Articles Tagged with Ameriprise

shutterstock_178801082According to broker Adamson Wright’s (Wright) Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck records the representative was recently sanctioned concerning allegations that from May 2010 through February 2011, he effected approximately 249 mismarked order tickets as being “unsolicited” orders when the trades were “solicited” causing the firm to maintain inaccurate books and records.

Respondent Wright entered the securities industry in 1995 with UBS Financial Services Inc. until January 2010. In January 2010, Wright became registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) and then was terminated from Ameriprise in June 2011. In July 2011, Wright became registered with InterCarolina Financial Services Inc.

In addition, at least five customer complaints have been filed against Wright alleging unsuitable investments and unauthorized discretionary trading. These complaints include allegations involving unsuitable options trading. Two clients alleged an unsuitable purchase of China Agritech (CAGC). The number of complaints made by investors against Wright is relatively large by industry standards. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Far fewer brokers have multiple customer complaints approaching the number of complaints made against Wright. Brokers must disclose different types of events, not necessarily all of which are customer complaints. These disclosures can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters.

shutterstock_175320083The investor advocacy bar association PIABA (the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association) has recently issued a report called “Major Investor Losses Due to Conflicted Advice: Brokerage Industry Advertising Creates the Illusion of Fiduciary Duty.” The PIABA report argues that the brokerage industry uses false advertising to convey to investors that the firms have a fiduciary duty to their clients only then to do a 180 turn when sued to claim that no such duty exists.

According to the report, some of the largest firms in the United States are falsely advertise in this fashion including Merrill Lynch, Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley, UBS, Fidelity, Ameriprise, Allstate Financial, Berthel Fisher, and Charles Schwab. The report claimed that all of these firms “advertise in a fashion that is designed to lull investors into the belief that they are being offered the services of a fiduciary.”

In the wake of the financial crisis of 2008, the Dodd-Frank legislation authorized the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to pass a fiduciary duty rule that would apply to brokers, as opposed to only financial advisors. Most investors do not realize and are usually shocked to learn that there broker only has an obligation to recommend “suitable” investments, and not to work in their client’s best interests. Currently, the fiduciary duty rule only applies to financial advisors (and brokers under certain circumstances).

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_188995727Broker Kenneth Popek (Popek) has had four customer complaints filed against him over his career as a financial advisor. That many claims are rare. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. These disclosures do not necessarily have to include customer complaints but can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters. In Popek’s case the broker has four customer complaints and one bankruptcy.

Popek was registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. from December 2006 until May 2008. Thereafter, Popek was registered and still is registered with Calton & Associates, Inc.

One of Popek’s complaints went to hearing where a panel awarded the customers $342,956 concerning allegations of suitability, misrepresentations, churning, and breach of fiduciary duty. According to the award the causes of action involved, in part, investments in General Motors, Lehman Brothers, and Washington Mutual stocks that all went bust.

shutterstock_71240According to broker Lorene Fairbank’s (Fairbank) Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck records the representative was recently sanctioned concerning allegations that From August 2006, through February 2012, she effected approximately 57-69 discretionary transactions for seven firm customers without written authorization from the customers or approval from the firm. In addition, Fairbanks was alleged to have mismarked approximately 54-70 order tickets as being “unsolicited” orders when the trades were “solicited” causing the firm to maintain inaccurate books and records.

Fairbanks entered the securities industry in 1996. From August 2006, to March 2012, she was registered Merrill Lynch. Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch). In February 2012, Merrill Lynch terminated Fairbanks and disclosed in a filing that she was discharged for taking discretion in client accounts and mismarking client orders. Since June 2012, Fairbanks has been associated with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. In addition, at least five customer complaints have been filed against Fairbanks alleging unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and excessive trading (churning).

NASD Rule 2510 prohibits brokers from exercising any discretionary power in a customer’s account unless there is written authorization and the account has been accepted by the member. NASD Rule 3110 and FINRA Rule 4511 provide that members must preserve books and records. FINRA alleged that Fairbanks was not approved by her firm to exercise discretion in any customer accounts but nonetheless effected approximately 57-69 discretionary transactions for seven customers. Also, FINRA alleged that Fairbanks mismarked approximately 54-70 order tickets in the same customers’ accounts as “unsolicited” meaning that the customer asked the broker to make the trade, when the trades were solicited, meaning that the broker brought the investment to the client’s attention.

shutterstock_92699377In our prior post we recently highlighted, the rising popularity of non-traded business development companies (BDCs). BDCs may be one of the latest and greatest products that Wall Street is promoting that will provide outsized yield with less risk. As usual, these “new ideas” end with brokerage firms making lots of money and investors suffering the consequences.

BDCs make loans to and invest in small to mid-size, developing, or financially troubled companies. BDCs now fill the role that many commercial banks left during the financial crisis to lend to those companies with questionable credit. While BDCs are not new products, until very recently investors had only publicly traded closed-end funds that acted like private equity firms to invest in. These funds are risky enough. During the last downturn some of the publicly traded funds fell by 60%, 70% or more.

Like their non-traded REIT cousins, non-traded BDCs utilize a non-traded REIT-like structure and promote very high yields of 10% or more. There are some differences between BDCs and REITs, BDCs are regulated under the 1940 Act that governs mutual funds. There is also a big difference in valuation. BDCs are valued quarterly while non-traded REITs publish their valuations no later than 18 months after the offering period.

shutterstock_179921270A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel recently ordered Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. (Ameriprise) to pay two elderly California investors $1.17 for recommending the investments in Tenants-in-Common (TIC), real estate related investments that eventually failed.

Brokerage firms, such as Ameriprise, having increasingly turned to alternative investment products such as TICs in recent years. The sales of TIC interests grew from approximately $150 million in 2001 to approximately $2 billion by 2004. FINRA has warned brokerage firms to put investors on notice of the risks of these illiquid investment for which no secondary market exists. In addition, subsequent sales of TIC property may occur at a discount to the value of the real property interest causing the investor substantial losses. FINRA has also warned that the fces and expenses charged by the TIC sponsor can outweigh the potential tax benefits associated with the IRS Section 1031 Exchange. FINRA requires that all member brokerage firms have an obligation to comply with all applicable conduct rules when selling TICs. These rules include the obligation to conduct proper due diligence and to ensure that promotional materials used are fair, accurate, and balanced.

In a recent InvestmentNews article, it was reported that in May, a FINRA arbitration panel in San Francisco ruled that Ameriprise had inappropriately advised two retired schoolteachers to invest a total of $1.03 million into three TICs in office complexes and hotels in early 2008. One of the TICs has subsequently failed and the two others have suffered declines in value. According to the investors, the couple lost most of their life savings. The couple invested in TICs known as ARI-Onyx Office Plaza Tenant In Common; Moody Springhill Suites Pittsburgh Tenant in Common; and Moody Marriott TownePlace Suites Portland Scarborough Tenant in Common.

shutterstock_186772637The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently barred Ameriprise Financial Services (Ameriprise) broker Jeffrey Davis (Davis) concerning allegations that the broker committed securities fraud by converting client funds. FINRA alleged that from May 2012, through June 2013, Davis converted $116,976 from five Ameriprise customers for his personal use and benefit. According to FINRA, Davis initiated 71 unauthorized electronic Automated Clearing House (ACH) payments from the customers’ brokerage accounts to personal credit card accounts held in Davis’ name. FINRA found that these transfers converted customer funds and violated FINRA Rules 2150 and 2010.

Davis entered the securities industry in June 1998. Davis became associated with Ameriprise in September 2000 and remained with the firm until he was terminated on July 19, 2013. In a Form U5 Uniform Termination Notice dated July 24, 2013, Ameriprise reported that Davis was terminated for misappropriating customer funds to ‘pay personal credit cards.

FINRA Rule 2150(a) prohibits members or person associated with a member from making improper use of a customer’s funds. Improper use of customer funds constitutes conversion of the client’s funds when there is an intentional and unauthorized taking of or exercise of ownership by one who neither owns the property nor is entitled to possess it.

Paul Renard (Renard) a broker with SII Investments, Inc. (SII) was recently suspended for two years and fined $60,000 by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over allegations that Renard: (1) recommended that at least four customers buy and hold nontraditional ETFs without having reasonable grounds for believing that the recommended investments were suitable for those customers; (2)  distributed at least nine independently prepared reprints to customers without Ameriprise’s review and approval; (3) used a personal email account, which Ameriprise did not monitor, to distribute the materials; and (4) failed to disclose two tax liens filed against him by the State of Wisconsin.  In addition, at least 21 customer complaints have been filed against Renard.

Renard was previously a registered representative of Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc (Ameriprise) from August 21, 2009, until June 22, 2011, when Ameriprise terminated his registration alleging that Renard failed to comply with company policies by soliciting prohibited securities, use of external email account, and failed to properly update his disclosures.  Prior to Ameriprise Renard was registered with Securities America, Inc. from November 2009 through May 2011.  Renard’s BrokerCheck discloses that he is also the president of First Tee of Green Bay, a managing director of Reedsville Granary LLC, and employed with PDI Financial.

FINRA alleged that Ameriprise implemented a policy prohibiting its representatives from recommending or soliciting nontraditional ETFs. Under the policy, customers could hold existing nontraditional ETF positions but any new purchases could only occur on an unsolicited basis.  On September 2, 2009, Renard entered a solicited buy order for an inverse ETF in a customer’s account.  Ameriprise’s compliance department informed Renard that Ameriprise did not allow its representatives to solicit nontraditional ETF purchases.  Nonetheless, according to FINRA, Renard continued to solicit customers to purchase nontraditional ETFs.

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