Articles Posted in Securities Attorney

shutterstock_1744162-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Jeffrey Smith (Smith), formerly associated with Accelerated Capital Group (Accelerated Capital), has been subject to five customer complaints and two regulatory actions.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Smith has been accused by customers of unsuitable investment advice, securities fraud, and excessive trading among other claims.

The most recent regulatory action occurred in September 2017.  FINRA found that Smith maintained and utilized pre-signed and altered forms to conduct his securities business. FINRA determined that Smith’s conduct caused his brokerage firm to have inaccurate books and records. FINRA alleged that Smith had three customers sign blank forms and then made photocopies of some of the blank-signed forms so that he could reuse the customers’ signatures.  FINRA found that Smith then utilized these blank-signed forms to effect transactions.

In 2011 FINRA sanctioned Smith for failing to supervise brokers and enforce the firm’s supervisory procedures.

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shutterstock_112866430-300x199Former Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (Cetera) broker Susan Welo (Welo) has been subject to nine customer complaints, one employment separation for cause, and one regulatory action.  According to a BrokerCheck report Welo was terminated by Cetera after the firm alleged that Welo failed to disclose to firm that Welo provided a loan to a client while at a prior broker-dealer. In addition, Cetera claimed that Welo violated firm policies by accepting blank signed forms from clients and permitting assistant to sign representative’s name to various documents.

In addition, the State of North Dakota alleged that Welo acted as an unregistered securities agent by handling client funds and make investment recommendations.

Many of the complaints concern alternative investments, private placements, and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  Our firm has experience handling investor losses caused by these products.

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shutterstock_185582-300x225According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker James Dresselaers (Dresselaers) is under FINRA investigation and subject to one customer complaint.  Dresselaers is currently employed by H. Beck, Inc. (H. Beck).  The FINRA investigation is looking into potential violations of NASD Rules 2310 and 2110 or Rules 2111 and 2010 relating to the suitability of recommendations to purchase securities made to one customer.  In December 2015 a customer filed a complaint alleging Dresselaers that recommended unsuitable investments in exchange traded funds and equity securities.

A common problem with exchange traded funds is a subset of investments called leveraged exchanged traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs).  As a background, Non-Traditional ETFs behave drastically different and have different risk qualities from traditional ETFs.  While traditional ETFs seek to mirror an index or benchmark, Non-Traditional ETFs use a combination of derivatives instruments and debt to multiply returns on underlining assets, often attempting to generate 2 to 3 times the return of the underlining asset class.  Non-Traditional ETFs are also used to earn the inverse result of the return of the benchmark.

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shutterstock_183011084-199x300According to BrokerCheck records Todd Ryman (Ryman), now associated with SunTrust Investment Services, Inc. (SunTrust), has been subject to six customer complaints and one regulatory action in his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Ryman has been accused by customers of unsuitable investment advice in a variety of securities including equities, private equity investment funds, and other types of investment vehicles.  Some customers have also alleged unauthorized trading, misrepresentations and failure to follow instructions, among other claims.

One customer complaint filed in November 2016 alleged an unsuitable investment in a private equity fund resulting in $250,000 in damages.  The claim was settled for $205,193.

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.

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shutterstock_103610648-300x212The investment fraud lawyers of Gana LLP are examining multiple customer disputes filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker David Silberg (Silberg). According to BrokerCheck, Silberg has a multitude of disclosures concerning: churning, excessive trading, unauthorized trading, unsuitability, and breach of fiduciary duty. His BrokerCheck records also show 2 disclosures concerning an employment separation after allegations.

The most recent customer complaint filed against Silberg occured in August 2016. The customer alleged that Silberg made unsuitable recommendations to the client’s account. Additionally, the broker allegedly misrepresented and omitted material facts regarding an investment in a corporate debt security. The alleged damages were worth $100,000 and the case was settled for $29,750.00.

In November 2009, another customer complaint was filed against Silberg alleging that during his employment at Gunnallen Financial, the broker failed to supervise, engaged in unauthorized trading, and made unsuitable investments to their account. The alleged damages were worth $375,000 and the case was settled for $50,000.

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shutterstock_186180719-300x216The investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating the allegations made by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against barred broker Clay Hoffman. In June 2016, Hoffman was suspended by FINRA for his alleged failure to respond to FINRA’s request for information. Hoffman was later barred in November 2016 for his alleged failure to respond to multiple requests for documents and information related to an investigation.

Prior to the most recent suspension, Hoffman’s license as a broker was revoked and suspended, according to BrokerCheck. During May 2016, Hoffman alleged failed to pay a $5,000 fine for a previous case, which resulted in the revocation of his license. Additionally, Hoffman’s broker license was suspended during February 2016 due to the findings that allege that Hoffman engaged unauthorized business practices. Allegedly, Hoffman executed discretionary transactions in a customer’s account without any written authorization from the customer or firm.

In April 2015, a customer complaint was filed against Hoffman for alleged misrepresentation, unsuitability, and unauthorized trading. During his employment at SunTrust Investment and Summit Brokerage Services, Hoffman allegedly caused a loss for his client due to the misrepresentation of Mutual Funds. The alleged damages were $234,697.00 and the case settled at $90,000.

shutterstock_188141822-300x200The securities and investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a customer complaint and an employment separation after allegations filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) again broker Louis Frederick Scherschel (Scherschel). According to FINRA’s BrokerCheck records for Scherschel, there is a disclosure on his record for a customer complaint that resulted in arbitration. In October 2015, a customer complaint alleged that Scherschel made unsuitable sales of leveraged EFTs and failed to follower the customer’s instructions to implement sell stops. The original requested damages amount was $500,000 and the case was settled in September 2016 for $295,000.

In September 2015, Scherschel was discharged from his position at Sigma Financial Corporation for failing to comply with the company’s correspondence policy for leveraged ETFs.

Scherschel entered the securities industry in 2009. He was previously registered with:

shutterstock_184149845-300x246The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are following the case against broker Jeffrey Kluge (Kluge) who pleaded guilty to two counts of bank fraud in the state of Minnesota. A plead agreement was filed with the U.S. District Court in Minnesota on March 29, 2017. Kluge entered the securities industry in 1991 and remained with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc. for the entirety of his career. Kluge started a scheme to create fraudulent Merrill Lynch account statements to falsely secure collateral for multi-million lines of credit. Kluge was able to carry out this scheme by creating a fake domain name, www.mymerrillonline.com, and fake email address, pledgecontrol@mymerrillonline.com, to send the falsified account statements to Platinum Bank. A false Merrill Lynch identity was used as a cover for the email address. Kluge ran this fraudulent scheme for 15 years, starting in 2001 to November 2016.

In 2001, Kluge received a line of credit for $150,000 from Alliance Bank by putting up municipal bond funds as collateral. These bond funds were substantiated by falsified account statements that hid the fact that the same bonds were already pledged to Merrill Lynch loans previously obtained by Kluge. The outstanding balance of Alliance Bank line of credit was at $6 million in November 2016.

Utilizing the same scheme for Alliance Bank, Kluge was able to secure a $1 million line of credit from Platinum Bank in Minnesota. He procured this line of credit by putting up the same assets used for Merrill Lynch and Alliance Bank.  The Platinum Bank line of credit balance was at $2.7 million as of November 2016.

shutterstock_132704474-300x200The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Swan Sihua Shen (Shen) also known as Swan Sihua Zhang. According to BrokerCheck records there are at least six disclosures on Shen’s record including customer complaints, multiple regulatory actions, and one employment separation from CUNA Brokerage Services.

The most recent regulatory action against Shen was filed by the Maine office of Securities in October 2016 alleging that she failed to disclose history records so as a result was ordered for heightened supervision for 2 years.

In February 2015, the State of Massachusetts filed a claim against Swan Shen alleging that she repeatedly violated firm policies by copying and pasting client signatures, and altering forms which was precipitated by her termination from CBS in August 2013.

shutterstock_183201167-300x198The investment attorneys of Gana LLP are interested in speaking with clients of broker Parks Heard Brown Jr. (Brown). According to his BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Brown has been the subject of at least four customer complaints. The customer complaints against Brown allege securities law violations that claim unsuitable investments, churning, unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in October 2016, alleging that the broker while employed at VSR Financial Services Inc. made unsuitable investments based on the client’s liquidity needs. In March 2014, FINRA found that Brown violated FINRA rules 2090 and 2111 that require the use of reasonable diligence when recommending investment strategies. In addition, a customer alleged an unsuitable series of investments made in account between June 2012 and January 2014 resulting in damages of $245,750.00. The case settled for $71,500.00.

In another case filed in March 2004 a customer alleged that in June 2003 Brown misrepresented and failed to inform the account activity that caused $7,000.00