August 1, 2010
To Whom it May Concern, I am attaching a letter I have written detailing how my life is spinning out of control because my life savings were invested by Oppenheimer Co (at their recommendation) in Auction Rate Preferred Bonds.
The letter details how I had to take out a bank loan in order to pay a very large tax liability-which is a significant portion of the ARS that are frozen. With the current financial situation they will be frozen for many years to come. The interest on the note is $5,500/month and believe it or not the interest on $2.4 million dollars is around $875/month - which I also can't fathom how a note or bond could be in default and the interest is lower in default then when the bond was "liquid" - and this will totally deplete my life savings and any monies I want to leave to my daughter.
All, my name is Joel Oppenheim and I live in Houston, Texas
This is a story about trust. We as the retail buyers of all stocks and bonds and other securitized offerings through traditional brokerage houses with licensed stock brokers, risk managers and the companies that hold their licenses.
I work with more than one brokerage firm but in this instance regarding Auction Rate Preferred bonds (ARPS) my dealing were with Oppenheimer CO (OPCO).
In late 2007 I had a rather large liquidity event and received about 5 million dollars, $1.6 million of which was reserved for the taxes. I wasnt sure where to invest the money so I asked OPCO where I could hold the money in a very, very safe environment until I was going to invest it in various opportunities. I was VERY clear that on April 10, 2008 I needed to $1.6 million available for taxes and I was told that Auction Rate Preferred (ARPS) bonds were the same as cash with the auctions every week and so that meant the money was freely accessible upon a few days notice.
In February of 2008 I was told that the auctions had failed and that my money was no longer accessible. I asked what happened to the same as cash and then I was told that it really wasnt same as cash. That these ARPS had been safe and secure for the last 25 years but since credit dried up and liquidity went away I was not going to be getting any monies including the $1.6 million for my taxes.
To OPCOs credit they helped me obtain a loan to cover the taxes but I had to pledge $2 in ARP for each $1 borrowed. There is a default clause if the auctions did not take place but because my bonds were the high securitized ones the rate of interest on default are lower then what I was being paid before they froze. How could that be? In real life, if you default on a debt interest rates go up NOT down. No such luck here, which is another major contention. Why would interest rates go down and not up upon default, that is the real salt in the wound, kick them when they are down syndrome?
So now I am paying out over $70,000 a year in interest on my loan while receiving less than $11,000 in interest on $2.6 million on my remaining (but pledged) ARP holdings.
The two companies that have planted their corporate feet in the ground are PIMCO and Blackrock, both of which do a tremendous business with the Federal Government but absolutely will not stand up and take back these bonds that were marketed to the downstream brokerages OPCO for resale as same as cash bonds. They make fortunes doing business with the Federal Government while totally ignoring the pain and suffering they are causing the taxpayers.
This situation is much more insidious then the Madoff debacle, causing more harm to everyday people. There are literally tens of thousands of people like me with their life savings frozen while the PIMCOS and Blackrocks of the world rock on for their stock holders. This is scam of the highest magnitude generated by the most notable and prominent companies and makes the Madoff ponzi scheme pale in size and breadth to this.
OPCO, Smith Barney Pioneer, Dreyfus, Eaton Vance, and the list goes on and on, offered up these vehicles that were promoted and sold to us by them as same as cash and they all even got paid a fee to sell them, when in reality that was far from the truth.
The Market Makes supported the same as cash tenet by buying up any unsold units from the auctions. As soon as they stopped buying the entire system collapsed leaving those of us that expected our Brokers, their companies and the companys risk managers to do the due diligence work necessary to understand what these Auction Rate bond actually were, and never should have represented to anyone that they were same as cash which unfortunately for those of us now frozen out of our life savings now have come to understand.
OPCO is claiming they had no idea that they were not same as cash. Where was their due diligence, they make money when they sell these bonds. They should know and fully disclose the possible down side. Certainly if each individual broker is not aware of the dark side of what they are selling to retail clients someone with Risk Management at OPCO should have known and shared that downstream to the brokers that are offering them to their retail customers.
Where was the oversight FINRA, the SEC, The various stock exchanges.
Where are THEY now
Will you help us regain our dignity, our faith in our system.
I feel like the government has passed me by. They forced the banks that had affiliated brokerage divisions to buy/redeem them back from their clients and while they left those of us who were guided to these bonds through traditional brokerage houses are left in exile.
We could use that money to start new business's (and hire people), purchase cars and homes and expensive durable goods instead I sit and wonder if this nightmare will ever end.
Why are we any different then bank brokerage clients?
Please respond to this plea for help and action and let me know that you have taken the time to read this expose and are willing to forward this to anyone you feel could or would help to free up billions of dollars that can be used to fuel the stagnant economy.
One of the forgotten ones.
Please offer any suggestions on where I can turn for a "life line" as the concern for the millions of people that remain frozen from their money has been totally lost.
Thank you in advance for any assistance you may offer.