SEC Charges Raymond James for Auction Rate Securities Sales Practices
Firm Agrees to Buy Back All Outstanding ARS from Eligible Customers
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Washington, D.C., June 29, 2011 — The Securities and Exchange Commission today charged Raymond James & Associates Inc. and Raymond James Financial Services Inc. for making inaccurate statements when selling auction rate securities (ARS) to customers.
Raymond James agreed to settle the SEC’s charges and provide its customers the opportunity to sell back to the firm any ARS that they bought prior to the collapse of the ARS market in February 2008.
According to the SEC’s administrative order, some registered representatives and financial advisers at Raymond James told customers that ARS were safe, liquid alternatives to money market funds and other cash-like investments. In fact, ARS were very different types of investments. Among other things, representatives at Raymond James did not provide customers with adequate and complete disclosures regarding the complexity and risks of ARS, including their dependence on successful auctions for liquidity.
“Raymond James improperly marketed and sold ARS to customers as safe and highly liquid alternatives to money market accounts and other short-term investments,” said Eric I. Bustillo, Director of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office. “Harmed investors who are covered by this settlement will have the opportunity to get full payment for their illiquid ARS.”
The SEC previously announced ARS settlements with Citigroup and UBS, Wachovia, Bank of America, RBC Capital Markets, Deutsche Bank, and TD Ameritrade. As a result of these settlements, more than $67 billion has been returned to ARS customers following the SEC’s investigation into the ARS market collapse of February 2008 that left tens of thousands of investors holding ARS they could not sell.
The SEC’s order against Raymond James finds that the firm willfully violated Section 17(a)(2) of the Securities Act of 1933. The Commission censured Raymond James, ordered it to cease and desist from future violations, and reserved the right to seek a financial penalty against the firm.
Without admitting or denying the SEC’s allegations, Raymond James consented to the SEC’s order and agreed to:
- Offer to purchase eligible ARS from its eligible current and former customers.
- Use its best efforts to provide liquidity solutions to customers who acted as institutional money managers who are not otherwise eligible customers.
- Reimburse excess interest costs to eligible ARS customers who took out loans from Raymond James after Feb. 13, 2008.
- Compensate eligible customers who sold their ARS below par by paying the difference between par and the sale price of the ARS, plus reasonable interest.
- At the customer’s election, participate in a special arbitration process with those eligible customers who claim additional damages.
- Establish a toll-free telephone assistance line and a public Internet page to respond to questions concerning the terms of the settlement.
Investors should be alerted that, in most instances, they will receive correspondence from Raymond James. Investors must then advise Raymond James that they elect to participate in the settlement. If they do not do so, they could lose their rights to sell their ARS to Raymond James. Investors should review the full text of the SEC’s order, which includes the terms of the settlement.
This case was investigated by Edward D. McCutcheon, Andre J. Zamorano, Jon B. Jordan, and Chedly C. Dumornay of the SEC’s Miami Regional Office in coordination with an examination of the firms conducted by Michael J. Nakis, Carlos A. Gutierrez, and Nicholas Monaco of the SEC’s Miami office.
The Commission acknowledges the assistance and cooperation of the State of Florida Office of Financial Regulation, the Texas State Securities Board, and the North American Securities Administrators Association.
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For more information about this enforcement action, contact:
Eric I. Bustillo, Regional Director
Glenn S. Gordon, Associate Regional Director
SEC’s Miami Regional Office