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shutterstock_178565714-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana LLP are interested in hearing from investors who lost money due to the mishandling of their accounts by broker Keith Michelfelder (Michelfelder).

According to BrokerCheck records, in August 2017, FINRA sanctioned Keith Michelfelder (Michelfelder) for allegedly effecting “at least 16 transactions in the accounts of a member firm customer without having obtained prior written authorization from the customer and written acceptance of the accounts as discretionary by his firm. The findings stated that the firm’s policies prohibited the use of non-firm email addresses to conduct firm business. In 2010 and 2011, Michelfelder signed annual certifications agreeing to use the firm’s domain email only for communications with customers and concerning firm business. Nevertheless, during July 2012, Michelfelder knowingly used a non-firm email address to communicate with the above customer.”  Michelfelder was fined $10,000 and was suspended for 60 days. In November 2017, Keith’s FINRA registration was revoked for failure to pay fines.

In August 2012, a customer alleged he discovered numerous unauthorized trades in his account. The customer was granted an award of $702,037.

In March 2011, a customer alleged Michelfelder engaged in unauthorized trading. This dispute settled for $61,500.

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shutterstock_103681238-300x300The investment lawyers at Gana LLP are investigating the regulatory action brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Luigi Mancusi (Mancusi).

According to BrokerCheck records, Mancusi allegedly “exercised discretion in effecting 45 transactions in a customer’s accounts without prior written authorization from the customer to exercise discretion in these accounts and without the accounts having been approved for discretionary trading by his member firm.” Further, Mancusi allegedly executed three transactions in another customer’s account without prior authorization. Reportedly, “Mancusi sold the security and used the proceeds to purchase two other securities in the customer’s account to replace it. As a result, the customer incurred fees, commissions, and ultimately a loss in disposing of an unwanted purchase into a new position, totaling $2,966.97.” Mancusi has been suspended from the securities industry for two months and has been fined $10,000.

Mancusi has also received five customer complaints.

In November 2017, a customer alleged Mancusi placed the customer in unsuitable investments for their age and risk tolerance and they were placed in unauthorized investments. This dispute is currently pending.

In July 2015, a customer alleged unauthorized transactions took place in the customer’s accounts. This dispute settled for $60,000.

In July 2013, multiple customers alleged unsuitability, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation and failure to supervise. This dispute settled for $50,000.
In October 2009, a customer alleged Mancusi misrepresented material facts related to an unsuitable investment as well as unauthorized investments. This dispute settled for $80,000.

In September 2002, a customer alleged she instructed to Mancusi to purchase a fixed annuity and she was sold a variable annuity after Mancusi did not follow her instructions. This dispute settled for $30,000.

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shutterstock_177577832-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Brian Royster (Royster), formerly associated with HD Vest Investment Services (HD Vest), in November 2017, was barred from the financial industry by FINRA concerning allegations that he borrowed funds from clients.  FINRA found that Royster consented to the sanction and findings that he refused to comply with a FINRA request for documents related to its investigation into the circumstances surrounding his termination from HD Vest. FINRA found that HD Vest filed a Form U5 terminating Royster’s registration and stating that he had violated its policy regarding borrowing money from clients.

In addition to the bar Royster has been subject to two customer complaints concerning his variable annuity sales practices.

At this time it is unclear the extent and scope of Royster’s securities violations and outside business activites.  The firm’s allegations concern borrowing of funds could be considered a private securities transaction – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

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shutterstock_70999552-300x200The investment attorneys at Gana LLP are investigating claims against broker Lyle Boudreaux (Boudreaux). According to BrokerCheck records, Boudreaux has received three customer complaints. Additionally, Boudreaux was terminated from Merrill Lynch in 2012.

In October 2017, a customer allegedly suffered losses in an advisory account due to an allegedly inappropriate investment.

In April 2017, a customer alleged breach of contract, violation of state securities laws, and negligence. The customer is seeking $100,000 in this pending dispute.

In January 2017, a customer allegedly suffered losses as a result of an exchange-traded fund position in an advisory account. This dispute settled for $80,000.

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shutterstock_120115444-300x198Current Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (Berthel Fisher) broker Jonathan Pyne (Pyne) has been subject to five customer complaints.  According to a BrokerCheck provided by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the primary regulator for securities broker dealers, many of the complaints concern alternative investments.  Alternative investments include a group of speculative securities such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs), oil & gas programs, equipment leasing, and other direct participation programs.  Our firm has experience handling investor losses caused by these products.

In July 2017 a customer filed a complaint trying to redeem her investment and is alleging that she was misled by the representative into purchasing an investment that she didn’t know was illiquid.  The claim is currently pending.

In September 2016 another customer filed a complaint alleging that the investments she purchased in 2008 and 2009 were unsuitable and misrepresented to her by the representative.  The claim was settled for $48,175.

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shutterstock_170949320-300x199The law offices of Gana LLP recently filed a complaint before The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) on behalf of a couple against brokerage firm Comprehensive Asset Management and Servicing, Inc. (CAMAS) and Tamara Steele (Steele) concerning Steele’s recommendation to invest substantial sums in Behavior Recognition Systems (BRS) (n/k/a Giant Gray, Inc.).  The Claimants alleged that CAMAS failed to supervise Ms. Steele’s sales of BRS or conduct due diligence and that BRS turned out to be a vesicle for investment fraud.  BRS raised tens of millions from investors while its owner, Ray Davis (Davis), allegedly misappropriated a sizable portion of investor funds.  Upon information and belief, Steele solicited her clients to investment millions in BRS.

BRS was a software development company based in Houston, Texas that focused on technology that could analyze video content by imitating learning and memory processes of the human brain.  BRS was founded in 2005 by Davis and he served as BRS’ Chairman of the Board until September 2015 and CEO until August 2014.  In or around 2013 BRS’ revenues plummeted and its net operating losses increased substantially.  By 2014 BRS’ total sales were only $765,000 and the firm suffered a net loss of $37.7 million.

According to the complaint, in late 2013 Steele recommended BRS to the couple notwithstanding BRS’ failing business model and its CEO’s unsuccessful past.  Steele pitched Claimants on an investment in BRS as an opportunity to earn income between 8% and 12%. Claimants alleged that the primary source of most of the Claimants investment in BRS came from their accounts managed by Steele through her advisory firm – Steele Financial Inc.  The complaint alleges that Steele was so confident in BRS that she initially recommended the Claimants borrow money from a bank to invest in BRS.

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shutterstock_24531604-200x300The investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating claims against Robert Clarke (Clarke). According to BrokerCheck records, Clarke has five disclosures, four of them being customer complaints.

In August 2017, a customer alleged Clarke misrepresented the nature of an investment and the purchase of the investment in the customer’s accounts. The customer is seeking $500,000 in this pending dispute.

In March 2016, a customer alleged Clarke misrepresented and made an unsuitable recommendation for the customer to invest in collateralized mortgage obligations. This dispute settled for $120,000.
In April 2014, a customer alleged unsuitable investment, transfer of accounts handled negligently, lack of fiduciary duty, and lack of supervision. This dispute settled for $77,205.

False representations include either written or oral statements containing misrepresentations or omissions of information that are material to an investor and induce the purchase, sale, or holding of a security. Under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (15 U.S.C. § 78a et seq.) and Rule 10b-5 a misrepresentation or omission of a fact is material if a reasonable investor might have considered the fact important in the making of the investment decision. Also the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rule 2020 also prohibits members from effecting “any transaction in, or induce the purchase or sale of, any security by means of any manipulative, deceptive or other fraudulent device or contrivance.”

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shutterstock_143094109-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor James Lowther (Lowther), employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch), has been subject to two customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Lowther has been accused by a customers of unsuitable investment advice concerning various investment products including energy stocks that likely include master limited partnerships (MLPs).  The law offices of Gana LLP continue to report on investor related losses and potential legal remedies due to recommendations to investor in oil and gas and commodities related investments.

The most recent claim was filed in August 2017 and alleges unauthorized trading, unsuitable investment recommendations, and misrepresentation and omission of material facts from November 2010 to July 2017.  The customer claimed $300,000 in damages and the claim is currently pending.

In July 2016 another customer alleged that Lowther engaged in unauthorized trading, unsuitable investment recommendations, failure to follow instructions, and misrepresentation and omission of material facts from January 2013 to July 2016.  The customer claims $1,000,000 in damages and the claim is currently pending.

Our firm handles claims and is also investigating securities claims against brokerage firms over sales practices related to the recommendations of oil & gas and commodities products such as exchange traded notes (ETNs), structured notes, private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and individual stocks.

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shutterstock_140186524-300x298The investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating the regulatory action brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Kenneth Savino (Savino).

According to BrokerCheck records, Savino allegedly purchased shares of a security for $100,000 without providing prior notice to his member firm and Savino inaccurately indicated on an annual compliance questionnaire that he had not participated in any private securities transactions. Savino was suspended for 15 days and fined $5,000. Without admitting or denying the findings, Savino consented to the sanctions and the entry of findings.

Savino was discharged from LPL Financial in October 2015 for allegedly entering into a loan transaction with another company, receiving shares of the company in return, with no pre-approval by the firm. Additionally, Savino allegedly made private securities transaction that he did not have pre-approved by the firm. Savino also allegedly introduced a client to a potential outside investment opportunity that was not approved by the firm.

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shutterstock_79462060-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), former Newbridge Securities and Allstate broker David Faline (Faline) has been subject to three customer disputes.

A customer alleged in June 2017 that Faline made unsuitable investment recommendations that resulted in losses in the customer’ account. The customer is seeking $200,000 in the pending dispute.

In February 2014, a customer alleged Cox recommended unsuitable investments, made false and misleading statements, negligently misrepresented material facts and breached his fiduciary duty. This dispute settled for $9,000.

The number of events listed on Adcock’s BrokerCheck is high relative to her peers. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Brokers must publicly disclose certain types of reportable events on their CRD including but not limited to customer complaints. In addition to disclosing client disputes brokers must divulge IRS tax liens, judgments, and criminal matters. However, FINRA’s records are not always complete according to a Wall Street Journal story that checked with 26 state regulators and found that at least 38,400 brokers had regulatory or financial red flags such as a personal bankruptcy that showed up in state records but not on BrokerCheck. More disturbing is the fact that 19,000 out of those 38,400 brokers had spotless BrokerCheck records.

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