Articles Posted in Charles Schwab

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  Reportedly, 15 brokerage firms have been subpoenaed by the Commonwealth of  Massachusetts as part of an  investigation into sales of alternative investments to senior citizens.

15 Brokerage Firms Subpoenaed Over Alternative Investment Sales

The following firms have reportedly been subpoenaed: Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS Securities LLC, Charles Schwab & Co. Inc., Fidelity Brokerage Services LLC, Wells Fargo Advisors, ING Financial Partners Inc., TD Ameritrade Inc., LPL Financial LLC, MML Investor Services LLC, Commonwealth Financial Network, Investors Capital Corp., WFG Investments Inc. and Signator Investors Inc.

According to securities arbitration lawyers, the state sent subpoenas to the firms on July 10, 2013, requesting information regarding the sale of certain products to Massachusetts residents 65 or older over the last year. Nontraditional investments include private placements, hedge funds, oil and gas partnerships, tenant-in-common offerings, and structured products.

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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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On February 1, 2012, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it had filed a complaint against Charles Schwab & Company. FINRA charged the firm with violating FINRA rules when it required the waiving of rights of customers to bring class actions against the firm. It is the belief of many investment attorneys, investors and others in the securities industry that investors should retain the right to file class actions against the firm in the event that broker misconduct occurs.

Charles Schwab Charged with Violating FINRA Rules in Customer Agreements

According to the complaint issued by FINRA, Charles Schwab is charged with amending its customer agreement in October 2011 to include a provision that required customers to waive their rights that allowed them to bring or participate in class actions against the firm. The amended agreements were sent to nearly 7 million customers.

Furthermore, the agreement included a provision that required customers to agree that, in arbitration proceedings, arbitrators would not be able to consolidate the claims of multiple parties. According to FINRA, both provisions are in violation of FINRA rules of language or conditions that may be placed in customer agreements by firms.

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