Watchdog demands action on 'worst-ever fraud case'

25 November 2008

An investor protection group is calling on US state attorneys to take action against banks and financial institutions involved in the auction rate securities "debacle", describing it as the "worst single case of fraud" in the country's history.

The Wall Street Fraud Watchdog (WSFW) said ARS mis-selling still presents a "gigantic problem" as many of its victims' life savings remain at risk.

ARS were sold to thousands of individual and institutional investors as safe, liquid cash-equivalent products. However, when the $330 billion market collapsed, many found themselves with damaged assets they could not easily dispose of.

So far, a number of financial institutions involved in selling the products have agreed to buy back around $50 billion worth of ARS from investors. They include Morgan Stanley, UBS, Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs.

WSFW is now calling on prosecutors to pursue fraud actions against some of the banks involved in the "disaster", urging states like New York, Massachusetts and Missouri not to "look the other way".

The group has also advised investors to avoid cash equivalent products unless their sellers will provide written guarantees that the investments are "100 percent safe and liquid".

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