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Archive for June, 2007

Trader Pleads Guilty In Inside-Information Case

A former hedge-fund trader pleaded guilty to criminal charges involving a scheme to trade on inside information about analysts’ ratings changes at UBS AG’s securities unit before the changes became public knowledge.

Mark E. Lenowitz, who formerly traded equity securities on behalf of Chelsey Capital in New York and was a partner at Q Capital Investment Partners LP in New Jersey, entered his plea to one count of conspiracy and one count of securities fraud at a hearing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan.

He said he agreed to forfeit more than $337,000 in profits. He faces as many as 25 years in prison, with sentencing scheduled Jan. 18. He was charged in March with conspiracy and five counts of securities fraud.

Six others have also pleaded guilty in two separate schemes.

Mr. Lenowitz is one of 13 people charged in two separate schemes to use inside information to make improper trades ahead of the public announcements of upgrades or downgrades by UBS analysts and ahead of news of pending mergers and acquisitions in which Morgan Stanley was an adviser.

NASD has told Brookstreet Securities to close customer accounts

Losses on mortgage-backed securities have forced an Irvine brokerage firm to begin shutting down its operations, people close to the company said Thursday.

At least some of the losses were said to be incurred by clients of the brokerage, Brookstreet Securities.

Because of the losses, brokerage regulator NASD told Brookstreet this week to limit its activities to liquidating customer accounts, said Scott Brooks, an executive vice president at the firm. NASD officials declined to comment.

“Unfortunately, we are on ‘SELL ONLY,’ ” Stanley C. Brooks, Scott’s father and the firm’s founder, said in an e-mail sent Wednesday through the company’s nationwide network of 600 brokers, many of whom work from their homes. In the e-mail, Brooks said the 17-year-old firm’s net worth had fallen from $11 million at the end of May to a negative $2.1 million.

Scott Brooks referred requests for additional comment to his sister, Julie Mains, an attorney at Brookstreet, who he said was trying to work out a deal to save the firm. Repeated efforts to reach Mains were unsuccessful.

The Brookstreet case is another illustration of how weakness in the housing market, which has led to a wave of defaults on loans to high-risk sub-prime borrowers, is spreading financial pain beyond sub-prime lenders and distressed homeowners.Several major investment operations, including two hedge funds managed by Bear Stearns Cos., have been struggling to avoid being forced to shut down in the wake of losses on mortgage-backed investments.

Brookstreet closes down, 100 laid off

Brookstreet Securities Corp., an Irvine broker-dealer, has shut its doors, laid off 100 local employees and liquidated its assets because it is unable to meet margin calls on complex securities called collateralized mortgage obligations, the company’s spokeswoman Julie Mains told Register reporter John Gittelsohn today.

An email sent to employees summed up the situation as a “Disaster.”

“It’s heartbreaking,” Mains said.

She said the company went from $16 million in capital Friday to being $3 million underwater Wednesday because its clearing firm, National Financial Services, sold the securities, which had lost value as Wall Street confidence in Bear Stearns & Co’s hedge funds of mortgage-backed securities collapsed .

A spokesman for National Financial Services said it’s not his company’s fault that Brookstreet ran out of capital.

Mains said some of Brookstreet’s customers lost their entire investment and that the National Association of Securities Dealers ordered the company to liquidate its remaining accounts. She said Brookstreet clients should try to find another broker-dealer to take over their accounts.

Here’s an email Brookstreet sent to its employees Wednesday:

“To Our Valued Brookstreet Members, Disaster, the firm may be forced to close…
Today, the pricing system used by National Financial has reduced values in all Collateralized Mortgage Obligations. Many of those accounts were on margin and have suffered horrendous markdowns and unrealized as well as realized losses.

National Financial and the regulators expect Brookstreet to pay for realized liquidated losses and take a capital charge for unrealized mark to market losses.

This firm has done a valiant if not Herculean job of managing the liquidations and capital charges to the firm’s net worth and net capital. We had reduced the margin balance significantly; we had liquidated and reduced exposure by 80%.

That still left a $70,000,000 margin balance against around 85,000,000 of value. Unfortunately the pricing service used by NF revalued many CMO positions downward last night. We went from a positive net capital of 2.4 million, down from 11 million at the end of May, a negative net capital of 2.1 million. It would take a capital infusion of at least $5,000,000 to keep the company in compliance with no guarantee that additional markdowns will not be forth coming.

I cannot in good conscience request that anyone put money in the firm, I think $10,000,000 would be a minimum without consideration of the horrific customer complaints to follow.

I have told many of you that you are always in danger of not being paid on your last check when working for any broker dealer, which is why I have always paid twice per week and maintained huge net cash positions, generally in the realm of 15,000,000 on average. I will try to get enough money from our account at NFS to complete our upcoming payrolls.

Since I have been writing this letter I have received three hurried inquiries about re capitalizing the company. I will negotiate an arrangement that guarantees that everyone gets paid, to the best of my abilities. Please stay at Brookstreet at least until Friday so I may do my best for each of you. Unfortunately we are on “SELL ONLY.”

I believe I will be able to reconstitute another opportunity for everyone that will result is a minimum of change and disruption. There will be disruption.

Please give a day or so for us to come up with the best strategy. This has happened to us in one day, amazing. All of our family net worth is in the firm, please give me time to present a new plan.”

NASD Charges Former Securities America Broker

In the first case of its kind, NASD announced today that it has fined Securities America, Inc. of Omaha, NE, $375,000 for improperly sharing directed brokerage commissions from a mutual fund company with Michael Bullock, a former Securities America broker in the Los Angeles, CA area. NASD also found that Securities America failed to adequately supervise Bullock’s communications with his union-sponsored retirement plan clients to ensure that Bullock disclosed his additional compensation to those clients.

In a separate complaint, NASD charged Bullock with improperly receiving directed brokerage commissions and other compensation of more than $280,000. Bullock was also charged with misrepresenting and failing to disclose this compensation to his union retirement plan clients – at the same time he was advising those clients to maintain or include the fund company’s mutual funds in the retirement plans they offered to working and retired union members.

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