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shutterstock_32215765-300x200Recently, Steven Orr’s (Orr) attorney reached out to our firm to inform us our posts on Orr was inaccurate.  The post detailed that Orr had been subject to five customer complaints concerning allegations of securities law violations including unsuitable investments and misrepresentations 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.

Orr’s attorney has brought it to our attention that Orr has succeeded in using The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) flawed expungement process system to remove all five complaints from his BrokerCheck record.  As shown in Orr’s expungement “award”, Orr sued his own employer, H. Beck, Inc. (H. Beck) for damages of $1.00 due to the placement on his record of five customer complaints.  The “hearing” that took place appears to have been perfunctory at best.  The hearing concerning five customer complaints took only one hearing session to complete.  Usually there are two hearing sessions a day – meaning in this case five cases were probably decided in time for the arbitrator to catch lunch.  The total cost to Mr. Orr by FINRA to expunge five customer complaints from his record was $100 – excluding any fees he privately paid his counsel.

During this less than four hour hearing to decide five cases, H. Beck did not contest the request for expungement.  In FINRA expungement cases, brokerage firms like H. Beck profit from being sued by their own brokers to clean their records.  Of the five investors that complained concerning Orr’s investment recommendations – four of which resulted in documented settlements and compensation for the victims – none of the investors participated in the short hearing.  Only one investor submitted a letter to the arbitrator opposing expungement.  In sum, there was no meaningful opposition to Orr’s expungement request.

Without any significant opposition, the arbitrator found that there was “credible evidence presented demonstrated that Claimant made suitable recommendations to each of the Customers, fully and accurately representing the recommended investments including, but not limited to, any associated risks.”  Further, “public disclosure of the false and clearly erroneous allegations made by the Customers does not offer any public protection and has no regulatory value.”   In other words, the arbitrator found that Orr was the subject of lies by five of his clients – all of which astonishingly appear to have told the same or similar lie concerning Orr’s investment advice.  From the record, it appears the arbitrator made this determination without ever speaking to a single client.

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shutterstock_183525509-300x200The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently representing investors who were surprised to find out that the “bonds” that were recommended by their advisors have almost completely stopped paying interest while plummeting in value.  What many investors in this situation did not realize was that they were not sold bonds at all but instead complex structured products that go by a variety of names including steepener notes, adjustable rate market notes, spread linked notes, or structured notes.  Regulators have already stated that it is improper to sell these investments as a fixed income substitute or to compare them to bonds in terms of producing a revenue stream.  However, in our firm’s experience it appears that many brokers have been selling structured products as bond alternatives.

Structured products range in risk from benign to extreme.  However, most structured products produce inferior risk/return profiles than ordinary debt or equity instruments because the brokerage firms that issue these products seek to profit from the spread between the payment to investors and the amount of money the brokerage firm can make from the issuance.  When dealing with complex structured products most investors will lack the ability to understand the merits of investments nor are they appropriate for investors seeking a fixed or reliable income and have a desire for preservation of capital.

Some of the more complex structured products that our firm is seeing reference two different bond yield curves and sometimes one stock market index in order to compute if interest will be paid and how much.  A math degree is needed to even begin to comprehend the probabilities of payment on these kinds of instruments.  The biggest driving factor on payment – assuming the S&P 500 Index performs well – is the spread between interest rates on various treasuries.  The structured products often reference the spread between either the 2 year and the 5, 10, and 30 year treasury bonds for the most part.  The wider the spread the greater the profit and payment from the structured product.

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shutterstock_156972491-300x198The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Lawrence Delhagen (Delhagen), currently employed by Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated (Stifel Nicolaus) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Delhagen’s customer complaints alleges that Delhagen recommended unsuitable investments, negligence, fraud, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In September 2018 a customer complained that Delhagen violated the securities laws by alleging unsuitable investments, negligence, fraud, misrepresentations, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of state and Federal securities laws. The claim settled for $30,000.

In June 2018 a customer complained that Delhagen violated the securities laws by alleging unsuitable investments, negligence, fraud, misrepresentations, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of state and Federal securities laws. The claim settled for $270,000.

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shutterstock_188631644-300x225As we have previously reported, according to BrokerCheck records financial advisor William Byrd (Byrd) had several customer complaints filed against him in connection with his management of client accounts.  Byrd is currently employed by B.B. Graham & Company, Inc. (BB Graham) and now been subject to at least five customer complaints and one civil lien for $47,782.23.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Byrd’s customer complaints allege that Byrd recommended unsuitable securities recommendations among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In March 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Byrd violated the securities laws by engaging in, among other violations, unsuitable concentrated mutual fund transactions and products, and lacking any reasonable investment strategy.  The claim alleges $300,000 and is currently pending.

In October 2018 a civil judgement was entered against Byrd.  Large tax liens, civil judgement, or bankruptcy filings on a broker’s CRD can be a red flag that the broker may be influenced to engage in high commission activity in order to satisfy personal debts.  In addition, a broker’s inability to manage their own finances is relevant in a customer’s decision to use their services.

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shutterstock_156367568-300x200Advisor Anthony Hobson (Hobson), currently employed by Money Concepts Capital Corp (Money Concepts) has been subject to at least three customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concerns alternative investments such as direct participation products (DPPs) like non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have represented investors who suffered losses caused by these types of products.

In June 2019 a customer complained that Hobson violated the securities laws by alleging between April 2008 and November 2010, Hobson over-concentrated accounts in high-risk and speculative alternative investments. The claim alleges $218,500 in damages and is currently pending.

In January 2015 a customer complained that Hobson violated the securities laws by alleging that Hobson misrepresented a non-traded REIT. The claim was settled by the firm for $32,500.

DDPs include products such as non-traded REITs, oil and gas offerings, equipment leasing products, and other alternative investments.  These alternative investments virtually never profit investors and are almost always unsuitable for investors because of their high fee and cost structure.  Brokers selling these products are paid additional commission in order to hype these inferior quality investments providing a perverse incentives to create an artificial market for the investments.

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shutterstock_183549914-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor John Holland (Holland), currently employed by Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (Cetera Advisor) has been subject to at least three customer complaints and two employment termination for cause during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Holland’s customer complaints alleges that Holland recommended unsuitable investments, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In May 2019 a customer complained that Holland violated the securities laws by alleging breach of fiduciary duty and negligence. The claim alleges $1,000,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In August 2014 Securities Management & Research, Inc. (Securities Management) and BFC Planning Inc. (BFC Planning) discharged Holland alleging that he altered client documents.

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shutterstock_177577832-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Joseph Peggs (Peggs), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) has been subject to one employment termination for cause, one regulatory action, and eight customer disputes during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Peggs concerns allegations over several different investment products including equities, options, and variable annuity sales practices.

In June 2019 a customer complained that Peggs violated the securities laws by alleging that Peggs and several other defendants failed to carry out the decedent’s intentions regarding beneficiary designations for two annuities. The decedent’s ex-wife contends that the proceeds of the annuities should have been distributed in such a way that the proceeds could fund continuing payments to her. The alleged damages are unspecified and the claim is currently pending.

In February 2019, a customer complained that Peggs violated the securities laws by alleging that Peggs representative placed them in an unsuitable holding when they rebalanced the portfolio in March of 2015 and that the holding in question then lost significant value.  The alleged damages are $20,000 and the claim settled for $15,000.

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shutterstock_153463763-300x199Advisor Jeffrey Davis (Davis), currently employed by Kovack Securities Inc. (Kovack Securities) has been subject to at least ten customer complaints, one employment termination for cause, and one regulatory action during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concerns alternative investments such as direct participation products (DPPs) like non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have represented investors who suffered losses caused by these types of products.

In April 2017 FINRA alleged that Davis consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he recommended and effected unsuitable transactions in the accounts of customers by over-concentrating their assets in illiquid non-traded REITs. FINRA stated that the investments totaled $566,000, and represented between approximately 30% and 52% of the customers’ liquid net worth. FINRA found that this concentration in illiquid investments were excessive and unsuitable in light of the customers’ financial situations, risk tolerances, and investment objectives.

In June 2019 a customer complained that Davis violated the securities laws by alleging that Davis recommended an unsuitability of a fixed index annuity and mutual funds and the overconcentration of REITs in her account. The claim alleges $5,380 in damages.

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shutterstock_175835072-300x199Our firm represents multiple clients who have been recommended GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital) related investments. GPB invests in a variety of businesses but primarily in auto dealerships and waste management businesses.  However, over the past year controversy has embroiled GPB Capital in a saga including multiple regulatory investigations and even an FBI referral which has left investors clueless to the fate of their investments.

According to our investigation Kalos Capital, Inc. (Kalos Capital) and its brokers including Joshua Stivers (Stivers) have recommended GPB Capital private placements to investors.

As a background, financial advisers sold $1.5 billion of these high-risk private placements offered by GPB Capital Holdings.  However, GPB Capital told investors in 2018 that virtually none of the firm’s financial reports could be trusted and that in fact the offering had no accurate financial information.  Recently, GPB Capital released its own internal analysis and valuation of its funds without providing any evidence to support its findings.  As reported by InvestmentNews, the two largest funds offered GPB Holdings II and GPB Automotive Portfolio have declines of 25.4% and 39%.  However, some of the other funds, like Armada Waste, faired much worse declining to only 32% of their original value.  Again these valuations are provided by GPB Capital and only after a year of accounting mishaps.

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shutterstock_93851422-300x240According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Trevor Rahn (Rahn), formerly associated with J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JP Morgan), has been subject to at least four customer complaints, one employment termination for cause, and one judgement or lien during his career.  The majority of the customer complaints against Rahn concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning or excessive trading.

In June 2019 a customer complained that Rahn violated the securities laws by alleging that the trading activity increased dramatically and resulted in losses and significant tax obligations. Customer also alleges financial advisor engaged in a pattern of unauthorized trading and margin use in customer’s account in order to generate commissions, and resulting in losses to customer. The claim alleges $854,410 in damages and is currently pending.

In November 2018 a customer complained that Rahn violated the securities laws by alleging that the number of transactions in the account were unauthorized. The overall time period is 03/2014-09/2017. The claim alleges $1,137,915 in damages and settled for $114,000.

In September 2018 JP Morgan discharged Rahn after alleging unacceptable practices relating to the timing and size of orders entered resulting in charges in a client account as well as marking certain orders as unsolicited.

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