Articles Posted in Securities Lawyer

shutterstock_128856874-300x200Securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating The O.N. Equity Sales Company (O.N. Equity Sales) broker Dennis Travis (Travis). According to BrokerCheck records, Travis has been subject to 6 customer disputes, one of which is still pending. The majority of these customer disputes involve the unsuitable recommendations of variable annuities. In addition, Travis has been subject to a regulatory action by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which FINRA sanctioned Travis for various violations of the securities laws.

In November 2017, a customer alleged that Travis placed customer into a variable universal life (VUL) insurance policy that was unsuitable to customer investment needs. The customer has alleged $57,643.65 in damages. This dispute is currently still pending.

In addition, in November 2011, FINRA found that Travis placed discretionary trades in the subaccounts of his customers’ variable annuities without the written authorization or knowledge of his customers or his member firm. Travis did this in an attempt to “balance” the allocation of investments. Without admitting or denying the findings, Travis consented to the described sanctions and entry findings. He was fined $5,000 and suspended on December 2011 for 10 days. Continue Reading

shutterstock_136504499Gana Weinstein LLP is investigating the LJM Preservation and Growth Fund (Ticker Symbols LJMAZ, LJMCX, LIMIX). The LJM Funds relied extensively on a strategy that is designed to profit from calm markets. The LJM Preservation and Growth Funds collapsed and lost more than 80% of its value as a result of last week’s market volatility. The combonation of LJMAZ, LJMCX and LIMIX at one point collectively held over $800 million in assets CNC reached out to Chicago-based LJM Partners, Inc. – the funds managers, and no comment was made.

According to its annual report to shareholders, LJM explained that it options “to deliver solid returns while maintaining risk parameters.” LJM also suggested that it used techniques to mitigate losses in extreme market conditions. The fund was designed to take advantage of the spread between realized and implied volatility. According to CNBC, “LJM Preservation and Growth Fund had been run by Anthony Caine, a veteran of the 1990s technology boom who later founded LJM, and Anish Parvataneni, a former trader for well-known investor Ken Griffin’s Citadel.”

According to reports, LJM was infused with almost $400 million in new capital in 2017 alone.

Gana Weinstein LLP represented 19 Claimants in a FINRA arbitration against Anthony Diaz. A panel of arbitrators awarded the Claimants over $4 million. The case was picked up by major publications including the Washington Post and InvestmentNews. Adam Gana, managing partner of Gana Weinstein LLP said his clients “gave their life savings to [Diaz], and he was just a predator who was looking out for his own best interest and not the best interest at my clients.” Gana said he will go after Diaz’s assets and earnings in an attempt to recover the judgment. “We will fight tooth and nail to get these people their money,” he said. “This is not money that our clients can afford to lose.”

Gana Weinstein LLP is a full service law firm that specialized in Securities Arbitration. The firm tenaciously defends investors and aggressively pursues brokerage firms for misconduct.

shutterstock_66745735-300x200The securities lawyers at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a customer complaint against Morgan Stanley broker Theodore Crowley (Crowley).

According to BrokerCheck records kept by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Theordore Crowley (Crowley) has been subject to a customer complaint.

In June 2012, a customer alleged that from 2008 through 2011, he was charged excessive markups and markdown on the purchase and sale of municipal bonds by Crowley. This dispute settled for $465,000.

In April 2017, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) filed a tax lien against Crowley for $611,984.42.

The term “securities fraud” covers a range of illegal activities involving the deception of investors or the manipulation of the financial markets. Fraud includes false representations, unauthorized trading, value manipulation, and Ponzi schemes. Investors are protected against fraudulent securities activities by several different civil laws.

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shutterstock_77335852-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Joseph Cotter (Cotter) has been subject to two customer complaints, two employment terminations for cause, and one regulatory action.  Cotter was formerly registered with Next Financial Group, Inc. (Next Financial).  In March 2016 Next Financial terminated Cotter claiming that the firm conducted an internal review of the trading activity in a customer’s accounts and found the level of trading activity to be excessive (excessive trading) in light of the customer’s profile and the character of the account.

Thereafter, FINRA investigated Cotter and found that Cotter engaged in excessive, unsuitable trading in the accounts of one customer. FINRA found that Cotter exercised de facto control over an IRA account and a second account of a customer.  FINRA determined that Cotter used this control to excessively trade the accounts in a manner that was inconsistent with the customer’s investment objectives, financial situation, and needs.  The trading generated commissions of $100,549 while the client lost $391,893.

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shutterstock_187532306-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Robert Hoffmann (Hoffmann), formerly associated with Thurston, Springer, Miller, Herd & Titak, Inc. (Thurston, Springer), has been subject to two customer complaints, one regulatory action, and one tax lien.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in January 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Hoffmann made unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and churning among other claims.  The claim seeks $3,200,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In September 2017, FINRA sanctioned Hoffmann stated that Hoffmann consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he willfully failed to amend his Form U4 to timely disclose an unsatisfied Internal Revenue Service (IRS) tax lien filed against him.  In addition, there is one tax lien disclosed on Hoffmann’s report for $106,991 filed in December 2014.  Tax liens and judgements are material information for an investor to consider for several reasons.  A broker with large unpaid debts may be tempted to recommend high commission products and services to satisfy their personal debts.  In addition, a broker’s inability to manage their own finances is material in a customer’s decision to retain the advisor’s services.

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shutterstock_183801500-300x168The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) ordered Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (Wells Fargo) to pay more than $3.4 million in restitution to customers for unsuitable recommendations of volatility-linked exchange-traded products (ETPs) and supervisory failures concerning the sales of these products.  FINRA found that between July 2010, and May 2012 Wells Fargo brokers recommended volatility-linked ETPs without fully understanding their risks and features.

These complex products are extremely difficult to understand and are easy to improperly sell.  In recent years many exotic ETN have been created that either use leverage or futures exposure to replicate an index.  However, many of these investments are appropriate only for institutional investors and short term trading for various reasons.

The most popular volatility-linked ETP is the Chicago Board Options Exchange Volatility Index (VIX).  The VIX tends to be negatively correlated with broader financial indexes and rises in period of market distress.  However, it is not possible to directly invest in the VIX and instead investments are made in VIX derivatives such as futures or options.   The three main Volatility ETPs offered to retail investors are VXX, VXZ, and VIXY.  Volatility ETPs attempt to provide exposure to the VIX through VIX futures contracts but these Volatility ETPs do not track the VIX Accordingly, VIX investments held for long periods of time will almost certainly lose value.

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shutterstock_19864066-209x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Joseph Rodriguez (Rodriguez), currently associated with Hennion & Walsh, Inc. (Hennion & Walsh), has been subject to four customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rodriguez has been accused by customers of unsuitable investments among other claims.  Most of the claims appear to be related to municipal bonds or other bond related investments

In June 2017, a customer filed a complaint alleging that Rodriguez recommended certain investment grade municipal bonds between 2009 and 2012 that were unsuitable.  The claim alleges $125,000 in damages and is currently pending.  In May 2016 another customer filed a complaint alleging that there were unsuitable recommendations from 2013 and 2014.  The claim alleged $250,000 in damages and settled.  In October 2015 another customer filed a complaint alleging an unsuitable recommendation causing $56,390 in damages.  The claim later settled.

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shutterstock_78659098-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Jonathan Freeze (Freeze), in August 2017, was accused by FINRA of failing to cooperate in an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Freeze’s alleged sale of variable annuities.  Freeze is formerly associated with Fortune Financial Services, Inc. (Fortune Financial).  According to the FINRA action, Freeze was barred by the regulator after the broker failed to respond to requests for documents and information during the investigation.

In 2015, Feeze was also sanctioned by FINRA concerning allegations that he borrowed $20,000 from his customer and failed to provide the firm with prior notice of the loan and failed to obtain prior written pre-approval for the loan.  Freeze has also been subject to two terminations for cause and multiple financial disclosures.

Variable annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, recently 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_20354398-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Herbert Smith (Smith), currently associated with Kestra Investment Services, LLC (Ketra Investment), has been subject to one customer complaint and two tax liens.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Smith has been accused by a customers of unsuitable investment advice concerning energy limited partnership investment among other claims.  The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP continue to report on investor related losses and potential legal remedies due to recommendations to investor in oil and gas and commodities related investments.

In addition, Smith has been subject to two tax liens.  The first in May 2014 for $65,692 and the second in July 2016 for $69,542.  Tax liens can be sign that a broker may have a conflict of interest to recommend or engage in high risk trades and improper recommendations due to the need to obtain funds.  FINRA discloses tax liens information because it is important for investors to know whether or not a broker can manage their own finances.

Our firm is investigating potential securities claims against brokerage firms over sales practices related to the recommendations of oil & gas and commodities products such as exchange traded notes (ETNs), structured notes, private placements, master limited partnerships (MLPs), leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and individual stocks.

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