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shutterstock_157506896-300x300The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Stuart Godin (Godin), currently employed by Western International Securities, Inc. (Western International) has been subject to at least eight customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Godin’s customer complaints alleges that Godin recommended unsuitable investments in various investments such as promissory notes, managed commodities, and other investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In May 2019 a customer complained that Godin violated the securities laws by alleging that Godin made misrepresentation and incompetence on stock selections from 2018 to 2019. The claim alleged $35,000 in damages and settled for $9,000.

In November 2017 a customer complained that Godin violated the securities laws by alleging that Godin caused losses due to the financial advisor’s unsuitable recommendation to invest in a managed futures fund from November 2012 through 2016.  The claim alleged $50,000 in damages and settled for $20,000.

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shutterstock_173864537-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Robert Brinckerhoff (Brinckerhoff), currently employed by Morgan Stanley has been subject to at least five customer complaints and five regulatory actions during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Brinckerhoff’s customer complaints alleges that Brinckerhoff recommended unsuitable investments in various investments such structured products among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently representing investors who were surprised to find out that the “bonds” that were recommended by their advisors have almost completely stopped paying interest while plummeting in value.  What many investors in this situation did not realize was that they were not sold bonds at all but instead complex structured products that go by a variety of names including steepener notes, adjustable rate market notes, spread linked notes, or structured notes.  Regulators have already stated that it is improper to sell these investments as a fixed income substitute or to compare them to bonds in terms of producing a revenue stream.  However, in our firm’s experience it appears that many brokers have been selling structured products as bond alternatives.

Structured products range in risk from benign to extreme.  However, most structured products produce inferior risk/return profiles than ordinary debt or equity instruments because the brokerage firms that issue these products seek to profit from the spread between the payment to investors and the amount of money the brokerage firm can make from the issuance.  When dealing with complex structured products most investors will lack the ability to understand the merits of investments nor are they appropriate for investors seeking a fixed or reliable income and have a desire for preservation of capital.

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shutterstock_183525503-300x200Advisor Mercer Hicks (Hicks), currently employed by Southeast Investments, N.C., Inc. (Southeast Investments) has been subject to at least five liens, three employment terminations for cause, and one regulatory complaint during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints concern 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 represented dozens of investors who suffered losses caused by these types of high risk, low reward products.

In December 2019 Hicks was named a respondent in a FINRA complaint alleging that he recommended unsuitable investments to five senior customers to purchase speculative REITs and non-traded business development companies (BDCs). FINRA alleges that the prospectuses and subscription agreements for these non-traded REITs and non-traded BDCs stated that investing in these securities involved a high degree of risk, was speculative, was not suitable for persons who require immediate liquidity, guaranteed income, or seek short-term investments, and was only appropriate for those investors who could afford a complete loss of their investments.

FINRA claims that the five senior customers at issue were not seeking to make speculative, high-risk investments.  The customers’ account documents indicated that they were seeking to preserve their capital or capital appreciation. In addition, FINRA claims that some of these customers have encountered difficulties liquidating the investments to obtain funds that they needed to pay for medical care.  FINRA alleged that Hicks recommended purchases of unsuitable non-traded REITs and non-traded BDCs to the five senior customers totaling approximately $665,000 while Hicks received a seven percent commission from each sale totaling $46,550.

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shutterstock_71240-300x183The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Morgan Arford (Arford), currently employed by Independent Financial Group, LLC (Independent Financial) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Arford’s customer complaints alleges that Arford recommended unsuitable investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In September 2016 a customer complained that Arford violated the securities laws by alleging that Arford in mid-2012 participated in the sale of unapproved and unsuitable investments in oil and gas and a penny stock.  The claim alleged $140,760 in damages and settled for $95,000.

In August 2016 a customer complained that Arford violated the securities laws by alleging that Arford in 2012 and 2013 participated in the sale of unapproved and unsuitable investments in oil and gas and a penny stock.  The claim alleged $335,300 in damages and settled for $192,500.

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shutterstock_93851422-300x240The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Lester Burroughs (Burroughs) is converted customer funds among other allegations.  According to BrokerCheck records, Burroughs is formerly registered with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member firm Lincoln Investment.  In addition, Burroughs disclosed 17 customer complaints.  If you have been a victim of Burroughs’ alleged misconduct our firm may be able to assist you in recovering funds.

According to news sources, Burroughs is facing up to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to misappropriating $575,000 in client assets.  Burroughs waived his right to be indicted and entered the plea in U.S. District Court of Connecticut as part of a deal in which he agreed to pay the full $575,000 in restitution to the victims of his crimes.  It was alleged that Burroughs defrauded three clients in a Ponzi scheme from about 2012 to 2019.  In addition, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced separate civil charges against Burroughs stating that he misappropriated $560,000 after telling clients he would invest their money in guaranteed interest contracts with guaranteed returns of 4% or 7%.  However, the SEC found that Burroughs instead used the money to pay his own expenses and the return funds to other clients.

Our law firm has significant experience bringing cases on behalf of defrauded victims when their advisors engage in receiving loans from clients or selling securities sales through OBAs.  The sale of unapproved investment products – is a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.  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.  Sometimes those investments have some legitimacy but often times these types of investments can end up being Ponzi schemes or the advisor can be engaging in the conversion of funds.

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shutterstock_103476707-300x212Advisor William Sines (Sines), 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 concern 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 represented dozens of investors who suffered losses caused by these types of high risk, low reward products.

In July 2019 a customer complained that Sines violated the securities laws by alleging that Sines pressured her into liquidating an annuity which cost her thousands of dollars in surrender penalties and lost interest credit in order to invest her into a REIT which she feels was an inappropriate investment.  The claim alleged $38,651 in damages and was closed.

In November 2017 a customer complained that Sines violated the securities laws by alleging that Sines recommended unsuitable investments.  The claim settled for $19,737.

DDPs include products such as non-traded REITs, oil and gas offerings, equipment leasing products, and other alternative investments.  These alternative investments virtually never profit investors and are almost always unsuitable for investors because of their high fee and cost structure.  Brokers selling these products are paid additional commission in order to hype these inferior quality investments providing a perverse incentives to create an artificial market for the investments.

Several studies have confirmed that Non-traded REITs underperform publicly traded REITs with some showing that Non-Traded REITs cannot even beat safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  Brokers selling these products must disclose to the investor that non-traded REITs provide lower investment returns than treasuries while being high risk and illiquid – but almost never do.  Because investors are not compensated with additional return in exchange for higher risk and illiquidity, these kinds of alternative investment products are rarely, if ever, appropriate for investors.

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shutterstock_186471755-300x200Advisor Marco Azizi (Azizi), currently employed by Centaurus Financial, Inc. (Centaurus) has been subject to at least four customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints concern 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 represented dozens of investors who suffered losses caused by these types of high risk, low reward products.

In September 2019 a customer complained that Azizi violated the securities laws by alleging that Azizi from 2012 through 2014, the customers allege that the Azizi facilitated unsuitable, high-risk and illiquid investments.  The claim is currently pending.

In October 2018 a customer complained that Azizi violated the securities laws by alleging that Azizi recommended unsuitable investments and several other allegations associated therewith.  The claim is currently pending.

DDPs include products such as non-traded REITs, oil and gas offerings, equipment leasing products, and other alternative investments.  These alternative investments virtually never profit investors and are almost always unsuitable for investors because of their high fee and cost structure.  Brokers selling these products are paid additional commission in order to hype these inferior quality investments providing a perverse incentives to create an artificial market for the investments.

Several studies have confirmed that Non-traded REITs underperform publicly traded REITs with some showing that Non-Traded REITs cannot even beat safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  Brokers selling these products must disclose to the investor that non-traded REITs provide lower investment returns than treasuries while being high risk and illiquid – but almost never do.  Because investors are not compensated with additional return in exchange for higher risk and illiquidity, these kinds of alternative investment products are rarely, if ever, appropriate for investors.  Continue Reading

shutterstock_180341738-200x300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Lance Armstrong (Armstrong) was terminated by his firm and then barred from the securities industry over allegations that he engaged in multiple loans with customers among other allegations.  According to BrokerCheck records, Armstrong was formerly registered with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) member firm Raymond James Financial Services, Inc (Raymond James).  If you have been a victim of Armstrong’s alleged misconduct our firm may be able to assist you in recovering funds.

In November 2019 FINRA barred Armstrong finding that Armstrong consented to the sanction and findings that he refused to appear for on-the-record testimony as requested by FINRA in connection with its investigation of his activities. FINRA stated that Armstrong’s member firm filed a Form U5, disclosing that it had discharged him after he solicited and accepted multiple loans from customers in connection with an undisclosed outside business activity.

According to Armstrong’s publicly disclosed records the only outside business activities disclosed including Coopcade Capital LLC and First Hope Bank.  It is unclear at this time whether FINRA’s allegations concern these entities.

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shutterstock_136504499-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Vincent Mazza (Mazza), formerly employed by National Securities Corporation (National Securities) has been subject to at least six customer complaints, six tax liens, and one regulatory action during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Mazza’s customer complaints alleges that Mazza recommended unsuitable investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In July 2019 FINRA filed a regulatory action againt Mazza alleging that Respondent Mazza failed to respond to FINRA’s request for information concerning his activities.  The failure to respond to the requests resulted in an automatic bar from the securities industry.

Mazza also has six tax lien disclosures including a $123,222 lien from February 2014.  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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shutterstock_27597505-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Dennis Nakamura (Nakamura), formerly employed by McNally Financial Services Corporation (McNally Financial) has been subject to at least five customer complaints and one regulatory action during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Nakamura’s customer complaints allege that Nakamura recommended unsuitable investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In November 2019 FINRA barred Nakamura after finding that Nakamura consented to the sanction and findings that he refused to appear and provide on-the-record testimony requested by FINRA in connection to its investigation into whether he violated FINRA rules by making unsuitable investment recommendations to customers.

In July 2018 a customer complained that Nakamura violated the securities laws by alleging that Nakamura engaged in sales practice violations related to failure to disclose extent of risk, unauthorized trading, recommending unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, failure to supervise, churning, breach of contract and elder abuse. The claim alleged $491,861 in damages and settled for $300,000.

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