Articles Tagged with IPO

shutterstock_120556300The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP recently filed a complaint on behalf of an investor against Rockwell Global Capital, LLC (Rockwell), accusing the firm of making unsuitable recommendations and failing to properly supervise one of its financial advisers.  In or around July 2013, the client alleged that he received a cold call from Rockwell financial adviser, Patrick Lofaro. A cold call is when someone solicits and individual who was not anticipating such an interaction. Cold calling is a technique used by a salesperson to contact individuals who have not previously expressed an interest in the products or services that are being offered.

It was alleged that Mr. Lofaro aggressively pursued the client’s investment related business and that Mr. Lofaro convinced him that he could build a diversified portfolio with minimal risk to the client.  In reliance upon Mr. Lofaro’s assurances, the Claimant alleged that he opened an account with Rockwell in or around August 2013.  Over a seven-month period, the Claimant invested a substantial sum with Rockwell which represented close to 50% of his liquid net worth.  The complaint alleges that Mr. Lofaro, rather than create a suitable portfolio, implemented a high-leverage, excessive trading strategy that generated a high amount of commissions without providing any material benefit to the Claimant.

According to the complaint, over the course of just over a year, Mr. Lofaro executed nearly one-hundred-forty (140) trades into and out of thirty-five (35) different stocks, including seventeen (17) small caps, two (2) initial public offerings (IPO’s), eight (8) penny stocks, and fifteen (15) different stocks that were more than twice as volatile as the S&P 500.  The complaint alleges that Mr. Lofaro created a portfolio laden with risk while providing no material benefit to the Claimant. Mr. Lofaro’s investment strategy ultimately cost the Claimant an estimated $837,131, while Mr. Lofaro received over $261,080 in commissions.

On May 6, 2014, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it had fined Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC $5,000,000 for failure to properly supervise the solicitation of retail clients to invest in initial public offerings (IPOs). According to FINRA, Morgan Stanley sold shares to its retail customers in eighty-three different IPO’s between February 16, 2012 and May 1, 2013, with insufficient procedures and employee education. Some of the more commonly sold IPOs included Facebook and Yelp among other Internet favorites.

When broker dealers sell IPOs, there is a process in place for soliciting customer interest. Prior to the effective date of the registration statement, firms may only obtain an “indication of interest” from customers. An “indication of interest” is not a purchase. In order for an “indication of interest” to result in a purchase the investor must reconfirm their interest after the IPO registration statement becomes effective. Broker dealers may also solicit what is known as “conditional offers to buy.” This differs from an “indication of interest” in that the investor does not have to reconfirm. It may bind the customer after the registration statement becomes effective if the investor simply takes no action to revoke the conditional offer before the brokerage firm accepts it. According to FINRA, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney failed to institute adequate procedures and properly train its employees to ensure that its staff clearly differentiated an “indication of interest” from a “conditional offer” in their solicitation of potential investors.

Morgan Stanley Smith Barney actually adopted a policy related to the solicitation of IPO’s. In adopting this policy back on February 16, 2012, however, the firm used the terms “indication of interest” and “conditional offer” interchangeably, which implicitly disregarded the need for customer reconfirmation prior to trade execution. According to FINRA, Morgan Stanley never provided its sales teams and financial advisers any education or materials explaining the differences in terminology. As a consequence there was a strong possibility that neither the Morgan Stanley staff nor its customers properly understood the type of order that was being solicited. In addition, FINRA found that Morgan Stanley’s inadequate policies failed to comply with the federal securities laws and other FINRA rules.