Articles Posted in Churning (Excessive Trading)

shutterstock_70999552-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Maxim Group LLC (Maxim Group) broker Michael Solomon (Solomon) has been subject to seven disclosed customer complaints.  Many of the customer complaints against Solomon allege churning or excessive trading.

In April 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that between January 2015 and December 2015 Solomon engaged in excessive and unsutable transactions causing $246,928 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In September 2009 another customer filed a complaint alleging churning among other causes of action.  An arbitration panel awarded the customer over $1 million in damages including attorneys fees and costs.

shutterstock_57938968-200x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former Vanderbilt Securities, LLC (Vanderbilt Securities) broker Mark Kaplan (Kaplan) has been subject to eight disclosed customer complaints, one employment termination for cause, and one regulatory action resulting in an industry bar.  Many of the customer complaints against Kaplan allege churning or excessive trading.

In March 2018, FINRA found that Kaplan violated the securities laws and FINRA rules by churning and engaging in unsuitable excessive trading in the brokerage accounts of a senior customer. FINRA found that Kaplan exercised de facto control over the customer’s accounts and the customer relied on Kaplan to direct investment decisions in his accounts. In addition, FINRA found that the elderly customer was experiencing a decline in his mental health and had a court allow the nephew to act as his legal guardian and manage his financial affairs after he was diagnosed with dementia.  Nonetheless, FINRA found that Kaplan effected more than 3,500 transactions in the customer’s accounts resulting in approximately $723,000 in trading losses while generating approximately $735,000 in commissions and markups for Kaplan. FINRA claimed that Kaplan never discussed with the customer the extent of his losses or the amount paid in sales charges and commissions. In sum, FINRA found that this level of trading was excessive and unsuitable for the customer given his investment profile, including his age, risk tolerance, and income needs.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

A FINRA arbitration panel ordered Windsor Street Capital, to pay two customers more than $1.3 million in compensatory damages, interest, punitive damages of over $3,000,000, attorneys fees in the amount of $552,321 and sanctions in the amount of $44,450 for churning customer accounts. The total award will be in excess of $5,000,000.

The Claimants alleged that Windsor churned their accounts over a very short period of time and violated know-your-customer rules and misrepresented the investments Windsor recommended.

You can find the award here.

shutterstock_113872627-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former Westpark Capital, Inc. (Westpark Capital) broker Lawrence Fawcett (Fawcett) has been subject to five customer complaints, two regulatory actions and one termination for cause.  Fawcett was barred by FINRA from the securities industry in March 2018 after failing to appear for testimony in connection with an investigation regarding Fawcett’s outside business activities.  At around the same time Fawcett was terminated by Westpark Capital on allegations that he conducted business from a non-disclosed location and made false representations to the firm.

In December 2017 Fawcett was sanctioned by FINRA on allegations that he recommended unsuitable mutual fund transactions to a customer by recommending 12 different mutual fund families instead of obtaining favorable breakpoint discounts for the customer.

In addition, many of the customer complaints against Fawcett concern high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning or excessive trading.  In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging excessive trading, churning, and unsuitable transactions seeking $33,271 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

shutterstock_190371512-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Dakota Securities International, Inc. (Dakota Securities) broker Felipe Arrieta (Arrieta). According to BrokerCheck records, Arrieta has been subject to four customer complaints, one of which is still pending. The majority of these disputes concern unauthorized trading and misuse of margin.

In April 2017, a customer alleged that from 2015 to 2016, Arrieta engaged in a misuse of margin and committed negligence. The customer is requesting $210,000 in damages. This dispute is currently still pending.

In November 2011, a customer alleged that Arrieta was engaging in unauthorized trading without the knowledge or approval of the customer. The customer requested $15,000 for damages.

shutterstock_191231699-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Wunderlich Securities, Inc. (Wunderlich Securities) broker Derrick Watts (Watts). According to BrokerCheck records, Watts has been subject to a regulatory matter in which the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned Watts for various violations of the securities laws including churning, otherwise known as excessive trading.  In March 2016, FINRA found that Watts failed to report his involvement in four unsatisfied civil judgments from 2009 to 2013 on his U4 registration form. Without admitting or denying the findings, Watts consented to the sanctions and the entry of findings. In April 2016, Watts was suspended for three months.

In addition to the FINRA sanctions, Watts has been subject to three customer complaints and two financial disclosures – including filing for bankruptcy and a tax lien.

In February 2016, Watts was discharged for bankruptcy due to failure in a real estate development that he was involved in. Bankruptcies and large tax liens are a potential sign that the advisor has difficulty managing their own finances. FINRA provides this information to the public because it is material for consumers to know whether or not their advisor’s financial situation influences the advisor’s recommendations.

shutterstock_160304408-300x199The investment fraud attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating previously registered broker Daniel Fischer (Fischer). According to BrokerCheck, in January 2018, the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) barred Fischer from the financial industry claiming that from December 2012 to May 2015, Fischer recommended an unsuitable investment strategy in penny stocks to 5 customers and falsely represented and omitted material facts about the strategy. In addition, the SEC alleged that Fischer was engaging in churning of accounts and in unauthorized trading. The SEC found that as a result of recommending unsuitable investments, Fischer had violated federal laws including Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933, Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5.

In addition, Fischer has also been subject to one regulatory action and one civil action in which the SEC and the Federal Industry Regulative Authority (FINRA) sanctioned Fischer for various violations of the securities laws.

In July 2016, FINRA suspended Fischer on the grounds that he was exercising discretion in customer accounts without prior customer approval. As a result of violating NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010, Fischer incurred a fine of $5,000 and a suspension of 20 days.

shutterstock_95416924-300x225The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Western International Securities, Inc. (Western International) broker Jorey Bernstein (Bernstein). According to BrokerCheck records, Bernstein has been subject to one pending customer complaint regarding excessive trading.

In August 2018, a customer alleged that from 2009 to 2014, Bernstein excessively traded their account. The customer requested damaged of $3,000,000. This dispute is currently still pending.

In addition, Bernstein has been subject to resignation from Morgan Stanley in 2015 due to customer allegations regarding Bernstein’s illegal interactions and outside business activities with a third-party. A broker’s outside business activities with a third-party can create a conflict of interest with the firm. Therefore, firms are required to monitor such activities through supervision that is in compliance with securities laws and regulations.

shutterstock_177082523-243x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Anthony Sica (Sica) has been subject to three regulatory actions and nine customer complaints.  Sica is currently registered with Joseph Gunnar & Co. LLC (Joseph Gunnar).  The most recent regulatory action filed against Sica was in January 2018 by the Maryland Securities Commissioner who alleged that when it inquired about information provided to the state Scia agreed to withdraw his registration request.  Many of the customer complaints against Sica concerning high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning.

In Novemebr 2017, FINRA found that Sica unsuitable recommendations to an elderly customer living on a fixed income. FINRA alleged that Sica repeatedly recommended that the customer purchase high-risk securities that were inconsistent with her investment profile and resulted in an over concentration of the customer’s account in speculative securities.  FINRA also found that Sica engaged in short-term in-and-out trading of the speculative investments in the customer’s accounts causing substantial losses. FINRA alleged that Sica also engaged in unauthorized trading by placing trades in the IRA accounts of a customer who Sica knew was deceased.  FINRA suspended Sica for three months.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

shutterstock_20354401-300x200The investment attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a customer complaint against Garden State Securities broker Dave Nicolas (Nicolas).

According to BrokerCheck records kept by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), A customer alleged in June 2016 that Nicolas engaged in unsuitable investments and churning and alleged failure to supervise on the part of Garden State Securities, Inc.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation, the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.