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shutterstock_191231699-300x200Advisor and broker Ralph Byer (Byer), currently employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch), has a substantial complaint history. Byer has been subject to at least seven customer complaints during the course of his career. According to a BrokerCheck report, the majority of his customer complaints (four out of seven) concern unsuitable investment recommendations.

In June 2018, a customer alleged Byer engaged making unsuitable investment recommendations and excessive trading from 1990 until 2018. Ultimately this matter settled for $565,000.00. Additionally, from 2001 through 2009, three other known customer complaints were brought against Byer for making unsuitable investments. Moreover, in 1999, a customer alleged Byer engaged in churning. That matter ultimately settled in favor of the client for $22,500.00.

Advisors have an obligation to make only suitable recommendations for investments to the client.  There are many investments that are not appropriate for the majority of investors or for certain investors given their risk tolerance, age, and other factors.  Advisors should not present these investment options to clients.  There are two screens that advisors must employ to determine whether an investment is suitable for a client.  First, there must be a reasonable basis for the recommendation – meaning that the product has been investigated and due diligence conducted into the investment’s features, benefits, risks, and other relevant factors.  The advisor must conclude that the investment is suitable for at least some investors and some securities may be suitable for no one.  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_176283941-300x200Advisor Troy Goldberg (Goldberg), currently employed by National Securities (National Securities) has been subject to at least 13 customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report the six most recent customer complaints filed since 2019 appear to concern unsuitable investments in private placements investments.  These allegations may concern investments in GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital) related investments.  National Securities is known to have approved their brokers to sell GPB Capital to their clients.

On February 4, 2021 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (DOJ), and seven states filed separate simultaneous actions against GPB Capital and other defendants connected to the firm accusing it of being a Ponzi-like scheme.  In a press release the SEC stated that it “charged three individuals and their affiliated entities with running a Ponzi-like scheme that raised over $1.7 billion…”

As reported by Bloomberg “If proved, [GPB] would be one of the largest such schemes to target individual investors since the massive frauds of Bernard Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford came to light.”  The DOJ indicted David Gentile, the founder of GPB, Jeffry Schneider, the owner and CEO of Ascendant Capital LLC, and Jeffrey Lash, a former managing partner of GPB relating to the fraud.  If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment.[1]

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shutterstock_29356093-300x214Broker, Chadwick Carrick (Carrick), currently employed at The Jefferey Matthews Financial Group, LLC, has been subject to at least two customer complaints and one employment termination for cause over the course of his career. The two most recent occurring in 2018.  According to a BrokerCheck report, the customer complaints include churning, allegations of unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and altering a journal form and a letter of authorization.

As of January 2018, there is a matter pending for allegations made by a client against Carrick for, among other things, churning and breach of fiduciary duty. Additionally, in September 2018, another client alleged that Carrick made unsuitable investments and engaged in unauthorized trading. This matter settled for $35,000. Moreover, in 2009, Carrick was discharged from Morgan Stanley after working there for five years for altering a journal form and a letter of authorization previously signed by the client.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typically trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

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shutterstock_135103109-300x200According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) financial advisor Ryan Wroblewski (Wroblewski), currently employed by Morgan Stanley and formerly registered with Aegis Capital Corp. (Aegis) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during the course of his career.  Wroblewski’s customer complaints alleges that Wroblewski recommended unsuitable investments, made misrepresentations, unauthorized use of margin, and breach of fiduciary duty in various investments relating to the handling of client accounts.

In February 2021 a customer complained that Wroblewski violated the securities laws by alleging that Wroblewski made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved misrepresentations with respect to options investments from April 2018 to April 2020. The claim alleges $17,500 in damages and is currently pending.

In February 2021 a customer complained that Wroblewski violated the securities laws by alleging that Wroblewski made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved unsuitable investments, misrepresentation, breach of fiduciary duty, and breach of contract. The claim is currently pending.

In May 2020 a customer complained that Wroblewski violated the securities laws by alleging that Wroblewski made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved in unsuitable investments and unauthorized use of margin from 2014 through 2016. The claim alleges $985,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_140321293-200x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Mack Miller (Miller), associated with Spartan Capital Securities, LLC (Spartan Capital) has been subject to at least three customer complaint, one regulatory action, and three judgement or liens during his career.  The complaint against Miller concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning or excessive trading among other securities laws violations.

In April 2020, FINRA found that Miller consented to sanctions and findings that he engaged in quantitatively unsuitable trading in the account of a customer who was over 79 years old and retired. FINRA determined that Miller actively traded the customer’s account resulting in a high turnover rate, cost-to-equity ratio, and significant losses. FINRA found that the trading was unsuitable given the customer’s investment profile.  Further, the costs of the trading strategy, in the form of commissions and fees, made it difficult for the customer to profit from the trading. The trading FINRA describes included instances of Miller purchasing and selling securities within a few days resulting in thousands of dollars of losses after subtracting the associated sales charges. The customer was found to have lost $69,633 from the trading.

In April 2017, brokerage firm Dawson James Securities terminated Miller when he called a prospective customer in a state where he was not registered to conduct business in.

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shutterstock_188269637-300x200According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) financial advisor Kevin Dziubela (Dziubela), currently employed by National Securities Corporation (National Securities) has been subject to at least three customer complaints during the course of his career.  Dziubela’s customer complaints alleges that Dziubela recommended unsuitable investments in various equity based investments and makes allegations including breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, and negligence among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In August 2019 a customer complained that Dziubela violated the securities laws by alleging that Dziubela made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, and negligence. The claim alleges $200,000 in damages and settled for $60,000.

In April 2019 a customer complained that Dziubela violated the securities laws by alleging that Dziubela made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, and negligence. The claim alleges $48,231 in damages and is currently pending.

In February 2015 a customer complained that Dziubela violated the securities laws by alleging that Dziubela made investments recommendations that the client alleges involved breach of fiduciary duty and negligence. The claim alleges $900,000 in damages and settled for $45,000.

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shutterstock_102242143-300x169According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) financial advisor Bruce Ciallella (Ciallella), currently employed by Cabot Lodge Securities LLC (Cabot Lodge) has been subject to at least seven customer complaints during the course of his career.  Ciallella’s customer complaints alleges that Ciallella recommended unsuitable investments in various investments and makes allegations including fraud, excessive trading, unsuitable investments, concentrated stock positions, failure to properly manage account, unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and misrepresentation and omissions among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In November 2019 a customer complained that Ciallella violated the securities laws by alleging that Ciallella made investments recommendations from 2015 to 2018 that the client alleges involved self-dealing and fraud, excessive trading, unsuitable investments, concentrated stock positions, failure to properly manage account, unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, and violation of the Florida securities and investor protection act. The claim alleges $300,670.64 in damages and is currently pending.

Another claim brought in October 2011 from a customer complained that Ciallella violated the securities laws by alleging that Ciallella made investments recommendations that were illegal.  The claim alleged $150,000 in damages and settled for $20,000.

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shutterstock_1081038-300x200According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) financial advisor Jeffrey Leach (Leach), currently employed by Morgan Stanley has been subject to at least three customer complaints during the course of his career.  Leach’s customer complaints alleges that Leach recommended unsuitable investments in various investments including energy related investments.  The clients make allegations including breach of misrepresentation among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In May 2020 a customer complained that Leach violated the securities laws by alleging that Leach made investments recommendations that the client were unsuitable with respect to investments in energy sector from July 2014 to May 2020.  The claim alleges $500,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In January 2020 a customer complained that Leach violated the securities laws by alleging that Leach made investments recommendations that the client were misrepresented from September 2018 to December 2019.  The claim alleges $3,000,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_190371500-300x200According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) financial advisor Joseph Hain (Hain), currently employed by Noble Capital Markets, Inc. has been subject to at least two customer complaints during the course of his career.  Hain’s customer complaints alleges that Hain misrepresented private placement investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

At Gana Weinstein LLP, we often hear from investors who were recommended by their advisors to purchase high risk private placement investments and suffered substantial – often crushing losses as a result.  Our firm regularly represents these investors in disputes with the advisors and brokers who sold these products without adequate disclosure.  Brokers have a responsibility to conduct due diligence on all private placement offerings.  Due diligence includes an investigation into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, issuer, history, and other relevant factors.

In January 2020 a customer complained that Hain violated the securities laws by alleging that Hain made investments recommendations that were materially misrepresented concerning an investment in a private placement.  The claim alleges $500,000 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_186211292-300x200Advisor Kevin Rainwater (Rainwater), currently employed by Arkadios Capital (Arkadios) and ACG Wealth Inc. (ACG Wealth) has been subject to at least four customer complaints and five tax liens or judgments during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report these customer complaints appears to concern unsuitable investments in alternative investments.  These allegations may also concern investments in GPB Capital Holdings (GPB Capital) related investments.  Arkadios is known to have approved their brokers to sell GPB Capital to their clients.

On February 4, 2021 the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York (DOJ), and seven states filed separate simultaneous actions against GPB Capital and other defendants connected to the firm accusing it of being a Ponzi-like scheme.  In a press release the SEC stated that it “charged three individuals and their affiliated entities with running a Ponzi-like scheme that raised over $1.7 billion…”

As reported by Bloomberg “If proved, [GPB] would be one of the largest such schemes to target individual investors since the massive frauds of Bernard Madoff and Robert Allen Stanford came to light.”  The DOJ indicted David Gentile, the founder of GPB, Jeffry Schneider, the owner and CEO of Ascendant Capital LLC, and Jeffrey Lash, a former managing partner of GPB relating to the fraud.  If convicted, the defendants each face up to 20 years’ imprisonment.[1]

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