H.J. Meyers & Co., a brokerage with a large Southern California presence, has shut down abruptly, leaving tens of thousands of customers nationwide wondering about the status of their accounts.
The Wall Street firm that handled H.J. Meyers' trades, Cowen & Co., announced the closure in a statement Thursday that said Cowen was no longer processing the brokerage's trades following the "cessation" of Meyers' brokerage business.
A recorded message at H.J. Meyers' Rochester, N.Y., headquarters referred customers to Cowen for information about their accounts. Calls to branch offices in Beverly Hills, Irvine, San Diego and San Francisco met with busy signals.
According to its Web site, H.J. Meyers employed 400 brokers in 15 offices nationwide and served more than 100,000 customers.
The Securities and Exchange Commission refused to say whether it was investigating Meyers. SEC spokesman John Heine said the firm had not yet filed a required form notifying regulators that it was going out of business.
Massachusetts regulators sought to revoke the brokerage's license last year after accusing it of defrauding investors by using high-pressure sales tactics.
The original H.J. Meyers, founded in Los Angeles in 1985, had a relatively clean regulatory record. It was purchased in 1995 by Rochester-based Thomas James Associates, a penny stock brokerage whose co-founder in 1990 was permanently barred from the securities industry for fraud.
The merged firm took the H.J. Meyers name--which allowed Thomas James officials to get rid of their firm's stigmatized name.
Even so, in 1996 the National Assn. of Securities Dealers' regulatory arm forced the brokerage to pay $1 million in restitution to 3,000 customers for charging unfair prices. The NASD also fined the firm and 22 of its managers a total of $500,000.
Records from the NASD show the company has had 13 investor arbitrations against it in 1998.
Bloomberg News was used in compiling this report.