Articles Tagged with Ameriprise Financial

shutterstock_157018310-300x200According to BrokerCheck records former financial advisor James Kujawski (Kujawski), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise Financial) has been subject to at least seven customer complaints, one employment termination for cause, and one regulatory action.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the complaints against Kujawski concern allegations of unsuitable investments and material misrepresentations concerning investments being recommended.

In February 2018 Kujawski was terminated by UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) after the firm claimed that Kujawski’s continued failure to disclose some of his outside business activities/outside business investments was in violation of firm policies.

Thereafter, in August 2018 FINRA brought a regulatory action against Kujawski which Kujawski consented to the findings that he engaged in a private securities transaction by facilitating the repurchase of a call option between two individuals, neither of whom were customers at his member firm.  FINRA found that Kujawski’s participation included the repurchase of the option by introducing a commercial lender to participate in the transaction, attending meetings with the parties, reviewing draft sale contracts and providing comments, and accepting $73,444.90 in compensation for his participation. Kujawski was suspended for four months and agreed to pay financial penalties.

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shutterstock_160486019-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Eric Stuckey (Stuckey), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) has been subject to five customer complaints and two liens.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of a Stuckey’s customer complaints allege that Stuckey made unsuitable recommendations in different investments including variable annuities and energy stocks.

In May 2018 a customer alleged the broker recommended unsuitable investments, misrepresented features of the investments and failed to disclose risks in the investments causing $220,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In January 2018 a customer alleged that the broker placed them in high risk funds which are not suitable causing $79,000 in damages.  The claim was settled for $25,000.

shutterstock_120556300-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in January 2018, advisor Larry Boggs (Boggs) was barred indefinitely from the financial industry by FINRA concerning allegations that he engaged in unsuitable investments, excessive trading and unauthorized transactions. According to FINRA, Boggs exercised discretion in customer accounts without written approval from customers or the firm. Boggs would also allegedly falsely state the investment objectives and risk tolerance of customers in the firm’s books so that customers would conform to his high-frequency trading strategy.

FINRA found that in June 2010, Boggs updated the risk tolerance in 4 investment portfolios from Moderate to Moderate/Aggressive, and changed 2 investment portfolio objectives to Aggressive.  FINRA determined that the high-frequency trading strategy was unsuitable to his customer’s needs and did not match the customer’s investment portfolio objectives. By changing Ameriprise’s books and records, Boggs violated FINRA Rules 4511 and 2010.

In addition, in May 2015, Boggs’ employer, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise Financial) discharged Boggs alleging that Boggs violated the company’s discretionary trading and suitability policies.

shutterstock_20354398The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker William Utanski (Utanski). According to BrokerCheck records Utanski is subject to three customer complaints. The customer complaints against Utanski allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.   The claims appear to largely relate to allegations regarding the inappropriate sale of Dendreon Corporation stock.

One claim that was filed in October 2015 claimed that Utanski made unsuitable investment recommendations in 2011, that included closed-end funds and Dendreon stock. The customer also allege Utanski churned their account suffered compensatory damages of $200,000. The claim is currently pending.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. 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.

shutterstock_102242143According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Homer Vining (Vining) has been the subject of at least one customer complaint and three regulatory actions. The customer complaint against Vining alleges a number of securities law violations including that the broker made misrepresentations concerning penny stocks and a claim of investment sold away from the firm among other claims.

Vining entered the securities industry in 1991. From 2005 through August 2009, Vining was associated with Ameriprise Advisor Services, Inc. Thereafter, from August 2009, until March 2015, Vining was associated with J.P. Turner & Company, L.L.C. (JP Turner).

Vining has three regulatory actions against him. The first is a suspension by FINRA for failing to comply with an arbitration award. The second is also a suspension by FINRA for failing to comply with an arbitration award. The third regulatory action is by the state of Georgia which suspended Vining until the broker comes into good standing with FINRA.

shutterstock_186468539According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Jack McBride (McBride) has been the subject of at least 4 customer complaints over the course of his career. Customers have filed to recent complaints against McBride alleging that the broker made unsuitable investments in leveraged ETFs and the use of margin. McBride has been registered with FINRA since 1994. From that time until August 2014, McBride was registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise). In August 2014, Ameriprise discharged McBride claiming that the broker violated the company’s policies relating to making a settlement and for soliciting prohibited securities.

All advisers have a fundamental responsibility to deal fairly with investors including making suitable investment recommendations. Part of the suitability requirement is that the broker must have a reasonable basis to believe, based on appropriate research and diligence, that all recommendations are suitable for at least some investors. Thus, the product or investment strategy being recommended must be appropriate for at least some investors and the advisers must convey the potential risks and rewards before bringing it to an investor’s attention.

In the case of Non-Traditional ETFs, these products contain drastically different risk qualities from traditional ETFs that most investors and many brokers are not aware of. While traditional ETFs simply seek to mirror an index or benchmark, Non-Traditional ETFs use a combination of derivatives instruments and debt to multiply returns on underlining assets, often attempting to generate 2 to 3 times the return of the underlining asset class. Non-Traditional ETFs can also be used to return the inverse or the opposite result of the return of the benchmark.

shutterstock_1832895The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned and barred broker Ted Cadwallader (Cadwallader) concerning allegations that Cadwallader engage in outside business activities including the sales of private securities. When outside business activities also include the recommendation of investments the activity is referred to in the industry as “selling away.”

FINRA Rule 8210 authorizes FINRA to require persons associated with a FINRA member to provide information with respect to any matter involved in the investigation. In August 2014, FINRA alleged that it pursued an investigation into allegations that Cadwallader engaged in undisclosed outside business activities. On November 21, 2014, FINRA requested that Cadwallader appear and provide testimony. FINRA stated that Cadwallader told the regulator that he would not provide information or cooperate in the investigation. Consequently, he was barred from the industry

According to Cadwallader’s brokercheck he has disclosed outside business activities including ownership of The Faith Based Coach.   Cadwallader is also on the board of directors of Pacer BioScience and a board member of EarthEnergy Technologies LLC. It is unclear at this time what organization or product Cadwallader was involved with or selling that FINRA was investigating.

shutterstock_153463763The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned former Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) broker Radcliffe Daly (Daly) concerning allegations that between May 2013 and November 2013, while Daly was registered with Ameriprise, Daly mismarked more than 250 order tickets for solicited transactions as unsolicited. In addition, FINRA alleged that during the same period Daly engaged in private securities transactions (also known as “selling away”) without providing written notice to Ameriprise. FINRA also alleged that Daly exercised unauthorized discretion in customer accounts.

Daly entered the securities industry in 2003 and left the industry in June 2014. During the majority of this time Daly was associated with Ameriprise until January 2014.

FINRA alleged that Daly recommended a penny stock, Sloud, Inc. (SLOU), to numerous customers during 2013. According to FINRA Daly placed 292 buy transactions for 43 different customers in the Sloud stock between May 3 and November 7, 2013. However, instead of properly marking the transactions as solicited, Daly allegedly falsely marked 253 of these purchases as unsolicited. FINRA also found that Daly continued to solicit purchases of Sloud and to inappropriately mark the trades as unsolicited even after being told by his firm in June 2013 that he could not solicit purchases of the stock because it was a penny stock and not supported by firm research. From the allegations made by FINRA it appears that Daly attempted to circumvent Ameriprise’s instructions by mismarking the tickets as unsolicited.

shutterstock_175320083In the prior post we discussed the extremely difficult journey an investor may have to go through in order to obtain relevant discovery documents from the brokerage industry in FINRA arbitration. We also discussed how the system is stacked against the investor’s rights and provides incentives to firms to withhold documents. However, a recent FINRA enforcement order provides some hope that the regulatory watchdog will start taking these issues seriously.

In October 2014, FINRA sanctioned Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) and its broker for altering documents and refusing to produce documents until the eve of hearing. FINRA’s action resulted from the discovery tactics employed by Ameriprise and its broker David Tysk (Tysk) in a FINRA arbitration.

In the Ameriprise case, the FINRA arbitrators found the firm’s conduct so egregious that it referred the matter to FINRA’s Member Regulation Department. The arbitration panel found that Ameriprise and Tysk produced documents in an arbitration proceeding without disclosing that Tysk had altered the documents after receiving a complaint letter from a customer. The altered documents were printouts of notes of Tysk’s contacts with the customer having the initials “GR.” Tysk was responsible for detailing his contact with customers in a computer system maintained by Ameriprise.

shutterstock_38114566Many securities arbitration attorneys would agree that discovery abuse in FINRA arbitration is a problem under certain circumstances. A client has a seemingly great and compelling case.  Then the brokerage firm produces its “discovery” but something doesn’t seem right. Documents recording decisions on key dates are missing, there are unexpected gaps in the email record, and in the worst cases your client has produced documents that the firm should have a copy of but for some reason does not. How often discovery abuse happens in FINRA arbitration is unknowable.

However, what is known is that system likely fosters discovery abuse. A recent Reuters article highlighted that arbitrators do indeed go easy on brokerage firm discovery abuse. Why does this happen? The first line of defense against discovery abuse is the arbitrators themselves. But most arbitrators simply expect the parties to comply with their discovery obligations without their input. Moreover, arbitrators loath ordering parties to produce documents against their will and prefer the parties to resolve their own disputes. While these goals are noble they also invite abuse.

So how does an investor ultimately get awarded discovery abuse sanctions if a brokerage firm fails to produce documents? First, the client must move to compel the documents and win the motion over the brokerage firm’s objections. Second, the firm must refuse to comply with the order. Usually the firm will interpret the scope of the order as not encompassing the discovery that was actually ordered or will otherwise declaw the order through claims of “privilege” or “confidentiality.” This leads to a second motion to compel and request for sanctions. Again the investor will have to argue the relevance of the initial request as if the panel never ruled that these documents had been ordered to be produced and the brokerage firm gets a second bite of the apple to throw out the discovery.