Wall St brokers reduced life savings of £490,000 to £282

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Not everyone who entrusted his or her life savings to go-getting brokers on Wall Street in the late 1990s came out better than where they started. Fresh stories of disappointment surface almost daily now. Few have a tale as wrenching as John Teeples.

Convinced, like so many, that the stock market had become a casino where there were only winners, Mr Teeples decided in 1999 that, after years working for Microsoft, it was time to "park the bus". He gathered up the $700,000 (£490,000) he had in savings and stock options and asked two brokers at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter to invest it.

Michael Moriarty and Arun Sardana, both from the firm's Chevy Chase, Maryland, branch, made bad decisons with Mr Teeples' money. By April this year, he was left with a grand total of $403.95 (£282). He also faces a tax bill of $40,000.

Mr Teeples is one of several former Microsoft employees who went to Mr Sardana and Mr Moriarty and who are now seeking arbitration claims against them. He and 12 other former clients of the brokerage firm are accusing it of violating safe sales practice regulations.

"Morgan Stanley Dean Witter's brokers were out of control," Jacob Zammansky a lawyer representing the workers told the The New York Times yesterday. "They lost my clients' retirement and life savings".

Wall Street is bracing itself for a landslide of similar claims from those who feel they were misled by brokers about the prospects of making gains on the markets and have instead lost their shirts. Last week, Merrill Lynch paid out $400,000, settling a well-publicised claim against its chief internet analyst, Henry Blodget.

"I have had a very, very lucky life," a stoic Mr Teeples said, "But it doesn't mean that this wasn't wrong".