If you are reading this article, we are guessing you had a bad experience recently in either a securities-backed line of credit (“SBL”) or margin account that suffered margin calls and was liquidated without notice, causing you to realize losses. Ordinarily, investors with margin calls receive 3 to 5 days to meet them; and if that happened, the value of the securities in your account might have increased within that period and the firm might have erased the margin call and might not have liquidated your account. If you are an investor who has experienced margin calls in the past, and that is your only complaint then, read no further because when you signed the account agreement with the brokerage firm you chose to do business with, you probably gave it the right to liquidate all of the securities in your account at any time without notice. On the other hand, if you are an investor with little experience or one with a modest financial condition who was talked into opening a securities-backed line of credit account without being advised of the true nature, mechanics, and/or risks of opening such an account, then you should call us now! Alternatively, if you are an investor who needed to withdraw money for a house or to pay for your taxes or child’s education but was talked into holding a risky or concentrated portfolio of stocks and/or junk bonds in a pledged collateral account for a credit-line or a margin account, then we can probably help you recover your investment losses as well. The key to a successful recovery of your investment loss is not to focus on the brokerage firm’s liquidation of the securities in your account without notice. Instead, the focus on your case should be on what you were told and whether the recommendation was suitable for you before you opened the account and suffered the liquidation.
Finally, ten years after the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) was enacted to bring about sweeping changes to the securities industry, the best regulation the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) could pass, SEC Regulation Best Interest, is now the law governing broker-dealers giving investment advice to retail customers. Although the SEC had the authority to impose a uniform and expansive “Fiduciary Duty” standard throughout the country upon broker-dealers and investment advisors, it yielded to the stock brokerage industry demands and enacted Regulation Best Interest (“Reg. BI”), which is better than the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) “Suitability Rule,” but not the best that it could have been done to protect investors. Last month FINRA amended its Suitability Rule to conform with SEC Reg. BI and made it clear that stockbrokers now uniformly have duties related to disclosure, care, conflicts and compliance, which are equivalent to the common law “fiduciary duty” standard when making recommendations to retail customers. See, FINRA Regulatory Notice 20-18. 1
If you are reading this article, you are probably an investor who has lost a substantial amount of money, Googled “FINRA Arbitration Lawyer,” clicked on a number of attorney websites, and maybe even spoken with a so-called “Securities Arbitration Lawyer” who told you after a five minute telephone call that “you have a great case;” “you need to sign a retainer agreement on a ‘contingency fee’ basis;” and “you need to act now because the statute of limitations is going to run.”
Brokers and financial advisors oftentimes do not understand what their responsibilities and obligations are and what may result from a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) examination or investigation. Many brokers do not even know the role that FINRA plays within the industry. This may be due to the fact that FINRA, a self-regulatory organization, is not a government entity and cannot sentence financial professionals to jail time for violation of industry rules and regulations. Nevertheless, all broker-dealers doing business with members of the public must register with FINRA. As registered members, broker-dealers, and the brokers working for them, have agreed to abide by industry rules and regulations, which include FINRA rules.
In his September 9, 2010 article in The Bond Buyer entitled “Judgment Aids Investors in Citi Case,” author Dan Seymour describes a recent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration award of more than $1.8 million in favor of MAT/ASTA investors as “[a] grand-slam judgment [that] has emboldened the lawyers and investors seeking to recoup losses on $2 billion in municipal arbitrage funds run by Citigroup.” The amount of the award, while very substantial, is not the focus of the article. The reason why it is making news is the arbitration panel’s specific finding that Citigroup was guilty of negligent mismanagement of the MAT/ASTA funds, as well as negligent supervision of their employees. Citing J. Boyd Page, senior partner of Page Perry, LLC, Mr. Seymour noted that this was the first time that arbitrators explicitly found that Citigroup mismanaged the funds. The decision is pivotal because it opens the door to claims by earlier investors that might otherwise be barred by statutes of limitation. Mr. Page estimates that these claims represent $500 million to $700 million of the total $2 billion invested in the MAT/ASTA funds, according to the article. “It tells a lot of people that there are still very viable claims,” Mr. Page was quoted as saying. MAT/ASTA was a series of leveraged municipal arbitrage hedge funds offered by Citigroup Fixed Income Alternatives and sold through Smith Barney and Citigroup Private Bankers. MAT/ASTA was marketed only to high net worth clients of the firm as a fixed income alternative. In truth the MAT/ASTA funds were risky investments that exposed investors to a 100 percent or more loss of principal. The funds imploded in early 2008 causing catastrophic losses to investors. Citigroup told MAT/ASTA investors that it would adhere to a strategy of buying municipal bonds when the prices were low (i.e., when the yield spread of munis over Treasuries was high) and selling them when prices were high (i.e., when that spread ratio was low). Mr. Page and Robert Wayne Pearce, who represented the claimants in the arbitration that is the subject of Mr. Seymour’s article, uncovered evidence that Citigroup departed from these guidelines, buying when it should have been selling. As a result of those efforts, they are in a unique position to establish that Citigroup mismanaged the MAT/ASTA funds. A PRUDENT CASE APPROACH Mr. Pearce, a former SEC attorney with over 40 years experience, focuses his practice on securities matters. He is a member of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association and serves as Chairperson of the SPBCBA Securities Committee. He has represented hundreds of investors in securities arbitration and have prosecuted multiple MAT/ASTA arbitration claims. He is currently representing almost 50 clients throughout the country in MAT/ASTA cases. The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. follows a multi‑theory approach encompassing three separate bases for recovery, depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular investor’s case. These include: (1) MAT/ASTA was a flawed investment product; (2) Citigroup and its affiliates misrepresented and failed to disclose material facts at the time the investor was sold the investment; and (3) Citigroup and its affiliates were guilty of negligent mismanagement of MAT/ASTA and negligent supervision of their employees. We believe that this approach gives investors three separate bases for recovering damages and enhances the likelihood of an award. We prefer not to put all of our clients’ “eggs in one basket.” If you are seeking a law firm with integrity, dedication, and substantial experience in MAT/ASTA fraud and mismanagement disputes, please schedule a confidential consultation with Mr. Pearce today. Call our firm at 561-338-0037 or toll-free at 800-732-2889, or fill out our intake form to schedule your free consultation.
A recent front-page Wall Street Journal entitled “Citi Debt Funds Probed by SEC,” which concerns Citi’s disastrous MAT/ASTA municipal arbitrage fund, features a highly significant $1.8 million award issued against Citigroup in a MAT/ASTA case by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel. The case is Gerald J. Kazma Revocable Trust and Amzak Capital Management, LLC vs. Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. f/k/a Citigroup Investment Services, and Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC, Case No. 09-02697. The Kazma family was represented by Robert Pearce of Boca Raton, Florida. Mr. Pearce attributes his success in the Kazma arbitration to an intensive two year investigation and access to millions of pages of documents produced by Citigroup to the SEC in the probe. The WSJ reported: In Miami, Gerald Kazma, a retired cable-TV system developer, invested $4 million in MAT funds in early 2006. According to an arbitration claim he later filed, a Citigroup private banker had told him the return and risk were “slightly greater” than a typical municipal-bond portfolio. Citigroup told the securities-industry arbitration panel the funds’ risks were disclosed to Mr. Kazma. The panel this year awarded Mr. Kazma $1.8 million, two-thirds of his loss, citing “negligent management and negligent supervision” by Citigroup. Three other investors have won a total of $2.1 million from Citigroup in arbitrations this year. The Kazma case is significant because the arbitrators found that Citigroup and Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC negligently mismanaged the MAT/ASTA funds and negligently supervised their employees. Because Citigroup’s mismanagement of MAT/ASTA began during 2006 through 2007 and continued through early 2008, even early investors in the funds are now eligible to pursue their claims. Thus, claims based on mismanagement and negligent supervision in 2006 and 2007 remain actionable under the laws of most states. The impact of the decision is that it greatly expands the number of potential clients who can pursue valid claims against Citigroup and its affiliates. The Kazma award also strongly suggests that any MAT/ASTA investor, even a Citigroup employee who had no involvement with the funds, can file a claim for negligent management and may well recover his losses. Mr. Pearce along with Page Perry law firm in Atlanta, Georgia are prosecuting many other MAT/ASTA fund cases and accepting new clients. A PRUDENT CASE APPROACH Mr. Pearce, a former SEC attorney with over 40 years experience, focuses his practice on securities matters. He is a member of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association and serves as Chairperson of the SPBCBA Securities Committee. Mr. Pearce has represented hundreds of investors in securities arbitration and have prosecuted multiple MAT/ASTA arbitration claims. He is currently representing almost 50 clients throughout the country in MAT/ASTA cases. The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. follows a multi‑theory approach encompassing three separate bases for recovery, depending on the facts and circumstances of the particular investor’s case. These include: (1) MAT/ASTA was a flawed investment product; (2) Citigroup and its affiliates misrepresented and failed to disclose material facts at the time the investor was sold the investment; and (3) Citigroup and its affiliates were guilty of negligent mismanagement of MAT/ASTA and negligent supervision of their employees. We believe that this approach gives investors three separate bases for recovering damages and enhances the likelihood of an award. We prefer not to put all of our clients’ “eggs in one basket.” FREE CONSULTATION WITH ATTORNEYS WHO CAN HANDLE YOUR SECURITIES AND COMMODITIES PROBLEMS Contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., in Boca Raton to discuss your MAT / ASTA claim. The firm can be reached by phone at 561-338-0037, toll free at 800-732-2889 or via e-mail.
AWARD FINRA DISPUTE RESOLUTION In the Matter of the Arbitration Between: Names of the Claimants Case Number: 09-02697 Gerald J. Kazma Revocable Trust Amzak Capital Management, LLC Names of the Respondents Hearing Site: Boca Raton, Florida Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. f/k/a Citicorp Investment Services Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC Nature of the Dispute: Customer vs. Member and Non-Member. REPRESENTATION OF PARTIES For Gerald J. Kazma Revocable Trust (“Kazma”) and Amzak Capital Management, LLC (“ACM”), hereinafter collectively referred to as “Claimants”: Robert Wayne Pearce, Esq., Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., Boca Raton, Florida. For Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. f/k/a Citicorp Investment Services (“CGM”) and Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC (“CAI”), hereinafter collectively referred to as “Respondents”: Jason M. Fedo, Esq., Greenberg Traurig, P.A., West Palm Beach, Florida.