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shutterstock_175835072-300x199The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (Voya Financial) broker Michael Hagan (Hagan).  According to BrokerCheck records, Michael has been subject to seven customer complaints. The majority of these complaints concern the misrepresentation and unsuitable recommendation of variable annuities, equity indexed annuities, and Variable Universal Life (VUL) insurances.

Most recently, in April 2017, a customer alleged that Hagan recommended unsuitable investment products for the customer and misrepresented the nature of the investments.  The dispute was settled at $164,455.

In January 2010, a customer alleged that in February 2000, Hagan’s recommendation of John Hancock Variable Universal Life (VUL) insurance was unsuitable and should be reexamined. Continue Reading

shutterstock_164634200-300x200Securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating previously registered broker Guistino Destefano (Destefano). According to BrokerCheck Records, Destefano has been subject to two terminations from employment and one regulatory action in which the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned Destefano for various violations of the securities laws. In addition,  Destefano has been subject to 6 customer disputes concerning unauthorized trades and unsuitable investments, one of which is still pending.

In May 2014, Destefano resigned from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) due to customer allegations of unauthorized trading and recommending securities to customers that weren’t approved by the firm. Subsequently, in March 2016, FINRA found that between July 2013 and May 2014, Destefano had executed unauthorized trades in 4 non-discretionary customer accounts. In addition, Destefano also had marked over 100 order tickets incorrectly, labeling them “unsolicited” when they were in fact solicited trades. For executing unauthorized trades, Destefano was found to be in violation of unauthorized NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010. Destefano consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings and FINRA suspended Destefano for 3 months and imposed a fine of $10,000.

In addition, Destefano has been subject to multiple customer complaints. In September 2017, a customer alleged that Destefano exercised discretion in non-discretionary customer accounts, over-concentrated investments, and placed customers in unsuitable investments. The customer has requested $830,000 in damages. This dispute is currently still pending.

In March 2017, a customer alleged that from September 2010 to August 2014, Destefano placed the customer in unsuitable investments.   Continue Reading

shutterstock_71403175-300x225The security fraud attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating Westpark Capital, Inc. (Westpark Capital) broker Patrick Maddren (Maddren). According to BrokerCheck records, Maddren has been subject to two customer disputes involving various forms of security fraud.

In March 2016, a customer alleged that Maddren engaged in a wide range of security fraud, including false representations, excessive trading, unauthorized trading, unsuitable recommendations, and breach of contract. The dispute was settled for $295,000.

In May 2012, a customer alleged that in February 2012, Maddren executed unauthorized trades in the account. The customer requested $62,530 in damages.

In addition, Maddren has been subject to two tax liens. In June 2012, Maddren incurred a tax lien of $75,630. In June 2012, Maddren incurred a tax lien of $225,256.80.   Continue Reading

shutterstock_20354401-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Fortune Financial Services, Inc. (Fortune Financial) broker Bruce Musselman (Musselman). According to BrokerCheck records, Musselman has been subject to nine customer complaints and one criminal regulatory action.

Most recently, in February 2013, customers alleged that Musselman recommended unsuitable investments, misrepresented securities, over-concentrated customer funds into aggressive investments, and excessively used margin. The dispute was settled at $14,900.

In August 2011, a customer alleged that from 2007 to 2009, Musselman recommended highly risky investments that were unsuitable and inappropriate to customer’s needs. The customer requested $80,000 in damages. Continue Reading

shutterstock_836360-300x225The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating investor losses in FS Energy & Power Fund a business development company (BDC).  According to the firm’s website, FS Energy is designed to provide income and growth. It invests primarily in the debt and, to a lesser extent, equity securities of private U.S. energy and power companies.

Because FS Energy in non-traded product there are no market pricing for the value of the securities. Secondary market sources for BDCs are currently pricing the BDC at $5.12 per share based on a tender offer.  This is a far drop from the sale price of $10 per share when the BDC issued shares to investors.

Our firm often handles cases involving direct participation products (DPPs), private placements, Non-Traded REITs, and other alternative investments.  These products are almost always unsuitable for middle class investors.  In addition, the brokers who sell them are paid additional commission in order to hype inferior quality investments providing perverse incentives for brokers to sell high risk and low reward investments.

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shutterstock_94632238-300x214The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating investor recovery options due to the alleged Ponzi Scheme orchestrated by Arthur Adams (Adams) and Madison Timber Properties LLC (Madison Timber) by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The complaint against Adams and Madison Timber was unsealed on May 1, 2018 Mississippi federal court revealing the SEC’s fraud charges against the Mississippi company and its principal who has been accused of stealing from at least 150 investors in a $85 million Ponzi scheme.  Adams and Madison Timber agreed to a permanent injunction, an asset freeze, and expedited discovery.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that Adams misled investors by telling them that their money would be used to secure harvest timber rights from land owners in several states.  The SEC alleged that Adams promised investors annual returns of 12-15%.  However, Madison Timber is accused of never having obtained any harvesting rights at all. Instead, Adams allegedly forged deeds and other documents to purportedly reflect the value of the timber on the land.  The SEC also alleged that Adams paid early investors with later investors’ funds and convinced other investors to roll over their investments and remain invested in the scheme.  Adams is also accused of using investors’ money for his own personal expenses and to develop an unrelated real estate project.

In a parallel action, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Mississippi announced criminal charges against Adams.   Also in May 2018 Adams plead guilty to charges of wire fraud involving the Ponzi scheme which ensnared investors at least 14 states.

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shutterstock_191231699-300x200The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating claims against Wunderlich Securities, Inc. (Wunderlich Securities) broker Derrick Watts (Watts). According to BrokerCheck records, Watts has been subject to a regulatory matter in which the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned Watts for various violations of the securities laws including churning, otherwise known as excessive trading.  In March 2016, FINRA found that Watts failed to report his involvement in four unsatisfied civil judgments from 2009 to 2013 on his U4 registration form. Without admitting or denying the findings, Watts consented to the sanctions and the entry of findings. In April 2016, Watts was suspended for three months.

In addition to the FINRA sanctions, Watts has been subject to three customer complaints and two financial disclosures – including filing for bankruptcy and a tax lien.

In February 2016, Watts was discharged for bankruptcy due to failure in a real estate development that he was involved in. Bankruptcies and large tax liens are a potential sign that the advisor has difficulty managing their own finances. FINRA provides this information to the public because it is material for consumers to know whether or not their advisor’s financial situation influences the advisor’s recommendations.

Most recently, in September 2017, a customer alleged that from January 2010 to November 2015, Watts had been excessively trading the customer’s account without customer knowledge or approval.

In February 2016, a customer alleged that from January 2010 to November 2015, Watts was churning a customer’s account without customer knowledge or approval. The client requested $32,914.56 for damages. Continue Reading

shutterstock_102242143-300x169According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Mark Solomon (Solomon), formerly associated with M Holdings Securities, Inc. (M Holdings) in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania was suspended by FINRA concerning allegations that he engaged private securities transactions in a real estate private placement.  M Holdings terminated Solomon in January 2016 during an ongoing internal review that centered around potential violations of investment related statues and the firm’s policies and procedures.

Thereafter in January 2018 FINRA found that Solomon solicited seven investors to purchase a total of $1,400,000 in interests in a private placement without providing his firm written notice of that activity or obtaining the firm’s written approval prior to doing so. FINRA found that Solomon first provided written notice of his sales activity to his firm after responding to inquiries made by FINRA during an examination of the firm.  FINRA suspended Solomon for 12 months and imposed a fine.

At this time it is unclear the extent of Solomon’s outside business activities or private securities transactions.  Solomon disclosed a number of outside business activities including that he is the control person limited partnerships, is involved with Devon Park Partnership, Horsham Business Center, and 1000 Howard Blvd Partners LP.

The FINRA allegations concern private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.

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shutterstock_20354398-300x200The investment fraud attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have been investigating previously registered broker Robert Meyers (Meyers).

According to the Financial Industry Regulation Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck records, in October 2017, Meyers was terminated from Wells Fargo Clearing Services LLC (Wells Fargo) for recommending investments to customers that he did not notify the firm about.

In addition, Meyers has been subject to eight customer disputes. In August 2005, a customer alleged that Meyers failed to follow the customer’s instructions regarding the investment. The customer requested $1,000,000 in damages.

Meyer was recommending investments to customers that his firm had never pre-approved. The practice in which a broker engages customers to invest in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm is known as selling away.  All member firms have the duty to supervise their advisors under FINRA rules. Each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public.

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shutterstock_112866430-300x199Former IFS Securities, Inc. (IFS) and Voya Financial Advisors, Inc. (Voya) broker James Flynn (Flynn) has been subject to at least ten customer complaints, two employment terminations for cause, three tax or civil judgment liens, and one bankruptcy proceeding.  According to a BrokerCheck report many of the customer complaints concern alternative investments and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

In February 2017 Voya discharged Flynn accusing the broker of providing misleading information to the firm during a complaint investigation.  Despite numerous customer complaints and financial troubles IFS hired Flynn anyway only to also discharge him a year later in February 2018.  IFS claims that Flynn was terminated because he executed unauthorized trades.

In addition, Flynn was subject to large tax liens totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars.  In April 2005 Flynn disclosed a tax lien of over $256,000.  Thereafter, Flynn declared bankruptcy in April 2013.  The fact that a broker cannot manage his own personal finances is material information for a client to consider.  In addition, the types of products clients have alleged were unsuitable are high commission products that may be recommended to generate high profits for the advisor at the expense of the client.

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