Articles Posted in Securities Fraud

shutterstock_102242143-300x169Advisor Jeffrey Dixson (Dixson), currently employed by Madison Avenue Securities, LLC (Madison Avenue) has been subject to at least seven customer complaints and one regulatory action during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaint concerns alternative investments such private placements and direct participation products (DPPs) like non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have represented dozens of investors who suffered losses caused by these types of high risk, low reward products.

One private placement that a large number of clients of Madison Avenue were sold is GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital) related investments.  GPB Capital is facing multiple accusations of being a Ponzi scheme, an ongoing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and FBI investigations, and even GPB’s chief compliance officier being indicted for illegally obtaining information on the SEC’s investigation.  Now even Volkswagen and Toyota are threatening to pull the plug on GPB Capital auto dealerships.  While advisors have been telling investors to do absolutely nothing and just hang in there – this is nothing more than just additional poor advice.  In November 2019 GPB Capital’s admitted that no financial audit would occur anytime in the near future.  In sum, investors now know there is nothing to hang onto.  By the day, advisor recommendations to do nothing appear to be completely self-serving, out of the loop, and not in the interest of the investor.

In November 2019 a customer complained that Dixson violated the securities laws by alleging that Dixson engaged in sales practice violations related to investments made between 2016 to the present in various alternative investments and fixed index annuities that were alleged as unsuitable. The allegations include Oregon Securities Law, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and elder abuse.  The claim alleges $150,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_168326705-199x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Katherine Nishnic (Nishnic), currently associated with Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus), has been subject to at least eight customer complaints during her career.  The majority of the customer complaints against Nishnic concern allegations relating to unsuitable recommendations in structured products. The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently representing investors, including Centaurus investors, who were surprised to find out that the “bonds” that were recommended by their advisors have almost completely stopped paying interest while plummeting in value.

What many investors in this situation did not realize was that they were not sold bonds at all but instead complex structured products that go by a variety of names including steepener notes, adjustable rate market notes, spread linked notes, or structured notes.  Regulators have already stated that it is improper to sell these investments as a fixed income substitute or to compare them to bonds in terms of producing a revenue stream.  However, in our firm’s experience it appears that many brokers have been selling structured products as bond alternatives.

Structured products range in risk from benign to extreme.  However, most structured products produce inferior risk/return profiles than ordinary debt or equity instruments because the brokerage firms that issue these products seek to profit from the spread between the payment to investors and the amount of money the brokerage firm can make from the issuance.  When dealing with complex structured products most investors will lack the ability to understand the merits of investments nor are they appropriate for investors seeking a fixed or reliable income and have a desire for preservation of capital.

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shutterstock_120556300-300x300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Michael Carter (Carter) was discharged by his employer after being accused of misappropriating client funds.  According to BrokerCheck records, Carter is formerly registered with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member firm Morgan Stanley.  In addition, Carter disclosed three customer complaints related to misappropriating funds. If you have been a victim of Carter’s alleged misconduct our firm may be able to assist you in recovering funds.

In July 2019 Morgan Stanley discharged Carter after alleging that he was terminated after allegations of misappropriation of funds occurred.

In September 2019 FINRA filed a regulatory action alleging that Carter consented to the sanction and findings that he failed to provide documents and information requested by FINRA during the course of an investigation after FINRA received a tip relating to allegations of misconduct made by Morgan Stanley.

Our law firm has significant experience bringing cases on behalf of defrauded victims when their advisors engage in receiving loans from clients or selling fraudulent securities sales through OBAs.  The sale of unapproved investment products – is 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.

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shutterstock_160304408-300x199The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Kerry Hoffman (Hoffman) engaged in undisclosed outside business activities (OBAs) and investment sales that were not approved by his brokerage firm.  Hoffman, formerly registered with LPL Financial LLC (LPL Financial) and Union Capital Company (Union Capital) was subject to charges of securities fraud by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) according to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  In addition, Hoffman disclosed two customer complaints and three employment termination for cause.

In July 2019 the SEC charged Hoffman along with Thomas Conwell (Conwell) for fraudulently selling securities to retail investors.  The SEC’s complaint alleges that from July 2015 through July 2018, Conwell and Hoffman raised over $3.3 million from approximately 46 investors through the sale of unregistered GT Media, Inc. securities. The SEC alleged that Conwell is no stranger to securities fraud and was previously enjoined by the SEC and criminally convicted for stealing money from investors.  In the case of GT Media, the SEC alleged that investors received numerous false representations including that two Fortune 500 companies were seeking to acquire GT Media and that GT Media would soon conduct an initial public offering.  The SEC claims that Conwell misappropriated $161,500 from investors for his his personal expenses. The SEC also alleged that Hoffman solicited advisory clients to invest in GT Media securities without disclosing his financial conflicts of interest, including his compensation from GT Media and his short-term loans to GT Media that were repaid using investor funds.

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shutterstock_25054879-300x200The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims against broker Nick Son (Son), currently associated with Aegis Capital Corp. (Aegis) out of New York, New York.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Son has been subject to at least seven customer disputes during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Son’s customer complaints concern allegations of unauthorized trading, unsuitable investments, and misrepresentations among other claims.

In February 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Son violated the securities laws by making unauthorized trading and unsuitable investment recommendations.  The customer requested $224,968 in damages.  The dispute is currently pending.

In April 2016 a customer alleged that in March 2016, Son engaged in high pressure sales tactics and misrepresentations causing $65,984 in damages.  The claim was denied.

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.

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shutterstock_143685652-300x300The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating reports that advisor Nicolas Barrios (Barrios) engaged in undisclosed outside business activities (OBAs) that were not approved by his brokerage firm resulting in potential fraudulent investments.  Barrios, formerly registered with UBS Financial Services Inc. (UBS) out of Winter Haven, Florida was barred from the financial industry according to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  In addition, Barrios disclosed at least four customer complaints and one employment termination for cause.

In April 2019 UBS terminated Barrios for cause alleging that he was discharged after stating during a firm review: (1) he arranged for client to invest away from firm in private company; (2) he personally invested in that company without firm approval; and (3) he used personal email to communicate with client’s family in an attempt to evade firm detection.  UBS claims to have subsequently learned that at least seven of Barrios’ clients moved money from UBS accounts to outside bank accounts from which they wrote checks to an entity with which Barrios is affiliated

In June 2019 FINRA found that Barrios consented to the sanctions and findings that he failed to provide FINRA with requested documents and information in connection with FINRA’s investigation into allegations that Barrios mismanaged and committed fraud with respect to a customer’s account. Accordingly, Barrios was automatically barred from the securities industry.

At this time it is unclear what OBA Barrios engaged in that FINRA was investigating.  Barrios’s public disclosures state that he was involved in a auto boat broker dealer business.  It is unclear if these OBAs were the subject of FINRA’s investigation.

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shutterstock_26813263-300x199The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating recommendations by brokerage firms for their clients to invest in NorthStar Healthcare Income Inc., (NorthStar Healthcare) – a non-traded real estate investment trust (Non-Traded REIT).  According to newsources, NorthStar Healthcare has suffered massive losses and may only be worth less than 30 cents for every dollar purchased.  In addition, NorthStar Healthcare no longer distributes a dividend – which previously had only been a return of investor principal and not funds from any business operations.  As is too common in the brokerage industry, firms fail to understand the flawed Non-Traded REIT business model and only recommend these products for their 7% commissions – not because they benefit investors.

According to the NorthStar Healthcare’s website, the investment formed to originate, acquire and asset manage equity and debt investments in healthcare real estate. NorthStar Healthcare claims that it is focused on making investments in the needs-driven senior housing sector including independent living facilities, assisted living, memory care, and skilled nursing facilities.  NorthStar Healthcare launched in February 2013 and raised total gross proceeds of $2 billion, including $225.3 million through its distribution reinvestment plan.  The company claims to have a $2.4 billion portfolio of 652 properties as of the third quarter of 2018.

According to The DI Wire, in December 2017, NorthStar Healthcare reduced its distribution rate from 6.67% to 3.31%.  One year later NorthStar Healthcare lowered the net asset value of its common stock from $8.50 per share to $7.10 per share. In addition, in October 2018, NorthStar Healthcare told shareholders that it was suspending its repurchase program – unless the shareholder was dead or had a qualifying disability.

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shutterstock_171721244-300x200The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Ricky Flatt (Flatt) has taken loans from a client and engaged in certain business activities not approved by his advisory firm.  Flatt, formerly registered with Royal Fund Management, LLC (Royal Fund) out of Troy, Michigan has been terminated by Royal Fund and under investigation by the State of Michigan for accepting funds from a client.  In addition, Flatt disclosed at least 12 tax or judgement liens totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.

In March 2019 the State of Michigan opened an investigation into Flatt alleging that he borrowed money from a client and defaulted on the loan while also failing to disclose an outside business activity.

In March 2019 Royal Fund terminated Flatt after alleging that Flatt breached the firm’s internal policies and procedures concerning reporting business activities and loans from a client.

Flatt’s IARD disclosures state that Flatt has an outside business activity called Financial Strategies, Inc. selling certain insurance policies.  It is unclear at this time what business activity that investigations concern.

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shutterstock_128856874-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Michael Lyle (Lyle), currently employed by Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. (Transamerica) has been subject to four customer complaints and one tax lien during during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the customer complaints against Lyle concern allegations over variable annuity sales practices.

In January 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Lyle violated the securities laws by, among other things, that the product was misrepresented in that she was told she would receive returns of $7,500 monthly but that Lyle had failed to inform her of the IRS penalties for early withdrawals causing $100,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In June 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Lyle violated the securities laws by, among other things, that the product was unsuitable and that Lyle failed to inform her of the IRS penalty for early withdrawals causing $73,594 in damages.  The claim was denied.

Variable annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a publication entitled: Variable Annuities: What You Should Know encouraging investors to ask questions about the variable annuity before investing.  Essentially, a variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company under which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you.  The investor chooses the investments made in the annuity and value of your variable annuity will vary depending on the performance of the investment options chosen.  The primary benefits of variable annuities are the death benefit and tax deferment of investment gains.

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shutterstock_93851422-300x240Our firm represents multiple clients who have been recommended GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital) related investments. GPB invests in a variety of businesses but primarily in auto dealerships and waste management businesses.  However, over the past year controversy has embroiled GPB Capital in a saga including multiple regulatory investigations and even an FBI referral which has left investors clueless to the fate of their investments.

According to our investigation Kalos Capital, Inc. (Kalos Capital) and its brokers including Jason Mosher (Mosher) have recommended GPB Capital private placements to investors.  Investors at this point should prepare themselves for the worst possible outcomes including significant losses on their investments.  Investors who have invested in GPB Capital are encouraged to contact us for a free consultation.

As a background, financial advisers sold $1.5 billion of these high-risk private placements offered by GPB Capital Holdings. More than a year ago GPB Capital was supposed to file registration forms with the SEC for two of its largest funds to make certain accounting and financial disclosures required under the securities laws.  However the company did not meet its deadline back in April 2018 and now over a year later has no firm date when annual reports for the two funds will be filed and the public has no clue what those values will look like. It is highly unusual for an audit of a fund to take over a year without any material update to investors.  Even the largest of publicly traded companies that have accounting irregularities rarely take this long to make a restatement of their accounting numbers.  However, GPB has merely told investors to continue to be patient as the company has come up with never ending excuses that follow an all too familiar pattern in an industry wracked with fraud and abuse.

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