Articles Posted in Fiduciary Duties

shutterstock_112866430-300x199According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Steven Reznik (Reznik), formerly employed by Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. (Raymond James) has been subject to at least 15 customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Reznik’s customer complaints allege that Reznik made unsuitable recommendations by concentrating investors in a particular sector, possibly energy.

In January 2019 a customer brought a complaint against Reznik alleging the broker violated the securities laws by recommending an unsuitable overconcentration in investments, unauthorized trading, and constructive fraud from March 2012 until August 2018.  The claim is currently pending.

In November 2018 a customer brought a complaint against Reznik alleging the broker violated the securities laws by recommending an unsuitable overconcentration in investments, unauthorized trading, and breach of fiduciary duty from September 2016 until October 2018.  The claim alleged $125,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In October 2018 a customer brought a complaint against Reznik alleging the broker violated the securities laws by recommending an unsuitable investments, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty from February 1996 until September 2018.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_76197331-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Wesley Clinton (Clinton), currently employed by Network 1 Financial Securities Inc. (Network 1 Financial) has been subject to eight customer complaints during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the complaints against Clinton concern allegations of unsuitable investments among other allegations.

In August 2018 a customer complained that Clinton recommended investments that violated the securities laws including unsuitable investments and failure to supervise.  The customer alleged $145,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In January 2017 a customer complained that Clinton recommended unsuitable investments leading to $50,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In June 2015 a customer complained that Clinton recommended unsuitable investments and engaged in fraud and churning leading to $250,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $30,000.

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shutterstock_156972491-300x198According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Peter Bittermann (Bittermann), currently employed by Westminster Financial Securities, Inc. (Westminster Financial) has been subject to three customer complaints, one employment termination for cause, and one regulatory action.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Bittermann’s customer complaints allege that Bittermann made unsuitable recommendations.

In July 2018 the Wisconsin Division of Securities alleged that Bittermann was delinquent on certain taxes causing his registration to be revoked.

In February 2011 RBC Capital Markets Corporation, LLC (RBC) terminated Bittermann over allegations that he sold a security without prior verbal knowledge and consent by the client.

In August 2009 a client complained that Bittermann misrepresented the risks of an investment and it was unsuitable causing $1,619,634 in damages.  The claim was settled for $750,000.

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shutterstock_103079882-300x239According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Marc Steinberg (Steinberg), currently employed by Westpark Capital, Inc. (Westpark Capital) has been subject to five customer complaints in his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the complaints against Steinberg concern allegations of unsuitable investments.

In April 2018, a customer complained that Steinberg engaged in unsuitable investments causing $39,796 in damages.  The claim was denied by the firm.

In November 2016, a customer complained that Steinberg engaged in unsuitable investments from December 2012 until February 2015 causing $16,833 in damages.  The claim was denied by the firm.

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shutterstock_184430645-300x225The investment fraud attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating American Portfolios Financial Services, Inc. (American Portfolios) broker Jimmy Kuhn (Kuhn). According to BrokerCheck Records kept by the Financial Industry Regulative Authority (FINRA), Kuhn has been subject to four customer disputes. The majority of these concern unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, and excessive use of margin.

In January 2018, a customer alleged that Kuhn had breached his fiduciary duties, and had placed the customer in unsuitable investments. This case was settled at $70,000.

In December 2015, a customer alleged that Kuhn had breached fiduciary duties, placed the customer into unsuitable investments, misrepresented the investments, and executed unauthorized trades in the account. The dispute was settled at $60,000.

In November 2008, a customer alleged that his margin account was much larger than he had authorized, and that this excessive use of margin led to great damages in his account. The dispute was settled at $150,000.

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shutterstock_99315272-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former Newbridge Securities Corporation (Newbridge Securities) broker Edward Klug (Klug) left the securities industry in May 2018 after disclosing several large tax liens in the prior years.  Klug has made seven financial related disclosures and lists four customer complaints.  The customer complaints against Klug allege churning or excessive trading.

In March 2018 Klug disclosed a $141,711 tax lien against him.  In May 2017, Klug disclosed a $482,714 tax lien against him.  Prior to that, in April 2016 Klug disclosed a $44,229 tax lien against him.  Such disclosures on a broker’s record can reveal a financial incentive for the broker to recommend high commission products or services.  FINRA discloses information concerning a broker’s financial condition because a broker’s inability to handle their own personal finances has also been found to be material information in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

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_61848763-300x203The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating former International Assets Advisory, LLC (International Assets) broker Frank Cuenca.  According to BrokerCheck records, in December 2017, Cuenca was terminated by SII Investments, Inc. (SII investments) for failing to follow his firm’s procedures regarding submitting variable annuity transactions. He also failed to submit a customer complaint and unapproved email in a timely manner. In addition, Cuenca has been subject to five customer disputes, the majority alleging failure to follow customer instructions.

In March 2009, a customer alleged that in 2008, Cuenca failed to follow customer instructions to liquidate the account and to move $12,000 back into the market. The customer requested $12,000 in damages.

In December 2008, a customer alleged that Cuenca liquidated the customer account without the customer knowledge or permission. The customer requested $5,000 in damages.

shutterstock_156764942-200x300The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS Financial) broker Samuel Rankin (Rankin). According to BrokerCheck records, Rankin has been subject to eight customer complaints, two of which are still pending. The majority of these complaints concern the misallocation of customers’ funds into unsuitable investments.

Most recently, in September 2017, a customer alleged that from 2015 to 2016, Rankin misallocated funds into highly risky investments which were unsuitable to the customer’s needs.  The customer is requesting $849,221 for damages. This dispute is still pending.

In August 2017, a customer alleged that from 2009 to 2017, Rankin misallocated retirement funds into aggressive investments that were unsuitable to the customers’ needs and violated their written agreement to placement in only moderate-risk investments. This dispute is still pending.

shutterstock_66745735-300x200The investment lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating the regulatory action brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Sandeep Varma (Varma).  According to BrokerCheck records, Varma has been subject to two regulatory matters in which FINRA sanctioned Varma for various violations of the securities laws. In addition, Varma has been subject to five customer complaints. The majority of these complaints involve the recommendation of unsuitable and misrepresented variable investments including CRTs and life insurance policies.

In January 2018, FINRA found that Varma misrepresented a real-estate planning strategy involving Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRTs) to 70 potential customers by providing misleading claims about the nature of deferred capital gains taxes, risks, and rewards that are involved in CRTs. In addition, Varma recommended that the sale of appreciated assets should be invested into variable annuities and into premiums for an insurance policy. While recommending these investments, Varma failed to disclose that the premium payments for the life insurance policy were dependent on performance of investments in the CRT and that this yielded risk for lapse in the insurance policy. FINRA found that Varma’s positive projection of the performance of investments in the CRT and life insurance policy was exaggerated in a promissory manner because it didn’t disclose the reasonable possibility of negative investment performance. In February 2018, Varma was suspended for 10 days and fined $15,000. Without admitting or denying the findings, Varma consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings.

Varma has also been subject to numerous customer complaints over the course of his career.  The most recent case was filed in August 2017 and alleged that in 2000, Varma recommended an unsuitable life insurance policy investment to customers. The claim was settled at $350,000.

shutterstock_12144202-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Herbert Voss (Voss), formerly associated with Stockcross Financial Services, Inc. (Stockcross Financial), has been subject to eight customer complaints, one FINRA action, and one employment termination.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Voss was barred from the financial industry in May 2018 when Voss consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he refused to appear for FINRA testimony concerning a customer complaint alleging that Voss had engaged in unauthorized trading in the customer’s account.  The refusal to cooperate draws an automatic bar from the industry.

In December 2017, a customer filed a complaint alleging that Voss’ investments caused poor performance and $550,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.  Prior to that, in February 2017 a client accused Voss of causing $900,000 in damages due to unsuitable investments.

Advisors are not allowed to engage in unauthorized trading.  Such trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior authority from the investor. All brokers are under an obligation to first discuss trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b).  These rules explicitly prohibit brokers from making discretionary trades in a customers’ non-discretionary accounts. The SEC has also found that unauthorized trading to be fraudulent nature because no disclosure could be more important to an investor than to be made aware that a trade will take place.  Often times, brokers engage in unauthorized trading as part of an attempt to churn or excessively trade a client’s account.