Broker Spotlight: Customer Complaints Against Advisor Kenneth Bolton

shutterstock_186468539The attorneys at Gana LLP are interested in speaking with investors of broker Kenneth Bolton. According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Kenneth Bolton (Bolton) has been the subject of at least 10 customer complaints, and 1 regulatory action, and one employment separation for cause. The customer complaints against Bolton allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, fraud, misrepresentations, failure to perform due diligence, violation of federal and state securities laws, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in January 2015, and alleged $413,000 in losses due to an unsuitable investment strategy. Another investor in May 2014, claimed $2,700,000 in damages.  Some of the customer complaints appear to be in connection with in connection with the sales of tenants-in-common (TICs).

Bolton entered the securities industry in 1983. From March 1995, until August 2007, Bolton was associated with First Montauk Securities Corp. From August 2007, until December 2009, Bolton was associated with National Securities Corporation. Presently, Bolton is associated with Sandlapper Securities, LLC out of the firm’s Greenville, South Carolina branch office location.

As a background, TICs largely been sold unfairly as tax advantaged products that allow customers to defer capital gains taxes on appreciated real estate. TICs are private placements that have no secondary trading market and are therefore illiquid investments. In a typical TIC, the investor receives a fractional interest in the property along with other stakeholders and the profits are generated mostly through the efforts of the sponsor and the management company that manages and leases the property. The sponsor typically structures the TIC investment with up-front fees and expenses charged to the TIC and negotiates the sale price and loan for the acquired property. Because these fees are often higher than 15%, there is often no way for the investment to be profitable for the investor.

TICs have come under fire by many investors and due to the failure of the TICs as a whole across the securities industry. Indeed, TICs have virtually disappeared as offered investments.   According to InvestmentNews “At the height of the TIC market in 2006, 71 sponsors raised $3.65 billion in equity from TICs and DSTs…TICs now are all but extinct because of the fallout from the credit crisis.” In fact, TICs recommendations have been a major contributor to bankrupting brokerage firms. For example, 43 of the 92 broker-dealers that sold TICs sponsored by DBSI Inc., a company whose executives were later charged with running a Ponzi scheme, a staggering 47% of firms that sold DBSI are no longer in business.

TIC investments entail significant risks. A TIC investor runs the risk of holding the property for a significant amount of time and that subsequent sales of the property may occur at a discount to the value of the real property interest. FINRA has also warned that the fees and expenses associated with TICs, including sponsor costs, can outweigh the any potential tax benefits associated with a Section 1031 Exchange. That is, the TIC product itself may be a defective product because its costs outweigh any potential investment value or tax benefit offered to the customer.

Due to the declining sales of these products and securities industry’s increasing refusal to sell them to investors, the securities industry has implicitly acknowledged that the costs, fees, and risks associated with TIC investments outweigh any potential tax deferral benefit, a benefit that disappears at some point because eventually taxes have to be paid upon the sale of the TIC.

Investors who have suffered investment losses may be able recover their losses through arbitration. The attorneys at Gana LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of unsuitable TIC recommendations and other breaches of brokerage firm’s obligations to the customers. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.