The Resolution Law Group: CommonWealth REIT Shareholders Gets New Vote on Whether to Oust Its Board

In the dispute between investors and CommonWealth REIT (CWH) over whether to oust its board, an arbitration panel said that attempts by shareholder to remove trustees were not valid but that a new vote could go forward. Related Cos. and Corvex Management LP, both CommonWealth shareholders, have been trying to get the board of trustees removed because they believe there was mismanagement and conflicts of interest.

They blamed this in part on CommonWealth President Adam Portnoy and his dad (and company founder) Barry owning external management firm REIT Management and Research LLC. The two of them are also on REIT’s board.

Corvex and Related claim that they were able to get support from holders that owned over 70% of the shares to get the trustees taken out. However, CommonWealth not only denies the conflict of interest claims but also contends that per its bylaws the vote was not valid.

Issuing its ruling, the arbitration panel said that Commonwealth’s bylaws set up procedural hurdles that create a “wall” against any consent solicitation. And while there is a rule that says shareholders need to own a minimum of 3% of the stock for at least three years before they can try to remove the trustees, arbitrators said that the rule wasn’t valid and also, the consent solicitation to remove the trustees was not executed properly and could not be validated. That said, the panel decided that Related and Corvex are allowed to begin a new effort under panel-established guidelines.

The Resolution Law Group works with institutional investors and individual investors to get back their securities fraud losses.

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The Resolution Law Group: MF Global to Pay $1.2B to Customers

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero has ordered MF Global to pay customers over $1.2 billion. The defunct brokerage firm left an about $1.6 billion shortfall for approximately 38,000 customers when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008.

Now, with this court order, along with the attempts of a liquidation trustee to get back the missing funds, customers are going to get almost all of their money back. Also, in addition to paying certain creditors and customers, MF Global will pay a $100 million penalty.

The brokerage tanked financially after it revealed that it had placed bets worth billions of dollars on high risk European debt. As customers started to leave MF Global in bulk and trading partners demanded bigger margin payments, the firm used customer funds for its own purposes (more than a billion dollars was taken out of their accounts) and did not replace them. This is not allowed. Also the estimated shortfall was about $1.6 billion.

It was the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission that got the federal court consent order against MF Global obligating the latter to pay the restitution. The CFTC filed its complaint against MF Global in June charging the firm and others with unlawfully using the funds of customers. The agency also accused the brokerage of making false statements to cover up the shortfall in filings it submitted to the regulator.

In the consent order, MF Global admits to the allegations related to its liability on the basis of omissions and actions committed by its employees. (Also, a bankruptcy judge has just cleared the firm to repay all the funds it owes to commodity customers both in the US and abroad.)

Just last week, Judge Marrerro rejected Corzine’s attempt to get a shareholder securities lawsuit against him and other MF Global executives dismissed. The plaintiffs are accusing them of misleading investors about the high-risk bets that were made on European debt. In his decision, Marrero commented on how the defendants appeared convinced that none of them did anything wrong. He speculated that maybe instead, “supernatural forces” or “stuff happens” was to blame for the firm’s spectacular “multi-billion dollar” crash. Meantime, the CFTC’s civil case against MF Global Holdings Ltd, ex-CEO John Corzine, and ex-Assistant Treasurer Edith O’ Brien have yet to be resolved.

While it is a positive that customers are finally getting their money back—it doesn’t mean that this makes up for the last two years when they were unable to access their funds. Some folks were shut out of trading while others lost their businesses.

Our securities lawyers at The Resolution Law Group were among those that investigating MF Global claims of customers. We represent institutional and individual investors in getting their losses back.

The Resolution Law Group: RBS Securities Inc. Settles SEC’s Subprime RMBS Lawsuit for $150M

RBS Securities Inc., which is a Royal Bank of Scotland PLC. Subsidiary (RBS), has agreed to pay $150 million to settle Securities and Exchange Commission allegations that it misled investors in a $2.2 billion subprime residential mortgage-backed security offering in 2007. The money will be used to pay back investors who were harmed.

The SEC claims the RBS said that the loans backing the offering “generally” satisfied underwriting guidelines even though close to 30% of them actually were so far off from meeting them that they should not have been part of the offering. As lead underwriters, RBS (then known as Greenwich Capital Markets,) had only (and briefly) looked at a small percentage of the loans while receiving $4.4 million as the transaction’s lead underwriter.

SEC Division Enforcement co-director George Cannellos said that inadequate due diligence by RBS was involved. The Commissions also says that because RBS was in a hurry to meet a deadline established by the seller, the firm misled investors about not just the quality of the loans but also regarding their chances for repayment.

Of the $150 million that RBS will pay, $80.3 million is disgorgement, $25.2 million is prejudgment interest, and $48.2 million is a civil penalty.

The Resolution Law Group’s RMBS fraud lawyers are here to help investors get back their losses. Unfortunately, many investors lost money in different types of mortgage-backed securities during the economic crisis. Often the investments were recommended by stockbrokers and financial advisers even if they were unsuitable for the client or when not enough proper due diligence was conducted to make sure the investment was a wise one. Contact The Resolution Law Group today.

The Resolution Law Group: JPMorgan and the DOJ Finalize Their $13 Billion Settlement

After months of back-and-forth, the US Justice Department and JPMorgan Chase (JPM) have agreed to a $13 billion settlement. The historic deal concludes several of lawsuits and probes over failed mortgage bonds that were issued prior to the economic crisis. It also is the largest combination of damages and fines to be obtained by the federal government in a civil case with just one company. JPMorgan had initially wanted to pay just $3 billion.

The $13 billion deal is the largest crackdown this government had made against Wall Street over questionable mortgage practices. US Attorney General H. Eric Holder and other lead DOJ officials were involved in the settlement talks with JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon and other senior officials.

The settlement is over billions of dollars in residential mortgage backed securities involving not just the firm but also its Washington Mutual (WAMUQ) and Bear Stearns (BSC) outfits. The government claims that the RMBS were based on mortgages that were not as solid as what they were advertised to be.

As part of the agreement, JPMorgan acknowledged a statement of facts that delineated its wrongdoing and retracted its demand that prosecutors stop a related criminal probe directed at the bank. Also, the firm for the most part forfeited getting back some of the settlement from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

Of the $13 billion, $9 billion will pay state and federal civil lawsuit claims over residential mortgage-backed securities including:

• $2 million as a civil penalty to the DOJ
• $1.4 billion to resolve the National Credit Union Administration’s state and federal claims
• $4 billion for Federal Housing Finance Agency claims
• $515 million over Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. claims
• Almost $20 million resolves Delaware claims
• Almost $300 million is for California claims
• Almost $614 million resolves NY state claims
• $100 million is for Illinois claims
• $34 million settles claims made by Massachusetts

The rest of the settlement in the amount of $4 billion will be in the form of programs to help homeowners that suffered harm. JPMorgan says it would pay up to $1.7 billion to write down principal amounts of loans it held in which the borrower owes a sum greater than the value of the property.

Meantime, $300 million to $500 million will go to forbearance, which involves the restructuring of certain mortgages to lower monthly payments. The final $2 billion will go to a number of measures, including absorbing whatever principal is still owed on properties that haven’t foreclosed but were already vacated, as well as to new mortgage originators for certain income borrowers. JPMorgan might even use some of this money to pay for anti-blight work in beleaguered neighborhoods.

The Resolution Law Group represents institutional investors and high net worth individual investors wishing to recoup their RMBS fraud losses. Contact our securities lawyers today.

The Resolution Law Group: CFTC Votes to Restrict Commodities Trader’ Position Sizes in the Market

In a 3-to-11 vote, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission chose to favor restricting the size of any traders’ footprint in the commodities market. This is the CFTC’s second vote on a proposal over “position limit” rules. A rule that it proposed two years ago was turned down by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia after two Wall Street trade organizations sued claiming that the rule would cause prices to become erratic.

The proposal is related to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. The CFTC already has rules to limit market speculation but before they were just applicable during the last days before a futures contract delivery and only to specific agricultural commodities.

Now, the agency’s new rules are proposing to set up limitations that are more broad so that they include derivative contracts for 28 kinds of commodities futures contracts, and not just agricultural contracts but also metal and energy ones and regardless of when the delivery date would be. Exemptions for traders with genuine hedging needs would be allowed, as it will be for firm-held positions involving banks with nearly 50% ownership. To avail of exemptions, trading firms would have to prove that they are not in control of an affiliate. Aside from that, just non-consolidated firms will get exemptions.

The CFTC’s rules would restrict a trader’s maximum size in derivatives to 25% of the deliverable supply of the commodity that has been estimated. It also will bring back conditional limits, which let traders hold five times more than the limit in cash-settled contracts as long as they don’t have a position in physical-settled contracts. The rule will also modify details about what is considered hedging, which, per Dodd-Frank, is exempt from position limits. Additionally, the rule won’t let there be an exemption for derivative contracts that traders entered into in order to make good rent paid for empty storage facilities.

The rule is now subject to public comment. After 60 days, commissions will vote on a final rule.

The Resolution Law Group handles securities fraud cases for institutional investors and individual investors. Contact our commodities trading fraud lawyers today.

The Resolution Law Group: Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt

According to The Wall Street Journal, hedge funds are starting to bet big on municipal debt by demanding high interest rates in exchange for financing local governments, purchasing troubled municipalities’ debt at cheap prices, and attempting to profit on the growing volatility (in the wake of so many small investors trying to get out because of the threat of defaults). These funds typically invest trillions of dollars for pension plans, rich investors, and college endowments. Now, they are investing in numerous muni bond opportunities, including Puerto Rico debt, Stanford University bond, the sewer debt from Jefferson County, Alabama, and others.

Currently, hedge funds are holding billions of dollars in troubled muni debt. The municipal bond market includes debt put out by charities, colleges, airports, and other entities. (Also, Detroit, Michigan‘s current debt problems, which forced the city into bankruptcy, caused prices in the municipal bond market to go down to levels that appealed to hedge funds.)

Hedge fund managers believe their efforts will allow for more frequent trading, greater government disclosures, and transparent bond pricing and that this will only benefit municipal bond investors. That said, hedge fund investors can be problematic for municipalities because not only do they want greater interest rates than did individual investors, but also they are less hesitant to ask for financial discipline and better disclosure.

Now, hedge funds are reportedly suggesting short-term financing for Puerto Rico, which is in huge economic trouble with its $70 billion debt. These funds began buying up Puerto Rico bonds after their prices dropped a few months ago. Some of the bets are already paying off while other hedge funds are preparing for even bigger bets.

However, Puerto Rico’s debt crisis has become a huge problem for many investors, some of whom already have lost their life savings. At The SSEK Partners Group, our Puerto Rico bond lawyers have been meeting with investors that purchased muni bonds from brokerage firms, including Banco Popular, Banco Santander (SAN.MC), and UBS (UBS). Our securities attorneys are available to meet with you in Puerto Rico and the US. Hablamos Español.

Unfortunately, some brokers that sold Puerto Rico muni bonds reportedly suggested that investors borrow money to buy them, while other representatives told investors to buy the bonds and then borrow against their value. Already, UBS Puerto Rico has consented to pay $26M to settle SEC charges and pay fines and disgorgement over allegations that it sold mispriced closed end funds to customers. Unfortunately, investors will not get anything back from this, which is why you should contact our muni bond fraud lawyers.

If you feel you are the victim of Securities Fraud, please do not hesitate to email or call the The Resolution Law Group (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

AIG Settles Ex-Executive’s $274M Lawsuit Over Alleged Failure to Pay Him During 2008 Economic Crisis

American Insurance Group (AIG) and one of its ex-executives, Kevin Fitzpatrick, have reached a settlement deal over his $274 million lawsuit against the insurer. Fitzpatrick, the former president of the AIG Global Real Estate Investment Corp. unit, claims that his then-employer would not pay him during the 2008 economic crisis. The insurer’s refusal to pay occurred not long after the US government said yes to the first part of what would turn into a $182 billion bailout.

Fitzpatrick, who worked for AIG for 22 years, said that AIG breached agreements it had with him and entities under his control. He claims the agreements entitled him to a share of profits made on the insurer’s real estate investments but that on October 2008 AIG stopped paying him and others who were entitled to profit distributions. Fitzpatrick then quit.

Fitzpatrick sued in 2009, claiming that AIG owed him $274 million and that he wanted interest and punitive damages, which is right around the time that the insurer was trying to get past public disapproval over $165 million in bonuses that were paid to employees in the AIG Financial Products unit. That is the group that handled the complex financial instruments that led to its huge losses.

AIG denied wrongdoing and said that Fitzpatrick was paid what he was owed. The insurer contended that Fitzpatrick actually was fired and that he stole data that was confidential and belonged to the company.

In other AIG-related news, a district court judge just threw out a shareholder lawsuit accusing Bank of America (BAC) of not telling them that the insurer was planning to sue the bank with a $10 billion fraud lawsuit. AIG accused Bank of America of misrepresenting the quality of more than $28 million of MBSs that AIG bought from the latter and its Countrywide and Merrill Lynch (MER) units.

If you feel you are the victim of Securities Fraud, please do not hesitate to email or call the The Resolution Law Group (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.