Articles Posted in Fiduciary Duties

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.

shutterstock_128655458-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating Peachcap Securities, Inc. (Peachcap Securities) broker Aaron Brodt (Brodt). According to BrokerCheck Records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Brodt has been subject to four customer complaints alleging breach of fiduciary duty and unsuitable investment recommendations. One of these disputes is currently still pending. In addition, Brodt has also been subject to one financial action.

Most recently, in May 2017, a customer alleges that from 2014 to 2015, Brodt breached his fiduciary duty and was grossly negligent in his recommendation of 4 investments that he placed the customer in.

In April 2016, a customer alleged that from May 2015 to October 2015, Brodt recommended unsuitable investments to the customer. The case was settled at $116,667.

shutterstock_151894877-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Zachary Feinsilver (Feinsilver), employed by FMSBonds, Inc. (FMSBonds), has been subject to three customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Feinsilver has been accused by a customers of unsuitable investment advice concerning recommendations to invest in Puerto Rico bonds.   Puerto Rico has been devastated by a $70 billion debt it cannot pay in addition to extensive hurricane damage.  However, according to news reports, the process to resolve Puerto Rico’s debts could take years.  In fact, it has taken more than two years of debate with Puerto Rico’s government, creditors, and federal lawmakers just to get to this point.

In February 2018 a client complained that certain aspects of bonds were misrepresented by Feinsilver.  The complaint was closed.

In December 2017 another customer complained that Feinsilver made unsuitable investments in Puerto Rico bonds claiming $100,000 in damages.  The claim was settled for $50,000.

shutterstock_189302954-300x203The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating Garden State Securities, Inc. (Garden State) broker Jason Zwibel (Zwibel). According to BrokerCheck records, Zwibel has been subject to 4 customer complaints, one of which is still pending.

In November 2017, a customer alleged that Zwibel engaged in unsuitable investments and breach of fiduciary duty from 2013 to 2016. The customer is requesting $2,670,750 in damages. This complaint is still pending.

In June 2007, a customer alleged that Zwiber engaged in breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation of investments, and failure to supervise. The case settled at $50,000.