Articles Tagged with Calton & Associates

shutterstock_85873471-300x200Calton & Associates, Inc. (Calton) broker Nicolas Toadvine (Toadvine) has been subject to numerous complaints over non-traded REITs and real estate related investments.  According BrokerCheck Lynn has been subject to 12 customer complaints in total and declared bankruptcy in 2013.  The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating the customer complaints against Toadvine.

Many of the complaints concern private placements and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).

All of these investments come with high costs and historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  For example, products like oil and gas partnerships, REITs, and other alternative investments are only appropriate for a narrow band of investors under certain conditions due to the high costs, illiquidity, and huge redemption charges of the products, if they can be redeemed.  However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them.  Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money until many years after agreeing to the investment.  In sum, for all of their costs and risks, investors in these programs are in no way additionally compensated for the loss of liquidity, risks, or cost.

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shutterstock_171721244-300x200The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Robert Schultz (Schultz). According to BrokerCheck records, Schultz has been subject to four disclosures including four customer complaints. The customer complaints against Wolfe allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentations, negligence, and omissions of material information among other claims.

The most recent customer complaint was filed in October 2016 claims $95,000 in damages and alleges suitability misconduct, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty from 2005 through 2010.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_189006551The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker Cary Olson (Olson) concerning allegations that Olson made recommendations in non-traditional exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to several customers without having reasonable grounds to believe his recommendations were suitable in relation to the holding periods for the ETFs. FINRA also alleged that Olson permitted the execution of options transactions in the account of a customer who was not approved for options activity.

Olson entered the securities industry in 1993.  In June 2006, Olson became registered at FlNRA firm Great Circle Financial until July 2013. From June 2013 until November 2013, Olson was registered with GBS Financial Corp. Finally, Olson is currently associated with Calton & Associates. This disciplinary matter is not the first time FINRA has sanctioned Olson. In January 2006, Olson consented to the entry of findings by NASD that he exercised discretion in customer accounts without obtaining written authorization. Olson was suspended for one month and fined $5,000.

FINRA alleged that from October 2010 through October 2012, Olson recommended transactions of various leveraged and inverse-leveraged ETFs in the accounts of five customers. As a background, these types of ETFs are designed to achieve their objectives over the course of a single day only and are generally not appropriate for long term holdings. By holding these ETFs over longer periods of time the value of the investment differs dramatically from the index it tracks because the investment is reset daily.

Despite these risks, FINRA found that the ETFs Olson recommended to his customers were held for much longer periods and up to 668 days with an average holding period of 290 days. FINRA found that these extended holding periods showed that Olson failed to appreciate the nature of the ETFs at the time of his recommendations and mostly likely did not understand that they were not designed to achieve their objectives for extended holding periods. Accordingly, FINRA found that Olson did not have reasonable grounds to believe his recommendations were suitable.

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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.

The other complaints against Popek involve similar claims of suitability and breaches of fiduciary duty. The claims allege unsuitable investments in ETFs and options. While Popek’s BrokerCheck records do not specify the types of ETFs it is possible that allegations involve Non-Traditional ETFs.

Non-Traditional ETFs are behave drastically different and have different risk qualities from traditional ETFs. 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 are also used to earn the inverse result of the return of the benchmark.

In addition, regular ETFs can be held for long term trading, but Non-Traditional ETFs are generally designed to be used only for short term trading. The use of leverage employed by these funds causes their long-term values to be dramatically different than the underlying benchmark over long periods of time. For example, between December 1, 2008, and April 30, 2009, the Dow Jones U.S. Oil & Gas Index gained two percent while the ProShares Ultra Oil and Gas, a fund seeking to deliver twice the index’s daily return fell six percent. In another example, the ProShares UltraShort Oil and Gas, seeks to deliver twice the inverse of the index’s daily return fell by 26 percent over the same period.

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shutterstock_146470052This article follows up on a recent article reported in Reuters concerning Atlas Energy LP’s private placement partnerships in oil and gas. Atlas Resources LLC, a subsidiary the energy group, has filed documents with the SEC for Atlas Resources Series 34-2014 LP stating that it seeks to raise as much as $300 million by Dec. 31 of 2014. The deal allows investors to participate in investments where advances in drilling technology have turned previously inaccessible reservoirs of oil into viable prospects. In addition, Atlas promises to invest up to $145 million of its own capital alongside investors.

In the last article we explored how the house seems more likely to win on these deals over investors. But beyond the inherent risks with speculating on oil and gas and unknown oil deposits most investors don’t realize the deals are often unfair to investors. In a normal speculative investment as the investment risk goes up the investor demands greater rewards to compensate for the additional risk. However, with oil and gas private placements the risks are sky high and the rewards simply don’t match up.

In order to counter this criticism, issuers say that the tax benefits of their deals where the investor can write off more than 90 percent of their initial outlay the year they make it helps defray the risk and increase the value proposition. First, the same tax advantage claims are often nominal compared to the principal risk of loss of the investment as seen by Puerto Rican investors in the UBS Bond Funds who have now seen their investments decline by 50% or more in some cases. Second, often times brokers sell oil and gas investments indiscriminately to the young and old who have lower incomes and cannot take advantage of the tax benefits.

In fact, of the 28 people interviewed by Reuters who invested in deals from Atlas, Reef Oil & Gas Partners, Discovery Resources & Development LLC, and Black Diamond Energy Inc. 17 were retirees who had low tax burdens when the product was recommended to them.

By now you may be asking, how do these deals even get issued? First, the private placement market is very opaque. Issuers are only required to file a statement to exempt the security from registration and a few other details about the investment. Second, investors rely upon the brokerage industry’s due diligence on each issue they sell to ensure its suitability for investors. But many brokers use outside due-diligence firms that may be paid by the issuer, a conflict of interest, when evaluating deals. Indeed, some of the largest securities frauds in the private placement space have been the result of reliance on third-party due diligence.

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shutterstock_103610648As recently reported in Reuters, Atlas Energy LP has marketed itself to investors as a way to get into the U.S. energy boom. By contributing at least $25,000 in a private placement partnership that will drill for oil and gas in states such as Texas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania and share in revenues generated from the wells. Atlas Resources LLC, a subsidiary the energy group, has filed documents with the SEC for Atlas Resources Series 34-2014 LP stating that it seeks to raise as much as $300 million by Dec. 31 of 2014. The deal sounds good when pitched: participate in investments where advances in drilling technology have turned previously inaccessible reservoirs of fossil fuels into potentially viable prospects and to boot Atlas will invest up to $145 million of its own capital alongside investors. Through this method and similar deals, oil and gas projects have issued nearly 4,000 private placements since 2008 seeking to raise as much as $122 billion.

But before you take the plunge a review of the Atlas’s offering memorandum reveals some red flags and given Atlas’ past failure rate investors should think twice. First, up to $45 million of the money raised will be paid to Atlas affiliate Anthem Securities that will then be turned over to as commissions to broker-dealers who pitch the deal to investors. Up to $39 million more will be used to buy drilling leases from another affiliate. Think investors will get a fair price on the leases when Atlas controls both sides of the deal? More conflicts ahead as Atlas affiliated suppliers may also get up to $53 million for buying drilling and transport equipment. Next, an additional $8 million of Atlas’s investment is a 15 percent markup on estimated equipment costs. Finally, Atlas will pay itself nearly $52 million in various other fees and markups.

In sum, at least 40% of Atlas’s $145 million investment alongside mom and pop goes right back to the company. In addition, Atlas’ profits don’t stop there, when the venture starts generating revenue Atlas is entitled to 33% before accounting for those payments and markups. In the end, not much of a risk at all for Atlas.

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