Articles Tagged with Royal Alliance Associates

shutterstock_170709014The securities fraud attorneys of Gana LLP are investigating potential recovery options for investors with broker Glenn King (King). Recently The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought an enforcement action (FINRA No. 2015044444801). In addition, to the FINRA complaint, King’s BrokerCheck disclosures reveal an astonishing number of reported incidents including 1 investigation, 19 customer complaints, 1 firm termination, 2 financial disclosures – which includes a bankruptcy filing, and 1 judgement or lien.

The FINRA complaint alleges that from April 2008 through March 2011, while King was associated with brokerage firm Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. (Royal Alliance), King made fraudulent misrepresentations and omissions to seven Royal Alliance customers in connection with the sale of Unit Investment Trusts (UITs). FINRA found that King misrepresented to the customers that he would use their investment funds to purchase safe, no-risk bonds, and that King would not charge fees or commissions for the transactions. ln reality, King was alleged to have purchased 44 UITs that resulted in approximately $17,000 in realized losses to the customers, approximately $43,000 in unrealized losses, and approximately $38,000 in commissions to King.

FINRA also alleged that from January 2013 through December 2014, while King was associated with Buckman, Buckman & Reid (BBR), King engaged in a pattern of short-term trading in long-term investment products in the accounts of four customers. FINRA alleged that the pattern of trading was excessive and unsuitable, and resulted in approximately $163,000 in losses to the customers while profiting King by generating commissions of approximately $210,000.

Finally, FINRA alleged that from January 2013 through December 2014, King exercised discretion in the accounts of four BBR customers without their written authority or the approval of his brokerage firm to conduct the trading.

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shutterstock_146470052This article follows up on a recent article reported in Reuters concerning Atlas Energy LP’s private placement partnerships in oil and gas. Atlas Resources LLC, a subsidiary the energy group, has filed documents with the SEC for Atlas Resources Series 34-2014 LP stating that it seeks to raise as much as $300 million by Dec. 31 of 2014. The deal allows investors to participate in investments where advances in drilling technology have turned previously inaccessible reservoirs of oil into viable prospects. In addition, Atlas promises to invest up to $145 million of its own capital alongside investors.

In the last article we explored how the house seems more likely to win on these deals over investors. But beyond the inherent risks with speculating on oil and gas and unknown oil deposits most investors don’t realize the deals are often unfair to investors. In a normal speculative investment as the investment risk goes up the investor demands greater rewards to compensate for the additional risk. However, with oil and gas private placements the risks are sky high and the rewards simply don’t match up.

In order to counter this criticism, issuers say that the tax benefits of their deals where the investor can write off more than 90 percent of their initial outlay the year they make it helps defray the risk and increase the value proposition. First, the same tax advantage claims are often nominal compared to the principal risk of loss of the investment as seen by Puerto Rican investors in the UBS Bond Funds who have now seen their investments decline by 50% or more in some cases. Second, often times brokers sell oil and gas investments indiscriminately to the young and old who have lower incomes and cannot take advantage of the tax benefits.

In fact, of the 28 people interviewed by Reuters who invested in deals from Atlas, Reef Oil & Gas Partners, Discovery Resources & Development LLC, and Black Diamond Energy Inc. 17 were retirees who had low tax burdens when the product was recommended to them.

By now you may be asking, how do these deals even get issued? First, the private placement market is very opaque. Issuers are only required to file a statement to exempt the security from registration and a few other details about the investment. Second, investors rely upon the brokerage industry’s due diligence on each issue they sell to ensure its suitability for investors. But many brokers use outside due-diligence firms that may be paid by the issuer, a conflict of interest, when evaluating deals. Indeed, some of the largest securities frauds in the private placement space have been the result of reliance on third-party due diligence.

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shutterstock_103610648As recently reported in Reuters, Atlas Energy LP has marketed itself to investors as a way to get into the U.S. energy boom. By contributing at least $25,000 in a private placement partnership that will drill for oil and gas in states such as Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania and share in revenues generated from the wells. Atlas Resources LLC, a subsidiary the energy group, has filed documents with the SEC for Atlas Resources Series 34-2014 LP stating that it seeks to raise as much as $300 million by Dec. 31 of 2014. The deal sounds good when pitched: participate in investments where advances in drilling technology have turned previously inaccessible reservoirs of fossil fuels into potentially viable prospects and to boot Atlas will invest up to $145 million of its own capital alongside investors. Through this method and similar deals, oil and gas projects have issued nearly 4,000 private placements since 2008 seeking to raise as much as $122 billion.

But before you take the plunge a review of the Atlas’s offering memorandum reveals some red flags and given Atlas’ past failure rate investors should think twice. First, up to $45 million of the money raised will be paid to Atlas affiliate Anthem Securities that will then be turned over to as commissions to broker-dealers who pitch the deal to investors. Up to $39 million more will be used to buy drilling leases from another affiliate. Think investors will get a fair price on the leases when Atlas controls both sides of the deal? More conflicts ahead as Atlas affiliated suppliers may also get up to $53 million for buying drilling and transport equipment. Next, an additional $8 million of Atlas’s investment is a 15 percent markup on estimated equipment costs. Finally, Atlas will pay itself nearly $52 million in various other fees and markups.

In sum, at least 40% of Atlas’s $145 million investment alongside mom and pop goes right back to the company. In addition, Atlas’ profits don’t stop there, when the venture starts generating revenue Atlas is entitled to 33% before accounting for those payments and markups. In the end, not much of a risk at all for Atlas.

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shutterstock_94332400Despite the broad market’s recent volatility, 2013 brought the twenty-five largest independent broker dealers double-digit revenue growth on average, according to an Investment News report. After a weak 2012, these independent broker dealers roared to a 13.2% year over year increase in revenue, recording $18.46 billion in 2013 according to this year’s Investment News survey.

The overall strength of the S&P 500, gaining 29.6% in 2013 was one contributing factor to the 2013 success of independent broker dealers. The other factor however, was a flood of commissions generated from record sales of alternative investment products, namely non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs). As Eric Schwartz, chief executive of Cambridge Investment Research explained, “There were two reasons for last year’s results. The stock market was up 30%, and there was an unusually high percentage of dollars in alternatives and REITs being sold. Remember, a number of REITs had public listings, and clients reinvested back into other REITs.”

According to the Investment News survey, the top ten independent broker-dealers with the most growth from alternative investments include: (1) Independent Financial Group; (2) Triad Advisors; (3) Royal Alliance Associates; (4) National Planning Corp.; (5) First Allied Securities; (6) Lincoln Financial Network; (7) Cambridge Investment Research; (8) Commonwealth Financial Network; (9) Ameriprise Financial Services; 10) LPL Financial.

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On March 24, 2014, LPL Financial LLC, the fourth largest broker dealer, measured by number of salespersons, was fined $950,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failing to supervise the way that its brokers marketed and sold nontraditional investments.  The fine is one of many that have recently been imposed on LPL and other “independent broker-dealers,” firms that provide products, marketing, and regulatory services to independent brokers who are not their full-time employees.

LPL Financial was alleged to have deficient supervision as it related to the sales of alternative investment products, including non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil and gas partnerships, business development companies (BDC’s), hedge funds, managed futures, and other illiquid pass through investments. FINRA found that from January 1, 2008, to July 1, 2012, LPL failed to adequately supervise the sales of theses alternative investments that violated concentration limits.

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The Massachusetts Securities Division reached a settlement of $9.6 million with five independent broker dealers concerning allegations that the firms improperly sold non-traded real estate investments trusts (REITs) to hundreds of investors within the state.  The firm’s fined include Ameriprise Financial Services Inc., Commonwealth Financial Network, Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. Securities America, Inc., and Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp.  The Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin announced that a part of the settlement would be used to distribute $6.1 million to investors as restitution.

A REIT is a security that invests in real estate directly either through properties or mortgages. REITs can be publicly traded on a national exchange or privately held.  Private REITs are often referred to as non-traded REITs.  Non-traded REITs have become increasingly popular as increased volatility in the stock market has led many investors to look for investment products that offer more stable returns.  However, non-traded REITs may not be as safe and stable as advertised.  Because non-traded REITs do not trade publicly the REIT itself determines its own asset values and only publishes updated valuations sporadically.  Thus, a REITs volatility includes not only real estate market volatility but also management decisions and potentially leverage positions that investors may simply not be informed about.

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