Articles Posted in Morgan Keegan

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred another former Morgan Stanley (MS) broker. John Halsey Buck III consented to the industry bar after he did not provide the information and documents that the self-regulatory organization asked for related to its probe into his alleged involvement in unapproved private securities sales. Buck, who has over 50 years experience in the industry, was let go by the brokerage firm earlier this year.

Morgan Stanley reportedly fired him in the wake of disclosure-related issues, including those involving private investments that did not involve the broker-dealer. According to InvestmentNews, the allegations against Buck have to do with “selling away.” This is a practice that happens when a stockbroker, financial adviser, or a registered representative solicits the sale of or sells securities that his or her brokerage firm does not offer or hold. Broker-dealers usually have a list of approved products that its brokers are allowed to sell to firm clients.

Buck had been with the industry since 1965. Previous to working with Morgan Stanley, he was a registered broker with UBS Financial Services (UBS), Wachovia Securities, Prudential Securities Incorporated, Loeb Partners, and Hornblower, Weeks, Noyes & Trask.

FINRA Bars Registered Rep For $15M In Unauthorized Trades

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Craig David Dima, a former registered representative with KC Ward Financial, for making about $15M in unsuitable and unauthorized trades in the account of a 73-year-old retiree. According to the self-regulatory organization, there were 11 times when Dima sold nearly all of the customer’s stock in Colgate-Palmolive that she’d accrued from working with the company for nearly thirty years and he did that without permission.

After the elderly client told Dima not to sell the stock, he proceeded to sell them anyways. When the customer confronted Dima, he purportedly misrepresented that a computer or technical mistake had caused the sale. Meantime, the client was “deprived” of the “substantial dividends” from the Colgate shares she used to own. Dima charged the customer over $375K in fees, mark-downs, and mark-ups.

By settling, Dima is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s charges of elder financial fraud.

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The Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth District has upheld a $2.1M judgment for a client of Houston Securities Fraud Attorney Sam Edwards of Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas. The ruling ordered Morgan Keegan to pay $2.1M for not telling investors about the actual risks involved in a mortgage-backed securities stake.

It was in October 2014 that a Dallas state court judge determined that the wealth management and capital markets firm had violated the Texas Securities Act by not accurately representing the risks involved in securities in which Purdue Avenue Investors LP and its principals Dana and Robert Howard had invested. These were MBS purchased by bond funds that Morgan Keegan underwrote and Morgan Asset Management managed. The purportedly undisclosed risk was that the funds were heavily involved in lower than investment grade structured finance.

The Howards invested more than $2M in the RMK Strategic Income Fund and the RMK Advantage Income Fund. The funds would go on to lose more than $2B.

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Former JPMorgan Broker Who Stole Over $20M from Richest Clients, Gambled, Goes to Prison
Michael Oppenheim, a former broker with JPMorgan Chase & CO. (JPM), has been sentenced to five years behind bars. Oppenheim pleaded guilty last year to stealing over $20 million from 10 of his richest clients. At one point Oppenheim managed nearly $90 million for 500 clients. He claims he was addicted to sports gambling.

He began betting on NFL games in 1993 and later got involved in online sports betting. After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, he began stealing from clients to cover his losses. Oppenheim also started options trading in tech stocks to repay these clients and in one day lost $2.7M. He concealed the theft by providing customers with bogus account statements.

Prosecutors contend that Oppenheim persuaded clients to take out up to millions of dollars from their accounts by promising to put their money in low risk municipal bonds that would be kept at the bank. Instead, he used the funds to get cashier’s checks that he deposited into accounts that were his but located outside the bank. Oppenheim purportedly targeted clients he knew wouldn’t be watching their accounts closely. His scam went on for over seven years.

FINRA Bars Broker for Senior Financial Fraud
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred David Joseph Escarcega from the financial industry. Escarcega is accused of making a dozen unsuitable recommendations involving debentures tied to the life insurance policy secondary market and targeting elderly clients. He must also pay a $52,270 fine, which is how much he kept in commissions.

According to FINRA, Escarcega sold the debt instruments, which were issued by CWG Holdings Inc., from 3/12 to 6/13. The regulator said that the debentures were very risky and only suitable for investors that could afford to lose all of their investments. The 12 customers involved in this matter were not that type of investor. A lot of the investments were placed in IRAs.
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The state of Virginia is suing 13 of the biggest banks in the U.S. for $1.15 billion. The state’s Attorney General Mark R. Herring claims that they misled the Virginia Retirement System about the quality of bonds in residential mortgages. The retirement fund bought the mortgage bonds between 2004 and 2010.

The defendants include Citigroup (C), JPMorgan Chase (JPM), Credit Suisse AG (CS), Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), Morgan Stanley (MS), Deutsche Bank (DB), RBS Securities (RBS), HSBC Holdings Inc. (HSBC), Barclays Group (BARC), Countrywide Securities, Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., and WAMU Capital (WAMUQ). According to Herring, nearly 40% of the 785,000 mortgages backing the 220 securities that the retirement fund bought were misrepresented as at lower risk of default than they actually were. When the Virginia Retirement System ended up having to sell the securities, it lost $383 million.

The mortgage bond fraud claims are based on allegations from Integra REC, which is a financial modeling firm and the identified whistleblower in this fraud case. Herring’s office wants each bank to pay $5,000 or greater per violation. As a whistleblower, Integra could get 15-25% of any recovery for its whistleblower claims.

Morgan Keegan & Co. has agreed to pay the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority $60,000 over allegations that its Small Business Administration Desk bought small business loans guaranteed by the gov’t from regional banks in this country and then pooled together the loans with qualities that were similar, securitizing them into SBA pools and then selling them to institutional clients.

When the demand for these pools started to go down, the inventory at the Desk went up a lot and stayed over Morgan Keegan’s allowable levels so that they seemed lower than what was actual and therefore in compliance with what was allowed. As a result, the head trader went into fake pool trades totaling about $82 million.

Per FINRA’s findings, because of the fake trades, Morgan Keegan thought its SBA loan levels went down down by $75 million. Also, aside from allegedly making the false trades happen, the trader moved forward the dates of settlement on a repeated basis, continuing to move the date ahead whenever a settlement date was approaching. This gave him more time so he could sell the SBA pools, leading to the generation of correct and cancel tickets for trades that went on for several months. The head trader later admitted his wrongdoing and Morgan Keegan fired him.

The SRO found that Morgan Keegan’s supervisory system and written supervisory procedures (WSP) for government loans were not adequate enough that they were able to prevent the fictitious trading that the head trader engaged in. FINRA also said that the firm lacked a way to monitor SBA loans that were more than four months old, as well as aged SMA pools, nor did it have a system for comparing and confirming ex-clearing transactions or one to assess transactions that were modified or cancelled to determine if they were reasonable.

FINRA says that Morgan Keegan did not properly address the SBA Desk inventory positions’ marking because the firm’s WSPs mandated that SBA pools get marked monthly, rather than daily. The WSPs did not properly prevent the head trader from approving his own transactions without a supervisor overseeing his actions.

Even as it submitted its Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent to FINRA, accepting the fine and ensure and consenting to the sanctions described, Morgan Keegan did not deny or admit to any wrongdoing.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority

More Blog Posts:
Previous Dissent by Arbitrator is Not Reason to Vacate Award Morgan Keegan Was Ordered to Pay Investors, Says District Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 8, 2013

Court Upholds Ex-NBA Star Horace Grant’s $1.46M FINRA Arbitration Award from Morgan Keegan & Co. Over Mortgage-Backed Bond Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 30, 2012

Morgan Keegan Must Buy Back Auction-Rate Securities and Pay $110,500, Says District Judge, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 12, 2013

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The U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida is holding that an arbitration award granted to investors cannot be vacated under the Federal Arbitration Act just because an arbitrator exhibited obvious partiality when failing to reveal that he wrote a dissent in an unrelated arbitration that allegedly showed he had prejudged issues of law. The securities case is Antietam Industries Inc. v. Morgan Keegan & Co.

Petitioners Antietam Industries Inc., Janice Warfel, and William Warfel contend they sustained financial losses over their RMK fund investments. In 2011, they filed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration case claiming that their money was lost because Morgan Keegan had made misrepresentations while failing to disclose how risky the funds were.

Last year, the panel awarded the petitioners $100,000 in compensatory damages and $100,000 in punitive damages, plus fees and interest, for negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and other claims. When they sought to confirm the award, Morgan Keegan submitted a motion to vacate, pointing to FAA and contending that arbitrator Christopher Mass allegedly showed partiality and “misbehavior” with his failure to disclose his previous dissent. The court, however, rejected Morgan Keegan’s argument, saying it was not convinced that Mass was predisposed or had prejudged.

A US District judge is ordering Morgan Keegan & Co. to repurchase auction-rate securities and make a payment of $110,500 in an ARS lawsuit filed by the SEC that accuses the financial firm of misleading investors about these investments’ risks. The SEC contends that the $2.2B in securities that the firm sold left clients with frozen funds when the market failed in 2008.

Even after the financial firm started buying back ARS—it has since repurchased $2B in ARS of its own accord—the SEC decided to proceed with its securities case. The Commission contends that even as the ARS market failed, Morgan Keegan told clients that the securities being sold came with “zero risk” and were short-term investments that were liquid.

Now, Judge William Duffey Jr. has found that although Morgan Keegan’s brokers did not act fraudulently, some of them acted negligently when they left out key information and made misrepresentations when selling the securities. This including not apprising investors about the risk of failure, liquidity loss, or that interest rates might vary.

Duffey is the same judge who dismissed this very case in 2011. However, last May, the US Court of Appeals in Atlanta overturned his decision after determining that he wrongly found that verbal comments made to certain customers were not material because of disclosures that could be found on the financial firm’s web site.

Morgan Keegan Trial Judge to Decide SEC Case He Dismissed, Bloomberg.com, November 26, 2012

More Blog Posts:
Morgan Keegan Founder Faces SEC Charges Over Mortgage-Backed Securities Asset Pricing in Mutual Funds, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 17, 2012

Judge that Dismissed Regulators’ Claims Against Morgan Keegan to Rule on ARS Lawsuit Again After His Ruling Was Reversed on Appeal, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 27, 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

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against Morgan Keegan founder Allen Morgan Jr. and several other former mutual fund board members for allegedly failing to supervise the managers accused of inaccurately pricing toxic mortgage-backed assets prior to the financial crisis. According to Reuters, this is a rare attempt by the regulator to hold a mutual fund’s board accountable for manager wrongdoing and it is significant. (Fund manager James Kelsoe hasconsented to pay a $500,000 penalty related to this matter and he is barred from the securities industry in perpetuity. Comptroller Joseph Thompson Weller consented to pay a $50,000 penalty.)

Last year, Morgan Keegan and Morgan Asset Management consented to pay $200 million to settle SEC subprime mortgage-backed securities fraud charges accusing them of causing the false valuations of the securities in five funds and failing to use reasonable pricing methods. (This allegedly led to “net asset values” being calculated for the funds.) The inaccurate daily NAVS would then be published and investors would buy shares at inflated prices. The funds’ value eventually declined significantly.

According to the Commission, the eight ex-board members violated laws mandating that fund directors help decide what a security’s fair value is when market quotations don’t exist. Instead of trying to figure out how fair valuation determinations work, the directors allegedly gave this task to a valuation committee but without providing “meaningful substantive guidance.”

Allen Morgan Jr., who is a Morgan Keegan cofounder, was CEO and Chairman until 2003.The seven other board members facing SEC charges include Kenneth Alderman, Mary S. Stone, W. Randall Pittman, Albert C. Johnson, James Stillman R. McFadden, Jack R. Blair, and Archie W. Willis III.

Already, Morgan Keegan is contending with over 1,000 arbitration lawsuits involving its bond funds that had invested in high risk MBS but were marketed as safe. When the subprime market collapsed, the funds lost up to 80% of their value.

Recently, Morgan Keegan and over 10,000 investors in a closed-end fund reached a $62 class million settlement. Lion Fund LP, the lead plaintiff and a Texas hedge fund, claimed that it had made a $2.1 million investment.

Morgan Keegan is owned by Raymond James (RJF), which bought the firm from Regions Financial Corporation. Other securities lawsuits still pending against it also involve conventional and open-ended funds.

Unfortunately, too many people and entities sustained huge losses because the risks of a number of types of securities leading up to the global crisis and the housing bubble’s implosion were downplayed by financial firms and their representatives. At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantars, our subprime mortgage-backed securities lawyers represent investors throughout the US. Contact our securities law firm today.

SEC Charges Eight Mutual Fund Directors for Failure to Properly Oversee Asset Valuation, SEC, December 10, 2012

SEC Order
(PDF)

More Blog Posts:
Judge that Dismissed Regulators’ Claims Against Morgan Keegan to Rule on ARS Lawsuit Again After His Ruling Was Reversed on Appeal, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 27, 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

Morgan Keegan Ordered by FINRA to Pay RMK Fund Investors $881,000, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 24, 2011

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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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