Articles Posted in Financial Firms

Deutsche Bank has agreed to pay a fine of $55 million to settle charges by the SEC that it filed misstated financial reports during the height of the global financial crisis relating to a multibillion dollar portfolio of derivatives.

The SEC’s multi-year investigation culminated in an Order Instituting a Settled Administrative Proceeding, available on the SEC’s website. According to investigators, the bank overvalued a portfolio of derivatives consisting of Leveraged Super Senior (“LSS”) trades, through which it purchased protection against credit default losses. This leverage created a “gap risk”, which the bank initially took into account in its financial statements, by adjusting down the value of the LSS positions. However, according to the SEC’s Order, when the credit markets started to deteriorate in 2008, Deutsche Bank steadily altered its methodologies for measuring the gap risk. Each change in methodology reduced the value assigned to the gap risk until Deutsche Bank eventually stopped adjusting for gap risk altogether. In other words, the bank slowly tweaked its formula over the months so that the risk didn’t show in its financial reports.

Therefore, “at the height of the financial crisis, Deutsche Bank’s financial statements did not reflect the significant risk in these large, complex illiquid positions”, according to Andrew J. Ceresney, Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement.

Merrill Lynch was fined almost $20 million by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in London for incorrectly reporting more than 35 million transactions from 2007 to 2014. Merrill Lynch didn’t report, at all, another 120,000 transactions. It’s the largest fine ever levied by the FCA for reporting failures. While this may not seem like a big deal to the investing public, it is. The proper reporting of transactions is a hallmark of the securities industry. Without it, during tumultuous times, investors will not have a perfect view of the trades that occurred in their portfolios. Indeed, for some of the transactions, Merrill didn’t identify the counterparties on trades. This is problematic for over the counter derivative investors because investors couldn’t ascertain counterparty risk on their trades and if the trades went bad, it would be impossible for the investor to know how to potentially resolve the issue. What’s worse is that the FCA had warned Merrill in 2002 and fined Merrill in 2006 for the same types of infractions. In today’s fragmented, digital marketplace, proper reporting is absolutely necessary. Let’s hope the record fine is a wake up to call Merrill and others.

Here is a New York Times piece on it.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/04/23/business/dealbook/british-regulator-fines-merrill-lynch-19-8-million-for-reporting-failures.html?smprod=nytcore-ipad&smid=nytcore-ipad-share&_r=0

Reuters reports that Morgan Stanley’s annual 10-K, filed March 2, 2015, indicates that the New York Attorney General intends to file a lawsuit related to 30 subprime securitizations sponsored by the company. This follows lawsuits and similar allegations by attorneys general in California, Virginia and Illinois. The New York Attorney General indicated that the lawsuit would allege that Morgan Stanley misrepresented or omitted material information related to the due diligence, underwriting and valuation of loans and properties. In the 10-K, Morgan Stanley stated that it does not agree with the allegations.

Morgan Stanley also reached a $2.6 billion agreement in principle last month with the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California to resolve claims related to what it called “residential mortgage matters.”

It remains to be seen whether investors will reap any of the benefits of these government actions seeking to mend the damage done by the subprime mortgage crisis and the proliferation of mortgage-backed securities (MBS), residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS), and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).

A Miami-based FINRA arbitration panel has ruled that two former financial advisers of Barclays do not have to repay a total of over $3.8 million allegedly owed by them pursuant to promissory notes executed in connection with signing bonuses, despite the fact that they left the firm.

According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal http://www.wsj.com/articles/two-ex-barclays-advisers-can-keep-big-bonuses-1424700638, the brokers, Ileana Delahoz Platt and Rafael Enrique Urquidi, joined Barclays in 2012 and received signing bonuses in the form of “forgivable loans”, which is a customary practice in the industry. These loans, evidenced by promissory notes, are typically forgiven over time provided the employee remains employed with the firm. However, shortly after Ms. Platt and Mr. Urquidi went to work at Barclays, the bank eliminated its business in the market where their clients were located, and, according to their attorney, the advisers could no longer service many of their clients, obliging them to leave the firm to seek out other employment.

In the FINRA arbitration proceeding, Ms. Platt and Mr. Urquidi sought compensatory and other damages, as well as a declaratory judgment that any amounts due under their loan agreements would be offset and that they would owe nothing under the promissory notes. Barclays, in a counterclaim, requested compensatory damages against the two advisers in the amounts it claimed were due and owing on the promissory notes at the time they left the firm.

This week, the New Jersey Supreme Court denied the appeal of an arbitration award against Merrill Lynch by the Associated Humane Societies Inc. of Tinton Falls, N.J. In the original FINRA arbitration, the society alleged that certain of its investments were improper, it improperly sustained penalties and other charges when the investments were liquidated, its accounts were improperly managed and churned, and it was overcharged for management of its accounts. The society sought $10 million in punitive damages, $872,171 in compensatory damages and $544,299 in attorneys’ fees. After an 18-day hearing, the FINRA panel found in favor of the society, but awarded it only $168,103 in compensatory damages and $126,077 in punitives.

The society appealed. A 3-judge appellate division panel upheld the award in October, finding that the FINRA panel did not abuse its discretion. Associated Humane Societies, Inc. v. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., No. L-4376-13 (Oct. 29, 2014). The New Jersey Supreme Court denied any further appeal on Feb. 17, 2015.

Though the society was ultimately disappointed with the size of the award, the decision shows the reluctance of courts to disturb FINRA arbitration awards.

Puerto Rico bond funds have been suffering massive losses recently and regulators have already taken action. According to the SEC, UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico Inc. (“UBS”) misled thousands of its retail investors in 23 of its closed-end mutual funds. While UBS has already spent more than $26 million to settle the SEC’s charges, investors are now starting to pursue their own actions against the institution to recover potentially millions in losses.

Starting in 2008, UBS began soliciting investors in its Puerto Rico bond funds by promoting the funds’ market performance and high premiums to net asset value as the result of supply and demand in a competitive and liquid secondary market. However, UBS knew about a significant “supply and demand imbalance” and internally discussed the “weak secondary market.” UBS misled investors, failing to disclose that it controlled the secondary market. In 2009, UBS withdrew its market support and sold its inventory to unsuspecting customers. At the same time, it failed to disclose that it was drastically reducing its inventory, and undercut customer orders so that UBS’s inventory could be liquidated first.

Investors may have a host of claims against UBS including fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions, unsuitable investment advice, and failure to supervise.

Below is a piece by Bloomberg on our firm’s $383 million claim against Citigroup. There’s more on this case on the firm’s website at https://www.riklawfirm.com/

Citigroup’s Mathur Said to Depart With Hybrid Traders as Pandit Cuts Jobs By Donal Griffin – Dec 9, 2011

Citigroup Inc. (C), the third-biggest U.S. bank, is shrinking a team of traders who deal in “hybrid” products as Chief Executive Officer Vikram Pandit cuts Wall Street jobs, two people familiar with the matter said.

Below is an American Lawyer piece which explains our clients’ pending $383 million FINRA arbitration against Citigroup. It goes on to talk about how there are more and more large and complex cases at FINRA. It’s true. As partner John Rich points out at the end of the article, our firm is involved in other multi-million dollar matters at FINRA. In fact, we handled the Bayou v. Goldman FINRA arbitration case which generated a $20.6 million award, and is mentioned in the article. We think FINRA arbitration will continue to attract sophisticated legal disputes because it is more efficient and timely than court litigation.

Too Big for Their Britches?

Nate Raymond

Below is Bloomberg piece about our client’s $383 million FINRA arbitration claim against Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. related to hedge funds, private equity, and derivatives.

Bloomberg

Citigroup Saudi Deal Haunts Pandit By Donal Griffin – Nov 30, 2011

Below is a Bloomberg article about our firm’s $20.6 million FINRA arbitration award against Goldman Sachs related to Bayou. It’s the largest arbitration award ever rendered against Goldman. The award was confirmed by Judge Rakoff and Goldman filed it’s brief to the Second Circuit.

Goldman Sachs Asks Court to Throw Out $20.5 Million Bayou Creditors’ Award By Bob Van Voris – Oct 15, 2011

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) filed an appeal seeking to dismiss a $20.5 million arbitration award to creditors of the failed hedge fund firm Bayou Group LLC.