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shutterstock_155271245-300x300The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP recently filed a complaint on behalf of a client alleging that Laidlaw & Company (UK) Ltd. (Laidlaw) recommended the investor purchase a micro cap stock underwritten by the firm in violation of the securities laws.  According to newsources and public filings Laidlaw has been involved in the fraudulent promotion of numerous small and micro cap stocks to their clients in violation of their duties to their clients to disclose conflicts of interests.  These violations also include potentially facilitating pump-and-dump schemes.

Recently, one of Laidlaw’s clients, Barry Hoing (Hoing), was charged by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for generating $27 million through a “classic pump-and-dump scheme.” The SEC’s allegations focus on stocks including BioZone Pharmaceuticals (now Cocrystal Pharma) (COCP), MGT Capital (OTC: MGTI), and MabVax Therapeutics (OTC: MBVX).   However, other public filings reveal Hoing was also involved in other stocks including Riot Blockchain (RIOT), PolarityTE (PTE formerly COOL), and Marathon Patent Group (MARA).  In addition, Laidlaw was involved in other securities offerings including Aethlon Medical, Actinium, Boston Therapeutics, 5G Investment, Alliaqua, Aspen Group, Brazahav Resources, Fusion Telecoms International, Protea Biosciences Group, Aeolus Pharmaceuticals, Medovex Corp, Relmada Therapeutics, Sevion Therapeutics, Spectrascience, and Spherix.

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shutterstock_128655458-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor George Mathis (Mathis), currently employed by Raymond James & Associates, Inc. (Raymond James) has been subject to at least five customer complaints and one termination for cause.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Mathis’ customer complaints allege that Mathis made unsuitable recommendations in a variety of securities.

In May 2018 a customer brought a complaint against Mathis alleging the broker violated the securities laws by breaching his fiduciary duty, negligence, and fraud from 2014 through September 2016.  The claim alleged $65,000 in damages and is pending.

In August 2016 a customer brought a complaint against Mathis alleging the broker violated the securities laws by breaching his fiduciary duty, negligence, and and violation of the FINRA Rules from September 2013 through January 2016.  The claim alleged $190,000 in damages and settled.

In August 2015 a customer brought a complaint against Mathis alleging the broker violated the securities laws by making misrepresentations.  The claim alleged $17,946 in damages and was closed.

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shutterstock_188631644-300x225According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Mark Lamendola (Lamendola), formerly employed by Wordl Capital Brokerage, Inc. (World Capital) has been subject to six customer complaints, two terminations for cause, and two regulatory actions during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the customer complaints against Lamendola concern allegations over variable annuity sales practices.

In January 2019, FINRA barred Lamendola alleging that Lamendola made misrepresentations to a customer by fabricating letters that purported to come from an annuity company regarding the status of the customer’s deposit. FINRA found that Lamendola wrote in each letter that the incorrect deposit was re-deposited into the correct account and the transaction was not reportable to the Internal Revenue Service. FINRA determined that Lamendola had mistakenly deposited the customer’s IRA contributions into his variable annuity account rather than his fixed annuity account. In addition, FINRA determined that Lamendola paid $15,999.55 to the customer to settle his verbal complaint regarding the mistaken IRA deposits.

In June 2018, Lamendola was discharged from World Capital due to his annuity practices.

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shutterstock_177792281-300x198According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Daniel Levine (Levine), formerly associated with First Financial Equity Corporation (First Financial), in January 2019, was sanctioned and barred from the securities industry by FINRA over accusations of potentially selling unapproved products.

In January 2019 FINRA alleged that Levine consented to the sanctions and findings that he failed to provide FINRA with requested documents and information for the regulator’s investigation into allegations that he engaged in undisclosed outside business activities, solicited a senior firm customer to borrow funds for an outside business activity, and executed unauthorized trades.

In August 2018 Levine was discharged from First Financial due to FINRA’s inquiry into his activities.  In July 2018, Levine was terminated from Morgan Stanley due to allegations concerning unapproved outside activity.

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”.

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According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Dudley Stephens (Stephens), formerly associated with Coastal Equities, Inc. (Coastal Equities), in September 2018, was sanshutterstock_99315272-300x300ctioned and barred from the securities industry by FINRA due to failures to provide documents and information requested by the regulator.  In addition, Stephens has three customer complaints, one termination, and one additional regulatory complaint.

In July 2018 Stephens was terminated by Coastal Equities on grounds that he was being reviewed over suspicious letters of authorization for third party wires.  Thereafter, FINRA barred Stephens.

In December 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that excessive and unauthorized commissions were charged of approximately $50,000 per year for 2.5 years in her advisory account. The client also alleged that $100,000 was invested in an unauthorized private securities transaction was a sham.  The claim alleges $250,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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”.

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shutterstock_185582-300x225Advisor Victor Rigoni (Rigoni), currently employed by Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. (Summit Brokerage) has been subject to at least three customer complaints.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concern alternative investments and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In October 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Rigoni violated the securities laws by being recommended alternative investments causing breach of contract, fraud, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and violation of FINRA rules. The claim alleges $125,000 in damages and is currently pending.

Rigoni is also the subject of multiple tax liens in amounts totaling over $50,000.  Large tax liens 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_181783781-200x300According to newsources, tens of thousands of universal life policyholders have experienced double-digit premium increases from their life insurance companies such as AXA, Voya, and Transamerica.  Unfortunately, more premium hikes may be coming.  Universal Life is a permanent life insurance policy that combines term insurance like affordability with a savings element similar to whole life.  Universal life insurance offers a cash value savings account that earns tax-exempt interest. The investment account accumulates cash based upon interest rates or a promised fixed rate appreciation plus premium payments.

Similarly, Variable Universal Life (VUL) policies allocates a portion of premium payments to a separate sub-account that can be used to grow in value through investments.  These types of policies terminate or lapses, if at any time the net cash surrender value is insufficient to pay the monthly cost deductions.  Upon termination of the policy, the remaining cash value becomes worthless.

Investor and policy holders are often given projections of premium payments over time that are stable allowing the holder to know what the cost and terms of the policies are.  Now thousands of universal life policyholders have been informed that their insurers are using the fine print of their contracts to significantly increase what was supposed to be level premiums.  These increases may be multiple times more than what the insured had bargained for.

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shutterstock_130706948-300x199According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Philip Rosensweig (Rosensweig), currently employed by WestPark Capital, Inc. (WestPark Capital) has been subject to at least ten customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Rosensweig’s customer complaints allege that Rosensweig made unsuitable recommendations in a variety of securities.

In March 2016 a customer brought a complaint against Rosensweig alleging the broker violated the securities laws by breaching his fiduciary duty, negligence, and fraud from 2015 through 2016.  The claim alleged $100,000 in damages and settled.

In March 2016 a customer brought a complaint against Rosensweig alleging the broker violated the securities laws by breaching his fiduciary duty, negligence, and fraud from 2014 through 2016.  The claim alleged $75,000 in damages and settled.

In October 2006 a customer brought a complaint against Rosensweig alleging the broker violated the securities laws by making unauthorized trades.  The claim alleged $10,000 in damages and settled.

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shutterstock_158028338-300x298According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Atul Makharia (Makharia), currently employed by Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus Financial) has been subject to at least three customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Makharia’s customer complaints allege that Makharia made unsuitable recommendations in a variety of investments including debt securities.

In November 2018 a customer brought a complaint against Makharia alleging the broker violated the securities laws by recommending unsuitable investments and several other allegations associated therewith causing $200,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In October 2018 a customer brought a complaint against Makharia alleging the broker violated the securities laws by recommending unsuitable investments causing $333,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_187083428-300x198Advisor William Burks (Burks), currently employed by Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus) has been subject to at least seven customer complaints and one criminal matter.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concern alternative investments and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Burks violated the securities laws by making unsuitable recommendations and the associated liquidity risks were not fully explained.  The claim alleges $415,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In January 2016 a customer complained that Burks violated the securities laws by making unsuitable recommendations and misrepresentations.  The claim alleges $32,000 in damages and was denied by the firm.

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