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Articles Posted in Bonds

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Investment fraud lawyers are currently investigating claims on behalf of investors who suffered significant losses in U.S. mutual funds that contained Puerto Rico bonds. Massachusetts securities regulators are currently investigating these investments and claim that many investors may have been unaware of the exposure to the Puerto Rico fiscal crisis.


According to securities arbitration lawyers, many state-specific municipal bond funds contained Puerto Rico debt and, as a result, other investigations may ensue. According to Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin, the investigation includes three large fund managers: OppenheimerFunds (a unit of MassMutual Life Insurance Co.), UBS Financial Services and Fidelity Investments. The investigation is regarding how these managers sold and disclosed the risk of mutual funds containing heavy concentrations of the Puerto Rico bonds.

“Puerto Rico is currently on the verge of insolvency and many of its obligations are at or near junk rating, thus the risks associated with its municipal debt obligation are disproportionately high,” Galvin notes.

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Securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of customers of Morgan Stanley and other full-service brokerage firms regarding the sales of bonds and other securities. In some cases, full service brokerage firms may have failed to provide fair and reasonable prices or best execution in some customer transactions involving municipal bonds, corporate bonds, agency bonds or other securities.

According to a FINRA news release, on August 22, 2013, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority fined Morgan Stanley & Co. LLC and Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC for failure to provide reasonable prices in certain municipal bond customer transactions and failure to provide best execution in certain corporate and agency bond customer transactions. The firms were fined $1 million and ordered to pay restitution and interest in the amount of $188,000, above and beyond what Morgan Stanley has already paid. Stock fraud lawyers say Morgan Stanley did not admit or deny the FINRA charges.

Reportedly, the violations affected 116 corporate and agency bond customer transactions and 165 municipal bond customer transactions.

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On December 17, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel reportedly sided with an investor against Morgan Keegan & Co. Inc. Stock fraud lawyers say the FINRA arbitration panel awarded the investor $1.38 million in settling his complaint related to Morgan Keen proprietary bond funds called the Intermediate Fund. Of the award, $851,000 was for compensatory damages and $400,000 was for other compensation and legal fees.                                                                                     

Investor Recovers $1.38 Million from Morgan Keegan

The claim, which originally requested $4.3 million in relief, was filed in 2010 by Lawrence B. Dale, an investor in the Intermediate Fund. The award stated that Morgan Keegan allegedly “represented to the claimants that the (bond fund) was a safe and conservative investment.” Further allegations by Dale were that the Intermediate Fund “did not match Morgan Keegan’s misrepresentations, failed to disclose material information, misrepresented values, and invested in structured finance and asset-backed securities” that were unsuitable for Dale. The firm also allegedly failed to adequately supervise its employees, according to Dale.

Securities arbitration lawyers say that Morgan Keegan and Regions Financial have been facing many problems because of the Intermediate Fund and its blowup during the financial crisis. This fund was one of a group that saw a significant decline in net asset value in 2007 and 2008, reportedly between 60 and 80 percent. Furthermore, the firm was later charged by regulators with overstating the value of the funds’ mortgage-backed securities. The firm agreed to pay a fine to regulators amounting to $200 million in 2011. In addition, a civil complaint was filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission against the funds’ former board members in December. According to this complaint, the board members allegedly failed to properly oversee the managers of the fund.

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Securities fraud attorneys scored a win for investors in FINRA arbitration against a unit of Citigroup Inc. in a FINRA ruling on September 5. The arbitration panel ordered Citigroup to pay investors losses amounting to $1.4 million. These losses were associated with a municipal bond steeped in derivative securities that were very risky — yet the bond was, allegedly, marketed as “safe” to the investor.

News: Arbitration Panel Rules in Favor of Investor, Citigroup to pay $1.4 Million

New York City investor Margaret Hill filed the case in 2011 and requested over $3.5 million in damages. Her losses were a result of Citi’s Rochester Municipal Fund. Investment fraud lawyers say Hill’s case alleged that she was sold unsuitable investments by Citigroup Global Markets Inc. which, in addition, misrepresented facts.

According to the allegations against Citigroup, Hill bought the Rochester Fund as an alternative to her individual municipal bond funds because Citigroup said it would pay more interest and would be a “safe” alternative to her funds at that time. However, the Rochester Fund reportedly consisted primarily of tobacco bonds and risky derivative securities. After purchasing the bond in 2007, Hill sold the funds in 2009, suffering losses amounting to $2.9 million.

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Securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of former clients of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services LLC, MML Investors Services LLC, Wealth By Design Inc. and Clinton D. Fraley. In August, an emergency law enforcement action was filed by the Colorado Securities Commissioner to enjoin Wealth by Design and Clinton Fraley from violating the Colorado Securities Act. According to the allegations, Fraley violated the Colorado Securities Act by accessing investors’ mutual fund accounts without authorization, converting their securities into cash illegally and forging checks in order to access funds for personal use.

Victims of Clinton D. Fraley Could Recover Losses

“Fraley, who was a licensed securities professional employed with licensed broker-dealers until he was terminated in 2011, solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colorado investors, promising the investors that their money would be invested in ‘a well-balanced portfolio of investments’ consisting of Roth IRAs, traditional investments such as stocks and bonds, mutual funds and non-qualified investments,” says the statement from Colorado enforcement officials. However, “Fraley gained unauthorized access to the investors’ accounts, forged the investors’ signatures on checks, deposited the money in a Wealth bank account and converted the money for his own personal benefit, including the purchase of a house.”

Stock fraud lawyers say Fraley was registered from March 2007 to May 2011 with Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, a FINRA-registered broker-dealer. Fraley was registered with another FINRA-registered broker-dealer, MML Investors Services, from May 2011 to October 2011. All FINRA-registered broker dealers are, according to securities fraud attorneys, required to properly supervise the activities of their brokers during the time in which they are registered with the firm. As a result, these firms may be held liable for failing to adequately supervise Fraley.

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As a significant number of gas prepayment bonds ratings have been downgraded by Moody’s Investors Service, stock fraud lawyers are advising investors to be cautious regarding their investments in these bonds. As a result of downgrades in Goldman Sachs Group Inc., Citigroup Inc., JPMorgan Chase & Co., Credit Agricole Corporate & Investment Bank, Merrill Lynch & Co., BNP Paribas, Morgan Stanley, Royal Bank of Canada and Societe Generale, numerous bonds became subject to review and subsequent downgrades.

Investors Beware as Gas Prepayment Bonds Downgraded by Moody

Securities arbitration lawyers say this situation is similar in some ways to what happened when, after Lehman declared bankruptcy, Series 2008A of Main Street Natural Gas Inc. Gas Project Revenue Bonds were downgraded. In the case of the Lehman bonds, the bonds were not guaranteed by Lehman Brothers, though certain payment obligations of the gas supplier were guaranteed.

The following is a list of gas prepayment bonds that have been affected by downgrades:

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Following settlements with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), stock fraud lawyers say Charles Schwab and Fidelity investors could recover losses through securities arbitration. Fidelity reportedly has agreed to pay a $375,000 fine in a settlement with FINRA over allegations that the firm committed sales violations from December 2006 through December 2008 involving the Fidelity Ultra Short Bond Fund.

According to FINRA’s allegations, Fidelity Investments Institutional Services Co. Inc. and Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, two Fidelity broker-dealers, failed to provide adequate supervisory procedures and produced misleading advertising and sales materials for the fund. Apparently when the subprime crisis unfolded, the fund began losing value in June 2007, but the sales materials for Fidelity continued to purport fixed-income securities of “high credit quality” being held by the fund. The fund’s net asset value fell to $8.25 per share by April 2008, from $10 per share before June 2007, according to investment fraud lawyers.

In a separate ruling in May, a settlement was approved by a federal court in a class action filed against Fidelity units in 2008. In that settlement, Fidelity paid $7.5 million to investors of the bond fund. The Charles Schwab Corp. settled a similar case last year in which they paid almost $119 million over its YieldPlus bond fund. A separate class action claim saw Schwab pay another $235 million to investors in 2010. However, stock fraud lawyers believe that not all investors were compensated.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announcement dated June 4, 2012, stated that a hearing panel ruled in favor of claimants against Brookstone Securities of Lakeland, Florida, along with one of its brokers, Christopher Kline, and its owner and CEO, Antony Tuberville. Brookstone, Kline and Tuberville apparently made fraudulent sales of CMOs, or collateralized mortgage obligations, to elderly, retired and unsophisticated investors. Brookstone was fined $1 million in addition to an order of restitution payment of more than $1.6 million to customers. Of that amount, $1,179,500 was imposed jointly with Kline and the remaining $440,600 was imposed jointly with Tuberville. Securities arbitration lawyers say Kline and Tuberville were also barred by the panel from working again in the securities industry. In addition, David Locy, former chief compliance officer of Brookstone, was barred from acting in any principal or supervisory capacity. Locy was also fined $25,000 and was barred for two years from acting in any capacity.

Retired, Unsophisticated Investors Targeted Again: Brookstone Found Responsible

According to the panel’s findings, from July 2005 through July 2007, Kline and Tuberville made intentional fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions regarding the risks associated with CMOs. The affected customers were all retired investors seeking an alternative to equity investments that was safer. Despite the fact that the negative effects that increasing interest rates were having on the CMOs by 2005 were evident to Kline and Tuberville, they failed to explain these conditions to their customers. The clients were instead led to believe that the CMOs were “government-guaranteed bonds” that would generate 10 to 15 percent returns and preserve capital.

For a long time, investment fraud lawyers have been warning investors that retired and elderly investors are often the targets for investment fraud, and this was certainly the case here. Of the seven customers named in the original complaint, all were retired, elderly and/or unsophisticated investors. Furthermore, two were elderly widows who were convinced to put their retirement savings in the risky CMOs and then told that because they were “government-guaranteed bonds,” their money could not be lost. However, in total, the seven investors lost $1,620,100 while Brookstone racked up $492,500 in commissions.

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Investment fraud lawyers are investigating claims on behalf of A & O Resource Management investors. A & O Resource Management and other affiliated companies, such as A & O Life Settlements, were used in a fraud scheme that resulted in lengthy prison sentences for two of the principals involved in the fraud. Many investors suffered significant losses as a result of the scheme. Some losses have already been recovered for defrauded investors, but there are still many victims that could recover losses through securities arbitration.

A & O Fraud Scheme Targets Retired Individuals, Investors Could Recover Losses

According to securities arbitration lawyers, A & O marketed bonds that were sold as fixed-maturity investments. Furthermore, investors who purchased the bonds were guaranteed annual returns at a minimum of 10 or 12 percent. The scheme claimed the investments were safe and had been designed to grow retirement assets. However, the targets of the fraud, retired and older individuals, were not made aware of the risks associated with the bonds.

While direct claims against A & O cannot be made easily because the company is currently in receivership, investors who purchased the products through a broker may be able to hold that broker responsible if he or she did not adequately explain the investment’s risks. According to investment fraud lawyers, prior to recommending an investment to a client, brokers and firms are required to perform the necessary due diligence to establish whether or not the investment is suitable for the client given their age, investment objectives and risk tolerance. This investment was clearly unsuitable for many of the investors who received the recommendation to purchase the bond.

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RMC Medstone Capital promissory note investors who suffered significant losses may have a valid securities arbitration claim, according to investment fraud lawyers. Investors of RMC Medstone Capital apparently received a Notice of Default in September 2011. The Notice of Default informed investors that their RMC Medstone Capital investment is now worthless.

RMC Medstone Capital Promissory Note Investors Could Recover Losses

According to securities arbitration lawyers, approximately $18 million in promissory notes were issued by RMC Medstone Capital and owners of these promissory notes should be seeking recovery of their losses. Prior to recommending an investment to a client, brokers and firms are required to perform the necessary due diligence to establish whether the investment is suitable for the client given their age, investment objectives and risk tolerance. Brokerage firms and broker-dealers offering the RMC Medstone Capital promissory notes will most likely be unable to demonstrate that the necessary due diligence was performed, based on what attorneys know about the investment.

Specifically, investment fraud lawyers are investigating recovery options for investors who suffered losses in RMC Medstone Capital V and VI promissory notes. Both of these notes were apparently sold under the Regulation D private offerings exemption. This exemption applies to certain private offerings and exempts the investment from normal SEC filing requirements.

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