Articles Tagged with JP Morgan

shutterstock_1832895-300x199The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Rick Konecny (Konecny) engaged in violations of the securities laws.  Konecny, formerly registered with National Securities Corporation (National Securities) and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JP Morgan) out of Chicago, Illinois was barred from the financial industry according to a BrokerCheck report.  In addition, Konecny has been subject to at least eleven customer complaints, three regulatory actions, and one termination for cause during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the complaints against Konecny concern allegations of unsuitable investments.

In March 2016, Konecny was terminated J.P. Morgan Securities LLC over allegations of his failure to escalate client matters and failed to follow requirements with respect to execution of trades on a discretionary basis.

In April 2018, a customer alleged that from 2008 to 2013, Konecny’s recommendation of high-risk mining and metal equities was unsuitable to the customer’s investment needs. The customer requested $1,210,380 in damages.

In January 2018, a customer alleged that from July 2013 to October 2015, Konecny invested the account in an unsuitable and over concentrated manner causing $81,856.00 in damages.  The claim settled for $2,768.

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shutterstock_26813263The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have been investigating J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (J.P. Morgan) broker Jeffrey Mcaleney (Mcaleney). According to BrokerCheck Records, Mcaleney has been subject to 10 customer disputes, the majority of which concern unsuitable equity, preferred stock, funds, and limited partnership investments.

In October 2017, a customer alleged that from 2007 to 2016, Mcaleney recommended investments that were unsuitable because they were contrary to the customer’s stated goals. The customer requested $313,909.22 in damages.

In October 2017 another customer similarly alleged that from 2014 to 2016, Mcaleney was recommending unsuitable investments that didn’t align with the customer’s needs and goals.

shutterstock_168478292Our firm has previously reported on the growing trend of brokerage firms recommending non-purpose loans secured by their brokerage accounts to clients.  See Investors Risk Big Losses with Loans Secured by Securities Collateral Accounts.  Recently, the state of Massachusetts charged Morgan Stanley with conducting unethical – high-pressure – sales contests among its financial advisers to encourage clients to take out loans.  According to newsources, from January 2014 until April 2015, the firm ran two different contests involving 30 advisers in Massachusetts and Rhode Island with the express goal of persuading customers to take out securities-based loans (SBLOCs) with their securities accounts serving as collateral.  Advisers were promised bonuses of $1,000 for 10 loans, $3,000 for 20 loans and $5,000 for 30 loans. The contest was alleged to have generated $24 million in new loans and was run despite an internal Morgan Stanley prohibition on such initiatives.

As a background, these lines of credit allow investors to borrow money using securities held in the investment accounts as collateral and allow the investor to continue to trade securities in the pledged accounts. An SBLOC typically requires monthly interest-only payments until repaid. Thus, when an investor losses a significant amount of their portfolio the investor has made very little progress in repaying the loan and may have few to no options to pay the loan back.  Recently FINRA issued an “Investor Alert” entitled “Securities-Backed Lines of Credit – It May Pay to See Beyond the Pitch” recognizing the conflicts between brokerage firms incentivized by “SBLOCs [that] can be a key revenue source for securities firms” and those same firms “placing your financial future at greater risk.”

According to Fortune, firms such as UBS, Bank of America, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan are recommending that their high net worth investors take out loans against their brokerage accounts at an alarming rate. The Wall Street Journal reported that securities based loans increased by 28% at UBS between 2011 and 2013. According to Fortune, a Wells Fargo advisor told the writer that the loans are so lucrative for the brokers that they refer to the money they make as their 13th production month. Another contact with Morgan Stanley reported that a regional manager would like to automatically send paperwork for loans with every single new account form.

shutterstock_102217105According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker John Cholankeril Jr. (Cholankeril) has been the subject of at least six customer complaints, one employment separation, and one regulatory action. The customer complaints against Cholankeril allege that the broker made unsuitable investments, misrepresented certain mutual funds, and misrepresented auction rate securities (ARS) among other claims. In 2004, Cholankeril was terminated by PNC Investments for failing to abide by company policies. Specifically, the brokerage firm claimed that a certain mutual fund transaction was made inappropriately. In addition, in 2006, the NASD brought an action against Cholankeril alleging that the broker violated industry rules in that he made an inappropriate transaction in a mutual fund.

Cholankeril entered the securities industry in 1996. Since February 2005, Cholankeril has been associated with Chase Investment Services Corp. and after 2012, with J.P. Morgan Securities LLC.

Advisers have an obligation to deal fairly with investors and that obligation includes making suitable investment recommendations. In order to make suitable recommendations the broker must have a reasonable basis for recommending the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation of the investments properties including its costs, benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. In addition, the broker must also understand the customer’s specific investment objectives to determine whether or not the specific product or security being recommended is appropriate for the customer based upon their needs.

shutterstock_156764942In parallel actions The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced fraud charges and filed a complaint against Michael Oppenheim (Oppenheim), a financial advisor formerly with J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JP Morgan), accusing him of stealing at least $20 million from customers to fund his own brokerage accounts and then spending the majority of the money in highly unprofitable options trading. In addition, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), announced that Oppenheim was charged with wire, securities, and investment adviser fraud, as well as embezzlement.

The charges stem from allegations that from at least March 2011, to March 2015, Oppenheim abused his relationship of trust with his clients in converting at least $20 million belonging to at least seven clients whose investment advisory accounts at JP Morgan he purported to manage. The allegations state that in some instances, Oppenheim induced clients to consent to the withdrawal of hundreds of thousands, and in some cases millions, of dollars from their accounts at JP Morgan based on false and misleading representations that Oppenheim would invest their money in low-risk municipal bonds to be held in an account at JP Morgan. In other instances, Oppenheim is alleged to have simply withdrew hundreds of thousands of dollars from clients’ accounts without their knowledge.

According to the allegations Oppenheim did not invest client money in low-risk municipal bonds as promised but instead Oppenheim, without the client’s knowledge, used the money to obtain cashier’s checks purporting to be remitted by the clients. Oppenheim then allegedly deposited the cashier’s checks in at least three online brokerage accounts he controlled and used the funds for his own personal use including on-line trading and to pay for personal expenses such as a home loan and bills. Oppenheim allegedly embarked on sizeable trading of stocks and options in his personal accounts for securities including Tesla, Apple, Google, and Netflix. Oppenheim then lost nearly the entire amount of each deposit and his brokerage accounts currently show minimal cash balances.

shutterstock_27786601The merry go-round of Wall Street fraud continues. After the housing crisis where Wall Street sold terrible home loans to investors we’ve arrived back to dot.com era frauds of selling favorable research. Enter the recent fine imposed by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that 10 of the largest brokerage firms were fined a total of $43.5 million for allowing their equity research analysts to solicit investment banking business by offering favorable research coverage in connection with the 2010 planned initial public offering of Toys “R” Us.

FINRA fines are as follows:

Barclays Capital Inc. – $5 million

shutterstock_12144202Gana Weinstein LLP is investigating JPMorgan Securities (“JP Morgan”) in connection with the supervision of Benjamin Doyle Maleche and allegations of “selling away.”

“Selling away” occurs when a securities broker or broker-dealer buys, solicits, or sells securities that were not approved by the broker’s affiliated firm or recorded on the firm’s books and records. Selling away is prohibited under the rules of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), particularly FINRA Rule 3040, as well as other securities laws.

On August 27, 2014, Maleche entered into a letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) with FINRA, wherein he consented to a nine (9) month suspension from all securities related activity and agreed to pay a $5,000 fine to FINRA.  According to the AWC, Benjamin Maleche entered the securities industry in July 2008 with a FlNRA member firm as a registered representative and investment adviser representative (“IAR”).  In April 2010, Maleche became licensed as a general securities representative (“GSR”) with Chase Investment Services Corp. (BD No. 25574), which later merged with JP Morgan Securities, Inc.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigates broker-dealer’s actions, including cases of misrepresentation, market manipulation, theft of customers’ funds, illegal schemes and the sale of unregistered securities. If the broker-dealer violates a securities law, the SEC enforces administrative action and civil penalties. In other circumstances, an investor may file a complaint with Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Recently, a complaint was filed against Robert O. Klein (Klein) and J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (J.P. Morgan). The client asserted the following claims, the broker-dealer and the securities firm breached their fiduciary duty, broker-dealer’s investment strategy used unauthorized margin transactions, and the broker-dealer selected investments that were unsuitable for their account. Although Klein denies any misconduct, J.P. Morgan has settled two claims against Klein. In both instances, clients alleged that the investment strategy was unsuitable and overly concentrated in a short Treasury bond positions. Klein responded to these allegations by stating that the losses were the result of a rapid deterioration in market conditions and he employed the appropriate investment strategy.

Although each investor portfolio differs, Klein appears to be facing allegations of employing unsuitable investment strategies in four other cases pending before FINRA. The claimants allege that Klein misrepresented the level of risk and used margins to leverage managed accounts. Past allegations faced by Klein have dealt with Zero Coupon Treasury bond (Zero Coupon Treasuries).

On November 12, 2013, Senator Elizabeth Warren warned that the “too big to fail” problem has only worsened since the 2008 financial crisis. JP Morgan Chase & Co., Bank of America Corp., Citigroup Inc., and Well Fargo & Co. each hold more than half of the total banking assets in the country. As large concentrations of wealth reside with a small number of banks, the possibility of another financial crisis looms unless certain reforms are implemented.

While the big banks become more concentrated and more complex, the Dodd-Frank Act’s implementation struggles. The agencies implementing the Dodd-Frank Act have missed more than 60% of the deadlines even though regulators continue to meet with various banks. Not only are regulators dragging their feet, but also the House recently passed two bills to delay provisions of the Dodd-Frank Acts. The Retail Investor Protection Act (RIPA) prevents the Department of Labor from defining circumstances under which an individual is considered a fiduciary. The Swaps Regulatory Improvement Act (SRIA) amends the swaps push-out requirement. The two bills passed by the House compound the delays of the regulatory implementation.

Although the House continues to hinder the Dodd-Frank Act, Senator Warren believes Congress needs to step in order to prevent another financial crisis. Senator Warren along with Senators John McCain, Maria Cantwell and Angus King urges the passage of the “21st Century Glass-Steagall Act.” As Senator Warren stated, the new Glass-Steagall Act, “would reduce failures of the big banks by making banking boring, protecting deposits, and providing stability to the system even in bad times.”

On August 14, 2013, the Securities & Exchange Commission issued a press release explaining that it had charged two JPMorgan traders with attempting to conceal investor losses by overvaluing the investments in a portfolio that they managed.  The traders were Javier MarBecause of the overvalued investments, JPMorgan’s first quarter income before income tax expense was overstated by $660 million because of the alleged misconduct.

From the SEC:

The SEC alleges that Javier Martin-Artajo and Julien Grout were required to mark the portfolio’s investments at fair value in accordance with U.S. generally accepted accounting principles and JPMorgan’s internal accounting policy.  But when the portfolio began experiencing mounting losses in early 2012, Martin-Artajo and Grout schemed to deliberately mismark hundreds of positions by maximizing their value instead of marking them at the mid-market prices that would reveal the losses.  Their mismarking scheme caused JPMorgan’s reported first quarter income before income tax expense to be overstated by $660 million…