According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Howard Utz (Utz), formerly associated with Hazard & Siegel, Inc. (Hazard & Siegel) in Mars, Pennsylvania was terminated by his firm concerning allegations that Utz’s failed to report outside business activities, engaged in private securities transactions, and accepted checks from clients made personally payable to Utz and subsequent conversion to personal use.
In addition, in May 2018 the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into Utz but have not disclosed any details of the investigation. Similarly, in January 2018 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an investigation into Utz’s activities but again there are no disclosures concerning the nature of the investigation.
At this time, the selling away claims against Utz are unclear as to the exact nature and extent of the activity. Utz has outside business disclosures including Noble and Utz Enterprises – a rental property business. In addition, Utz discloses Utz Financial Services – his investment d/b/a among other disclosures.
The allegations against Utz conform to a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws. In the industry the term selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm. Sometimes those investments have some legitimacy but often times these types of investments can end up being Ponzi schemes or the advisor can be engaging in the conversion of funds. When advisors convert or misappropriate funds they often created businesses or other vehicles to serve as a cover for the theft of funds. However, federal securities laws and the FINRA rules require firms to monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion. In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public. Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system. Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.
In cases of selling away the investor is unaware that the advisor’s investments are improper. In many of these cases the investor will not learn that the broker’s activities were wrongful until after the investment scheme is publicized, the broker is fired or charged by law enforcement, or stops returning client calls altogether.
Utz entered the securities industry in 1995. From 1995 until November 2014 Utz was associated with Sunset Financial Services, Inc. Form November 2014 until September 2015 Utz was associated with Securities America, Inc. From September 2015 until June 2018 Utz was associated with Hazard & Siegel out of the firm’s Mars, Pennsylvania office location.
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. Investors may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of selling away and brokerage firms failure to supervise their representatives. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.