Articles Tagged with investment fraud lawyer

shutterstock_176198786-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Stephen Whittaker (Whittaker), formerly employed by First Financial Equity Corporation (First Financial) and previously with Morgan Stanley has been subject to at least 2 customer complaints, one bankruptcy filing, and two terminations for cause during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Whittaker’s customer complaints allege that Whittaker recommended unsuitable securities recommendations among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In May 2012 Whittaker was forced to resign from Morgan Stanley after the firm found that Whittaker communicated with third parties regarding two client accounts without written authorization and his potential involvement in unapproved outside business activities (OBAs).

In April 2015 Whittaker declared bankruptcy.  FINRA discloses information concerning a broker’s financial condition because a broker’s inability to handle their own personal finances has also been found to be material information in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

In April 2019 Whittaker was terminated by First Financial after the firm found out that Whittaker was engaged in undisclosed business activities including tax planning for firm clients.

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shutterstock_20354401-300x200The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating Mariemont Capital Partners, LP (Mariemont Capital Partners) and its principals William “Bill” Kielczewski (Kielczewski).  If you have suffered investment losses with Mariemont Capital Partners our firm would be interested in speaking with you.  According to a BrokerCheck report, through May 2017 Kielczewski was a broker with The Huntington Investment Company (Huntington Investment) out of the firm’s Toledo, Ohio office location.  During this time Kielczewski is alleged to have sold $10 million in investments in Mariemont Capital Partners without disclosing this fact to Huntington Investment.

In May 2019 FINRA filed a complaint alleging that Kielczewski falsely and repeatedly represented to his member firm that he was merely a passive investor in Mariemont Capital Partners when, in fact, he was actively involved with the fund, promoting it to potential investors. Instead, FINRA found that Kielczewski helped to facilitate customer investments in the fund by assisting in the completion of wire transfers in order to fund their investments, reviewed and made revisions to the fund’s pitch book and quarterly portfolio reports, and occasionally suggested to a customer certain securities to purchase for the fund.  When FINRA reviewed Kielczewski’s tax returns they showed that Kielczewski identified himself as a general partner of the investment manager of the fund and he declared ordinary business income losses and non-passive ordinary income. FINRA found that Kielczewski participated in multiple private securities transactions through which four firm customers invested over $10 million in the hedge fund without providing prior written notice to his firm.

Mariemont Capital Partners SEC private placement filing in 2014 states that the total offering amount was $250,000,000 of which $53,400,000 had been already sold.  According to the fund’s website Kevin Taylor is the founder and Chief Investment Officer of Mariemont Capital and has 17 years of fixed income trading experience to identify value within the non-agency residential mortgage backed securities market.

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dreamstime_s_24782834-258x300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP represents a group of 23 claimants that have been awarded $3 million by a FINRA arbitration panel after 18 days of hearing and litigation that stretched over three years.  At hearing the evidence showed that Spire Securities, LLC (Spire Securities) and the firm’s principal officers including its CEO David Blisk (Blisk) and CCO Suzanne McKeown (McKeown) failed to supervise their registered representative Patrick Churchville (Churchville).

Despite the overwhelming evidence of the firm’s failure to supervise Blisk continues to defend his conduct instead of instituting necessary reforms to his practice.  In addition, Blisk has made several false statements of fact to the media in his continuing attempts to exonerate himself and his firm.

Blisk told AdvisorHub “’We think the award is outrageous and inappropriate,’ said Blisk, noting that the majority arbitrators appeared to ignore the firm’s claims that the Ponzi scheme began after Churchville left Spire in 2011. “We can’t supervise after somebody leaves us, and we don’t have to be fraud investigators.”

False on all counts.  First the only thing that is outrageous is that Blisk and Spire Securities could not produce a single opening account form, subscription agreement, or account statement for any of the 23 claimants who invested over $10 million in Churchville’s fraud on Spire Securities watch.  Claimants repeatedly asked Respondents to provide any evidence that the firm monitored Churchville’s activities for supervision without response.  Blisk had no evidence that Claimants investments, which were overconcentrated in private equity funds, was suitable.  Further, Respondents did not even know what Churchville’s funds were invested in and claimed that brokerage firms can blindly approve products that they have no understanding of.

Finally, Blisk falsely claims that Churchville did not commit fraud on Spire Securities watch.  Claimants proved that Churchville directed and ordered the theft of over $900,000 from one of the Claimants over Spire Securities’ email servers.  In addition, Claimants introduced numerous emails that showed $750,000 had been stolen from the private equity funds while Churchville fraudulently told investors the same investment was producing fantastic returns.  Claimants also showed that Chuchville stole over $200,000 in investor funds to pay administrative expenses that had been overdue for over a year after the service provider questioned whether Churchville was going out of business.  Finally, Claimants produced evidence that Churchville’s auditor had concerns over the private equity fund’s valuation and could not find evidence to back up Churchville’s claimed returns.

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shutterstock_59949436-300x286The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are pleased to announce that a group of 23 claimants have been awarded $3 million by a FINRA arbitration panel after 18 days of hearing and litigation that stretched over three years.  The case involved important investor protections concerning broker private securities transactions and outside business activities that firms must supervise and has been picked up by news outlets.

At hearing the evidence showed that Spire Securities, LLC (Spire Securities) and the firm’s principal officers including its CEO David Blisk (Blisk) and CCO Suzanne McKeown (McKeown) failed to supervise their registered representative Patrick Churchville (Churchville).  Due to the firm’s non-existent supervision Churchville was able to unsuitably invest his clients in his own private equity funds and misappropriate client funds.  Chuchville was later barred from the securities industry and in March of 2017 the United States District Court of Rhode Island sentenced Churchville to 84 months in federal prison for his crimes.

Churchville conducted his fraudulent activities through private equity funds he ran and controlled through a disclosed outside business activity and registered investment advisory practice.  Claimants showed that the private equity securities were private securities transactions that the firm was required to supervise.  Claimants proved that while Blisk and McKeown approved of Churchville’s activities but that the firm relied on Churchville to supervise himself.

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shutterstock_189302963-300x194According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Christopher McClure (McClure), currently employed by Westport Capital Markets, LLC (Westport Capital) has been subject to at least two customer complaints and a regulatory action brought by the SEC during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), McClure’s customer complaints allege that McClure breached his fiduciary duty among other allegations.

In December 2017 The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Connecticut-based investment advisory firm and its principal, McClure, with breaching their fiduciary duties and defrauding advisory clients by repeatedly purchasing securities that generated significant amounts of undisclosed compensation.

The SEC’s complaint filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut alleged that Westport Capital and McClure invested advisory clients’ funds in risky securities that generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed mark-ups for Westport and resulted in more than $1 million in losses for clients.  The SEC found that Westport purchased securities from underwriters at a discount to the public offering price and then, acting as a principal for its own account, re-sold those same securities to its advisory clients at higher prices without disclosing the mark-up.  The SEC further alleged that Westport and McClure defrauded a client by acting contrary to the client’s express objectives and instead repeatedly investing the client in risky offerings that generated hidden mark-ups.  Moreover, the SEC also found that Westport and McClure made false and misleading representations to clients regarding the compensation that Westport would receive from their accounts.

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shutterstock_70513588-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Demos Argyros (Argyros), currently employed by Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (Oppenheimer) has been subject to at least five customer complaints during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Argyros’ customer complaints allege that Argyros recommended unsuitable securities recommendations in a variety of products including unsuitable equities and warrants among other allegations of misconduct in the handling of customer accounts.

In February 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Argyros violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Argyros breached his fiduciary duty, negligence, breach of contract relating to unsuitable equities and warrants from May 2008 until November 2016 causing $100,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In April 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Argyros violated the securities laws by, among other things, that Argyros breached his fiduciary duty, churning, excessive fees and missing funds from January 2008 until December 2016 causing $900,000 in damages.  The claim settled for $275,000.

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shutterstock_143685652-300x300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating multiple claims that advisor Derrick Trussell (Trussell) has engaged in an investment fraud scheme by selling products not approved by his brokerage firm.  Trussell, formerly registered with PFS Investments Inc. (PFS Investments) out of San Antonio, Texas has been accused by at least four customers of engaging in unapproved activity.

In May 2017 PFS Investments terminated Trussell after alleging that the firm received allegation that the representative engaged in an unapproved outside business activity and/or an undisclosed private securities transaction in which a client’s funds were used to purchase securities not offered by PFSI without the client’s knowledge or consent.

Thereafter in August 2018 FINRA barred Trussell after FINRA stated that Trussell failed to respond to FINRA request for information.

Our law firm has significant experience bringing cases on behalf of defrauded victims when their advisors engage in fraudulent securities sales or misappropriation schemes.  Trussell’s activities in the sale of unapproved investment products – is a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.  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.  Sometimes those investments have some legitimacy but often times these types of investments can end up being Ponzi schemes or the advisor can be engaging in the conversion of funds.

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shutterstock_120115444-300x198According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Robert Berg (Berg), currently employed by Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. (Summit Brokerage) has been subject to at least three customer complaints and one bankruptcy.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Berg’s customer complaints allege that Berg recommended unsuitable investments and securities.

In January 2019 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Berg violated the securities laws by, among other things, engaged in aggressive and speculative investment recommendations.  The claim alleged $75,000 in damages and is currently pending.

In April 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Berg violated the securities laws by, among other things unauthorized withdrawal of funds. The claim resulted in an award or judgement of $16,400.

In March 2013 Berg declared bankruptcy.  Such disclosures on a broker’s record can reveal a financial incentive for the broker to recommend high commission products or services.  FINRA discloses information concerning a broker’s financial condition because a broker’s inability to handle their own personal finances has also been found to be material information in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

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shutterstock_143094109-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Philip Sparacino (Sparacino) has been subject to at least two customer complaints, three debt liens or judgements, and one criminal matter during his career.  Sparacino is currently employed by First Standard Financial Company LLC (First Standard Financial) but has worked for a total of six firms during his 11 year career.  One of the customer complaints against Sparacino concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning and unsuitable investments.

In December 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Sparacino violated the securities laws including churning and unsuitable trading causing $90,198 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In September 2016 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Sparacino violated the securities laws including unsuitable trading, breach of fiduciary duty, and unauthorized trading causing $38,084 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

Sparacino also has three debts including a $3,774 lien from March 2017.  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_188631644-300x225According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Raymond Menna (Menna), currently employed by Planmember Securities Corporation (Planmember Securities) has been subject to at least two customer complaints and one regulatory complaint.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), most of Menna’s customer complaints allege that Carver made unsuitable recommendations.

In August 2018 FINRA brought a complaint against Menna who consented to sanctions and to findings that he improperly shared in the losses of a customer. FINRA found that the value of the account of one of Menna’s customers declined to zero as a result of customer withdrawals and trading losses and Menna agreed to give the customer money on a monthly basis. Thereafter, FINRA found that Menna made monthly cash payments to the customer totalling approximately $15,000.  FINRA found that Menna did not obtain prior written authorization from his member firm or the customer to make such payments.

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