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Articles Posted in Bonds

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Investment fraud lawyers are investigating potential claims on behalf of investors who suffered losses as a result of municipal bond purchases. Two of the bonds currently being investigated are the TW Tax Advantage Fund and Harrisburg.

Investors Who Suffered Municipal Bond Losses May Have Valid Securities Arbitration Claim

The TW Tax Advantage Fund, created by First Republic Investment Management, is a complicated, high-risk municipal arbitrage bond. Investment fraud lawyers are attempting to determine whether the necessary due diligence was performed by brokerage firms prior to the offering the investment for sale to their clients. Furthermore, broker-dealers may not have properly disclosed the features and risks of this complicated product. Shortly after the fund’s creation, it collapsed. As a result, investors of the fund suffered significant losses.

Securities arbitration lawyers are also investigating Harrisburg municipal bond. The general-obligation bond payments were missed for the first time by Harrisburg’s insolvent capital. Furthermore, its receiver is seeking approval for an asset sales plan. Reportedly, Harrisburg’s debt load is five times more than its general-fund budget and it missed bond payments amounting to $5.27 million. The bond payments were due on March 15. These payments were for bonds issued in 1997, amounting to $51.5 million.

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David Lerner Associates was recently ordered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to pay more than $3.7 million in restitution and fines. The decision is a result of David Lerner’s practices in overcharging retail customers on sales of 1,700 collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and over 1,500 municipal bonds transactions. The municipal bonds and CDOs were rated investment-grade or above. Securities fraud attorneys are currently consulting with customers of David Lerner.

FINRA Fines David Lerner Associates

From January 2005 through January 2007, David Lerner charged excessive markups which resulted in “unfairly high prices” and lower yields being incurred by customers, according to a release issued by FINRA. The FINRA panel stated that David Lerner’s trades “reflected a pattern of intentional excessive markups” for investments that could be obtained at “significantly lower prices.” These types of sales practices have gotten the attention of stock fraud lawyers, whose job it is to help investors who have been wronged by their broker or firm.

These unfair pricing practices apparently continued despite a letter of caution on the topic that followed a 2004 exam and Wells notices on the issue, which were received by David Lerner Associates in July 2009. This, combined with the fact that the firm “has not taken any corrective measures to improve their fixed income markups policies and practices” was taken into consideration by the panel when the sanctions were set.

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On March 19, 2012, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced its decision to fine Citi Financial Services LLC for charging excessive markups and markdowns and related supervisory violations. In addition to a $600,000 fine, FINRA ordered Citi Financial to pay $648,000 in restitution and interest to wronged customers. Over 3,600 customers were charged excessive markups and markdowns, according to FINRA. Securities fraud attorneys appreciate FINRA decisions such as this one, which hold firms responsible for the fees they charge their customers.

News: Citi International Fined by FINRA for Excessive Markups, Markdowns

According to FINRA’s findings, from July 2007 through September 2010, Citi International charged excessive markups and markdowns on corporate and agency bonds. These markups and markdowns, which were as low as 2.73 percent and as high as more than 10 percent, are considered excessive within the given market conditions, value of the services rendered and cost of transaction execution. Furthermore, from April to June 2009, reasonable diligence was not given to the purchase or sale of corporate bonds in order to present the most favorable price to customers. Citi International, a subsidiary of Citigroup Inc., neither confirmed nor denied the charges.

FINRA’s Executive Vice President of Market Regulation, Thomas Gira, stated, “FINRA is committed to ensuring that customers who purchase and sell securities, including corporate and agency bonds, receive fair prices. The markups and markdowns charged by Citi International were outside of appropriate standards for fair pricing in debt transactions, and FINRA will continue to identify and address transactions that violate fair pricing standards, regardless of whether a markup or markdown is above or below 5 percent.”

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Investment attorneys turn their eyes to Bank of America once again, only two months into the New Year. Bank of America Corp. has been subpoenaed by William Gavin, the Massachusetts securities regulator, over LCM VII Ltd. and Bryn Mawr CLO II Ltd., two related collateralized loan obligations. These two CLOs led to investor losses totaling $150 million. The subpoena will, hopefully, help authorities in determining if Bank of America knew it was overvaluing the assets of the portfolios. Both Bryn Mawr and LCM were sold in 2007, prior to the 2008 merger between Bank of America Securities and Merrill Lynch.

News: Bank of America Faces More Allegations In 2012

Bank of America held commercial loans from small banks amounting to around $400 million in 2006. In 2007, securities packages were put together from these loans and then sold to investors. The subpoena arrives only one day after Bank of America, JP Morgan Chase & Co., Wells Fargo & Co., Citigroup Inc. and Ally Financial Inc. settled allegations of engaging in abusive mortgage practices. These abusive practices included engaging in deceptive practices in the offering of loan modifications, a failure to offer other options before closing on borrowers with federally insured mortgages, submitting improper documents to the bankruptcy court and robo-signing foreclosure documents without proper review of the paperwork.

The settlement amounted to $25 billion and involved federal agencies plus authorities in 49 states. This settlement is designed to give $2,000 to around 750 borrowers whose homes were foreclosed upon after the home values dropped 33 percent from their 2006 worth, and to provide mortgage relief. In addition, all five banks will pay $766.5 million in penalties to the Federal Reserve. This is considered to be the biggest federal-state settlement ever. Bank of America will also pay $1 billion to settle allegations that it, together with its Countrywide Financial unit, engaged in fraudulent and wrongful conduct.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has introduced a proposal in which bets made by securitization participants and underwriters against ABS, or asset-backed securities, that cause a conflict of interest will be barred. The hope is that this bar will prevent possible harm to investors that are caused by these conflicts of interest.

SEC Proposes Revision of Rule that will Reduce ABS Conflicts

According to Investopedia, an asset-backed security is “a financial security backed by a loan, lease or receivables against assets other than real estate and mortgage-backed securities. For investors, asset-backed securities are an alternate to investing in corporate debt.” While an alternate to corporate debt investment can be appealing to investors, asset-backed securities are not without their risks.

On September 19, a 4-0 vote by SEC commissioners passed the decision to seek comment on a Dodd-Frank Act-required rule. The clarification of this rule would “restrict those who package or sponsor asset-backed securities from engaging in deals that put their interests in conflict with buyers for a year after the first closing of a sale,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

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