Articles Posted in Investment Lawyer

shutterstock_184430498-300x225Our securities fraud attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Wendy Feldman (Feldman) currently associated with H. Beck, Inc. (H. Beck) alleging Feldman engaged in a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments and unauthorized trading among other claims.  According to BrokerCheck, Feldman currently has two customer complaints and one employment termination for cause.

In July 2015, a customer brought a complaint against Feldman alleging that between 2011 to 2014 the broker engaged in unauthorized trading, made unsuitable purchases, and failed to disclose fees.  The complaint alleged damages of $5,000,000.  In 2016 an arbitration was held and the customer was awarded $8,606,599 in total.

Shortly after the arbitration award Morgan Stanley terminated Feldman due to allegations involving adherence to industry rules and/or firm policy including with regard to use of trading discretion.

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shutterstock_187532303-300x200Our firm is investigating claims made by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Adam Estes (Estes).  According to the FINRA action, Estes consented to the sanctions and findings that he participated in private securities transactions totaling over $1.2 million without providing prior written notice his brokerage firm – J.J.B. Hilliard – nor sought the firm’s permission to participate in several businesses.  According to FINRA, Estes also engaged in outside businesses which were formed by him and others without providing prior written notice to the firm.  FINRA also alleged that Estes made misrepresentations and omissions concerning the private securities transactions and outside business activities in firm annual questionnaires and other compliance documents.

The providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.  Often times brokers who engage in this practice use outside businesses in order to market their securities.

Estes entered the securities industry in 2000.  Since February 2000 Estes was registered with J.J.B. Hilliard out of the firm’s Bloomington, Indiana office location.

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shutterstock_38114566Investment attorneys at Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against David Lerner (Lerner) currently associated with Network 1 Financial Securities Inc. (Network 1) alleging unsuitable investments and failure to follow instructions among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Lerner has been subject to 10 customer complaints, one regulatory sanction, one employment separation for cause, and three judgments/liens.

In July 2015, Lerner received a tax lien in the amount of $16,388.  Earlier in April 2015 Lerner was subject to another tax lien of $81,986.  A broker’s inability to handle their personal finances has also been found to be relevant in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

Brokers in the financial industry have the fundamental responsibility to treat investors fairly.  This obligation includes making only suitable investments for their client.  The suitable analysis has certain requirements that must be met before the recommendation is made.  First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation for the investment based upon the broker’s and the firm’s investigation and due diligence.  Common due diligence looks into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, the issuer, the likelihood of success or failure of the investment, and other relevant factors.  Second, if there is a reasonable basis to recommend the product to investors the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives.  These factors include the client’s age, investment experience, retirement status, long or short term goals, tax status, or any other relevant factor.

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shutterstock_71403175The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Charles Obryant (Obryant) alleging unsuitable investments, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and unauthorized trading.  According to brokercheck records Obryant has been subject to four customer complaints and one employment separation for cause.

A customer complaint filed in October 2015 alleged negligence and suitability violations causing damages in the amount of $630,000.  The claim was settled for $632,298.

In January 2016, Stifel Nicolaus discharged Obryant alleging a loss of confidence after settlement of complaint.  The broker commented on the discharge stating that the equity concerning the dispute was a Stifel buy recommended security that went bankrupt and the broker made no personal contribution to the settlement.

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shutterstock_62862913The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Allegis Investment Services, LLC and its affiliated investment advisory firm Allegis Investment Advisors, LLC (Allegis) concerning unsuitable trading involving options.  According to the brokercheck records of one of the firms representatives, Peter Klaass (Klaass), the firm has been subject to at least six complaints through this advisor since October 2015.  Klaass lists his D/B/A as the Bowen Group.

The customer complaints against Klaass allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments among other claims.  The most recent claim was filed in June 2016 and alleges that in the role of supervisor, Klaass failed to meet the standard of care and in August 2015 client suffered a loss of $400,000.  The claim is currently pending.  In another arbitration filed in April 2016, the customer alleged that the Advisory firm recommended a trading strategy without regard to the client’s age, investment experience, and risk tolerance.  The customer is seeking $660,300 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client.  In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements.  First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors.  Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.

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shutterstock_133513469The securities fraud lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker John Tinnelly (Tinnelly).  According to BrokerCheck records Tinnelly has been the subject of at least ten customer complaints and one regulatory action.  The customer complaints against Tinnelly allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in April 2015 and alleged churning, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, breach of contract from July 2010 until November 2012 causing $168,924 in damages.  The complaint settled with no contribution by the broker.  In March 2015, another customer complaint alleged churning, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, breach of contract from February 2010 until March 2011 causing $118,375 in damages.  The complaint is currently pending.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

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shutterstock_94127350The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker James Noto (Noto). According to BrokerCheck records Noto is subject to at least one regulatory sanction and seven customer complaints. The customer complaints against Noto allege securities law violations that claim unsuitable investments and lack of due diligence among other claims.  Many of the more recent claims involve the sale of Variable Annuity products.

The most recent complaint was filed in March 2016, and alleged that James Noto, while employed at Summit Brokerage Services (Summit), recommended an unsuitable investment in a variable annuity.  In 2015, another customer filed a complaint alleging that Noto made unsuitable investment recommendations.

Variable annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a publication entitled: Variable Annuities: What You Should Know encouraging investors to ask questions about the variable annuity before investing.  Essentially, a variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company under which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you.  The investor chooses the investments made in the annuity and value of your variable annuity will vary depending on the performance of the investment options chosen.  The primary benefits of variable annuities are the death benefit and tax deferment of investment gains.

However, the benefits of variable annuities are often outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

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shutterstock_103681238The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Akhil Morada (Morada). According to BrokerCheck records there are at least seven customer complaint disclosures on Morada’s record. The most recent customer complaints alleges a number of securities law violations including breach of fiduciary duty and unsuitable investments among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in December 2015, a customer alleged that Morada, while employed at E.J. Sterling, LLC failed to discuss the overall performance of the account with the client and made “wild trades” in his account to generate big commissions. The claim settled for $38,000.00.  In February 2015, a customer alleged $30,000.00 in damage stemming from negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. The claim settled for $30,000.

Morada entered the securities industry in 2004.  From November 2012 through January 2014, Morada was associated with NSM Securities, Inc.  From January 2014 through April 2015, Morada was associated with E.J. Sterling.  Thereafter, from March 2015 through July 2016 Morada was associated with Newbridge Securities Corporation.  Finally, Morada has been most recently registered with PRIMEX out of the firm’s Boca Raton, Florida office location since August 2016.

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shutterstock_34872913The investment attorneys of Gana LLP are investigating investor claims of unsuitable investments in oil and gas related products.  Our firm is currently representing a number of investors who lost substantial savings due to poor advice to concentrate holdings in speculative commodities investments like master limited partnerships (MLPs).  According to Brokercheck records, Charles Correal (Correal) formerly with Morgan Stanley operating from their offices in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania has recently received at least several customer complaints with similar allegations that the broker overconcentrated them in oil and gas related investments.

One of the most popular energy related investments that have become increasingly popular in the brokerage industry in recent years are MLPs.  MLPs are publicly traded partnerships. About 86% of the total MLP securities market, a $490 billion sector, can be attributed to energy and natural resource companies. There are about 130 MLPs trading on major exchanges that focus on energy related industries and natural resources.

Wall Street loves MLPs because they provide high yields to investors and require companies to pay Wall Street in order to continue to grow.  In 2013 banks earned fees of $890.3 million from MLP issuance.   Bloomberg quoted an analyst stating that “MLPs are Wall Street’s dream,” because “[t]hey’re fee machines.”  Naturally, in order to entice investors to continue to invest in MLPs Wall Street pumps up MLPs every chance they get.  According to Bloomberg, in May 2014 “[a]nalysts predict that 93 of the 114 MLPs in existence will rise in value in the next year…”  Astonishingly, “all but five MLPs are recommended by the majority of the analysts who cover them.”  At that time professionals without conflicts called MLPs “the next great investment debacle” and warned that “many MLP shareholders…may not understand what they’ve gotten into.”

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shutterstock_188606033The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Dennis Van Patter (Van Patter).  According to BrokerCheck records Van Patter has been subject to at least eight customer complaints and one regulatory action.  The customer complaints against Van Patter allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.  Many of the complaints involve direct participation products (DPPs) and private placements including oil and gas partnerships, non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other alternative investments.  In a FINRA regulatory action Van Patter was found to have onverconcentrated an investor in alternative investments.

Our firm has represented many clients in these types of products.  All of these investments come with high costs and historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  For example, products like oil and gas partnerships, REITs, and other alternative investments are only appropriate for a narrow band of investors under certain conditions due to the high costs, illiquidity, and huge redemption charges of the products, if they can be redeemed.  However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them.  Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money until many years after agreeing to the investment.  In sum, for all of their costs and risks, investors in these programs are in no way additionally compensated for the loss of liquidity, risks, or cost.

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