The investment attorneys of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating regulatory complaints filed by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against brokerage firm Finance 500, Inc. (Finance 500) and its employees including William Watson, Robert Hicks, Geoffrey Schiffrin, Paul Savage (Disciplinary Proceedings Nos. 2013038091902, 2013036837802). The complaints largely focus on allegations that the firm failed to supervise the issuance, sales, and trading of various low-priced securities or penny stocks.
According to one of the complaints, FINRA alleged that Finance 500 raised millions for four different penny stock issuers. FINRA alleged that from June 2012 to June 2014 Finance 500 failed to enforce a reasonable supervisory system to review and monitor sales of private placements by its investment banking department in the areas of due diligence, suitability, and marketing materials provided to customers. In addition, FINRA alleged that from March 2013 through June 2014, the firm used or permitted issuers to use, private placement marketing materials that were not fair and balanced and made misleading unsupported statements.
While FINRA’s investigation focused on many areas of securities issuance, one area focused on was the firm’s suitability procedures for private placements which were found to be not reasonable. FINRA stated that Finance 500 did not have an adequate procedures regarding how it would collect the suitability documents from each customer and in some cases the documents that it did collect were incomplete and did not include all requested information. In addition, FINRA found that the firm lacked procedures regarding how and when supervisory approval would be given for a particular customer and at times allowed its supervisory system to be evaded by permitting customers solicited by the firm’s registered representatives to make investments directly with the issuer.