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shutterstock_188269637-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating advisor Michael Arteca (Arteca), currently registered with Pruco Securities, LLC. (Pruco) out of Uniondale, New York.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Arteca has been subject to at least five customer complaints during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the complaints against Arteca concern misrepresentation in the purchase of 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 May 2018 a customer alleged that Arteca made misrepresentation in the purchase of multiple REITs.  The customer requested $200,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $50,000.

In December 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Arteca misrepresented multiple life insurance and variable annuity products.  The customer requested $81,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $64,227.

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shutterstock_188141822-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating advisor Mark Upchurch (Upchurch), currently associated with Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus Financial) out of Houston, Texas.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Upchurch has been subject to at least three customer disputes, one regulatory action, and one termination for cause during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Upchurch concern allegations of unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentations.

In April 2018 a customer alleged that Upchurch made unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentations causing over $5,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $17,500.

In October 2006 FINRA found that Upchurch violated NASD Rule 2110 by signing a customer’s name to an account transfer form without the customer’s permission.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, Upchurch consented to the described sanctions and to the entry of the findings.  Upchurch was fined $5,000 and suspended for 30 days.

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shutterstock_184429547-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating advisor Bud McLaughlin Jr. (McLaughlin), currently employed by Century Securities Associates, Inc. (Century Securities) out of Chaska, Minnesota.  According to a BrokerCheck report, McLaughlin has been subject to at least one customer dispute, one regulatory action, and one bankruptcy disclosure during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaint against McLaughlin alleges breach of fiduciary duty.

In February 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that from 2012 through 2015, McLaughlin breached his fiduciary duty and was negligent in his recommendation of an energy company causing $1,125,000 in damages.  The claim was denied.

In August 2017 McLaughlin declared bankruptcy.  This information has been found to be material for investors to have because an advisor who cannot manage his own finances is a relevant factor for investors to consider.  In addition, a broker in financial distress may be influenced to recommend high commission products or strategies.

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shutterstock_154554782-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are reporting on advisor Thomas Gerard Murray (Murray) currently employed by FSC Securities Corporation (FSC Securities) out of Hartsdale, New York.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Murray has been subject to at least one customer dispute and one bankruptcy cause during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Murray’s customer complaint concerns allegations of unsuitable investments.

In February 2018 a customer alleged that Murray engaged in unsuitable investments of oil & gas programs causing $210,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $48,000.

In March 2012 Murray declared bankruptcy.  Information on financial matters such as bankruptcies and tax liens has been found to be material for investors to have because an advisor who cannot manage his own finances is a relevant factor for investors to consider.  In addition, a broker in financial distress may be influenced to recommend high commission products or strategies.

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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_175000886-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Craig Siegel (Siegel) has been subject to at least four customer complaints and one regulatory action during his career.  Siegel is formerly employed by Portfolio Advisors Alliance, LLC (Portfolio Advisors).  The majority of the customer complaints against Siegel concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning.

In April 2019 Siegel failed to respond to requests by FINRA to provide documents and information and was suspended indefinitely.

In October 2018 a customer complained that Siegel made unsuitable investment recommendations, breach of regulatory requirements, breach of fiduciary duty, breach of contract, negligence, and churning from July 2013 to August 2017. The claim is currently pending.

In April 2018 a customer complained that Siegel violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor engaged in excessive trading, churning, unsuitable transactions, failure to supervise, and respondeat superior.  The claim seeks $99,300 in damages and is currently pending.

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shutterstock_70513588-300x200Advisor Gordon Roberts (Roberts), currently employed by Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (Berthel, Fisher) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints mostly concerns alternative investments such as 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 extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In March 2019 a customer complained that Roberts violated the securities laws by alleging that the client is disappointed with the overall performance of his investments and was misled into believing that his investments, purchased between 2008-2012, were balanced to protect against substantial and significant losses.  The complaint also alleges that he was not kept informed of the losses in his account which negatively impacted his financial well being. The claim is currently pending.

In January 2013 a customer complained that Roberts violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor made unsuitable investments and misrepresentations from December 2008 through December 2012 causing damages. The claim settled for $45,000.

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shutterstock_183554579-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Darrach Bourke (Bourke), currently employed by Emerson Equity LLC (Emerson Equity) has been subject to at least six customer complaints, one regulatory action, one employment termination for cause, and five criminal matters during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Bourke’s customer complaints allege that Bourke recommended unsuitable securities recommendations in a variety of products and unauthorized trading among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In June 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Bourke violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Bourke made unauthorized trades and had discretionary control causing damages.  The claim alleged $173,000 in damages and settled for $32,500.

In March 2017 FINRA found that Bourke consented to sanctions and findings that he exercised discretion without written authorization in the accounts of two customers.  FINRA found that Bourke discussed investment strategies with these customers but that he exercised discretion and executed transactions in the accounts without first speaking with the customers about the specific transactions.

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shutterstock_189276023-300x198The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Alberto Sanchez (Sanchez) engaged in undisclosed outside business activities (OBAs) that were not approved by his brokerage firm.  Sanchez, formerly registered with SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) and MML Investors Services, LLC (MML Investors) out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was barred from the financial industry according to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  In addition, Sanchez disclosed at least two customer complaints.

In June 2019 FINRA found that Sanchez consented to the sanctions and findings that he did not provide documents as requested by FINRA in connection with an investigation concerning his involvement in a potential undisclosed outside business activity.  Accordingly, Sanchez was automatically barred from the securities industry.

At this time it is unclear what OBA Sanchez engaged in that FINRA was investigating and whether or not that activity also involved private securities transactions.  Sanchez’s public disclosures state that he was involved in a number of OBAs including rental property business, an insurance business, Creative Financial Network, and Health Insurance.  It is unclear if these OBAs were the subject of FINRA’s investigation.

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shutterstock_168326705-199x300Our 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 Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. (Royal Alliance) and its brokers including Matthew Crafa (Crafa) have recommended GPB Capital private placements to investors.

As a background, financial advisers sold $1.5 billion of these high-risk private placements offered by GPB Capital Holdings.  However, GPB Capital told investors in 2018 that virtually none of the firm’s financial reports could be trusted and that in fact the offering had no accurate financial information.  Recently, GPB Capital released its own internal analysis and valuation of its funds without providing any evidence to support its findings.  As reported by InvestmentNews, the two largest funds offered GPB Holdings II and GPB Automotive Portfolio have declines of 25.4% and 39%.  However, some of the other funds, like Armada Waste, faired much worse declining to only 32% of their original value.  Again these valuations are provided by GPB Capital and only after a year of accounting mishaps.

Our firm’s investigation has found that brokerage firms failed to conduct due diligence and investigate multiple aspects of GPB Capital’s business including its senior management, fantastical business claims, and intra-fund lending practices.  For instance, with respect to GPB Capital’s senior management the company was founded by David Gentile (Gentile).  Had brokerage firms investigated GPB Capital’s senior manager it would have found that prior to founding GPB Capital, Gentile’s experience was as a CPA and company advisor with the accounting practice his family ran at Gentile Pismeny & Brengel, LLP (GP&B) in New York.  Nonetheless, GPB’s PPMs claimed expertise in these areas.   See GPB Holdings II, LP, PPM, pg. 9 (Apr. 13, 2015) (“GPB’s senior management have a great deal of experience investing in the Automotive Retail, Managed IT Services and Life Sciences sectors.”).  Any investigation would have revealed that GPB Capital is merely the private equity investment arm of a plain vanilla accounting practice.  There is no evidence that GPB Capital’s senior management had the knowledge, industry experience, or investment experience to run the operations of a $1.8 billion dollar mult-asset strategy private equity fund and should not have been entrusted with investor funds.

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