October 2009 Archives

October 30, 2009

California Stockbroker Discipline Report for October 2009

The following information regarding broker misconduct and disciplinary activities taken against California stockbrokers was released by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in October 2009:

Kevin Michael Browne formerly of Regal Securities, Inc. in Dillon, California, was suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for one year for allegedly defrauding investors in connection with the sale of Collateralized Mortgage Obligations (CMOs).

Pingping Shu (aka Carol Shu) formerly of Wells Fargo Investments in Camarillo, California, was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 30 days for allegedly copying and pasting customer signatures on client forms without their authorization and consent.

Michael Alfred Thome of Folsom, California, a former broker with TD Ameritrade, was ordered to pay $402,137.50 plus interest as restitution for the misappropriation of funds from a customer who thought they were investing in a real estate partnership.

Douglas Richard Smith formerly with Financial Advisors of America, LLC in Thousand Oaks, California, was named in a complaint filed by FINRA alleging unauthorized variable annuity transactions and placing the customer's signature and/or initials on documents without the customer's knowledge.

October 15, 2009

Schwab Receives Wells Notice From SEC Regarding Schwab YieldPlus Fund and Total Bond Market Fund

In a regulatory filing today, San Francisco-based Charles Schwab reported that it received a Wells Notice from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for alleged securities law vioations regarding its Schwab YieldPlus and Total Bond Market Fund.

A Wells Notice is is not a finding of wrongdoing. It is letter from the SEC advising the recipient of the enforcement staff's decision to recommend that the SEC bring enforcement proceedings against the recipient. The letter will specify the violations that the SEC staff believes to have occurred and the relief the SEC intends to seek and the forum in which the SEC intends to bring an action. The violations will be described in fairly general terms.

More Information:

Schwab YieldPlus Fund

Charles Schwab & Co.

October 14, 2009

Deadline to Opt-Out of Schwab YieldPlus Class Action Set for December 28, 2009

A Notice of Pendency of Class Action was issued in the class action matter In re Schwab Corp. Securities Litigation currently pending in San Francisco federal court. Investors who purchased shares of the Schwab YieldPlus Fund that qualify as class members will be automatically included in the class action, unless they submit a request for exclusion from class membership. The court's deadline for opting out is December 28, 2009. YieldPlus investors who opt out may want to consider pursuing a claim for their losses through arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), as many investors have already done.

For more information, please click on the following links:

View Notice of Pendency of Class Action

Blog Post: Securities Arbitration vs. Class Actions: Consider Your Options

More YieldPlus Blog Postings

Frequently Asked Questions About Securities Arbitration

October 5, 2009

FINRA Dispute Resolution Expands Pilot Program for Securities Arbitration Panels

Here is a bit of good news for investors with securities arbitration claims against 14 of the largest brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Wells Fargo. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has agreed to extend its year-old pilot program established to give investors the option to request an arbitration panel composed entirely of arbitrators that are not affiliated with the securities industry. Currently, a 3-person arbitration panel must include one industry arbitrator and two public arbitrators. The pilot program was created in response to criticism over whether an industry arbitrator, such as a stockbroker or branch manager, can act impartially when a customer is complaining about securities fraud or account mismanagement by their broker. I've participated in arbitrations with both good and bad industry arbitrators. The trouble is, allowing an industry arbitrator to sit on a panel gives the appearance of bias and takes away from the legitimacy of the proceedings. That should be reason enough to dump the industry arbitrator. My California securities law firm is in favor of the pilot program and we have been actively encouraging clients to participate whenever possible.

The brokerage firms who have agreed to participate in the pilot program are:

Ameriprise Financial Services
Charles Schwab
Chase Investment Services
Citigroup Global Markets
Edward Jones
Fidelity Brokerage Services
LPL Financial
Merrill Lynch
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Oppenheimer
Raymond James
TD Ameritrade
UBS Financial Services
Wells Fargo Advisors / Wachovia Securities

Each of the above firms has committed to participate in a limited number of cases under the program on a first come, first served basis. The pilot program will end on October 5, 2010. Since the average arbitration hearing takes 14 ½ months to conclude, most cases in the pilot program have not gone to hearing yet. FINRA plans to compare the results of the pilot program cases with non-pilot cases. Of the 396 arbitration cases that have been decided this year, only 139 (45%) recovered anything at all. Hopefully, the arbitration award results for cases in the pilot program will be much better. If the pilot program results in more awards in favor of customers, will the brokerage industry lobby to keep the industry arbitrator? Let's hope not.