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Articles Posted in Securities Arbitration

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).

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.

Does the conventional wisdom regarding asset allocation hold up in today’s economy? The New York Times recently featured an article suggesting that a portfolio teeming with risky stocks, derivatives, and other exotic investments may, in fact, not be suitable for even young investors. The Times points out that these young investors experience higher rates of unemployment and are more likely to cash out their 401(k)’s and other investments when they switch jobs. An appropriate suitability analysis under FINRA Rule 2111 would take these factors into account. It is highly likely that many brokers are still using a one-size-fits-all asset allocation formula for their young customers.

Investors may have a variety of claims against such brokers who fail to take into account current market conditions, including unsuitable investment advice, fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions, and failure to supervise.

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.

Below is a WSJ article about our firm’s $20.6 million FINRA arbitration award against Goldman Sachs related to the Bayou hedge fund fraud. It is the largest arbitration award ever rendered against Goldman. The award was confirmed by Judge Rakoff of the SDNY in November 2010 and Goldman filed it’s brief to the Second Circuit this week.

Goldman Continues to Fight $20.5 Million Award in Pivotal Case By LIZ MOYER

NEW YORK-Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is continuing to fight a $20.5 million arbitration award that, while relatively small from the big bank’s perspective, has broader implications for Wall Street.

A Florida FINRA panel awarded $6.4 million to an investor in Citi’s MAT municipal bond arbitrage fund this week. It’s the largest award rendered against Citi related to its MAT and Falcon proprietary fund blow-ups. The case is Berghorse v. Smith Barney (FINRA 08-04466). Although damages claimed on the award were $12 million, sources say the net out of pocket losses were under $10 million, making the award amount over 64% of the losses. The 29 hearing sessions also make it the longest MAT arbitration to date. This substantial award follows a string of 100% NOP awards rendered against Smith Barney late last year. Below is an On Wall Street piece about the case.

FINRA: Citi To Pay Investors $6.4M By Lorie Konish February 9, 2011

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has ordered two parts of Citigroup Inc. to pay $6.4 million to make up for investment losses tied to a group of troubled municipal arbitrage trust funds.

Rich & Intelisano recently won a FINRA arbitration award which included $100,000 in punitive damages. The case is Stora, et al. v. Strasbourger, Pearson et al. (FINRA 09-01769). We represented a group of investors who were defrauded by a broker dealer and its registered representatives. Matthew Woodruff of our office tried the matter which included five hearing sessions. The panel awarded the claimants $373,968 in compensatory damages, plus interest. The award is significant because pursuant to the Mastrobuono Supreme Court decision, the panel awarded claimants $100,000 in punitive damages, a rarity in securities arbitrations.

Below is a New York Times piece about the Firm’s $20.6 million arbitration award against Goldman Sachs being upheld by Judge Rakoff in a sternly written opinion.

DealBook – A Financial News Service of The New York Times November 30, 2010, 6:16 pm Goldman’s $20 Million Consequence By SUSANNE CRAIG

Goldman Sachs made its bed. Now Judge Jed S. Rakoff says the Wall Street firm has got to lie in it.

New York Super Lawyers, a publication of The New York Times Magazine, has named Ross B. Intelisano as one of New York’s top Securities Litigation attorneys in their 2010 publication. The list of Super Lawyers recognizes lawyers from more than 70 practice areas who have attained a high degree of peer recognition and professional achievement in their respective fields. Super Lawyers’ selection process is a vigorous multi-phase rating process based on peer nominations and evaluations, combined with third-party research. Their selection process has been recognized by bar associations and courts across the country.

Ross Intelisano is the only attorney on the 2010 New York Super Lawyers top Securities Litigation list who primarily represents institutional and individual investors in securities arbitration.

Today, the SEC charged Morgan Keegan & Company, Morgan Asset Management and two employees with fraudulently overstating the value of securities backed by subprime mortgages. These are the first federal government allegations related to the Regions Morgan Keegan bond funds which lost significant value in 2008. The serious charges come on the heels of a string of recent FINRA arbitration multi-million dollar awards against Morgan Keegan related to the funds.

Morgan Keegan is the subject of numerous arbitration cases relating to over $2 billion of losses in RMK proprietary bond mutual funds managed by James Kelsoe and decimated due to allegedly risky investments. Kelsoe was charged by the SEC. Many law firms around the U.S., including our firm, have been retained by investors who lost money in the Regions Morgan Keegan funds.

It will be interesting to see how the SEC allegations effect the firms’ litigation strategy of trying most of the arbitration claims to award. Here is the text of the SEC release.
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