The Resolution Law Group: The Volcker Rule May Already Be Affecting Financial Markets & The Economy

According to The Wall Street Journal, it’s just been a week since regulators approved the Volcker Rule and already investors and financial institutions are looking for new ways to finance municipal bond investments. The Volcker rule limits how much risk federally insured depository institutions can take, prohibiting proprietary trading, setting up obstacles for banks that take part in market timing, and tightening up on compensation agreements that used to serve as incentive for high-risk trading.

Now, says Forbes, Wall Street and its firms are undoubtedly trying to figure out how to get around the rule via loopholes, exemptions, new ways of interpreting the rule, etc. (One reason for this may be that how much executives are paid is dependent upon the amount they make from speculative trading.) The publication says that banks are worried that the Volcker Rule could cost them billions of dollars.

For example, with tender-option bond transactions, hedge funds, banks, and others employ short-terming borrowings to pay for long-term muni bonds. The intention is to make money off of the difference in interest they pay lenders and what they make on the bonds. While tender-option bonds make up just a small section of the $3.7 trillion muni debt market, it includes debt that has been popular with Eaton Vance (EV), Oppenheimer Funds, and others.

Under the Volcker Rule, big banks will no longer be able to deal in tender-option bonds the way they are structured, which is expected to curb new bond issuance and lower tradings (and why banks are likely scrambling to figure out how else they can finance municipal bonds). Already, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association is setting up a group to determine how its members can employ leverage to get into municipal debt.

Meantime, midsize and smaller banks are getting ready to sell collateralized debt obligations because of a provision under the rule that restricts certain risky investments. The Volcker Rule limits banks in their investing in collateralized debt obligations backed by securities that are trust-preferred. (A lot of smaller institutions issued these securities before the financial crisis.)

Now, banks such as Zions Bancorp (ZION) will have to sell some CDOs. Zion is expected to take a $387M charge to write down the securities’ value. The bank is concerned that under the Volcker Rule, the securities would be “disallowed investments.”

Per the rule, the deadline for banks to get rid of its risky assets is July 21, 2015—although an extension can be obtained via the Federal Reserve. That said, banks do need to make an adjustment right away to the accounting treatment they’ve been using for the securities.

If you suspect that you suffered financial losses because of municipal bond fraud, contact The Resolution Law Group to find out whether you should file a securities fraud claim. Your case assessment with us is a no obligation, free consultation.

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The Resolution Law Group: Merrill Lynch Settles with SEC Over CDO Disclosures for Almost $132M

The Securities and Exchange Commission says that Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner & Smith Inc. (MER) will pay $131.8M to settle charges involving allegedly faulty derivatives disclosures. The regulator claims that the firm, which is the largest broker-dealer by client assets, misled investors about certain structured debt products before the economic crisis. By settling, Merrill is not denying or agreeing to the allegations. Also, the brokerage firm was quick to note that the matter for dispute occurred before Bank of America (BAC) acquired it.

According to the Commission, in 2006 and 2007 Merrill Lynch did not tell investors that Magnetar Capital impacted the choice of collateral that was behind specific debt products. The hedge fund purportedly hedged stock positions by shorting against Norma CDO I Ltd. and Octans I CDO Ltd., which are two collateral debt obligations that the firm was selling to customers.

The SEC contends that Merrill used misleading collateral to market these CDO investments. According to Division of Enforcement co-director George Canellos, the materials depicted an independent process for choosing collateral that benefited long-term debt investors and customers did not know about the role Magnetar Capital was playing to choose the underlying portfolios.

Also sanctioned by the SEC were Joseph Parish and Scott Shannon, two managing partners of IR Capital Management LLC. This was the investment adviser that took care of choosing collateral for the CDO Norma. They are accused of compromising their supposed lack of bias by letting a third party with its own interests affect the portfolio-selection process. The SEC says Shannon accepted assets that Magnetar chose while Parish let the hedge fund impact how other assets were selected. The two men will pay over $472,000 to settle the allegations against them and they were suspended from the industry.

Meantime, the US government continues to pursue Wall Street firms over their alleged misconduct involving the mortgage-backed securities creation that is attributed to helping cause investor losses during the financial crisis and the housing slump. The SEC has also pursued claims against Citigroup Inc. (C), Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS), and JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) over their involvement in structuring and promoting investments linked to home loans that were faulty.

If you suspect that you have been the victim of securities fraud, contact The Resolution Law Group’s CDO fraud lawyers today.  The Resolution Law Group represents investors with securities claims against financial firms, investment advisers, brokerage firms, brokers, and others. Contact our securities fraud law firm.

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.

SEC Members Discuss Agency’s Core Mission, New Penalty Policy, and Private Offerings in the Wake of General Solicitation

SEC Member Presses Regulator to Stick to Its Core Mission When Figuring Out Priorities
Securities and Exchange Commission member Daniel Gallagher wants the regulator to focus more on its mission when determining its regulatory agenda. He said that the SEC’s three mandates must always be considered: maintaining markets that are efficient and fair, making capital reform happen, and protecting investors.

Speaking at a AICPA/SIFMA Financial Management Society Conference, Gallagher said the agency should remove credit rating references from its rules, start reassessing the US market structure, put into place proxy advice reform, set up a new Regulation A Plus exemption, take a closer look at fixed-income regulatory issues, and reassess its disclosure regime. He believes that excessive credit rating dependence was a central cause for the failure of securitized products that led to the 2008 economic crisis. Gallagher says that the SEC should have taken out the credit ratings references years before the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act.

SEC Commissioner Aguilar Praises Agency’s’ Enforcement Approach, Wants New Penalty Policy
Securities and Exchange Commissioner Luis Aguilar wants the regulator to rework its penalty guidelines so it more properly focuses on the seriousness of conduct and deterrence. At the Securities Litigation and Regulatory Enforcement Seminar, Aguilar said that while the 2006 Statement Concerning Financial Penalties pays attention to whether a company benefitted or investors sustained harm from an alleged violation, he now thinks that the agency should adopt a new statement that factors in the types of misconduct and violation that occurred, the history and background of the defendant, any attempts at remediation and self-reporting, and the impact on parties that are not the corporation. The SEC official said these statements are his own.

Aguilar also said that as the regulator gets more comfortable with mandating that there be admissions of guilt, he expected that the SEC would in future ask for stronger admissions. Aguilar acknowledged that the agency’s modification of its policy so that now not all defendants can just settle without denying or admitting wrongdoing is a “positive.” However, he said, the Commission should also make sure that certain defendants admit to what laws they specifically violated, as well as acknowledge their fault in any wrongful conduct.

With Ban on General Solicitation Lifted, Private Offerings Are in Demand
The SEC says that with the bar on general solicitation no longer in place it has been notified about issuers wanting to sell nearly $1 billion of private offerings via the new exemption. Pursuant to the Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act’s Title II, the SEC adopted a rule that would let private placement issuers under the 1933 Securities Act Regulation D Rule 506 and Rule 144A advertise their offerings widely as long as only sophisticated investors are the ones solicited. According to SEC Division of Corporation Finance Director Keith Higgins, there already have been at around 170 offerings in which issuers have indicated that they will engage in general solicitation.

With the ban gone, the opening of an investment round can be publicly advertised via mass communication methods, including online media and social media. However, only accredited investors are allowed to take part in the funding round (although under Regulation D Rule 506 (b) offering, which involves private fundraising, there can be up to 35 non-accredited investors as long as a pre-existing relationship exists).

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: JP Morgan Chase admitted that it broke the law in the “London Whale” trading debacle. While it is commonplace for banks to settle cases and pay money, it is uncommon for a Wall Street Bank to admit guilt.

JP Morgan Chase admitted that it broke the law in the “London Whale” trading debacle. While it is commonplace for banks to settle cases and pay money, it is uncommon for a Wall Street Bank to admit guilt.

The “Whale” losses stemmed from wrong-way bets made by JP Morgan’s London office involving complex derivatives. JP Morgan Chase agreed to pay $920 Million in addition to admitting guilt.

Geoffrey Broderick, the senior partner of the Resolution Law Group, says “While the admission of guilt is unprecedented, it is also appropriate. However, the admission was done at the corporate level. The behavior and culture on Wall Street must change, and that will only happen when CEOs and other senior executives are personally charged and held responsible.“

Mr. Broderick adds that “The housing market will continue to suffer until it is fixed by the Courts or the Legislature. Somebody has to fix the problem. That is why The Resolution Law Group continues its fight for homeowners. Homeowners cannot expect the problem to fix itself.”

The Resolution Law Group continues to prosecute ground breaking litigation in Federal Court on behalf of homeowners suing lenders and servicers for, among other things, the illegal use of MERS, robo-signing, and intentionally ignoring underwriting standards and encouraging inflated appraisals.

The Resolution Law Group is currently enrolling clients into the pending lawsuit. For further information, visit its website at www.TheResolutionLawGroup.com.

The Resolution Law Group: Many Financial Fraud Victims Don’t See It Coming, Says Survey

According to people who took a survey a report called the Financial Fraud and Fraud Susceptibility in the United States, while most people have been targeted by financial scammers, nearly half of them don’t see it coming. Almost 24,000 adults in the 40 and over age group participated.

Among the survey results:

• Over 80% of respondents had been approached about taking part in what was potentially financial scam.

• 40% were unable to recognize the typical red flag signs of possible fraud.

• Over 40% found the idea of a 100% yearly investment return very attractive.

• 43% liked the idea of investments that were “fully guaranteed.”

• 11% of respondents admitted to losing money when investing in specifics scams, such as e-mail schemes or sales pitches during free lunches, but only 4% admitted to being victimized by financial fraud when they were directly asked about it.

• Just 45% of those that admitted to being a fraud victim told anyone else about it.

• The most common reasons cited for not reporting what happened were a) not knowing who to tell and b) not thinking that telling anyone would help.

• Educated, younger males with high incomes were the ones most likely to risk big in order to possibly achieve high returns.

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