Articles Tagged with options trading

shutterstock_115937266The attorneys of the law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a series of recently filed complaints against broker John Quintero (Quintero) who is currently a registered representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors.  In January 2014, an investor filed a complaint alleging that Quintero misrepresented the premiums paid on a variable universal life insurance policy (VUL). Specifically, the customer claimed that Quintero stated that the premiums paid would be a tax differed investments and that further the sub-account investments were unsuitable.

VULs are complex insurance and investment products that investors must fully understand prior to investing. One feature of a VUL policy is that the investor can allocate a portion of his premium payments to a separate sub-account to invest and grow through mostly mutual fund investments. Monthly charges are assessed for the life insurance policy including a cost of insurance charge and administrative fees all of which are deducted from the policy’s cash value. The investor can suffer losses are receive gains based upon the performance of the sub-account investments. However, the VUL policy can terminate or lapses if at any time the net cash surrender value is insufficient to pay the monthly cost deductions. Upon termination of the policy, the remaining cash value becomes worthless.

Given the costs and premiums involved in purchasing VULs, brokers must be careful to ensure that the recommendation to invest in VULs is suitable for the client. In some cases, investors do not realize the huge expense of these policies and have no way to continue to cover the premiums. When this happens the policy could lapse over time.

shutterstock_188383739The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned brokerage firm optionsXpress, Inc. (optionsXpress) concerning allegations that: 1) between March 2007, and March 2012, optionsXpress contracted with a third party service provider referred to as (GBT) to provide options trading coaching services to the firm’s options customers; 2) the firm approved marketing scripts that were used by GBT to sell the coaching program to optionsXpress customers that failed to present a fair and balanced description of the risks and potential benefits of the coaching program; and 3) between April 2011, and July 2011, the firm operated a retail forex business without having first received approval from FINRA to do so.

optionsXpress has been a FINRA firm since August 2000. The firm is primarily an online broker-dealer that specializes in providing customers an online platform to trade options.

FINRA found that under the terms of the firm’s Agreement with GBT coaches were prohibited from advising clients in live trading situations. The agreement provided that GBT coaches are vigorously trained on the absolute prohibition of making buy/sell recommendations to students. However, FINRA found that in implementing the coaching program, GBT’s coaches did not uniformly adhere to this prohibition and in certain instances coaches discussed live trades, specific transactions, or strategies that the customer was considering executing. Even though coaching sessions were prefaced with the disclaimer that coaches were not permitted to make buy, sell, or hold recommendations, FINRA determined that in certain sessions, the “coaching” surpassed mere discussions of specific securities transactions, and rose to the level of buy, sell, or hold recommendations.

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