Articles Tagged with ProEquities

shutterstock_20354401-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Michael McTigue (McTigue), in August 2017, was terminated by his employer ProEquities after the firm alleged that during a recent branch inspection of the firm discovered issues relating to (1) use of unapproved email address; (2) use of unapproved performance report; (3) customer signature discrepancies on firm paperwork; (4) frequent trading of mutual fund A shares; (5) breakpoint sales of mutual funds; (6) unapproved marketing materials; (7) undisclosed outside business activities (OBA); and (8) text messaging a customer.  When the firm presented these issues to McTigue and requested an explanation he resigned prior to submitting explanation to all of the issues.

At this time it is unclear the extent and scope of McTigue’s securities violations and outside business activities.  McTigue’s CRD lists that he operates a d/b/a called South Coast Financial as an outside business activity.  In addition, McTigue lists Realty South as a real estate business.  While at this time it is unknown if McTigue used these businesses and unapproved communications methods to sell investments, the providing of loans or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

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.  However, even though when these incidents occur the brokerage firm claims ignorance of their advisor’s activities the firm is obligated under the FINRA rules to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion.  In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public.  Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system.  Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.

shutterstock_159036452Our investment attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Raymond Harrison (Harrison) currently associated with Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. (Cambridge) alleging unsuitable investments , lack of due diligence, lack of supervision, and omissions of material information among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Harrison has been subject to six customer complaints and two financial disclosures.  Many of the complaints involve direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), equipment leasing funds – such as LEAF or ICON, and other alternative investments.

In October 2016 a customer filed a complaint alleging unsuitable investments for investment experience and risk tolerance, lack of adequate due diligence in regard to investments, a lack of supervision and the omission of material information.  The customer claimed damages of $603,000.  The claim is currently pending.

Our firm has represented many clients in illiquid alternative investments products.  All of these investments come with high costs and have historically underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds.  For example, products like oil and gas partnerships, REITs, and other alternative investments are only appropriate for a narrow band of investors under certain conditions due to the high costs, illiquidity, and huge redemption charges of the products, if they can be redeemed at all.  However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them and have created a large market for a failed product.  Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money in these illiquid investments until many years after investing.  In sum, for all of their costs and risks, investors in these programs are in no way additionally compensated for the loss of liquidity, risks, or cost.

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.

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.

shutterstock_175000886The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a series of claims before The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in relation to the conduct of financial advisor Robert Smith (Smith). Smith has been accused by at least 10 customers over his career concerning allegations that Smith overconcentrated the customer’s accounts in private placement securities including equipment leasing programs, oil & gas investments, and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-traded REITs).

Smith has been registered with several broker dealers over the years. Starting in 2000 Smith was registered with American General Securities (n/k/a SagePoint Financial, Inc.) until May 2006. Thereafter, Smith was associated with ProEquities, Inc. until June 2010. Finally, from June 2010, until June 2014, Smith was registered with Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (Berthel Fisher). Currently, Smith is not registered with any FINRA firm. Upon information and belief, from 2006 on Smith operated his securities business under a DBA called Proactive Retirement Investing.

The large number of complaints against Smith concerning the same or similar charges of misconduct is unusual in the brokerage industry. Most brokers go their entire careers without a single complaint. A small number have one or two complaints. But only a tiny percentage have more than two customer complaints. Here, at least 10 customers have made allegations against Smith all concerning difficult to value private placement securities.

Investors continue to suffer substantial losses from recommended investments in the Behringer Harvard REIT Funds.  The Behringer Harvard REIT Funds including the Behringer Harvard Mid-Term Value Enhancement I, Behringer Harvard Short-Term Opportunity Fund I, and the Behringer Harvard REIT I  and II (Behringer REITs) have sometimes been sold to investors as safe, stable, income producing real estate investment trusts.  While the Behringer REITs were initially sold to investors for $10 per share, currently some of these REITs trade as low as approximately $2.00 on the secondary market.  Worse still, some of the funds no longer pay a dividend or investors receive only a fraction of what their advisor initially told their clients they could expect the investment to yield.

The Behringer REITs are speculative securities, non-traded, and offered only through a Regulation D private placement.  Unlike traditional registered mutual funds or publicly traded REITs that have a published daily Net Asset Value (NAV) and trade on a national stock exchange, the Behringer REITs raised money through private placement offerings and are illiquid securities.  In recent years, increased volatility in stocks has led to an increasing number of advisor recommendations to invest in non-traded REITs as a way to invest in a stable income producing investment.  Some non-traded REITs have even claimed to offer stable returns while the real estate market has undergone extreme volatility.  Brokers are often motivated to sell non-traded REITs to clients due to the large commissions that can be earned in the selling the Behringer REITs.

Investors are now bringing claims against the brokerage firms that sold them the Behringer REITs alleging that their advisor failed to disclose important risks of the REITs.  Some common risks that customers have alleged were not disclosed include failing to explain that Behringer REITs may not be liquidated for up to 8 to 12 years or more, that the redemption policy can be eliminated at any time, and that investor returns may not come from funds generated through operations but can include a return of investor capital.