A Florida federal judge granted class-action status and preliminary approval of a settlement agreement to a case charging NationsBank's brokerage unit with deceptive sales practices.
Judge Steven D. Merryday's ruling last week established a class of all Nations Securities customers between January 1991 and June 12, 1996.
If Judge Merryday finalizes the settlement agreement, the customers would be eligible for their share of about $30 million. A hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8.
The suit was brought by Jonathan Alpert, a partner at Alpert, Barker & Calcutt, Tampa. This is one of many suits Mr. Alpert has brought against large bank investment programs.
Great Western Financial Corp. settled a suit this year brought by Mr. Alpert. Last week another Florida federal judge declined to certify a class in a case Mr. Alpert filed against Amsouth Bank, Birmingham, Ala.
"I want other banks to look at this as a lesson learned and something to indicate how banks are meant to conduct business in the future," Mr. Alpert said. "There is no reason banks shouldn't sell securities, but there are lots of reasons they shouldn't sell them deceptively."
Indeed, Mr. Alpert said he buys investments from a bank, which he declined to identify.
The class could include as many as 100,000 NationsBank customers, Mr. Alpert said.
"We deny the allegations and sought expeditious settlement to get this behind us to serve our customers," a bank spokeswoman said.
Separately, a National Association of Securities Dealers arbitration panel denied a $5 million settlement payment to Krikor Naccachian, a former Amsouth Investment Services compliance officer.
The panel also ruled the bank brokerage must alter Mr. Naccachian's employment record to say he was dismissed because of a change in management. At various times his record had said that he had quit and that he had been fired for unsatisfactory performance.
The NASD arbitration panel last week split its decision, which both sides deemed a success.
"It is always a disappointment when we don't get money, but the most important thing was vindicating his record and his name," said Mr. Alpert, who represented Mr. Naccachian.
The panel also told Amsouth to adjust Mr. Naccachian's record to say the bank paid a fine for its failure to conduct annual compliance meetings for some registered sales representatives. Initially, the record said Mr. Naccachian paid the fine.
Mr. Naccachian, who was unavailable for comment, is now a compliance officer at another bank brokerage, which Mr. Alpert declined to identify.
"They tried to take Krikor's name from him," Mr. Alpert said. "With the assistance of the NASD, he got it back."