The Resolution Law Group: Three Ex-GE Bankers Convicted of Municipal Bond Bid Rigging Are Set Free

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York panel has decided that three ex-General Electric Co. bankers charged with conspiring to bilk cities in a muni bond bid rigging scam can go free because the US government waited too long to prosecute them. Reversing last year’s convictions of Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm, the court dismissed the criminal case against them and ordered that they be released from prison.

According to prosecutors, the three men worked with guaranteed investment contracts that allowed municipalities to make interest on money made from bond sales until they wanted to spend on local projects. The government believes that between August 1999 and May 2004 Carollo, Goldberg, and Grimm gave three brokers, including UBS PaineWebber, kickbacks to win actions for the contracts even if it meant the bank would make interest payments that were artificially low.

A federal jury convicted the former GE bankers of defrauding the country and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They appealed, appealed, contending that the indictment on July 27, 2010 exceeded the statute of limitations, which is six years for conspiracy to bilk the US via tax law violations and five years for conspiracy. The government disagreed, arguing that the limitations’ statute went on as long as GE was paying rates that were not competitive.

Meantime, GE on Friday consented to settle for $18.25M a class action securities case over municipal bond fixing. The plaintiffs accused the company of rigging municipal bond bids. GE is among the financial firms and lenders accused of working together to rig prices for municipal derivatives. Investors say that the price fixing of the bonds violated antitrust laws and caused them to get lower interest rates.

GE had previously settled similar securities claims made by state attorneys general for $30 million, Three years ago it settled for $70 million municipal bond rigging allegations made by the US Justice Department.

If you are a municipal bond investor who suffered financial losses you think may be due to securities fraud, contact our municipal bond fraud law firm today. http://www.theresolutionlawgroup.com

 

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The Resolution Law Group: Three Ex-GE Bankers Convicted of Municipal Bond Bid Rigging Are Set Free

In a 2-1 ruling, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York panel has decided that three ex-General Electric Co. bankers charged with conspiring to bilk cities in a muni bond bid rigging scam can go free because the US government waited too long to prosecute them. Reversing last year’s convictions of Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm, the court dismissed the criminal case against them and ordered that they be released from prison.

According to prosecutors, the three men worked with guaranteed investment contracts that allowed municipalities to make interest on money made from bond sales until they wanted to spend on local projects. The government believes that between August 1999 and May 2004 Carollo, Goldberg, and Grimm gave three brokers, including UBS PaineWebber, kickbacks to win actions for the contracts even if it meant the bank would make interest payments that were artificially low.

A federal jury convicted the former GE bankers of defrauding the country and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. They appealed, appealed, contending that the indictment on July 27, 2010 exceeded the statute of limitations, which is six years for conspiracy to bilk the US via tax law violations and five years for conspiracy. The government disagreed, arguing that the limitations’ statute went on as long as GE was paying rates that were not competitive.

Meantime, GE on Friday consented to settle for $18.25M a class action securities case over municipal bond fixing. The plaintiffs accused the company of rigging municipal bond bids. GE is among the financial firms and lenders accused of working together to rig prices for municipal derivatives. Investors say that the price fixing of the bonds violated antitrust laws and caused them to get lower interest rates.

GE had previously settled similar securities claims made by state attorneys general for $30 million, Three years ago it settled for $70 million municipal bond rigging allegations made by the US Justice Department.

If you are a municipal bond investor who suffered financial losses you think may be due to securities fraud, contact The Resolution Law Group municipal bond fraud law firm 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.

The Resolution Law Group: Muni Bonds Draw Investors But Come With Serious Risks

With many municipalities exhibiting better financial health and tax-free bonds touting pretty good returns, municipal bonds are attracting investors. However, this doesn’t mean that you, as a prospective investor, shouldn’t approach munis with caution.

Investors don’t pay a commission when they purchase a municipal bond, but they do have to pay a “markup,” which is the difference between the price paid and the broker’s cost. Unfortunately, many brokers don’t tell customers about this markup, instead focusing on the benefits of yield rather than disclosing more about the price. Because of this, most retail investors don’t know how much these trades are costing them in charges. You should know that these markups can be pretty high.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a study from research firm Securities Litigation and Consulting Group, out of one in 20 trades, investors that purchased $250,000 or less in municipal bonds paid a 3.04% markup or greater, which, at today’s rates, is one year’s worth of interest income (compare that to the under $10 in commission investors pay when purchasing stock from the majority of online brokers—.004% interest on $250,000; meantime, management fees for mutual funds are approximately 1% yearly. The study examined close to 14 million trades involving long-term, fixed-rate munis between April ’05 to April ’13.

The WSJ article goes on to note that the research firm’s founder, Craig McCann, says that since 2005, investors collectively have paid at least $14 billion in what he believes are excessive markups, which is at least two times the normal cost to trade a bond. He translates that to over 1 billion dollars “needlessly transferred” to dealers.

While brokers are right in that it can be very hard to find any certain trade on any day, federal rules mandate that markups must be “fair and reasonable.” Still, how this is defined lacks specificity.

Municipal Bonds
Munis are debt securities. Cities, states, counties, and other government entities issue them. Municipal bonds are used to fund daily obligations and pay for capital projects, including highways, schools, or sewer systems.

When an investor buys a municipal bond, that party is lending money to the bond issuer in return for regular interest payments and the return of principal. A municipal bond may not mature for years. However, short-term bonds do generally mature in one to three years.

The risks involved in investing in municipal bonds include call risk, credit risk, interest rate risk, and inflation risk. In addition to broker markups, investors should also know about the tax implications that may be involved, including certain taxes and benefits. You should also make sure that the person you buy the muni through is properly licensed and registered either with FINRA, a state securities regulator, or FINRA.

At The Resolution Law Group, our securities lawyers represent investors that have lost money due to municipal bond fraud.  If you suspect that you are the victim of Securities Fraud, do not hesitate to email or call please contact The Resolution Law Group at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud

Senate Measure Seeks to Exempt Banks for Having to Register with the SEC As Municipal Advisors & House Bill Looks to Enhance Public Pension Plans’ Disclosures

Many banks are reportedly greeting bipartisan Senate bill S. 710 with satisfaction, as it would exempt them from provisions of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act related to regulating municipal advisers. The bill was introduced by US Senators Patrick Toomey (R-Pa) and Mark Warner (D-VA) last month.

The Dodd-Frank Act established municipal advisers as a new class of regulated individuals that advise local and state governments about financial matters, such as the use of derivatives and bond issuances. Per the law’s Section 975, municipal advisers must register with the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. Critics, however, have called the SEC’s proposed definition of what constitutes a municipal adviser as too broad.

The senators’ legislation makes it clear that banks and those that work for them are not municipal advisers unless they actually take part in municipal adviser activities. It is similar to HR 797, which was proposed by US Representatives Gwen Moore (D-Wis.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) earlier this year.

In other securities law news, three Republican lawmakers have unveiled a bill that would make public pension plans reveal more information or risk the tax status of bonds that were put out by municipalities and states. Per HR 1628, certain municipality issued-bonds would no longer have tax-exempt status if retirement plans did not abide by disclosure requirements.

The measure, by Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), seeks to address worries related to local and state pension plans, including the concern that some public pension plans may be determining liabilities and debt with “unreasonably high discount rates,” perhaps even distorting the asset values to hide debt. The three men believe that these “accounting gimmicks” has resulted in unfunded liabilities being under-reported by trillions of dollars.

The proposed legislation would also modify the Internal Revenue Code so that plans would have to report not just their financial information but also what assumptions and methods they used to make their calculations. Plans would also have to apply a uniform accounting standard to make disclosures. Disclosed data would be made available online by the Secretary of the Treasury. Meantime, the federal government would not be able to rescue plans that couldn’t fulfill their obligations.

Securities Fraud
If you, your family, friends, neighbors or associates have been subjected to Securities Fraud, please contact The Resolution Law Group at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

Wells Fargo Settles Securities Lawsuit Over Medical Capital Holdings Ponzi Scam for $105M

Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) has consented to pay $105M to investors of the now failed Medical Capital Holdings Inc. The bank had served as trustee for Medical Capital securities.

The medical receivables financing company got about $2.2 billion from thousands of investors between 2001 and 2009 via the private placement offerings that were promissory notes. The private placement was a high commission financial instrument that promised annual returns of 8.5% to 10.5%. Per court filings, investors paid Medical Capital nearly $325 million in administrative fees. Dozens of independent brokerage firms sold the notes.

It was in 2009 that the SEC accused affiliates of Medical Capital of committing securities fraud against investors. The financial scam was quickly shut down and the company soon entered receivership but investors got back just half their money. Many of them would go on to file a securities lawsuit against trustees Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (BK) and Wells Fargo accusing the financial firms of failing to fulfill their role as trustees by neglecting to detect the fraud. Meantime, many of the brokerage firms that sold the MedCap notes are no longer in business because they sank from the securities arbitration payments and legal costs that followed as a result.

Even as Wells Fargo is settling this MedCapital securities case, the bank maintains that it did nothing wrong and that the one to blame is Medical Capital. This settlement comes a few months after Bank of New York Mellon resolved similar claims against it for $114M.

In that class action securities case, investors are sharing a $90.68M payment, with $13.6M going to legal fees and another $1.8M to expenses. Bank of New York Mellon also denied any wrongdoing.

If you suspect that your institution is the victim of Ponzi Scheme fraud, do not hesitate to email or call please contact The Resolution Law Group at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation. Our Bank fraud attorneys are here to help institutional investors recoup losses that are a result of a financial scam or negligence. Your consultation with us is free.

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud