Articles Tagged with investment fraud

shutterstock_145123405-200x300The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Brett Murphy (Murphy). According to BrokerCheck records Murphy has been subject to at least two customer complaint, and one financial disclosure. The customer complaints against Murphy allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments and unauthorized trading among other claims.

In August 2016, a customer filed a complaint alleging that Murphy was not properly supervised, and excessively traded the account in unsuitable unit investment trusts while employed at Oppenheimer & Company Inc. from July 2011 through August 2016 causing $2,000,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

One customer complaint filed in March 2015, alleged that Murphy made unauthorized transactions in customers account causing aggregate losses of approximately $5,000.

Advisors are not allowed to engage in unauthorized trading. Such trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior authority from the investor. The broker must first discuss all trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b). These rules explicitly prohibit brokers from making discretionary trades in a customers’ non-discretionary accounts. The SEC has also found that unauthorized trading to be of fraudulent nature.  This is because the omission that the broker intends to engage in trading is material information that the investor is entitled to have prior to the trade’s execution.

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shutterstock_157506896-300x300Our securities fraud attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Mark Gassoso (Gassoso) currently associated with National Securities Corporation alleging Gassoso engaged in 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 October 2016 alleging unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, and misrepresentations causing $150,000 in damages.  The complaint is currently pending.  In September 2013 another investor filed a complaint and alleged excessive trading.  The complaint was denied.

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shutterstock_85873471-300x200Our securities fraud attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Samuel Koltun (Koltun) currently associated with RBC Capital Markets, LLC (RBC) alleging unsuitable investments in Puerto Rico municipal bonds among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Koltun has been subject to six customer complaints and one regulatory action.

Puerto Rico municipal bonds are speculative investments based upon the deteriorating finances of the island.  Many brokers have been accused of peddling these bonds in large concentrations to clients.  In September 2016 a customer filed a complaint against Koltun alleging over concentration in Puerto Rico bonds from 2012 through 2015.  The claim alleges $80,000 in damages and is currently pending.  In another complaint filed in April 2016, the customer alleges $260,000 caused by overconcentration in Puerto Rico municipal bonds.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_20354401-300x200Our securities fraud attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Bryon Glime (Glime) formerly associated with Capital Investment Group, Inc. (Capital Investment) alleging unsuitable investments and unauthorized trading among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Glime has been subject to three customer complaints, one criminal matter, three judgments or liens, one employment termination for cause, and one regulator action.

In September 2015 Glime was terminated by Capital Investment after the firm alleged that Glime failed to timely report a criminal disclosure to the firm.  The criminal disclosure disclosed includes allegations of theft, embezzlement, and misappropriation.

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shutterstock_177577832-300x300According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) customers have filed complaints against broker Mark Miranda (Miranda).  Our attorneys have been reviewing records that Miranda has been the subject of at least seven customer complaints, one bankruptcy filing, and one tax lien in September 2012 for $39,000.  The customer complaints against Miranda 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 September 2016 and unsuitable investments causing $49,797.17 in damages.  The complaint is currently pending.  In April 2016 another investor filed a complaint and alleged excessive fees causing $47,620 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_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_184920014-300x199Our firm is investigating claims made by Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated (Stifel Nicolaus) when the firm terminated broker Jon Schmidhammer (Schmidhammer).  According to the firm, Schmidhammer was discharged in July 2016 after allegation were made that Schmidhammer resigned after his arrest for allegedly stealing money from a client.

According to Schmidhammer’s brokercheck records Schmidhammer has no disclosed outside business activities.  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.

In October 2016 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Schmidhammer engaged in unsuitable management of their accounts, unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and conversion.  The complaint alleges damages of $500,000.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_183525509-300x200The securities fraud attorneys at Gana LLP have recently filed a complaint on behalf of a client alleging that Dean Mustaphalli (Mustaphalli) engaged in securities fraud.  The claim was brought against brokerage firms Sterne Agee Financial Services, Inc. (Sterne Agee) and Interactive Brokers LLC (Interactive Brokers) alleging that the firms failed to supervise Mustaphalli’s misconduct.

The complaint alleges that starting in December 2009, Mustaphalli established a securities related outside business activity (OBA) in the form an advisory firm and a hedge fund.  Mustaphalli registered the investment advisor with the SEC under the name Mustaphalli Advisory Group, LLC (MAG) until December 2014.  Subsequently, Mustaphalli filed a From D with the SEC in January 2011 for a hedge fund called Mustaphalli Capital Partners Fund, L.P. (MCPF) and opened an account for the fund.

The complaint alleged that Mustaphalli failed to inform Sterne Agee of his transactions through MCPF although Mustaphalli did disclose the MAG RIA.  The complaint also alleges that in or around mid-2014 Mustaphalli transferred MAG’s accounts and the MCPF account to Interactive Brokers.  Also around May 2013 FINRA began investigating Mustaphalli’s, MAG’s, and MCPF’s activities.  In December 2014, FINRA suspended Mustaphalli for two years and imposed a fine and disgorgement for engaging in private securities transactions through MCPF without notifying Sterne Agee.  Dep’t of Enforcement v. Dean Mustaphalli, AWC No.  2013036880302 (Dec. 15, 2014).

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shutterstock_156972491Our investment attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against financial advisor Wayde Walker (Walker) currently registered with National Securities Corporation (National Securities), alleging unsuitable investments, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, and unauthorized trading among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Walker has been subject to seven customer complaints and three tax liens.

In May 2016 Walker disclosed a tax lien of $42,132.72.  In September 2015 Walker disclosed a tax lien of $110,255.57.  Also in May 2015 Walker disclosed another tax lien of $39,257.39.  A broker’s inability to pay debts may also be an indicator that a broker may solicit funds and loans from his clients or otherwise engage in other misconduct to raise funds to satisfy personal obligations.

In December 2015 a customer filed a complaint involving Walker alleging that the broker made unauthorized trades and misrepresented securities among other claims.  The customer alleged $513,218.40 in damages.  The claim is current pending.

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shutterstock_141873055Our investment attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against financial advisor William Ornstein (Ornstein) currently registered with The GMS Group, LLC. (GMS), alleging unsuitable investments, fraud, unauthorized trading, over-conentration, and material misrepresentations among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Ornstein has been subject to nine customer complaints, one regulatory action, and two criminal matters.

In November 2015 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Ornstein made fraudulent sales and over-concentrated the account from 2011 through 2015.  The complaint involves oil and gas related master limited partnership (MLP) investments and municipal debt securities.  The customer is seeking $200,000 in damages.  The claim is current pending.

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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