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shutterstock_175137287-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Michael Bastardi (Bastardi) has been subject to at least two customer complaints, one regulatory action, and one tax or lien judgment during his career.  Bastardi was formerly employed by Chelsea Financial Services (Chelsea Financial) and National Securities Corporation (National Securities).  The majority of the customer complaints against Bastardi concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning.

In May 2019 Bastardi consented sanctions and an industry bar from FINRA due to the findings that he refused to provide documents and information requested by FINRA in connection with an investigation into the allegations disclosed on a termination statement.  FINRA found that the termination disclosure stated that Bastardi was the subject of a customer complaint alleging that he had engaged in unsuitable margin trading, unauthorized trading, fraud and forgery when he was registered through two member firms, resulting in damages of approximately $250,000.

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shutterstock_26813263-300x199The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating recommendations by brokerage firms for their clients to invest in NorthStar Healthcare Income Inc., (NorthStar Healthcare) – a non-traded real estate investment trust (Non-Traded REIT).  According to newsources, NorthStar Healthcare has suffered massive losses and may only be worth less than 30 cents for every dollar purchased.  In addition, NorthStar Healthcare no longer distributes a dividend – which previously had only been a return of investor principal and not funds from any business operations.  As is too common in the brokerage industry, firms fail to understand the flawed Non-Traded REIT business model and only recommend these products for their 7% commissions – not because they benefit investors.

According to the NorthStar Healthcare’s website, the investment formed to originate, acquire and asset manage equity and debt investments in healthcare real estate. NorthStar Healthcare claims that it is focused on making investments in the needs-driven senior housing sector including independent living facilities, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities.  NorthStar Healthcare launched in February 2013 and raised total gross proceeds of $2 billion, including $225.3 million through its distribution reinvestment plan.  The company claims to have a $2.4 billion portfolio of 652 properties as of the third quarter of 2018.

According to The DI Wire, in December 2017, NorthStar Healthcare reduced its distribution rate from 6.67% to 3.31%.  One year later NorthStar Healthcare lowered the net asset value of its common stock from $8.50 per share to $7.10 per share. In addition, in October 2018, NorthStar Healthcare told shareholders that it was suspending its repurchase program – unless the shareholder was dead or had a qualifying disability.

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shutterstock_20354398-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Gabriel Block (Block) has been subject to at least 12 customer complaints and five regulatory actions during his career.  Block is currently barred from the industry but was formerly employed by First Standard Financial Company LLC (First Standard Financial) and National Securities Corporation (National Securities).  The majority of the customer complaints against Block concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning.

In May 2019 the New Jersey Bureau of Securities revoked Block’s license in his home state of New Jersey finding that Block engaged in dishonest or unethical business practices in the securities business. The state went on to find that Block engaged in a device, scheme, or artifice to defraud.

In April 2019 a customer complained that Block violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor engaged in unsuitable and excessive trading causing $2,000,000 in damages. The claim is currently pending.

In March 2019 a customer complained that Block violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor engaged in unsuitable trading. The claim is currently pending.

In February 2019 a customer complained that Block violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor engaged in unsuitable and unauthorized trading causing $668,000 in damages. The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_26269225-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Mark Zeller (Zeller), currently employed by UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) has been subject to at least two customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), one of Zeller’s customer complaints allege that Zeller recommended unsuitable investments in what appears to be UBS’ Yield Enhancement Strategy (YES).  The YES strategy was incredibly risky and may have been misrepresented by brokers to when sold to their clients.

UBS created and advertised YES as an option-based trading strategy that sought to increase returns for investors.  UBS brokers are alleged to have advertised the Yield Enhancement Strategy as involving trading call or put options to try and accomplish increased returns in their portfolios. Investors were often presented with slide presentation which advertised the Yield Enhancement program.  The slide deck represents that the YES stategy has “limited correlation with the market or a single stock position, the YES Strategy may provide portfolio diversification.”  The strategy also claims to use upside and downside protection to prepare for “unexpectedly volatile market conditions” and that the options strategies are designed to limit risk.

However, yield enhancement strategies are risky because any opportunity to profit relies on stock market stability – an impossible long-term scenario.  When a stock index, such as the commonly used S&P 500, remains within a certain range the strategy can profit because the options purchased expire without reaching their strike prices.  The investor earns a return from the option premiums.

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shutterstock_171721244-300x200The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Ricky Flatt (Flatt) has taken loans from a client and engaged in certain business activities not approved by his advisory firm.  Flatt, formerly registered with Royal Fund Management, LLC (Royal Fund) out of Troy, Michigan has been terminated by Royal Fund and under investigation by the State of Michigan for accepting funds from a client.  In addition, Flatt disclosed at least 12 tax or judgement liens totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In March 2019 the State of Michigan opened an investigation into Flatt alleging that he borrowed money from a client and defaulted on the loan while also failing to disclose an outside business activity.

In March 2019 Royal Fund terminated Flatt after alleging that Flatt breached the firm’s internal policies and procedures concerning reporting business activities and loans from a client.

Flatt’s IARD disclosures state that Flatt has an outside business activity called Financial Strategies, Inc. selling certain insurance policies.  It is unclear at this time what business activity that investigations concern.

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shutterstock_152933045-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Leonard Kinsman (Kinsman), currently employed by Wells Fargo Advisors Network, LLC (Wells Fargo) has been subject to at least five customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Kinsman’s customer complaints allege that Kinsman recommended unsuitable securities recommendations among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In addition, a recent Washington Post article exposed how brokerage firms as large as Wells Fargo still hire brokers with troubling work histories.  Kinsman had prior multiple complaints from clients and worked for two banned brokerages firms.  One firm was Meyers Pollock Robbins, a notorious bucket shop whose ex-president pleaded guilty to charges of engaging in a pump-and-dump stock scheme.  The fraud was alleged to have been linked to a bribery scheme coordinated by organized crime.

Recently, Kinsman was the subject to a new customer complaint where the client accused the broker of losing a $2.25 million insurance settlement after the client’s husband died unexpectedly in 2011.  The complaint alleges aggressive options trading and false documentation.

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shutterstock_112866430-300x199According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Peter Viglione (Viglione) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during his career.  Viglione is currently employed by Laidlaw & Company (UK) Ltd. (Laidlaw).  The majority of the customer complaints against Viglione concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning.

In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Viglione violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Viglione’s activities from 2015 through 2017 caused $20,179 in damages.  The claim settled.

In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Viglione violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Viglione engaged in unauthorized trading and excessive trading from 2015 through 2016 caused $200,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In July 2012 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Viglione violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Viglione engaged in unauthorized trading, excessive trading, and misrepresentations causing $780,000 in damages.  The claim was settled for $125,000.

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shutterstock_182371613-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Dana Hawkins (Hawkins), currently employed by Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus Financial) has been subject to three customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Hawkins’ customer complaints allege that Hawkins made unsuitable recommendations in certain structured products.

Our firm has brought cases against brokers for misrepresenting the features of structured products or selling them as a bond alternative.  Structured products are typically debt instruments where the payout is based on the underlying stock, equity index, currency, or any reference source.  Many, but not all, structured products are advertised as having some principal protection component – meaning that the investor is guaranteed the return of some amount of their initial investment.  However, studies have shown that structured products are often best used as a niche product for sophisticated investors employing complicated strategies.  The typical investor cannot benefit from these products over traditional investments.

In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Hawkins violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Hawkins sold unsuitable investments and several other allegations associated from activity in late 2013 to early 2019.  The customer alleged $253,757 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_189302963-300x194According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Christopher McClure (McClure), currently employed by Westport Capital Markets, LLC (Westport Capital) has been subject to at least two customer complaints and a regulatory action brought by the SEC during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), McClure’s customer complaints allege that McClure breached his fiduciary duty among other allegations.

In December 2017 The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Connecticut-based investment advisory firm and its principal, McClure, with breaching their fiduciary duties and defrauding advisory clients by repeatedly purchasing securities that generated significant amounts of undisclosed compensation.

The SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut alleged that Westport Capital and McClure invested advisory clients’ funds in risky securities that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed mark-ups for Westport and resulted in more than $1 million in losses for clients.  The SEC found that Westport purchased securities from underwriters at a discount to the public offering price and then, acting as a principal for its own account, re-sold those same securities to its advisory clients at higher prices without disclosing the mark-up.  The SEC further alleged that Westport and McClure defrauded a client by acting contrary to the client’s express objectives and instead repeatedly investing the client in risky offerings that generated hidden mark-ups.  Moreover, the SEC also found that Westport and McClure made false and misleading representations to clients regarding the compensation that Westport would receive from their accounts.

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shutterstock_70513588-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Demos Argyros (Argyros), currently employed by Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (Oppenheimer) has been subject to at least five customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Argyros’ customer complaints allege that Argyros recommended unsuitable securities recommendations in a variety of products including unsuitable equities and warrants among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Argyros violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Argyros breached his fiduciary duty, negligence, breach of contract relating to unsuitable equities and warrants from May 2008 until November 2016 causing $100,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In April 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Argyros violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Argyros breached his fiduciary duty, churning, excessive fees and missing funds from January 2008 until December 2016 causing $900,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $275,000.

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