Lawsuits

Don’t do this:

One particular municipal entity had been a customer of Wells Fargo, or a predecessor, since at least 1988. This customer’s investment objectives were safety of principal and income. … Wells Fargo’s internal records for the customer’s account specifically stated that the account should not invest in MBS. In addition, applicable state law prohibited municipal entities such as this customer from investing in certain “high-risk mortgage-backed securities.”

Respondent McMurtry nevertheless selected and purchased for this municipal customer a SIV-issued asset-backed commercial paper program which was backed by MBS and related high-risk mortgage-backed derivatives. … On April 30, 2007, McMurtry selected and purchased Golden Key on behalf of the customer. McMurtry did not know what a SIV was at that time he selected Golden Key for his customer. Further, he did not read the PPM for Golden Key, nor did he inform the customer of the risks related to the SIV structure or the underlying high-risk mortgage-backed assets held by Golden Key.

Well, I mean, in his defense it seems that McMurtry had a very good excuse for not informing the customer of the risks of Golden Key, specifically that that he didn’t know what those risks were, or what Golden Key was, or presumably where he was or how he got there or how many fingers the customer was holding up.

The world is safe from Shawn McMurtry for the next six months, since he and his employer entered into a settlement with the SEC today suspending him and fining Wells $6.5 million for its unconcern with the fact that its salesmen were not particularly interested in doing their jobs and/or illiterate: Read more »

Back in June, hedge fund manager Daniel Shak sued his ex-wife, Beth, over assets he claimed she’d hid during the couple’s divorce. Said assets were Beth’s shoes, which Daniel alleged were kept in a “secret room” and were worth approximately $1 million, 35 percent of which he wanted. It was a bit unclear as to why he was going after the footwear collection three years after the two split (though using the proceeds to relaunch his fund was a possibility) but the heart wants what the heart wants. Anyway, today brings just a couple follow-ups on the Shaks, both of which are slightly more exciting for Beth than Dan. Read more »

  • 10 Jul 2012 at 3:26 PM

Whistleblower Law Firm Finds Some Prospects

So there’s a law firm called Labaton Sucharow and a big chunk of their business model is:
(1) read newspaper,
(2) see bank did bad thing,
(3) sue bank.

This is a great business model because banks just cannot resist doing bad things and courts just cannot resist taking piles of money from shareholders of those banks and divvying it up among other shareholders of those banks and the lawyers who facilitated the transfer. For those same reasons, though, it’s a highly competitive business model and there’s every reason to branch into other related fields. So they did:

Labaton Sucharow was the first firm in the country to establish a practice exclusively focused on protecting and advocating for SEC Whistleblowers. Led by Jordan A. Thomas, a former Assistant Director and Assistance Chief Litigation Counsel in the Enforcement Division who played a leadership role in the development of the SEC Whistleblower Program, our practice leverages unparalleled securities litigation expertise and significant in-house resources to protect and advocate for courageous individuals who report possible securities violations.

This is clever as that is also a lucrative business model but a safer one: unlike securities class actions, where the decision about which lawyers get paid and how much are left to courts and can seem arbitrary to those lawyers, in whistleblower suits you actually find a client and convince him to pay you your fees out of any money he can get. And that money can also be serious money.

The problem though is that you cannot typically get these cases just by keeping a casual eye on the newspaper: banks cannot resist doing bad things, true, but once those bad things are in the newspaper the expected value of whistleblowing is low. The whole point of a whistleblower is that he voluntarily goes to regulators with information that isn’t yet widely known, so your job, as a whistleblowing broker, is to find people who have not yet come forward with their valuable crime information and make them come forward to you. And that is hard. It’s not like you can just contact a bunch of people in senior roles in the UK and US financial industries and say “hey, would you like to talk to us about possible misconduct in your industry?” Right? Read more »

If you knew nothing about Phil Falcone but what you read in the SEC’s assortment of complaints against him today, you would probably conclude that he’s kind of a dick. The loan thing, of course – Falcone borrowed $113mm from Harbinger at the same time he was preventing investors from withdrawing their money – but also a whole range of new and exciting charges announced today. Like that time he got mad at his prime broker and so bought 113% of the issue of a bond that the prime broker was short, and then called in the prime broker’s borrow to screw them (and gloated to them about it). Or the time – sorry, three times – that he shorted stock of companies that were doing equity offerings and then illegally covered his short with his allocation in those offerings.

Robert Khuzami is right about the marvelous variety and inventiveness of Harbinger’s scammy ways, but lots of people do lots of bad things on Wall Street. It’s just that usually their victims are either diffuse markets (insider trading) or widows and orphans (Ponzi schemes etc.) – it’s rare to spend so much time screwing so many big institutions. And it’s maybe even rarer for the SEC to stick up for those institutions.

Start with the thing that’s gotten the most attention so far: the loan that allowed Falcone to take $113mm out of his fund when investors were not allowed to redeem. How did no one tell him that that was a bad idea? Well: Read more »

And as promised, Falcone will be fighting the charges. He wants to “borrow” $113 million from his clients that’s his business and nobody else’s. The defense rests! [Earlier]

And so he’s not paying them on principle, the principle being I suppose “don’t fuck with Carl Icahn”:

Carl Icahn says he isn’t paying a bill from Goldman Sachs Group Inc., on principle. … “These guys were hired to keep me from buying the company at $30 and they failed,” Mr. Icahn said in an interview. “But they are now demanding $18 million for having done nothing.”

Goldman’s suit says the bank “fully performed all of its obligations.”

This is about Goldman’s lawsuit against Icahn-controlled CVR Energy, which has refused to pay Goldman’s bill, and both of these statements are obviously true! CVR and Goldman signed an engagement letter to the effect of (1) Goldman will hold CVR’s collective hand because it is scared of Carl Icahn and in exchange (2) CVR will pay Goldman 0.525% of the purchase price if someone buys it (and also some money if no one does*). Hands were held, so Goldman fulfilled its end of the bargain. Icahn does not think that that was worth eighteen million dollars but it wasn’t him trembling in the night as corporate raiders circled outside his door, so he wouldn’t would he? Read more »

Oh you can try a lawsuit but, historically speaking, it won’t do shit. Read more »