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Posts Tagged ‘FINRA and Auction Rate Securities’

Joe Sciddurlo Drops Bombshells on FINRA

Posted by Larry Doyle on July 5th, 2011 11:09 AM |

We do not often get an insider’s perspective into the world of Wall Street regulation. That reality should not be a surprise.

Wall Street and those charged with regulating it typically play their cards very close to the vest. Getting a peek ‘over the shoulder’ at the cards held by the banks, the SEC, FINRA, and other regulators is a real treat.

Longtime followers of Sense on Cents may recall the fabulous insights provided by former SEC attorney and Madoff investigator Genevievette Walker-Lightfoot on NQR’s Sense on Cents with Larry Doyle in October 2009.

Last week, longtime and highly regarded financial journalist John Crudele of The New York Post provided a fabulous look into FINRA as he wrote another in a recent series of scathing commentaries on Wall Street’s self-regulatory organization. (more…)

Oppenheimer: Do the Right Thing, Redeem Your Auction-Rate Securities

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 30th, 2010 5:14 PM |

Q: Which full-service brokerage firm has NOT redeemed their clients stuck in auction-rate securities for the past 28 months?

Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Wachovia, Bank of America, Oppenheimer, TD Ameritrade, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, UBS?

A: Oppenheimer & Company is the only one of these institutions that has not redeemed their private clients’ Auction-Rate Securities that were fraudulently marketed as “just like cash.”

OPPENHEIMER: DO THE RIGHT THING!!!

On behalf of auction-rate securities investors everywhere, I am happy to run this ad here at Sense on Cents!! This specific ad was submitted by a group of Oppenheimer clients.

LD

FINRA 2008 Annual Report: A Special Type of Hubris

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 29th, 2009 3:14 PM |

At first blush, I viewed the text of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA’s) 2008 Annual Report as nothing more than standard corporate fare.  With the benefit of a few days to ponder FINRA’s delivery, I am actually amazed, although never surprised, by the gall of this regulatory organization. In fact, I can only describe FINRA as displaying a special type of hubris in addressing the fraud encompassing Auction-Rate Securities.

I personally believe it is very important for a financial self-regulatory organization, such as FINRA, to be totally transparent in every regard. Why? Very simply, transparency promotes confidence and FINRA’s position as a financial regulator should begin and end with that goal.

Against that backdrop, FINRA should not directly manage any of their own funds. To do so is an open invitation for conflicts of interest. FINRA’s own investment portfolio, managed by an Investment Committee, generated a negative 26% return in 2008. In April 2009, the FINRA portfolio shifted to a lower volatility approach but in 2008 it continued to have exposure to hedge funds, fund of funds, and private equity. As much as I believe this is a very big deal, it pales in comparison to the major issue I, and others, have with FINRA: their involvement with Auction-Rate Securities. Let’s dive into this part of the report and comment as appropriate.

FINRA sets the table:

Throughout the financial crisis, FINRA has worked closely with other regulators, particularly the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve, to examine firm activities for compliance with FINRA rules and federal securities laws, investigate wrongdoing and, when rules were broken, enforcing those rules.

As well they should. However, Finra obviously did not work too closely with the SEC to detect the fraud ongoing with Bernie Madoff. In fact, Finra’s only reference to the Madoff situation is one sentence highlighting the fact that the current financial regulatory structure does not overlap the efforts overseeing broker-dealers with those of investment advisors.

FINRA continues to make their case in stating:

The instability in the markets, and at a number of financial institutions, heightened investor fears. FINRA helped to allay those fears, and foster confidence, by working to ensure the protection of customer assets at troubled institutions.

How can they make this statement with a straight face knowing that thousands of investors and tens of billions of dollars remain frozen in Auction-Rate Securities? A number of Wall Street institutions continue to collect fees from these securities. Hubris? You think?

FINRA continues:

Vigorous enforcement of rules and regulations is a cornerstone of FINRA’s work to protect investors. In 2008, FINRA focused its efforts in several areas of investor harm—including excessive commissions, unsuitable mutual fund share class recommendations and sales, penny stock sales and auction rate securities recommendations and sales.

The hubris grows.

Let’s move forward. FINRA boldly and specifically addresses the Auction-Rate Securities market.  I would have thought FINRA may have ducked this topic given the fact that they had sold $647 million ARS in 2007. The fact that they have willingly ‘opened this can of worms’ leaves them subject to fair and open questions. FINRA puts forth: (more…)

Where Is Finra’s 2008 Annual Report?

Posted by Larry Doyle on June 8th, 2009 10:33 AM |

Finra released its 2007 Annual Report in mid-April 2008. Here it is June 8, 2009 and Finra has yet to release its 2008 Annual Report. What is going on? Aside from speculating, I called Finra this morning to inquire.

A source from within Finra’s Media Source division informed me to call back in a month. I questioned how and why in a period of economic and market dislocation, and with a heightened sensitivity on increased regulatory transparency, that Finra is being less transparent. I received a healthy dose of red tape and little direction.  I have a call into Finra spokesman Herb Perone. That said, June 8, 2009 and no Annual Report.  “Call back in a month.”

Why do I want to review Finra’s 2008 Annual Report? I know that fines and sanctions collected by Finra diminished by approximately 30% over the last year. The WSJ highlighted that information and I expounded upon it in writing, How Courageous is Mary Schapiro? My specific area of interest is a review of Finra’s investments within their own internal portfolio.

Recall that from their investment portfolio, Finra sold $647 million (position as of year end 2006) of Auction Rate Securities in Spring 2007. What did Finra do with their investments in hedge funds, fund of funds, private equity, common equities, and fixed income? Would Finra be so forthcoming as to provide insight as to why they needed to raise all that cash from the Auction Rate Securities liquidation?

Our markets and economy are screaming for increased transparency and regulation in an attempt to reinstill a measure of investor confidence.

Finra is prominently situated as a Wall Street regulatory body. Finra is currently being less transparent than a year ago. Why? Ms. Schapiro at the SEC and Richard Ketchum, new head of Finra, can TALK all they want about increased transparency and stiffer regulations. Talk is cheap. Information is everything.

“Call back in a month…” does NOT get it done.

LD

ARS Investor Makes Public Plea

Posted by Larry Doyle on May 3rd, 2009 2:02 PM |

On the heels of Bloomberg breaking the news of FINRA’s investment in Auction Rate Securities, I have received a number of e-mails from ARS investors thanking me for my pursuit in publicizing that information. One e-mail in particular touched me. This investor purchased ARS from Oppenheimer. His e-mail to attorneys general around the country and major media outlets is powerful. I share his questions; they deserve answers. With the writer’s permission: (more…)






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