Plaintiff's attorneys for victims who lost money in the Medical Capital Holdings case are hoping that a judge's ruling rejecting a class action settlement increases the probability that Ameriprise will have to cough up more funds to plaintiffs on behalf of its Securities America subsidiary.
Assistance from Ameriprise seems the most likely course. In a recent statement to Financial Advisor, Janine Wertheim, senior vice president and chief marketing officer, Securities America, implied that very possibility.
"Ameriprise has reached out to us to determine whether it can help the parties to find a reasonable resolution for all constituents. We hope to develop a process in the coming days that would facilitate exploration of such a resolution, and to have a good sense by the end of the week whether such a resolution is possible."
The Medical Capital Ponzi scheme already prompted several brokerage firms, including QA3, to fold. QA3 was started by Securities America founder Stephen Wild, who sold the firm to Ameriprise more than a decade ago. Like Securities America, QA3 was based in Omaha, Neb.
Securities America, which reportedly sold about $400 million in Medical Capital securities, had hoped a judge would approve a $21 million settlement with investors. A Texas court rejected that settlement late Friday, stating that the firm, which only held about $2 million in reserve, was operating with inadequate capital and inadequate insurance pursuant to their client's investments.
In court, Securities America officials reportedly told the judge that the firm might be forced to close. While Securities America does not have sufficient funds to pay claimants 100 cents on the dollar, its parent, Ameriprise, does. Earlier this year, Ameriprise had indicated a willingness to sweeten the settlement by as much as $27 million, though how far it will go remains unclear.
"The judge recognized that the Securities America settlement was an attempt to generate the biggest possible recovery with what they had, but he is ultimately looking to the parent company to take responsibility here, and we don't disagree that this needs to be the focus," said Daniel C. Girard, managing partner with Girard Gibbs LLP, and lead council for the class action suit.
If the judgment weren't enough to encourage Ameriprise to take on more of the responsibility, the potential fallout from leaving Securities America to fail may be. Joseph Peiffer, attorney with New Orleans-based firm Fishman, Haygood, Phelps, Walmsley, Willis & Swanson, who represents 16 investors, was quick to note that the indemnity agreements Securities America has with its reps would be void if the company folded. His firm, along with countless other attorneys, has filed suits against the individual reps in addition to the suit against Securities America.
"That leaves them on the hook," Peiffer noted.