market selloff headline

market selloff headline

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Here's help for victims of shady traders


There's free legal help at Florida International University for small investors who've been victims of bad brokers.
In its first year, students at the Investor Advocacy Clinic are reaching out to investors who feel that something wasn't right about the way way their money disappeared.
``We can take a case that's got damages that aren't in the hundreds of thousands, but the losses are very meaningful to that particular person,'' said Bryan Jones, one of six third-year law students taking part in the yearlong clinic.
FIU's law school is one of three across the country that received $250,000 grants from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to start such clinics.
The cases taken up by the clinic could wind up in arbitration or mediation, where students will work to recoup the lost money. Nationally, more than 3,778 new arbitration cases were filed by investors against securities firms with FINRA in the first six months of the year.
Read more >>> Miami Herald article

Friday, October 15, 2010

FINRA Releases Survey of Military Families' Finances

The FINRA Investor Education Foundation released a survey that measures the overall financial capabilities of U.S. military personnel. The Military Survey – one of three linked surveys analyzing the financial capability of American adults – was developed in consultation with the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the President's Advisory Council on Financial Literacy. Some of the findings are predictable; others more surprising. Thus, unfortunately, the study reveals that men and women in uniform face considerable obstacles in maintaining their financial readiness:

  • Military families are heavily in debt to credit card issuers, with over one in four respondents reporting more than $10,000 in credit card debt.
  • One in four servicemembers with checking accounts reported overdrawing their accounts, which typically incurs significant fees.
  • More than one in five (21 percent) servicemembers used high-cost, non-bank borrowing such as payday or auto title loans in the last five years.
  • Over half of enlisted personnel and junior non-commissioned officers reported that in some months, they made only the minimum payment on their credit cards.
  • Only 50 percent of military respondents have a "rainy day" fund for unanticipated financial emergencies.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brokers Face FINRA Flash Crash Sweep

By Christopher Westfall
08/23/10 - 11:14 AM EDT

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- Wall Street firms that gave high-frequency traders direct access to the equity markets and contributed to last May's "Flash Crash" could face sanctions from market watchdogs.

Broker/dealers will be the subject of regulatory "sweep" by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. The regulator will try and determine whether the broker/dealers have the proper risk management controls in order to police clients that buy and sell securities quickly through computer driven algorithmic trades. (FINRA) that will focus their dealings with high-frequency traders, according to an article in today's Financial Times.

FINRA chairman Richard Ketchum said that the regulator would focus on whether broker/dealers - which act as gatekeepers to the equity and bond markets - are monitoring their clients trading closely enough to prevent another market meltdown. "The brokers should be satisfied they know who's really operating these systems," Ketchum told the FT.

On May 6th the trading in stock market became highly volatile and within the span of a few minutes the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJI) plummeted nearly 1,000. At the time, many on Wall Street were at a loss for the violent swing in stock prices. However, later many pointed the finger at high-frequency trading firms.

The exchanges most affected by the flash crash were the New York Stock Exchange, which is operated by NYSE Euronext (NYX) and the Nasdaq Stock Market, which is operated by Nasdaq OMX Group (NDAQ).

Next month, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission will come out with their own report on the flash crash.

View original article

For more information regarding the May 2010 "flash crash," please visit this WSJ article.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

FINRA arbitrators order UBS to pay $81 million for ARS sales to paygo cellular marketer

Wed Aug 4, 2010

* UBS to pay Kajeet Inc $80.8 mln in damages

* UBS says will challenge ruling

By Joseph A. Giannone

NEW YORK, Aug 4 (Reuters) - A FINRA arbitration panel ordered UBS AG (UBSN.VX) on Tuesday to pay $81 million in damages to a Bethesda, Maryland-based cellphone marketer that purchased auction-rate securities through the U.S. brokerage.

FINRA documents posted online showed a panel comprised of three public arbitrators ordered to pay the damages to Kajeet Inc, which purchased student-loan auction-rate securities that lost value during the credit crisis.

Kajeet, which sells pay-as-you-go cell phones aimed at children, had claimed $110 million in losses.

"We strongly disagree with the arbitration panel's decision on a legacy auction-rate matter and we will file a motion to overturn that decision," UBS spokeswoman Karina Byrne said. "We believe the outcome is unwarranted under both the facts and the law."

Auction-rates securities were long touted as cash-like investments, but became impossible to trade after credit markets seized up in 2007.

State and federal regulators have forced UBS to repurchase $22.7 billion of auction rates from individual investors. The Securities and Exchange Commission continues to investigate the role of individual executives at the firm.

Read more >>> view article

Friday, July 23, 2010

Finra Extends Pilot Arbitration Program By One Year


NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is extending a pilot program that gives investors the option of an arbitration panel without an industry-affiliated arbitrator.

The program was set to end after two years on Oct. 5, but brokerages participating in it agreed to let it continue until the same date in 2011, according to Finra's website. Finra, Wall Street's internal watchdog, oversees the arbitration process in securities disputes.

Most arbitration cases are heard by a three-person panel. One of those members is typically affiliated with the securities industry, while two others are so-called public arbitrators.

Investor advocates have long argued that an industry affiliation raises concern about possible bias or conflict of interest, in some types of cases, particularly those involving broad practices. An example they commonly cite is the sale of auction rate securities by numerous brokerages before the market for them froze up and left investors stranded.

Giving investors the option of a panel comprised of three public arbitrators would eliminate that potential bias, but they still can choose an industry arbitrator in cases where that expertise could be helpful, says Stuart Meissner, a New York-based securities lawyer. Those types of cases may involve complex issues, such as allegations that a firm failed to hedge. Industry arbitrators, in that context, can help explain intricacies to the public arbitrators, says Meissner.

"It's a very good program. It shouldn't be a pilot," says Meissner.

Scott Shewan, president of the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association, or Piaba, a Norman, Okla.-based group of lawyers who represent investors in securities arbitration says the program's extension may have been prompted by favorable results.

Read more >>> view article

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A Letter from the FINRA Chairman & CEO - 2009 Year in Review

Chairman and CEO, Rick Ketchum, issued FINRA's 2009 Year in Review statement recently.
  • Introduction
  • Enhancements to FINRA’s Regulatory Program
  • Ongoing Enforcement of Rules and Regulations
  • Initiatives to Improve Surveillance
  • Expansion of Transparency Initiatives
  • FINRA Financial Results
  • Continued Investor Education Efforts
  • Regulatory Reform
  • The Road Ahead
  • Financial Summary
The full year-end statement can be viewed here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Nasdaq Proposes Circuit Breakers Supplementing SEC’s

By Nina Mehta

June 2 (Bloomberg) -- Nasdaq OMX Group Inc. proposed an expansion on its markets of measures to halt stocks during periods of volatility, adding circuit breakers to all the companies it lists and a tiered system that pauses trading based on different percentage moves.

The Nasdaq program would add halts for faster price changes than are covered by a Securities Exchange Commission proposal last month. While the agency will begin a pilot next week in which Standard & Poor’s 500 Index stocks that swing more than 10 percent within five minutes are delayed, Nasdaq will pause trading for a minute during moves over 30 seconds or less, said Eric Noll, executive vice president at New York-based Nasdaq.

Exchanges and regulators are examining ways to slow down trading during investor panics after the market plunge on May 6 showed how conflicting rules across as many as 50 different U.S. equity venues may worsen selloffs. The rout erased $862 billion from the value of U.S. equities in less than 20 minutes and drove the Dow Jones Industrial Average to an almost 1,000-point decline, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“We’ve always seen this as an issue,” Noll said. “With the circuit-breaker bands now being introduced in the marketplace, we can provide solutions that affect specific volatility concerns in our market.” The events on May 6 caused Nasdaq to pursue this mechanism “in a much more aggressive way,” he said.

Read more >>> view article

Friday, May 21, 2010

After Senate passage, what's next for financial reform bill?

Negotiations with the House over the final financial reform bill are expected to be more transparent than they were with health-care reform. Exemptions or special deals sought by industry lobbyists are likely to stir intense debate.
By Gail Russell Chaddock, Staff writer / May 21, 2010
On a barely bipartisan 59-to-39 vote, the Senate on Thursday approved the most sweeping overhaul of financial-industry oversight since the New Deal era. Next: negotiations with the House, final passage expected by July 4, and a reprise of the main themes of the debate in partisan ads for the fall midterm elections.
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The Senate bill gives Washington broad new powers to shut down large, failing firms or require that businesses deemed at risk hold more capital. A new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau will be tasked to establish new rules for mortgages, auto loans, and credit-card lending, as well as other financial products. The bill extends government oversight to the vast $600 trillion financial derivatives market, including new limits on trading by Wall Street banks.
“The recession we’re emerging from was primarily caused by a lack of responsibility and accountability from Wall Street to Washington,” President Obama said in the White House Rose Garden after a key procedural vote on Thursday that all but ensured that the Senate bill would pass. Next to health-care reform, financial regulation is a top domestic priority for the administration.
“The reform I sign will not stifle the power of the free market – it will simply bring predictable, responsible, sensible rules into the marketplace. Unless your business model is based on bilking your customers and skirting the law, you should have nothing to fear from this legislation,” he added.

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

WSJ - AT A GLANCE: Financial Overhaul Advances In Senate

THE EVENT: The Senate cleared the way for a final vote on legislation that would constitute the biggest overhaul of U.S. financial regulations since the 1930s, voting, 60-40, to end more than three weeks of debate on the sweeping measure. President Barack Obama called the action a "major step forward."

KEY POINTS IN DEBATE: Republican critics have generally opposed the bill as an excessive intrusion by government into the markets. They also said the legislation doesn't deal with the circumstances that led to the severe decline in housing prices.

SUMMARY OF BILL: The legislation, broadly, is designed to close the regulatory gaps and end the speculative trading practices that contributed to the 2008 financial market crisis. Among other things, the bill would create a regulatory system to manage the collapse of a failed financial institutions; create a new consumer protection agency; change the way mortgages and credit cards are regulated and how financial firms interact with regulators; and boost the government's ability to deal with systemwide failures.

MARKET REACTION: Bank stocks briefly pared some of their losses after the vote, but closed lower. Concerns about exposure to Europe's debt woes continued to weigh on bank shares and on the broader market, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average falling 376.36 points, or 3.6%, to close at 10068.01, off 10.15% from its 2010 closing high hit on April 26.

WHAT'S NEXT: Senate Democrats would need to clear a handful of procedural hurdles for a final vote to occur Thursday evening, but leadership was discussing the possibility, according to several congressional aides. If the Senate approves the bill, it will have to be reconciled with a version in the House of Representatives. The House passed its version of the bill last year and the two chambers have approached a number of issues, including how the government should fund the cost of winding down a large financial firm, in very different ways.

View original article.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

SEC says no single cause of market plunge

(Reuters) - The top securities regulator said no single event had been found to explain Thursday's mysterious market plunge, but the shocking drop was unacceptable and additional safeguards were coming.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Mary Schapiro said on Tuesday it would take time to pinpoint the cause and warned that investor confidence could suffer if there were no reforms.
"The markets failed many investors on May 6, and I am committed to finding effective solutions in the very near term," she said in testimony to the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Capital Markets.
The SEC said after the hearing that it had received recommendations from exchanges and the broker-dealer watchdog Finra for trading curbs and for dealing with erroneous trades. It said it would review them over the next few days.
With U.S. stock markets back near levels before the May 6 debacle, many lawmakers appeared satisfied with the SEC and fellow market watchdog, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
"After hearing the testimony from our two regulators I feel a lot more secure," said Paul Kanjorski, the Democrat from Pennsylvania who chairs the subcommittee.
But some Republican members of the committee questioned the wisdom of regulators taking action before the causes of the market roller coaster were clear.
Although Schapiro gave greater weight to theories that a confluence of events were responsible, no regulator or exchange has provided a full account of events or concluded what caused a lightning-fast 700-point drop in the Dow Jones Industrial Average that rattled investors worldwide.
"The sudden evaporation of meaningful prices for many major exchange-listed stocks in the middle of a trading day is unacceptable and clearly contrary to the vital policy objective of maintaining fair and orderly financial markets," Schapiro said.
CFTC Chairman Gary Gensler said his agency asked some traders for "all communications" and positions related to E-mini Standard & Poor's 500 futures contracts. That suggested a more muscular thrust in the complicated probe, and bolstered industry rumors circulating around that contract over the last five days.
Schapiro and Gensler both said that computer-driven high frequency trading (HFT) strategies may have exacerbated the sell-off when some of those firms stopped making markets in stocks and futures contracts.
Read more >>> view article.