A group of Florida retirees — whose losses in the Schwab YieldPlus Fund top $300,000 — have joined together to file arbitration claims today against Charles Schwab & Co. and former fund manager Kimon Daifotis.
Schwab marketed its YieldPlus Fund as a safe and conservative “cash alternative” and compared its safety to that of one and two-year certificates of deposit on the Schwab website.
But several Florida retirees who trusted Schwab with their nest eggs are now filing a claim with FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, asserting that Schwab deceived them with the reckless mortgage and asset-backed security strategy orchestrated in Schwab’s YieldPlus Fund.
The bond mutual fund’s price has decreased by more than 30 percent in the last year. This price decrease has resulted in the virtual liquidation of the Schwab YieldPlus Fund (SWYSX, SWYPX) with the fund’s total net assets under management declining by more than $13 billion or — 96 percent — over the past year.
The three Florida families who joined together to file today’s small group claim include an 82-year-old widow from Vero Beach; a retired computer consultant and artist from Longwood; and a retired accountant and homemaker from Port St. Lucie. All were longtime clients of Charles Schwab & Co.
The claim, filed by former Securities and Exchange Commission attorney Thomas F. Shine and investor rights attorney Chris Vernon, contends that Schwab committed gross misconduct when it embarked on a “damage control” campaign to avoid liquidations of YieldPlus by its clients. Behind the scenes, Schwab quietly dumped 2.9 million YieldPlus shares from the portfolios of its other mutual funds during that time — from Jan. 31, 2008, to April 1, 2008. The investors also claim Schwab and Daifotis misrepresented the safety of YieldPlus and failed to disclose material facts to investors about the fund.
Shine and Vernon were the first attorneys to file an investor claim naming Daifotis as a respondent. One day after filing that claim, Schwab announced that it had replaced Daifotis as YieldPlus Fund manager.
Schwab is contacting some investors with settlement offers, but investors with larger losses are filing arbitration claims in the face of Schwab’s offers to pay pennies on the dollar (if anything) and refusal to acknowledge any wrongdoing or remorse for its actions.
In addition to representing Florida investors, Shine and Vernon are pursuing claims against Schwab on behalf of investors from California, Hawaii, Texas, New York, and the Midwest.
Shine, a former enforcement attorney with the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C., is in private practice in the Melbourne, Fla. area. Chris Vernon is a founding partner of the Naples, Fla.-based law firm Vernon Litigation Group, which represents investors throughout the United States.
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