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Morgan Keegan Faces Mutual Fund Lawsuits

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Memphis, TNMorgan Keegan reportedly faces mutual fund lawsuits worth more than $1 billion, which could be a factor in the financial firm not being sold. According to The Commercial Appeal (12/01/11), Morgan Keegan mutual fund lawsuits involve mutual fund losses in eight failed funds. Although the firm is for sale, buyers could reportedly be put off of Morgan Keegan because of costly legal battles.

According to the report, there are at least two mutual fund class-action lawsuits in federal court against Morgan Keegan, with another 300 arbitration hearings and individual lawsuits also pending. One lawyer estimates that claims against Morgan Keegan could sit at more than $1.5 billion.

Regions Financial Corp. currently owns Morgan Keegan but put the investment firm on the market. So far, there are some potential buyers but a sale has not gone through. Some experts speculate that the reason no sale has occurred is because of the costly litigation Morgan Keegan faces. Earlier this year, Regions Financial Corp. agreed to a $210 million settlement with regulators over allegations about Morgan Keegan improperly handling subprime mortgage-backed securities. Despite the settlement, Morgan Keegan did not admit to any wrongdoing in the case.

According to reports, so far 331 arbitration cases have either been tried or abandoned. Investors have won approximately $16 million so far, although half the claims against Morgan Keegan were reportedly rejected by arbitrators.

In September 2011, the US Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed a class-action lawsuit filed against Morgan Keegan, deciding that the lawsuit should be heard in federal rather than state court. Among allegations made against Morgan Keegan are that investors were not told about the risks associated with their investments and were made to believe that the investments were safe and conservative when in fact they were risky.

Morgan Keegan is not the only company to face lawsuits and arbitrations regarding its mutual funds. Walmart and Merrill Lynch recently agreed to pay $13.5 million to settle a lawsuit related to its handling of a 401(k) plan. Specifically, the lawsuit alleged that Walmart offered participants in the 401(k) only mutual fund options that involved high fees. Meanwhile, the lawsuit alleged, Merrill Lynch accepted undisclosed payments from mutual fund companies for including them in the plan.

According to Forbes (12/05/11), the $13.5 million will be used to reduce future 401(k) plan fees.

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