Posted by: Ben Steverman on August 12, 2008
By Aaron Pressman
Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin and New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo have certainly turned up the heat — and fast — on Wall Street firms that shut down the once $330 billion auction rate securities market. Yesterday, Morgan Stanley was the latest to come around, agreeing to buy back at full face value about $4.5 billion of the securities frozen in the accounts of individuals, charities and small to medium-sized businesses. The firm also agreed to pay back any clients who sold the securities at a loss after the market closed down in February.
That followed similar moves by Citigroup on August 7 to buy back about $7.3 billion and UBS saying August 8 it would repurchase about $8.3 billion from individual investors over a two-year period. UBS also said it would buy back another $10.3 billion held by institutional investors starting in June 2010.
And in what looks like the biggest announcement yet, Merrill
Lynch said August 7 it would repurchase about $10 billion of the securities starting next year.
But it’s not all wine and roses for investors holding auction rate securities. Other big players like J.P. Morgan and Wachovia are still being investigated and haven’t, as of yet, agreed to repurchase their clients’ holdings. Harry Newton, author of the auctionratepreferreds.org web site that’s been tracking the situation closely, says people are having all kinds of issues even at firms that have agreed to the settlements. People with money in family trusts or retirement accounts for sole proprietors may not see their securities repurchased, he worries.