The Wall Street Journal reported over the weekend about how one New York resident investor who lost his small stake in Washington Mutual once it was seized by the United States government in 2008 played a pivotal role in protecting the rights of similarly places investors. New York securities and whistleblower lawyers know there too be all too many investors in the same boat.
Nate Thoma, a self-taught trader who was wiped out when the U.S. government intervened in WaMu, discovered that he could recoup his losses by investing in trust preferred securities, which he bought through online trading account when they became available. The trust preferred securities essentially places the holder in the front of the line for any money distributed from WaMu’s estate once it emerged from bankruptcy. The Wall Street Journal reported that Mr. Thoma suspected hedge funds were buying substantially more blocks of these trust preferred shares while also owning the bank’s bonds.
And in December 2010, Mr. Thoma explained his theory to the Delaware bankruptcy court judge in the case In re Washington Mutual, Inc.: since the hedge funds were both bond holders in settlement talks, and owners of substantial swaths of trust preferred shares, were the hedge funds acting in the trust preferred holders’ best interest when they negotiated on their behalf?
Mr. Thoma’s argument, who was unrepresented for his objection and has no formal legal training, factored into the judge’s resulting decision to disallow settlement of the case, and led to a settlement between the hedge funds and individual investors.
Such individual investor intervention in bankruptcy proceedings is rare. However, Mr. Thoma’s intervention is instructive. It is important to keep a watchful eye over your investments. If you suspect that your wishes are not being considered by your broker, or your suspect that foul play is occurring in your account, you are best served to investigate the matter immediately.
The Wall Street Journal article can be found here.
The Delaware Bankruptcy Court’s decision can be found here.