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It’s A Waiting Game For ARS Clients Of Raymond James Financial

Citigroup did it, followed by Morgan Stanley, UBS, Merrill Lynch, Wachovia, Bank of America (BofA) and, most recently, Morgan Keegan and Ameritrade. The “it” concerns settlement agreements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to repurchase billions of dollars worth of auction-rate securities from retail investors. Scores of Wall Street firms agreed to the deals with regulators, with only a few holdouts. One of those holdouts: Raymond James Financial. 

Raymond James Financial is the subject of Gretchen Morgenson’s Aug. 1 column in the New York Times. In the article, she writes that clients of the Tampa-based brokerage currently hold some $800 million of illiquid auction-rate securities, down from $1 billion earlier this year.

The decline is tied to redemptions by issuers of auction-rate securities, such as closed-end funds and municipalities. So far, Raymond James has shown no interest in redeeming customers’ holdings. Its reasoning? Buying back $800 million of auction-rate securities at par is equal to more than 4% of the company’s total assets and 42% of its shareholder equity. 

On the other hand, Raymond James apparently had the financial stability last year, at the height of the credit crisis, to raise its dividend 10%. The move proved especially beneficial for Thomas James, CEO of Raymond James Financial. James owns 12.2% the company shares outstanding. Dividends on those shares generated a handsome profit totaling about $6 million for James and another total another $6.5 million this year if the company continues to pay the current rate of 44 cents a share.

The payments are in addition to James’ salary and pay package, which is valued at $3.55 million, according to the New York Times story.

Then there’s the money Raymond James came up with to fund its corporate branding campaign. In 2008 and 2009, the company spent $6.3 million to acquire the naming rights to the stadium where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers play. The contract runs until 2016, and the costs rise 4% every year.

Meanwhile, as the “financially strapped” Raymond James funds million-dollar salaries, raises its dividend and outlays millions of dollars on corporate advertising and marketing efforts, its clients remain permanently caught in an auction-rate securities nightmare.  

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