Articles Tagged with SagePoint Financial

shutterstock_114128113-300x238The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating broker Paul Mauro (Mauro), currently associated with SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) out of Westborough, Massachusetts.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Mauro has been subject to at least nine customer disputes, two regulatory actions, and one criminal matter during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Mauro concern allegations of unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentations.

In February 2018, as a result of Mauro’s disclosure incidents, the State of Massachusetts Securities Division placed conditions on Mauro’s registrations in Massachusetts and required him to be placed under heightened supervision by his brokerage firm.

In December 2018 a customer alleged that in 2017 Mauro unsuitably purchased variable annuity causing $6,630 in damages.  The claim was denied.

In June 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Mauro made unsuitable recommendations causing $86,000 in damages.  The claim was denied.

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shutterstock_189276023-300x198The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating claims that advisor Alberto Sanchez (Sanchez) engaged in undisclosed outside business activities (OBAs) that were not approved by his brokerage firm.  Sanchez, formerly registered with SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) and MML Investors Services, LLC (MML Investors) out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was barred from the financial industry according to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  In addition, Sanchez disclosed at least two customer complaints.

In June 2019 FINRA found that Sanchez consented to the sanctions and findings that he did not provide documents as requested by FINRA in connection with an investigation concerning his involvement in a potential undisclosed outside business activity.  Accordingly, Sanchez was automatically barred from the securities industry.

At this time it is unclear what OBA Sanchez engaged in that FINRA was investigating and whether or not that activity also involved private securities transactions.  Sanchez’s public disclosures state that he was involved in a number of OBAs including rental property business, an insurance business, Creative Financial Network, and Health Insurance.  It is unclear if these OBAs were the subject of FINRA’s investigation.

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shutterstock_88744093-297x300According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Marvin Fisher (Fisher), currently employed by SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) has been subject to at least one customer complaint, one employment termination for cause, and four tax liens or judgments during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Fisher’s customer complaints allege that Bernstein recommended unsuitable variable annuity among other allegations.

In October 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Fisher violated the securities laws by, among other things, that the guaranteed minimum income benefit rider on variable annuity purchased in 2006 was misrepresented to the client. The claim alleges $5,000 in damages and settled for $25,000.

In July 2016 Fisher was subject to a tax lien of $107,674.  Large tax liens on a broker’s CRD can be a red flag that the broker may be influenced to engage in high commission activity in order to satisfy personal debts.  In addition, a broker’s inability to manage their own finances is relevant in a customer’s decision to use their services.

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shutterstock_152933045-300x200Advisor Christopher Bice (Bice), currently employed by SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint Financial) has been subject to at least four customer complaints and one termination for cause during the course of his career.  According to a BrokerCheck report some of the customer complaints concern variable annuities and alternative investments such as direct participation products (DPPs) like non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), oil & gas programs, annuities, and equipment leasing programs.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP have extensive experience handling investor losses caused by these types of products.

Bice operates under the d/b/a name Bice Wealth Management.  In addition, Bice has several other disclosed outside business activities including Shelton, Nelson & Associates, rental property sales, and Southeast Retirement Planners.

In November 2018 a customer complained that Bice violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor made unsuitable investments, overconcentration, misrepresentations, and failure to supervise causing $1,000,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

In February 2018 a customer complained that Bice violated the securities laws by alleging that the financial advisor made unsuitable investments, overconcentration, misrepresentations, and failure to supervise causing $750,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_70999552-300x200According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Charla Kabana (Kabana), formerly employed by SagePoint Financial, Inc. (SagePoint) has been subject to one regulatory action, one one employment termination for cause, and multiple financial disclosures during her career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the regulatory action against Kabana concern allegations over variable annuity sales practices.

In August 2018 Kabana consented to sanctions and to the entry of findings that she failed to provide FINRA with the documents and information requested in connection with its investigation concerning the reasons for her termination including concerns regarding her practices in respect to variable annuity business and related responses to compliance. Because Kabana refused to appear for FINRA and provide on-the-record testimony FINRA automatically barred her from the industry.

In July 2016, LPL Financial LLC (LPL Financial) discharged Kabana claiming that the firm had concerns regarding the Representative’s practices in respect to variable annuity business and related responses to compliance.

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shutterstock_27786601The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Bruce Slater (Slater).  According to BrokerCheck records Slater has been subject to at least four customer complaints.  The customer complaints against Slater alleges securities law violations that including unsuitable investments and misrepresentations among other claims.   Many of the complaints involve direct participation products (DPPs) and private placements including oil and gas partnerships – including Ridgewood Energy-, non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs), variable annuities, and other alternative investments.

Our firm has represented many clients in these types of products.  All of these investments come with high costs and historically have 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.  However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them.  Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money until many years after agreeing to the investment.  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.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client.  In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements.  First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors.  Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.

shutterstock_156562427The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Charles Geraci (Geraci). According to BrokerCheck records Geraci is subject to six customer complaints. The customer complaints against Geraci allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, misrepresentations, and negligence among other claims.   Most of the claims appear to largely relate to allegations regarding the inappropriate sale of direct participation products such as limited partnerships, equipment leasing, oil & gas investments, and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs) and also variable annuities. The complaints specify certain oil & gas programs and United Mortgage Trust (UMT).

Our firm has represented many clients in these types of products. All of these investments come with high costs and historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds. For example, products like Non-Traded REITs, equipment leasing, variable annuities, and oil & gas private placements 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. However, due to the high commissions brokers earn on these products they sell them to investors who cannot profit from them. Further, investor often fail to understand that they have lost money until many years after agreeing to the investment. 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.

Brokers have a responsibility treat investors fairly which includes obligations such as making only suitable investments for the client. In order to make a suitable recommendation the broker must meet certain requirements. First, there must be reasonable basis for the recommendation the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation and due diligence into the investment’s properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.

shutterstock_145368937The investment attorneys of Gana Weinstein LLP are interested in speaking with clients of Scott Aabel (Aabel). According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Aabel has been the subject of at least 10 customer complaints, one regulatory event, three judgment or liens, and three financial disclosures. The customer complaints against Aabel allege securities law violations that claim unsuitable investments and misrepresentations among other claims involving mostly variable annuity products.

In June 2009, a customer filed a complaint alleging $71,873 in damages stemming from a loss of a living benefit rider for an annuity contract. In September 2007, a customer complained that the performance and fees for a variable annuity were misrepresented to the customer leading to losses of $13,595.

Also in April 2012, the Florida Office of Financial Regulation Division of Securities filed an administrative complaint against Aabel alleging violations of the state’s code and imposed a fine of $70,000.

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.