Articles Tagged with Securities America

shutterstock_189302954-300x203The securities attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are currently investigating Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) broker Randy Schneider (Schneider). According to BrokerCheck Records kept by the Financial Industry Regulative Authority (FINRA), Schneider has been subject to nine customer disputes. The majority of these customer disputes revolve around the unsuitable recommendation of alternative investments, annuities and REITs.

Most recently, in February 2015, a customer alleged that Schneider stole and misappropriated funds in the customer account and also misrepresented the nature of the AXA annuities by providing misleading information. The customer requested $160,000 in damages.

In June 2013, a customer alleged that from November 2007 to June 2008, Shneider misrepresented the nature of certain alternative investments that were unsuitable for the customer. The case was settled at $250,000.

In September 2011, a customer alleged that Schneider unsuitably recommended an alternative investment and misrepresented the facts of the investment. This dispute was settled at $38,750.

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shutterstock_145368937-300x225According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Howard Utz (Utz), formerly associated with Hazard & Siegel, Inc. (Hazard & Siegel) in Mars, Pennsylvania was terminated by his firm concerning allegations that Utz’s failed to report outside business activities, engaged in private securities transactions, and accepted checks from clients made personally payable to Utz and subsequent conversion to personal use.

In addition, in May 2018 the Federal Bureau of Investigation opened an investigation into Utz but have not disclosed any details of the investigation.  Similarly, in January 2018 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) opened an investigation into Utz’s activities but again there are no disclosures concerning the nature of the investigation.

At this time, the selling away claims against Utz are unclear as to the exact nature and extent of the activity.  Utz has outside business disclosures including Noble and Utz Enterprises – a rental property business.  In addition, Utz discloses Utz Financial Services – his investment d/b/a among other disclosures.

shutterstock_183525509-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Hector May (May), formerly associated with Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) in New York, New York is under criminal investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) for investment fraud.  At the same time, May was terminated by Securities America on concerns that the advisor misappropriated client assets.

Investors who have come forward concerning May’s fraud claim that he sold what now appear to be fake tax-free corporate bonds.  It is doubtful that these investments ever existed.  Instead, the allegations claim that May most likely pocketed client funds and paid other clients funds with the proceeds from other investors – a classic Ponzi-scheme.  As with all Ponzi schemes this one collapsed when May could not make promised payments.

It appears that May conducted his alleged scheme through a disclosed outside business activity called Executive Compensation Planners, Inc.  May may have used this company to handle client investments and distribute fake returns to investors.  Outside business activities such as Executive Compensation Planners should have caused concern at May’s brokerage firm because these separate corporate entities are frequently used by unscrupulous advisors to conceal and commit frauds.  According to news sources, Executive Compensation Planners’ website in 2016 stated the firm was registered to sell securities and insurance but has since been taken down.  Further, May disclosed to clients in a brochure from Executive Compensation Planners that the firm handled more than $18 million in assets.

shutterstock_89758564-300x200Current Geneos Wealth Management, Inc. (Geneos Wealth) broker Kenneth Ancell (Ancell) has been subject to two customer complaints.  According to a BrokerCheck report many of the complaints concern alternative investments, private placements, and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  Our firm has experience handling investor losses caused by these products.

In June 2017 customers filed a complaint alleging that in or around 2011, Ancell made unsuitable investment recommendations in REITs and alternative investments causing $744,038 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.

Our firm often handles cases involving direct participation products, private placements, Non-Traded REITs, oil and gas offerings, equipement leasing products, and other alternative investments.  These products are almost always unsuitable for middle class investors.  In addition, the brokers who sell them are paid additional commission in order to hype inferior quality investments providing perverse incentives for brokers to sell high risk and low reward investments.

shutterstock_155271245-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Bruce Barber (Barber), in September 2017, was accused by FINRA of engaging in an undisclosed outside business activity by serving as an advisor to the Board of Directors for ABC, LLC (ABC) and being compensated by the company with warrants.  According to FINRA, Barber solicited 15 clients to invest in ABC’s private securities offering.  At this time it unknown the full extent and scope of Barber’s outside business activities.

In February 2017, Barber’s then employer Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) terminated him stating Barber solicited customers to purchase an unapproved securities product and participated in an unapproved outside business activity.

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”.

shutterstock_112866430-300x199Former Cetera Advisor Networks LLC (Cetera) broker Susan Welo (Welo) has been subject to nine customer complaints, one employment separation for cause, and one regulatory action.  According to a BrokerCheck report Welo was terminated by Cetera after the firm alleged that Welo failed to disclose to firm that Welo provided a loan to a client while at a prior broker-dealer. In addition, Cetera claimed that Welo violated firm policies by accepting blank signed forms from clients and permitting assistant to sign representative’s name to various documents.

In addition, the State of North Dakota alleged that Welo acted as an unregistered securities agent by handling client funds and make investment recommendations.

Many of the complaints concern alternative investments, private placements, and direct participation products (DPPs) such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).  Our firm has experience handling investor losses caused by these products.

shutterstock_178801067Our investment attorneys are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against Paul Neves (Neves) currently associated with Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) alleging unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, common law fraud, and elder abuse among other claims.  According to brokercheck records Neves has been subject to five customer complaints.  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 November 2015 a customer filed a complaint alleging unsuitable investments and elder abuse.  The customer claimed damages of $800,000.  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_162924044The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating customer complaints against broker Howard Slater (Slater). In addition, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought an enforcement action (FINRA No. 2015046156301) against Slater. There are at least 18 customer complaints against Slater and 2 regulatory actions. The customer complaints against Slater allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, negligence, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, and unauthorized trading among other claims.

The most recent customer complaint was filed in November 2013 and alleges unsuitable investments, fraud, and negligence concerning investments in alternative investments in real estate investments. The complaint seeks $90,000 in damages. In another complaint filed in July 2013, a customer complained that Slater misinformed her regarding the risks of three non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs).

In a FINRA regulatory action against Slater, the agency alleged that in February 2008 and August 2008, Slater sent emails to two customers in connection with their purchases of IMH Secured Loan Fund, LLC (IMH Fund) that contained misrepresentations regarding the features of the IMH Fund. In addition, according to FINRA, in March 2008, Slater sent an email to a customer that contained exaggerated and misleading statements about the safety of the IMH Fund. Finally, FINRA found that in April 2008, Slater caused an SAI customer’s account records to reflect false annual income and net worth information that caused the business records maintained by his firm to be inaccurate.

shutterstock_124613953The Massachusetts Office of the Secretary of Securities Division filed complaints against brokerage firm Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) and one of its financial advisors Barry Armstrong (Armstrong) concerning allegations that in 2014, Securities America authorized Armstrong to run a deceptive AM radio advertising campaign. According to the complaint, the advertising campaign was designed to target vulnerable Massachusetts senior citizens by trumpeting the looming dangers of Alzheimer’s disease and implying that the brokerage firm has special access to medical information and support.

Massachusetts found that the advertising campaign was a classic “bait and switch” in which callers inquired about Alzheimer’s support and information and instead were solicited solely for brokerage and financial planning services. Massachusetts found that advertising used alarmist language designed to pull in senior citizens with concerns about Alzheimer’s disease while failing to disclose the nature of the services Armstrong actually offers. Indeed, when callers contact the number provided the only information concerning Alzheimer’s that is provided is a Fact Sheet published by the National Institute of the Aging and some other publicly available free information about Alzheimer’s.

Massachusetts found Securities America’s approval of the advertising used “astounding” stating that as a national-scale broker-dealer the firm failed to make “substantive comment or follow up of any kind” when reviewing Armstrong’s advertising materials. In sum, Massachusetts alleged that “Securities America failed to prevent or even flag glaringly unethical conduct.”

shutterstock_184429547According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Judith Woodhouse (Woodhouse) has been barred for failing to respond to requests for information by the agency. The requests may have related to the reasons Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) gave for terminating Woodhouse’s employment. Upon termination from Securities America the firm filed a Uniform Termination form (Form U5) stating that the reason for the firm’s termination of Woodhouse was due to allegations by the firm that Woodhouse violated the firm’s policies relating to the borrowing of funds and responding to supervisory requests.

In addition, to the most recent FINRA action and bar, Woodhouse has been the subject of at least one customer complaint involving a private placement. In addition, Woodhouse has several financial disclosures and two regulatory actions. Another FINRA action in 2013, concerned Woodhouse’s involvement in private securities transactions totally over $500,000 that were made without Securities America’s consent. This action resulted in a $10,000 fine and three month suspension.

It is important for investors to know that all advisers have an obligation and responsibility to deal fairly with investors including 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 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.