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FINRA issued an award in the arbitration between claimants Joseph R. Ritz, Susan F. Ritz and respondents Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (#CRD 149777) and Charles Alan Correal (CRD# 1366202).

According to the award documentation, the claimants asserted claims for breach of fiduciary duty, violations of the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law, suitability, professional negligence, breach of contract and breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing, failure to supervise  and vicarious liability by Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Charles Alan Correal.

The claimants allege that respondents invested their funds in risky and unsuitable energy stocks, including Seadrill, Ltd., Copano Energy LLC, and Interoil.

Rising oil prices apparently are not enough to save the once-promising master limited partnership (“MLP”) Seadrill Limited.  Seadrill stock plummeted, going down 54% on April 4, 2017 as the company announced that it will likely file for bankruptcy.

The most ominous news from Seadrill was its warning to investors of its substantial debt load and its expectation that shareholders are “likely to receive minimal recovery for their existing shares.”

Seadrill, as many oil and gas companies, has seen its value drop dramatically over the last three (3) years.  But the company was once highly-valued by Wall Street, with a market capitalization of $23.7 billion as recently as 2013.  Today, the company has dropped approximately 98% in value and sits at a market capitalization of just under $400 million.

Our attorneys are investigating the suitability of recommendations made by Morgan Stanley (CRD# 149777) and its financial advisors to invest in Seadrill Ltd. and other oil and gas investments and master limited partnerships (“MLPs”).

Morgan Stanley has touted Seadrill at multiple points during the oil and gas investment’s life.  Morgan Stanley served as a book-running manager and underwriter of Seadrill’s initial public offering (“IPO”).  Morgan Stanley has served in similar capacities in at least one other Seadrill public offering.

Morgan Stanley has also featured Seadrill as a presenter at one of its energy conferences in 2014Seadrill hired Morgan Stanley as an advisor on debt talks for the company in 2016.  As recently as February 2017, Morgan Stanley upgraded its outlook on Seadrill.  Now, it appears only two (2) analysts cover Seadrill due to its most recent drop in value.  It’s not clear if one of those two is Morgan Stanley.

In April 2016, Peabody Energy Corp. (“Peabody”), a one-time Wall Street darling based in St. Louis, Missouri filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection.  Almost a year to the day, Peabody emerged from bankruptcy on Monday, April 3, 2017.  A day later, another one-time Wall Street darling, Seadrill (ticker “SDRL”), a deepwater drilling contractor that provides drilling services to the oil and gas industry, declined 54% following its warning to investors that the Bermuda-based company is likely to seek bankruptcy protection (or the equivalent) in the United States or United Kingdom (company headquarters).

Seadrill is just another corporate casualty among the hundreds of oil, gas, coal and energy companies that filed and sought bankruptcy production since early 2015.  The Securities Arbitration and Investment Litigation Lawyers at the Silver Law Group, The Law Office of David Chase, P.A. and Ciklin Lubitz & O’Connell (www.oilgasfinraarbitration.com) are currently investigating cases relating to investments in Peabody and Seadrill, as well as many other similarly-fated oil, gas, coal and energy producing companies, such as Alpha Natural Resources, Arch Coal and Linn Energy – which have all filed for bankruptcy.

Like many other energy companies, Seadrill is likely to follow a familiar “play book”:  seek Ch. 11 bankruptcy protection, negotiate golden parachutes for its executive team, renegotiate debt and credit, emerge from bankruptcy, and leave numerous investors with little or nothing to show for their principal invested.

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