431 million arbitration award owed for unauthorized auction-rate securities-related investments. FINRA had issued the securities fraud award last year.

STMicroelectronics NV says that Credit Suisse invested in high risk securities, including ARS with collateralized debt obligations, for the company when the investment bank was only supposed to invest in student loans backed by the US government. The European-based semiconductor maker sued Credit Suisse when the ARS’ value dropped. STMicro accused the broker-dealer of securities fraud, unjust enrichment, breach of contract, failure to supervise, and breach of fiduciary duty.

A FINRA panel ruled in favor of STMicro, awarding the company $400 million in compensatory damages, $3 million in expert witness and legal fees, and $1.5 million in financing fees, while directing Credit Suisse to pay 4.64% on the illiquid ARS in STMicro’s account until the fees and damages were paid.

Credit Suisse sought to vacate the FINRA award and argued that a panel arbitrator had been prejudicial toward the investment bank. The broker-dealer also accused the panel of disregarding the law. The court, however, decided that Credit Suisse’s claims were meritless. The remaining balance owed to STMicroelectronics is approximately $354 million, including $23 million in interest.

Earlier this year, Credit Suisse broker Eric Butler received a 5-year prison sentence for selling subprime securities to investors. His fraudulent actions cost them over $1.1 billion.

Since the ARS market meltdown in February 2008, at least 19 broker-dealers and underwriters have been sued. Regulators forced some of them to repurchase billions of dollars worth of auction-rate securities.

Our Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas founder and Stockbroker fraud lawyer William Shepherd says, “One issue which investors face when they are required to arbitrate is that they have little hope of appealing the arbitrators’ award if he/she lose. However, this works both ways: It is also very difficult for the brokerage firm to appeal as well, and few even try. Thus, an investor can finish a case, win, and get paid in about a year. In court, the process can drag out for 5 years or more.”

Credit Suisse Ordered to Pay STMicroelectronics Award, BusinessWeek/Bloomberg, March 24, 2010
STMicroelectronics Sues Credit Suisse Over Securities, NY Times, August 7, 2008
FINRA Awards STMicroelectronics $406 Million Against Credit Suisse Securities (USA) LLC, STMicroelectronics, February 16, 2009 Continue Reading ›

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s National Adjudicatory Council has dismissed the charges against former Knight Securities, L.P. CEO Ken Pasternak and John Leighton, the investment firm’s ex- Institutional Sales Desk head. The two men were accused of supervisory failures over allegedly fraudulent sales. Specifically, they allegedly inadequately supervised Leighton’s brother Joseph Leighton, who, at the time, was the firm’s top institutional sales trader. Regulators had accused Joseph of inflating the price of securities when selling them to institutional clients and keeping the extra profit.

The National Association of Securities Dealers found that the two former executives failed to take reasonable steps to make sure that Joseph was in compliance with industry standards. He settled with NASD and the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2005.

A lower FINRA panel had also ruled against two men. Pasternak was suspended from supervisory positions for two years and John was barred from supervisory roles. Both men were each ordered to pay $100,000.

Now, however, NAC is disagreeing with the lower panel, claiming that FINRA failed to establish that Joseph Leighton violated regulatory and market standards. The council also found that John Leighton did enforce Knight’s compliance procedures and that there was evidence that does not support allegations accusing Pasternak of not responding properly to “red flags” that surfaced over the way that Joseph handled his institutional client orders. However, institutional clients have come forward to testify that the pricing they received was fair. Also, in 2008, a federal judge threw out similar charges that the SEC filed against Pasternak and Joseph Leighton.

“This is another case at FINRA of the soldiers getting punished while the officers in charge ultimately get a walk,” said Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas founder and securities fraud lawyer William Shepherd. “The primary regulator of brokerage firms may have recently changed its name to the ‘Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’ but it remains a ‘National Association of Securities Dealers’ – a non-profit private corporation (similar to a country club) with a vested interest in seeing to it that favored members do not have to answer for misdeeds. After all, a precedent of fines or sanctions for the bosses might affect the treatment of other bosses in the future.”

Related Web Resources:
COMPLIANCE WATCH: Complying As Your Brother’s Keeper, The Wall Street Journal, March 5, 2010
National Adjudicatory Council, FINRA Continue Reading ›

Upholding a lower court’s decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirmed that investors’ securities claims in two Morgan Stanley (MS) mutual funds-the Morgan Stanley Technology Fund and the Morgan Stanley Information Fund-should be dismissed. The claimants had accused the investment firm of failing to disclose conflicts of interest between investment banking arms and its research analysts.

The court ruled that mutual fund offering statements are not necessary to disclose possible conflicts of interest that occur due to the dismantling of the “information barrier” between stock researchers and investment bankers. The appellate panel also found that there are two class actions against the open-ended mutual funds that fail to identify illegal omissions in the funds’ prospectuses or registration statements.

According to investors, they should have been notified that objectivity could be compromised because the managers of the mutual funds heavily depended on broker-dealers for their stock research. Citing the Securities Act of 1933, they filed a securities fraud lawsuit against Morgan Stanley. The plaintiffs contended that the brokerage firm’s offering documents omitted the possible conflict of interest. The plaintiffs claimed that these omissions cost them $500,000 and that the combined losses for the class were over $1 billion.

A federal judge dismissed their broker fraud complaints, citing a failure to prove that the law mandates disclosure of possible conflicts of interest. The second circuit affirmed the lower court’s ruling, saying it agreed with the SEC’s amicus curiae stating that both Form 1-A and the Securities Act do not require defendants to reveal that the information the plaintiffs’ claimed had been left out and that what the plaintiffs considered to be risks specific to the Morgan Stanley funds were in fact ones that every investor faces.

Among the defendants: Morgan Stanley, Morgan Stanley DW Inc. (MSDWI), MS & Co, the Technology Fund, the Information Fund, Morgan Stanley Investment Management Inc. (MSIM), Morgan Stanley Investment Advisors Inc. (MSIA), and Morgan Stanley Distributors Inc.

Related Web Resources:
Second Circuit Rules Morgan Stanley Mutual Funds Not Liable for Failing to Disclose Conflicts of Interest with Stock Analysts, Law.com, February 1, 2010
Court Nixes Class Actions Against Morgan Stanley, Courthouse News, January 29, 2010 Continue Reading ›

Braintree Laboratories Inc. is asking the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit to keep its auction-rate securities lawsuit against the brokerage division of Citigroup Inc. in court. A federal court had ordered the proceedings into arbitration.

Last April, the pharmaceutical company sued Citigroup for securities fraud, accusing the investment bank of misrepresenting $33.2 million in ARS as “liquid,” government-supported “money market” investments that could be sold following seven days notice when Citigroup allegedly knew that the investments were auction-rate securities that were illiquid, subject to failed auctions, and not redeemable until 2030.

Braintree also contends that Citigroup used misleading and false descriptions to prevent clients and regulators from finding out that it was still selling these “toxic instruments.” The pharmaceutical company is accusing Citigroup of destroying key evidence related to the alleged fraud.

Braintree purchased the ARS from Citigroup between June and August ’08. The ARS market froze in early 2008.

Citigroup has agreed to give back $7.5 billion to individual clients, charities, and small businesses that suffered ARS losses when the market collapsed. The broker-dealer is also promising to put its best efforts toward liquidating some $12 million in ARS that were purchased by institutional investors, including retirement plans, by the end of 2009.

As Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas Founder and Stockbroker Fraud Lawyer William Shepherd points out, “Most securities firms have agreed to repurchase Auction Rate Securities from smaller investors, but our firm is representing many large investors who remain in ‘ARS limbo.’ It is very important for these investors to hire skilled attorneys to protect their rights before time limits expire to take action! We have found many firms are dragging out discussions with investors but only paying those who take legal action.”

Related Web Resources:
ARS Investor Fights To Keep Citigroup In Court, Law 360, November 11, 2009
Citi sued over auction-rate securities, Reuters, April 17, 2009 Continue Reading ›

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