Articles Tagged with investment fraud attorney

shutterstock_175835072-300x199The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating investor losses in Strategic Realty Trust (SRT), a non-traded real estate investment trust (Non-Traded REIT).  SRT is a non-traded REIT focused on owning high quality west coast urban and street retail properties. The company states that its strategy is to build a portfolio of retail properties with solid growth prospects, strong cash flows, and visible value appreciation characteristics.

According to a secondary market providers which allow investors to bid and sell illiquid products such as Non-Traded REITs, SRT sells for just under $5.00 per share – a significant loss on the original purchase price of $10.00.

Our firm often handles cases involving direct participation products (DPPs), private placements, Non-Traded REITs, and other alternative investments.  These products are almost always unsuitable for middle class investors.  In addition, the brokers who sell them are paid additional commission in order to hype inferior quality investments providing perverse incentives for brokers to sell high risk and low reward investments.

According to studies, non-traded REITs have historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds – meaning that non-traded REITs provide paltry investment returns considering the risk an investor takes.  Alternative investment products like oil and gas partnerships, REITs, and equipment leasing programs 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 at all.

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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_19498822-200x300The law offices of Gana LLP continue to report on investor related losses and potential legal remedies due to recommendations to investor in oil and gas and commodities related investments.  According to BrokerCheck records, customers have filed about ten complaints with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Regan Rohl (Rohl), a registered representative with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC (Wells Fargo) out of the firm’s Fargo, North Dakota office location.

Many of the customer complaints against Rohl allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments and overcenoncetrated clients in oil & gas related investments among other claims.  The most recent complaint was filed in August 2017 and alleged Rohl recommended an unsuitable portfolio over concentrated in energy sector investments and to hold these investments after they began to decline in value causing $75,000.  The claim is currently pending.

In July 2017 another customer filed a complaint alleging $150,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.  In June 2017 a customer alleged that from April 2011 through December 2016, Rohl made unsuitable investment recommendations to buy and concentrate their portfolio of four accounts into oil and gas sector master limited partnerships and closed end funds causing $1,500,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_120556300-300x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor James Allen (Allen), now associated with David A. Noyes & Company (David Noyes), has been subject to seven customer complaints and one employment termination for cause.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Allen has been accused by customers of unsuitable investment advice, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and negligence among other claims.  The most recent complaint filed in April 2017.

In addition, Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (Citigroup) allowed Allen to resign in April 2017 after the firm made allegations that Allen was investigated for violations of the firm’s policies on communications with clients, and three inaccurate client profiles.

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shutterstock_180412949-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor William Wyman (Wyman), in January 2017, was barred by FINRA over his failure to respond to FINRA inquiries.  FINRA’s inquiries came after a customer complained about a private securities transaction.  Wyman’s employment with his brokerage firm, Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. ended in November 2016 on the heels of the allegations.  At this time it is unknown the extent of Wyman’s private securities transactions.  His disclosures list ownership of Wyman and Shier Financial Services and do not disclose involvement in other outside businesses.

FINRA requires brokers to disclose their outside businesses because the risk to investors is that the broker will use such businesses to engage in unauthorized securities activities.  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”.

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shutterstock_173509961-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Paul Smith (Smith), in June 2017, was barred by FINRA for failing to provide documents and information concerning private securities transactions.

Prior to the FINRA bar Smith was terminated by his firm Bolton Global Capital (Bolton Global) over claims by the firm that the firm was notified by the SEC that smith engaged in private securities transactions.  In addition to the termination Smith has been subject to ten customer complaints.

According to the customer complaints, Smith’s clients were solicited to invest in the Haverford Group which turned out to be a fraudulent investment offering.  It appears that Smith recommended the Haverford investments since at least 2011 through 2017.  At this time the extent and scope of the fraud is unknown.

FINRA requires brokers to disclose their outside businesses because the risk to investors is that the broker will use such businesses to engage in unauthorized securities activities.  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”.

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shutterstock_180341738-200x300According to BrokerCheck records Terry Brodt (Brodt) has been sanctioned by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over allegations that, while associated with Garden State Securities, Inc. (Garden State) the broker exercised discretion in a customer’s account without obtaining written authorization or written approval of the account as discretionary from his brokerage firm.  FINRA found that Brodt exercised discretion in accounts maintained by customers without written authorization and without approval from Garden State to treat those customer accounts as discretionary. FINRA also found that Brodt provided inaccurate responses about his use of discretion in connection with his firm’s annual compliance questionnaires.

In addition, to the FINRA sanctions Brodt has been subject to five customer complaints, two financial disclosures including a bankruptcy filing in July 2016, and ten judgment or tax liens.  Some of the complaints against Brodt allege securities law violations including that the broker engaged in churning (excessive trading) and unauthorized trading among other claims.

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shutterstock_187083428-300x198According to a complaint filed by the State of Illinois Securities Department Thrivent Investment has been accused of engaging in replacing its client’s existing variable annuities for new variable annuities which requiring clients to pay surrender charges and various fees that were not appropriate for the client. Thrivent Investment violated Illinois law by allegedly: (1) failing to maintain and enforce a supervisory system and adequate written procedures to achieve compliance with the securities laws; (2) failing to adequately review the sales and replacements of Variable Annuities for suitability; (3) failing to enforce its written procedures regarding documentation of sales and replacements of Variable Annuities; and (4) failing to adequately train its salespersons to variable annuity transactions.

The lawyers at Gana LLP have represented investors in their claims against brokerage firms for unsuitable investments in annuity products.  Often times the benefits of variable annuities are outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

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shutterstock_138129767-300x199According to BrokerCheck records Brian Murphy (Murphy) has been sanctioned and barred by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over allegations that the broker failed to respond to the regulator’s requests for information.  In July 2016, Murphy was terminated by his firm Signator Investors, Inc. (Signator) on allegations that Murphy admitted to conducting an unapproved outside business activity.  In the industry all such activities must be disclosed and approved by the firm before the broker can engage in them.

Murphy has been terminated by three employers in total during his career.  In November 2014 Murphy was terminated by MetLife Securities, Inc. (MetLife) for making a representation that he had a professional designation that he did not in fact possess.  In addition, Murphy has been subject to a number of customer complaints concerning the sale of variable annuities.

At this time it is unclear what outside business activity Murphy was engaged in.  However, the risk to investors is that the broker will use such businesses to engage in unauthorized securities activities.  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”.

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