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shutterstock_175835072-300x199The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP continue to investigate significant investor losses in a risky options trading strategy employed by several large brokerage houses referred to as a Yield Enhancement Strategy (YES) or Collateral Yield Enhancement Strategy (CYES).  These firms include UBS Financial Services, Merrill Lynch, Credit Suisse, and Morgan Stanley.   According to marketing materials, the YES strategy seeks to increase returns for investors through the trading of options.  These options trading program employ various options trading strategies including the iron condor.

Our firm is investigating whether or not brokers misrepresented the safety of the strategy by pitching a yield enhancement strategy as a safe way to generate additional returns.  For instance Rick Selvala (Selvala), CEO and co-founder of Harvest Volatility Management, LLC (Harvest) discussed his firm’s CYES strategy with FINalternatives who claimed the strategy “works particularly well for clients who are running more conservative asset allocations or portfolios.”

The article states that CYES has over 800 separately managed accounts across eight different platforms such as Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, UBS Schwab, Fidelity, and Pershing via independently registered investment advisors.

YES’ “elevator pitch” distilled is less risk more return.  The article states that investors in fixed income are being forced to take on more duration or credit risk to increase returns exposing investors to a high degree of risk.  The solution pitched is CYES which has the ability to add incremental returns without taking on more equity, duration, or credit risk.  Selvala claims that “because we manage risk and keep the maximum loss contained” clients can employ three to four time leverage to generate even larger returns.

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shutterstock_103681238-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Keith Kordich (Kordich), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) has been subject to at least six customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Kordich’s customer complaints allege that Kordich recommended unsuitable investments and securities among other allegations.

In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Kordich violated the securities laws by, among other things, made unsuitable investments from 2012 through 2015.  The claim alleges damages of $300,000 and is currently pending.

In April 2013 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Kordich violated the securities laws by, among other things, that from May 2011 through September 2012 the advisor traded excessively in the client’s accounts.  The claim alleged $150,000 in damages and resulted in a settlement of $43,000.

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shutterstock_836360-300x225Advisor Mark Lamkin (Lamkin), currently employed by Calton & Associates, Inc. (Calton & Associates) has been subject to at least three customer complaints and two terminations for cause.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concern alternative investments and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In August 2018 Lamkin’s then employer, LPL Financial LLC (LPL) terminated Lamkin claiming that advisor received and/or benefited from loans from firm customers, failed to disclose and inadequately disclosed outside business activities, and personally engaged in and solicited other investors to participate in private investments without obtaining Firm approval.

In January 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Lamkin violated the securities laws by making misrepresentations concerning an annuity product.  The claim is currently pending.

In April 2019 another customer filed a complaint alleging that Lamkin violated the securities laws by making misrepresentations and an unsuitable investment in a REIT security.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_103681238-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor William Council (Council), currently employed by Raymond James & Associates, Inc. (Raymond James), has been subject to at least three customer complaints and eight financial disclosures during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Council has been accused by multiple customers of unsuitable investment advice concerning various investment products including energy stocks most likely including master limited partnerships (MLPs).  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 February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Council violated the securities laws by purchasing unsuitable securities causing $334,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In December 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Council violated the securities laws by purchasing unsuitable securities, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, negligence from February 2015 through October 2015 causing $105,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $28,000.

Our firm handles claims and is also investigating 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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shutterstock_103681238-300x300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP continue to report and update investors on their investigation into GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital).  The firm currently represents multiple clients who have been recommended GPB Capital by brokers who were paid large commissions to sell the investment.

GPB Capital has been plagued with issues since last year when the firm stopped raising new money, lost an auditor, and engaged in a lawsuit with a former business partner Patrick Dibre (Dibre).  GPB Capital complained that Dibre reneged on the sale to GPB Capital of certain auto dealerships causing the fund to lose $40 million according to GPB’s complaint.  Dibre counterclaimed that GPB Capital is nothing more than “a very complicated and manipulative Ponzi scheme.”  Then it was reported that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launched investigations in to GPB Capital.

Now, according to newsources, GBP Capital is being investigated by the FBI who made an unannounced visit to GPB Capital’s offices in early March 2019.  None of this information is good news for investors who relied upon the due diligence efforts of their brokers in agreeing to invest in GBP Capital offerings.

Brokerage firms are unfortunately all too willing to subject their clients to the risks of investing in GPB due to the hefty fees and commissions these firms earn.  When GPB Capital’s Automotive portfolio raised a total of $369.2 million from more than 3,800 investors it paid out $43.4 million, or 11.75%, in commissions.  7% of that amount goes directly to the recommending broker’s pocket.  There are as many as 60 brokerage firms that sold these funds and among the largest of those firms are Royal Alliance Associates Inc., Sagepoint Financial Inc., FSC Securities Corp. and Woodbury Financial Services Inc.

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shutterstock_143685652-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Christopher Hellman (Hellman), formerly associated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) in December 2018, was sanctioned and barred from the securities industry by FINRA over accusations of potentially selling unapproved products.

In December 2018 FINRA alleged that Hellman consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he failed to provide FINRA with requested documents and information during its investigation.  FINRA found that Merrill Lynch terminated Hellman’s registration for conduct including failure to adhere to firm standards regarding selling away and failure to fully disclose participation in outside business activities.

The providing of loans, misappropriating funds through false pretenses, or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

At this time it is unclear the nature and scope of Hellman’s activities.  Hellman’s disclosures do not include any outside business activities (OBAs) disclosures.

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shutterstock_184430645-300x225According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Lynn Faust (Faust), currently employed by Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (Stifel Nicolaus) has been subject to at least three customer complaints and one employment termination for cause during her career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the complaints against Faust concern allegations of unsuitable investments in market linked notes.

In November 2018 a customer complained that Faust recommended investments that violated the securities laws concerning misrepresented market linked notes.  The complaint alleges $59,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In October 2018 Faust was terminated by Raymond James & Associates, Inc. (Raymond James) due to allegations that the firm had concerns relating to the nature of advisor’s UIT activity.

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shutterstock_160304408-300x199According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Sean Kelly (Kelly), in October 2018, was accused by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) of stealing more than $1 million from his clients.

According to the SEC, Sean Kelly used his companies, Lion’s Share Financial of East Cobb, Inc., Lion’s Share & Associates, Inc., and Lionsshare Tax Services, LLC, (Lion Share) to raise at least $1 million from 12 investors, including elderly retirees.  Kelley is accused of promising that he would invest investor funds in a variety of investment products including private placements and real estate funds.  However, the SEC determined that Kelly just spent the money on his own personal expenses including Super Bowl tickets, luxury vacations, and cash withdrawals. Apparently, even after he received an SEC subpoena Kelly continued to just steal money from investors.  Instead, the SEC alleged that Kelly continued to dodge the agency and did not show up for his scheduled testimony after informing the SEC’s staff that he would show up and “come clean.”  In a separate action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia filed criminal charges against Kelly and arrested him.

The providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

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shutterstock_20354401-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Michael McTigue (McTigue), in August 2017, was terminated by his employer ProEquities after the firm alleged that during a recent branch inspection of the firm discovered issues relating to (1) use of unapproved email address; (2) use of unapproved performance report; (3) customer signature discrepancies on firm paperwork; (4) frequent trading of mutual fund A shares; (5) breakpoint sales of mutual funds; (6) unapproved marketing materials; (7) undisclosed outside business activities (OBA); and (8) text messaging a customer.  When the firm presented these issues to McTigue and requested an explanation he resigned prior to submitting explanation to all of the issues.

At this time it is unclear the extent and scope of McTigue’s securities violations and outside business activities.  McTigue’s CRD lists that he operates a d/b/a called South Coast Financial as an outside business activity.  In addition, McTigue lists Realty South as a real estate business.  While at this time it is unknown if McTigue used these businesses and unapproved communications methods to sell investments, the providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

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.  However, even though when these incidents occur the brokerage firm claims ignorance of their advisor’s activities the firm is obligated under the FINRA rules to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion.  In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public.  Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system.  Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.

shutterstock_164637593-300x199The investment lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating regulatory action brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Christopher Stephen Jorgensen (Jorgensen). Jorgensen allegedly refused to appear for on-the-record testimony requested by FINRA resulting in a ban from the securities industry.

In April 2017, Jorgensen was terminated from his position at Summit Brokerage Services after “the firm received a verbal complaint from a customer who alleged that [he] instructed her not to respond to a FINRA inquiry.”

In 2012, he was terminated from his position at Raymond James Financial Services “due to client complaint and settlement relating to unauthorized discretion.”