updated 4/12/2011 12:18:03 PM ET 2011-04-12T16:18:03

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif., April 12, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A Denver, Colorado based Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel awarded $54,058,948 to two clients of Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari and Maddox, Hargett & Caruso. The award included punitive damages of $17,000,000 and $3,000,000 in attorney fees. The FINRA arbitrators also assessed the entire cost of the hearing against Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. and ordered the firm to pay $33,500 in expert witness and $13,168 in court reporter costs.

The primary investment complained of was a leveraged municipal arbitrage hedge fund known as Mat/ASTA launched by Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. and sold through both Smith Barney and Citigroup Private Bank, part of Citigroup's (NYSE:C) Global Wealth Management Group. These funds were marketed exclusively to high net worth clients of the firm between 2002 and 2007. They were represented as being Fixed Income Alternatives with a slightly higher return than a portfolio of municipal bonds with little added risk. Instead, these funds imploded in February 2008 causing catastrophic losses to investors.

"The award represented a return of more than 100% of our clients' losses as well as punitive damages," stated Philip M. Aidikoff of Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari. Mr. Aidikoff added "Our firm has now served as lead counsel for 16 households in Mat/ASTA arbitration hearings. Twelve of the 16 have received awards of 100 percent or more of their losses and each of the 16 families has won a significant award."

"The arbitrators finding Citigroup liable is a significant win for Mat investors. The award of $17,000,000 in punitive damages sends a clear message to Citi that you cannot mislead investors irrespective of their wealth and experience in the markets," said Ryan K. Bakhtiari of Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari, who also tried the case.

"This award demonstrates that even the most sophisticated investors were misled by Citi in the marketing and sale of the Mat and ASTA leveraged municipal arbitrage product," according to Steven B. Caruso of Maddox, Hargett & Caruso, who was co-counsel at the hearing. "The fact that the arbitrators also awarded expert witness costs, court reporter costs and all FINRA forum fees is both unusual and important," stated Mr. Caruso.

Claimants' expert witness was Dr. Craig McCann of Securities Litigation and Consulting Group based in Fairfax, VA. In Dr. McCann's view, "Citi misrepresented the known risks of Mat/ASTA to retail investors such as the claimants in this case."

Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari continues to investigate FINRA arbitration claims on behalf of investors who suffered losses in leveraged municipal arbitrage products including ASTA and Mat.

More information is available by contacting an attorney below.

CONTACT: Philip M. Aidikoff, paidi@aol.com
         Ryan K. Bakhtiari, rbakhtiari@aol.com
         Aidikoff, Uhl & Bakhtiari
         Beverly Hills, California
         (800) 382-7969
         Steven B. Caruso, sbcaruso@aol.com
         Maddox Hargett & Caruso, P.C.
         80 Broad Street, 5th Floor
         New York, New York 10004
         (212) 837-7908

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