Articles Tagged with J.W. Cole Financial

shutterstock_168326705-199x300Our law firm, Gana LLP, is investigating claims made by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against advisor Gary Rasmussen. Rasmussen’s BrokerCheck records show customer complaints that allege that Rasmussen engaged in securities law violations, including making unsuitable investments in clients’ accounts.

The most recent customer complaint filed against Rasmussen was filed in October 2016. Allegedly, Rasmussen recommended investment products that were unsuitable and highly risky. The alleged damages are worth $178,892.00. The case is still pending.

In September 2012, a customer filed a complaint against Rasmussen alleging that the financial advisor recommended highly unsuitable investment products. Allegedly, Rasmussen also violated state and federal securities laws such as: failure to properly supervise, breach of his fiduciary duty, and lack of due diligence in the investment. The customer alleges that there was $475,000 in damages and the case is still pending.

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.

In fact, of the 28 people interviewed by Reuters who invested in deals from Atlas, Reef Oil & Gas Partners, Discovery Resources & Development LLC, and Black Diamond Energy Inc. 17 were retirees who had low tax burdens when the product was recommended to them.

By now you may be asking, how do these deals even get issued? First, the private placement market is very opaque. Issuers are only required to file a statement to exempt the security from registration and a few other details about the investment. Second, investors rely upon the brokerage industry’s due diligence on each issue they sell to ensure its suitability for investors. But many brokers use outside due-diligence firms that may be paid by the issuer, a conflict of interest, when evaluating deals. Indeed, some of the largest securities frauds in the private placement space have been the result of reliance on third-party due diligence.

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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.

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shutterstock_71240The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker Richard Lewis (Lewis) concerning allegations that Lewis exercised discretion in a customer’s account without obtaining prior written authorization from the customer. FINRA found that his conduct violated NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.

Lewis first became registered with FINRA firm in 1989. Since then, he has been associated with several firms and from December 2010, to March 2013, Lewis was associated with LPL Financial LLC (LPL). Currently, Lewis is associated with J.W. Cole Financial, Inc.

FINRA alleged that from April 2012, to February 2013, while Lewis was associated with LPL, he effected approximately 81 discretionary transactions in the securities account of a customer without obtaining prior written authorization and without LP accepting the account in writing as discretionary.

The claims against Lewis involve unauthorized trading, which occurs when a broker sells , buys, or exchanges, securities without the prior consent or authority from the investor. Unless an investor gives the broker discretion to make trades, the broker must first discuss all trades with the investor and make sure the investments are suitable prior to recommendation. NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b) and 2020 explicitly prohibit brokers from making discretionary trades in a customers’ non-discretionary accounts. Unauthorized trading also is a violation of the federal anti-fraud Rule 10b and 10b-5 due to its fraudulent nature.

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