Articles Tagged with investment advisor attorney

shutterstock_177577832-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Joseph Peggs (Peggs), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) has been subject to one employment termination for cause, one regulatory action, and eight customer disputes during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Peggs concerns allegations over several different investment products including equities, options, and variable annuity sales practices.

In June 2019 a customer complained that Peggs violated the securities laws by alleging that Peggs and several other defendants failed to carry out the decedent’s intentions regarding beneficiary designations for two annuities. The decedent’s ex-wife contends that the proceeds of the annuities should have been distributed in such a way that the proceeds could fund continuing payments to her. The alleged damages are unspecified and the claim is currently pending.

In February 2019, a customer complained that Peggs violated the securities laws by alleging that Peggs representative placed them in an unsuitable holding when they rebalanced the portfolio in March of 2015 and that the holding in question then lost significant value.  The alleged damages are $20,000 and the claim settled for $15,000.

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shutterstock_114128113-300x238The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating broker Paul Mauro (Mauro), currently associated with SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) out of Westborough, Massachusetts.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Mauro has been subject to at least nine customer disputes, two regulatory actions, and one criminal matter during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Mauro concern allegations of unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentations.

In February 2018, as a result of Mauro’s disclosure incidents, the State of Massachusetts Securities Division placed conditions on Mauro’s registrations in Massachusetts and required him to be placed under heightened supervision by his brokerage firm.

In December 2018 a customer alleged that in 2017 Mauro unsuitably purchased variable annuity causing $6,630 in damages.  The claim was denied.

In June 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Mauro made unsuitable recommendations causing $86,000 in damages.  The claim was denied.

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shutterstock_184429547-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating advisor Bud McLaughlin Jr. (McLaughlin), currently employed by Century Securities Associates, Inc. (Century Securities) out of Chaska, Minnesota.  According to a BrokerCheck report, McLaughlin has been subject to at least one customer dispute, one regulatory action, and one bankruptcy disclosure during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaint against McLaughlin alleges breach of fiduciary duty.

In February 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that from 2012 through 2015, McLaughlin breached his fiduciary duty and was negligent in his recommendation of an energy company causing $1,125,000 in damages.  The claim was denied.

In August 2017 McLaughlin declared bankruptcy.  This information has been found to be material for investors to have because an advisor who cannot manage his own finances is a relevant factor for investors to consider.  In addition, a broker in financial distress may be influenced to recommend high commission products or strategies.

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shutterstock_112866430-300x199According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Jesse Krapf (Krapf), currently employed by Benchmark Investments, Inc. (Benchmark Investments) has been subject to at least one customer complaint and two debt related judgements or tax liens.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Krapf’s customer complaints allege that Krapf made was negligent and breached his fiduciary duty to the customer.

In October 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Krapf violated the securities laws including negligence and breach of fiduciary duty causing $500,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

Krapf also has two unsatisfied debts including a $3,247 tax lien from May 2015.  The fact that a broker cannot manage his own personal finances is material information for a client to consider.  In addition, the types of products clients have alleged were unsuitable are high commission products that may be recommended to generate high profits for the advisor at the expense of the client.

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shutterstock_177792281The securities fraud lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a regulatory complaint (Disciplinary No. 2015043159501) filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Kevin Murphy (Murphy). FINRA alleged that in or about November 2013, Murphy sold $1.2 million of shares and warrants in a private placement to four individuals and one limited partnership without his firm’s knowledge.

According to FINRA, in August and September, 2013, Murphy made a $1.2 million investment in a private placement for which TGP Securities, Inc. (TGP), Murphy’s brokerage firm, was providing brokerage services. In return for his investment, FINRA found that Murphy received two stock certificates totaling 600,000 Series F shares and two warrants exercisable for 300,000 common shares. On November 29, 2013, FINRA alleged that Murphy resold the Series F shares and the warrants to four individuals and one limited partnership for $1.2 million without the permission of TGP.

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.

shutterstock_128856874The securities fraud lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a regulatory complaint (Disciplinary No. 1013038289101) filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker James Nixon (Nixon). FINRA alleged that Nixon failed to provide prior written notice to Bridge Capital Associates, Inc. (Bridge Capital), his then employing brokerage firm, before selling $600,000 of convertible promissory notes – practice referred to as “selling away” in the industry. FINRA found that Nixon provided detailed written notice to Bridge Capital only after he had already disseminated investor presentations to approximately 40 potential investors and completed sales to three accredited investor. In addition, FINRA alleged that Nixon provided investor presentations that contained exaggerated and misleading statements about the issuer of the promissory notes, by the initials BRT, and failed to include a meaningful risk disclosure.

Nixon entered the securities industry in 1987. Nixon was registered with Bridge Capital Associates since December 2007 until September 2013, when Bridge Capital discharged Nixon in connection with the conduct concerning FINRA’s allegations. Shortly after Bridge Capital terminated his registrations Nixon became registered with a different firm, Source Capital Group, Inc. out of the firm’s Westport, Connecticut office location.

FINRA found that the promissory notes were offered without a PPM and that instead the notes were offered through an investor PowerPoint presentation that Nixon prepared in conjunction with the issuer. FINRA found that the investor presentation was devoid of any cautionary language specific to the promissory notes and that the prospects for notes were presented in very optimistic terms and stated financial projections at aggressive multiples without sources or support for such representations. FINRA found these representations to violate its communications rules.

shutterstock_43547368The securities fraud lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating the regulatory action filed (Disciplinary Action No. 2014043025701) by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Carlos Benavidez Jr (Benavidez). According to the allegations, between January 2013 and January 2015, Benavidez exercised discretion in 80 customer accounts without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers while with brokerage firm Waddell & Reed.

FINRA found that beginning in or about December 2009, Benavidez and two other representatives registered with Waddell & Reed, formed RBR Group and shared a customer base for their securities business. Between January 2013 and January 2015, FINRA found that Benavidez exercised discretion in effecting hundreds of securities transactions in approximately 80 customer accounts without obtaining written authorization from his customers or Waddell & Reed’s approval.

Also according to FINRA, Benavidez tried to hide the evidence of unauthorized trading by falsifying documents. FINRA found that on or about September 9, 2014, Benavidez and another individual with the firm backdated approximately 26 customer notes that had been created in the firm’s computer program in order to falsely reflect that Benavidez or another member of the RBR Group had conversed with those customers on before the trades were effected when, in fact, it was not until six days later when Benavidez or another individual talked with the 26 customers about the trades that had been effected in their accounts.

shutterstock_145368937The securities fraud lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Paul Blum (Blum). According to BrokerCheck records Blum has been the subject of at least eight customer complaints three of which have been filed since 2015. The customer complaints against Blum allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, and excessive trading among other claims.

The most recent customer complaint filed in December 2015 and alleged negligence in recommending the purchase of bonds that defaulted from February 2009 until April 2014 claiming $450,000 in damages. The claim is still pending. In November 2015, another client filed a complaint alleging Blum invested in high yield bonds without consultation between May 2013 and May 2014 resulting in $133,000 in damages. The dispute is currently pending.   In a third complaint filed in November 2015, an investor claimed that Blum invested in appropriate bonds from 2005 through 2015 causing $140,000 in damages. The claim was settled.

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_156562427The investment attorneys of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating regulatory complaints filed by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against brokerage firm Finance 500, Inc. (Finance 500) and its employees including William Watson, Robert Hicks, Geoffrey Schiffrin, Paul Savage (Disciplinary Proceedings Nos. 2013038091902, 2013036837802). The complaints largely focus on allegations that the firm failed to supervise the issuance, sales, and trading of various low-priced securities or penny stocks.

According to one of the complaints, FINRA alleged that Finance 500 raised millions for four different penny stock issuers. FINRA alleged that from June 2012 to June 2014 Finance 500 failed to enforce a reasonable supervisory system to review and monitor sales of private placements by its investment banking department in the areas of due diligence, suitability, and marketing materials provided to customers. In addition, FINRA alleged that from March 2013 through June 2014, the firm used or permitted issuers to use, private placement marketing materials that were not fair and balanced and made misleading unsupported statements.

While FINRA’s investigation focused on many areas of securities issuance, one area focused on was the firm’s suitability procedures for private placements which were found to be not reasonable. FINRA stated that Finance 500 did not have an adequate procedures regarding how it would collect the suitability documents from each customer and in some cases the documents that it did collect were incomplete and did not include all requested information. In addition, FINRA found that the firm lacked procedures regarding how and when supervisory approval would be given for a particular customer and at times allowed its supervisory system to be evaded by permitting customers solicited by the firm’s registered representatives to make investments directly with the issuer.

shutterstock_191231699The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Marcious Dickerson (Dickerson). According to BrokerCheck records Dickerson has been the subject of 3 customer complaints. The customer complaints against Dickerson allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.   Many of the most recent claims involve allegations concerning non traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs).

As a background since the mid-2000s Non-Traded REITs became one of Wall Street’s hottest products. However, the failure of Non-Traded REITs to perform as well as their publicly traded counterparts has called into question if Non-Traded REITs should be sold at all and if so should there be a limit on the amount a broker can recommend. See Controversy Over Non-Traded REITs: Should These Products Be Sold to Investors? Part I

Non-Traded REITs are securities that invest 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. 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.