Articles Tagged with Cetera

shutterstock_112866430-300x199Former Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (Cetera) broker Susan Welo (Welo) has been subject to nine customer complaints, one employment separation for cause, and one regulatory action.  According to a BrokerCheck report Welo was terminated by Cetera after the firm alleged that Welo failed to disclose to firm that Welo provided a loan to a client while at a prior broker-dealer. In addition, Cetera claimed that Welo violated firm policies by accepting blank signed forms from clients and permitting assistant to sign representative’s name to various documents.

In addition, the State of North Dakota alleged that Welo acted as an unregistered securities agent by handling client funds and make investment recommendations.

Many of the complaints concern alternative investments, private placements, and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  Our firm has experience handling investor losses caused by these products.

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shutterstock_143179897-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Clark Gardner (Gardner), in May 2014, was terminated by his then employer Cetera Advisors LLC (Cetera) subsequent to the initiation of customer arbitration claim alleging unsuitable investments.  Cetera stated that Gardner was terminated due to undisclosed outside business activities and the sale of unapproved products.

Shortly thereafter on May 29, 2015, Gardner was arrested for converting approximately $1.3 million in client funds by selling promissory notes to clients and depositing the funds into his personal bank account.  This activity is alleged to have occurred from November 2011 to April 2014.  Allegedly, Gardner used the money for luxury vacation packages, repaying personal funds owed to other individuals, and other items unrelated to the promised investments.

In addition, The Division of Securities for Utah’s Department of Commerce investigated Gardner after receiving a complaint from an investor.  During that investigation the department discovered a $150,000 property purchase Gardner completed with an unregistered real estate company that earned him $20,000 in compensation.  Gardner is reported to have promised the investor a steady income from the property and a significant return in five years.

However, these incidents are not the complete history of Gardner’s prior dealings.  FINRA brought action against Gardner in 2005 for “distributing copies of a brochure promoting an insurance policy that communicated false or misleading information.”

Charging documents state Gardner also was involved in a lawsuit in Pennsylvania for advising clients to “purchase life insurance policies while misrepresenting the nature and benefits of the policies.”

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shutterstock_94127350The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it has fined eight brokerage a total of $6.2 million for failing to supervise sales of variable annuities (VAs).  Five of the firms were required to pay more than $6 million to customers who purchased L-share variable annuities that came with potentially incompatible, complex and expensive long-term minimum-income and withdrawal riders.

FINRA’s enforcement actions were against the following firms.

  • VOYA Financial Advisors Inc. – fined $2.75 million.
  • Cetera Advisor Networks LLC – fined $750,000.
  • Cetera Financial Specialists LLC – fined $350,000.
  • First Allied Securities, Inc. – fined $950,000.
  • Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. – fined $500,000.
  • VSR Financial Services, Inc. – fined $400,000.
  • Kestra Investment Services, LLC – fined $475,000.
  • FTB Advisors, Inc. – fined $250,000.

FINRA ordered the firms to pay the following to investors.

The L-share VAs are complex investment products that combine insurance and investment features designed for short-term investors willing to pay higher fees in exchange for shorter surrender periods.  L-shares also have the potential to pay greater commissions to brokers than traditional share classes.

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shutterstock_153463796The investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a customer complaint brought before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Gerald “Jerry” Tagge (Tagge) working out of Omaha, Nebraska alleging the sale of $125,000 in promissory notes.  The providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.  In addition to the promissory note complaint there have been two other customer complaints against Tagge.

At this time it unclear the nature and scope of Tagge’s outside business activities and private securities transactions.  However, according to Ingros’ public records his outside business activities include the d/b/a he operates out of Tagge Rutherford Financial Group, an insurance business, and real estate related business. Often times, brokers sell promissory notes and other investments through side businesses as accountants, lawyers, or insurance agents to clients of those side practices.

Tagge entered the securities industry in 1991.  Since August 2006 Tagge has been associated with Cetera Advisors LLC.

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.  However, even though when these incidents occur the brokerage firm claims ignorance of their advisor’s activities the firm is obligated under the FINRA rules to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion.  In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public.  Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system.  Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.

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shutterstock_175000886The investment lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a series of regulatory complaints (see FINRA No. 2013037390801) brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Jason Sayles (Sayles), Michael Hajek (Hajek), and Karen Hajek of St. Petersburg, Florida. According to FINRA the three operated out of Hajek CPA business Hajek & Hajek. FINRA found that the brokers exceeded the scope of their brokerage firms’ approval to conduct the CPA business by assisting customers to open and administer self-directed IRAs away from the firms. The brokers were also accused of recommending and facilitating customers’ investments to transfer a total of nearly $1.8 million in cash and assets from their firm accounts to their self-directed IRA accounts. In total FINRA found that the brokers participated in private securities transactions in the self-directed IRA accounts totaling more than $2.3 million away from their firms.

According to FINRA records the brokers were associated with Genworth Financial Securities Corporation (Genworth) and Cetera Financial Specialists LLC (Cetera). Hajek resigned from Cetera in June 2013 while the firm investigated the self-directed IRAs. At that time FINRA found that Hajek continued to engage in this business even after Cetera directed him to cease his activity. Thereafter, the brokers became registered with NFP Securities, Inc. (NFP) until February 2014. NFP terminated Hajek claiming that the broker conducted activities outside of the firm.

The conduct allegedly engaged in by the brokers is also referred to as “selling away” in the industry. 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. However, even though when these incidents occur the brokerage firm claims ignorance of their advisor’s activities the firm is obligated under the FINRA rules to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion. In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public. Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system. Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.

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shutterstock_143094109The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Daniel McPherson (McPherson). According to BrokerCheck records McPherson is subject to two customer complaints. The customer complaints against McPherson allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.   The claims appear to relate to allegations regard direct participation products and limited partnerships such as equipment leasing and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs). Other products complained of include oil and gas private placements and tenant-in–common (TIC) investments.

Our firm has written numerous times about investor losses in these types of programs and private placement securities. All of these investments come with costs that make profiting from the investment extremely unlikely. For example, investors are destined to lose money in equipment leasing programs like LEAF Equipment Leasing Income Funds I-IV and ICON Leasing Funds Eleven and Twelve. The high costs and fees associated with these investments make significant returns virtual impossibility. Yet for all of their costs investors are in no way compensated for the additional risks of these products.

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.

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shutterstock_175993865The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating investors that were recommended to invest in preferred stock issued by RCS Capital Corporation (RCS). According to the Wall Street Journal, RCS Capital plans to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection under a prearranged that will allow RCS to focus on its retail brokerage firm conglomerate Cetera Financial Group. As part of the planned deal lenders agreed to invest $150 million in new working capital into Cetera. Also according to the plan, the company expects debt reduction and the elimination of preferred stock worth more than $500 million.

Our firm is investigating potential unsuitable recommendations in RCS preferred stock. Before recommending investments brokers and advisors must ensure that the investment is appropriate for the investor and conduct due diligence on the company in order to understand the risks and prospects of the company. With a company as troubled and opaque as RCS, investors likely relied upon the due diligence of their advisors in making investments in the company.

The issuance of large amounts of preferred stock coincided with the downfall of RCS and was an extremely risky investment. As a background chronicled by InvestmentNews, in the fall of October 2013, Nicholas Schorsch, the owner of RCS and many of its affiliates, had capped off a string of acquisitions in just two years costing $8.8 billion in total and forging a giant non-traded REIT and broker-dealer conglomerate.

At about that time RCS began issuing huge amount preferred stock. On April 29, 2014, the Company issued 14,657,980 shares of convertible preferred stock to affiliates of Luxor Capital Group in a private placement. According to the share terms the convertible preferred stock was entitled to a dividend of 7% of the liquidation preference in cash and a dividend of 8% of the liquidation preference if a quarterly dividend is not paid in cash on the dividend payment date.

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