Many investors have heard of margin accounts and the horror stories of others who invested on margin and suffered substantial losses. But few investors understand that securities-backed lines of credit (SBL) accounts, which have been aggressively promoted by brokerage firms in the last decade, are just as dangerous as margin accounts. This is largely due to the fact that the equity and bond markets have been on an upward trend since 2009 and few investors (unless you are a Puerto Rico investor) have experienced market slides resulting in margin calls due to the insufficient amount of collateral in the SBL accounts. Securities-Backed Lines of Credit Overview It is only over the last several months of market volatility that investors have begun to feel the wrath of margin calls and understand the high risks associated with investing in SBL accounts. For investors considering your stockbroker’s offer of a line of credit (a loan at a variable or fixed rate of interest) to finance a residence, a boat, or to pay taxes or for your child’s college education, you may want to read a little more about the nature, mechanics, and risks of SBL accounts before you sign the collateral account agreement and pledge away your life savings to the brokerage firm in exchange for the same loan you could have obtained from another bank without all the risk associated with SBL accounts. First, it may be helpful to understand just why SBL accounts have become so popular over the last decade. It should be no surprise that the primary reason for your stockbroker’s offering of an SBL is that both the brokerage firm and he/she make money. Over many years, the source of revenues for brokerage firms has shifted from transaction-based commissions to fee-based investments, limited partnerships, real estate investment trusts (REITs), structured products, managed accounts, and income earned from lending money to clients in SBL and margin accounts. Many more investors seem to be aware of the danger of borrowing in margin accounts for the purposes of buying and selling securities, so the brokerage firms expanded their banking activities with their banking affiliates to expand the market and their profitability in the lending arena through SBL accounts. The typical sales pitch is that SBL accounts are an easy and inexpensive way to access cash by borrowing against the assets in your investment portfolio without having to liquidate any securities you own so that you can continue to profit from your stockbroker’s supposedly successful and infallible investment strategy. Today the SBL lending business is perhaps one of the more profitable divisions at any brokerage firm and banking affiliate offering that product because the brokerage firm retains assets under management and the fees related thereto and the banking affiliate earns interest income from another market it did not otherwise have direct access to. For the benefit of the novice investor, let me explain the basics of just how an SBL account works. An SBL account allows you to borrow money using securities held in your investment accounts as collateral for the loan. The Danger of Investing in SBL Accounts Once the account is established and you received the loan proceeds, you can continue to buy and sell securities in that account, so long as the value of the securities in the account exceeds the minimum collateral requirements of the banking affiliate, which can change just like the margin requirements at a brokerage firm. Assuming you meet those collateral requirements, you only make monthly interest-only payments and the loan remains outstanding until it is repaid. You can pay down the loan balance at any time, and borrow again and pay it down, and borrow again, so long as the SBL account has sufficient collateral and you make the monthly interest-only payments in your SBL account. In fact, the monthly interest-only payments can be paid by borrowing additional money from the bank to satisfy them until you reach a credit limit or the collateral in your account becomes insufficient at your brokerage firm and its banking affiliate’s discretion. We have heard some stockbrokers describe SBLs as equivalent to home equity lines, but they are not really the same. Yes, they are similar in the sense that the amount of equity in your SBL account, like your equity in your house, is collateral for a loan, but you will not lose your house without notice or a lengthy foreclosure process. On the other hand, you can lose all of your securities in your SBL account if the market goes south and the brokerage firm along with its banking affiliate sell, without prior notice, all of the securities serving as collateral in the SBL account. You might ask how can that happen; that is, sell the securities in your SBL account, without notice? Well, when you open up an SBL account, the brokerage firm and its banking affiliate and you will execute a contract, a loan agreement that specifies the maximum amount the bank will agree to lend you in exchange for your agreement to pledge your investment account assets as collateral for the loan. You also agree in that contract that if the value of your securities declines to an amount that is no longer sufficient to secure your line of credit, you must agree to post additional collateral or repay the loan upon demand. Lines of credit are typically demand loans, meaning the banking affiliate can demand repayment in full at any time. Generally, you will receive a “maintenance call” from the brokerage firm and/or its banking affiliate notifying you that you must post additional collateral or repay the loan in 3 to 5 days or, if you are unable to do so, the brokerage firm will liquidate your securities and keep the cash necessary to satisfy the “maintenance call” or, in some cases, use the proceeds to pay off the entire loan. But I want to emphasize, the brokerage firm and its banking affiliate, under the terms of almost all SBL account agreements,...Continue Reading
Investors With “Blown-Out” Securities-Backed Credit Line and Margin Accounts: How do You Recover Your Investment Losses?
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.Continue Reading
If you are reading this article, you probably invested in the UBS Yield Enhanced Strategy (“UBS-YES”) and were surprised to learn the UBS-YES program you invested in was not exactly a “market neutral” investment strategy during the recent COVID 19 market crash. Despite your UBS stockbroker’s representations about the UBS-YES managers ability to “manage risk” and “minimize losses” through its “iron condor” option strategy you still realized substantial losses. You are not alone because that is just what many other UBS-YES investors have told us about the pitch made to them to invest in the UBS-YES program and their recent experience.Continue Reading
UBS Financial Services, Inc. Sued for Florida and Ohio Advisor’s Alleged Misconduct Involving a Credit-Line Investment Strategy
UBS Financial Services, Inc, (“UBS”) employed a financial advisor (the “FA”) who has offices in Bonita Springs, Florida and Sylvania, Ohio. UBS held out the FA and other UBS employees on his team as investment advisers, investment managers, financial advisers, and financial planners with special skills and expertise in the management of securities portfolios and financial, estate, retirement, and tax planning matters.Continue Reading
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.”Continue Reading
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.Continue Reading