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Citigroup Affiliates Found Liable for Mismanaging the MAT/ASTA Municipal Arbitrage Funds

In a recent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration, a South Florida panel specifically found that Respondents Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. f/k/a Citigroup Investment Services, and Citigroup Alternative Investments, LLC were guilty of negligent mismanagement of MAT/ASTA funds, as well as negligent supervision of their registered representatives. This award should open the door for many investors to recover the damages they sustained, particularly in early MAT/ASTA deals.

The FINRA arbitration panel awarded more than $1.8 million to Gerald J. Kazma Revocable Trust and Amzak Capital Management, LLC in connection with their purchases of MAT/ASTA municipal arbitrage fund investments. 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.

The award is particularly noteworthy because the arbitration panel expressly found that Citigroup and its affiliates mismanaged the fund, and also that they failed to supervise. Specific findings like those made by the arbitration panel in this case are unusual, and are suggestive of an intent by the arbitrators to send a message.

Despite widespread evidence of material misrepresentations and omissions, Citigroup has elected to employ the "blame the customer" defense, which arbitration panels have rejected. When confronted with evidence that Citigroup misrepresented MAT/ASTA's risk level to their brokers who passed the misleading information on to their clients, a high ranking Citigroup official said that it would be "unwise" for customers of the firm to rely on what their broker told them about a recommended product.

A Prudent Case Approach

Mr. Pearce, a former SEC attorney with over 35 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. Between them they have already been involved in 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.

Client Reviews
Robert Pearce is part of that unusual breed of lawyers that are able to create empathy with clients and thoroughly adopt their cause. No half efforts here. He and his group of professionals are outstanding strategists that can execute with precise fervor and unyielding determination. Theirs is a huge wave of facts, research, precedents and preparation, that has impressed me in its thoroughness and creativity, and most importantly with the results. No stone goes unturned and no effort is ever spared. In my book, he and they are those of a very rare kind that one wants to keep for a very long time. Ramon F.