Articles Tagged with First Financial Equity Corporation

shutterstock_145368937-300x225According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Joseph Yanofsky (Yanofsky), currently associated with First Financial Equity Corporation (First Financial), has been subject to eight customer complaints, one regulatory action, and one employment separation for cause.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Yanofsky has been accused by customers of unauthorized trading, unsuitable trading, and misrepresentations among other claims.

In 2015 Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) terminated Yanofsky alleging that the broker exercised discretion in discretionary accounts and provided inaccurate responses to the firm.  Thereafter, FINRA sanctioned Yanofsky in September 2017 findings that he exercised discretion in customer accounts without written authorization to do so. The findings stated that Yanofsky’s exercise of discretion occurred in connection with certain of his member firm’s syndicate equity offerings.  FINRA found that Yanofsky’s customers verbally expressed their general desire and authorization to participate syndicate offerings however their verbal authorization to participate in every syndicate offering was never reduce to writing.

Continue Reading

shutterstock_180341738According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker John Schooler (Schooler) has been hit with at least 26 customer complaints over his career. Customers have filed complaints against Schooler alleging securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, negligence, misrepresentations, breach of fiduciary duty, violation of blue sky statutes in several states, and fraud among other claims. The claims against Schooler involve various types of securities including private placements, direct participation programs and limited partnerships which include investments like oil & gas, non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs), equipment leasing programs, and tenants-in-common (TICs). The majority these products are high commission based products that often pay broker commission of between 7-10%. As the research now shows these products are arguably always unsuitable for investors because they do not compensate investors for their substantial risks. See Controversy Over Non-Traded REITs: Should These Products Be Sold to Investors? Part II

Schooler entered the securities industry in 1993. From 1994, until July 2011, Schooler was associated with WFP Securities. From June 2011, until July 2011, Schooler became associated with JRL Capital Corporation. Finally, Since July 2011, Schooler has been associated with First Financial Equity Corporation out of the firm’s Scottdale, Arizona office location.

As a background, a Non-Traded REIT is a security that invests in different types of real estate assets such as commercial, residential, or other specialty niche real estate markets such as strip malls, hotels, storage, and other industries. There are publicly traded REITs that are bought and sold on an exchange with similar liquidity to traditional assets like stocks and bonds. However, Non-traded REITs are sold only through broker-dealers, are illiquid, have no or limited secondary market and redemption options, and can only be liquidated on terms dictated by the issuer, which may be changed at any time and without prior warning.

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.

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.