Gana LLP Files Complaint on Behalf of Investor Alleging Breach of Fiduciary Duty in the Sale of MLPs Against Wells Fargo

shutterstock_15963142The investment attorneys of Gana Weinstein LLP have brought a claim on behalf of an investor who suffered a loss of nearly all of their assets due to investments made by their Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo) advisor, Andrew Kevlahan (Kevlahan), almost exclusively in master limited partnerships (MLPs), Business Development Corporations (BDC), commodities linked investments, and other private equity high yield funds. The investor is 79 years old and retired with her husband.

The complaint alleges that on or about May 2011, the couple had become completely retired and had a securities backed loan with Wells Fargo secured by their investment account. The complaint alleged that due to these major lifestyle and financial circumstance changes, which were disclosed and known to Kevlahan, the couple’s investment objectives, income needs, and risk tolerance had changed requiring suitable investments that would diversify and protect the couple’s savings.

Instead, the complaint alleges that Kevlahan failed to properly advise the investor and breached his fiduciary duty to his client by continually increasing the concentration of the account in risky high yielding investments. By May 2011, the complaint alleges that concentration of high yield investments and MLPs grew to more than 50% of all of the investor’s assets. Despite the change in life circumstances, the complaint alleges that Kevlahan used his discretionary authority in order to continually increase the amount of risk in the account and by August 2014, the investor had a concentration of 62% of the couple’s assets in MLPs and 18% in other high yield investments – a total of 80% of the couple’s assets were exposed to extreme risk.

As a result of Kevlahan’s investment strategy the investor claimed that the account was exposed to tremendous risk and performed nothing like the broader market. While the Dow Jones gained about 30% over the time period the investor claimed that the account lost approximately 70% of its value.

As a background, MLPs are publicly traded partnerships. About 86% of the total MLP securities market, a $490 billion sector, can be attributed to energy and natural resource companies. There are about 130 MLPs trading on major exchanges that focus on energy related industries and natural resources.

Wall Street loves MLPs because they provide high yields to investors and require companies to pay Wall Street in order to continue to grow. In 2013 banks earned fees of $890.3 million from MLP issuance.   Bloomberg quoted an analyst stating that “MLPs are Wall Street’s dream,” because “[t]hey’re fee machines.” Naturally, in order to entice investors to continue to invest in MLPs Wall Street pumps up MLPs every chance they get. According to Bloomberg, in May 2014 “[a]nalysts predict that 93 of the 114 MLPs in existence will rise in value in the next year…” Astonishingly, “all but five MLPs are recommended by the majority of the analysts who cover them.” At that time professionals without conflicts called MLPs “the next great investment debacle” and warned that “many MLP shareholders…may not understand what they’ve gotten into.”

Our firm represents securities investors in 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, MLPs, leveraged ETFs, mutual funds, and individual stocks.   Investors who have suffered losses may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.

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