Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin yesterday filed an administrative complaint against Oppenheimer & Co. and its senior officials, charging they misled investors about auction-rate securities and unloaded their personal holdings while continuing to push them to investors.
In the complaint, which was filed with the enforcement section of his office’s securities division, Galvin asked the state to revoke the broker-dealer license of Oppenheimer CEO and chairman Albert “Bud” Lowenthal and require the firm to both buy back ARS at par and make full restitution to investors who suffered losses from having to sell the securities below par. He also asked that Lowenthal, Robert Lowenthal, senior managing director for taxable fixed income trading, and Greg White, the managing director of the firm’s ARS department, be fined and subject to other possible sanctions.
According to the complaint, Bud Lowenthal sold $1.775 million of personal holdings of ARS between Jan. 29 and Feb. 12, when the ARS market collapsed because firms stopped supporting the auctions. White sold $300,000 of ARS in his account and $100,000 in his wife’s account during the same period, as did other senior officials of the firm. They did not inform clients and financial advisoes of their actions, leaving them thinking the securities were safe, cash-like investments.