Articles Tagged with securities fraud attorney

shutterstock_175835072-300x199The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating investor losses in Strategic Realty Trust (SRT), a non-traded real estate investment trust (Non-Traded REIT).  SRT is a non-traded REIT focused on owning high quality west coast urban and street retail properties. The company states that its strategy is to build a portfolio of retail properties with solid growth prospects, strong cash flows, and visible value appreciation characteristics.

According to a secondary market providers which allow investors to bid and sell illiquid products such as Non-Traded REITs, SRT sells for just under $5.00 per share – a significant loss on the original purchase price of $10.00.

Our firm often handles cases involving direct participation products (DPPs), private placements, Non-Traded REITs, 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.

According to studies, non-traded REITs have historically have underperformed even safe benchmarks, like U.S. treasury bonds – meaning that non-traded REITs provide paltry investment returns considering the risk an investor takes.  Alternative investment products like oil and gas partnerships, REITs, and equipment leasing programs 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.

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shutterstock_143179897-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Clark Gardner (Gardner), in May 2014, was terminated by his then employer Cetera Advisors LLC (Cetera) subsequent to the initiation of customer arbitration claim alleging unsuitable investments.  Cetera stated that Gardner was terminated due to undisclosed outside business activities and the sale of unapproved products.

Shortly thereafter on May 29, 2015, Gardner was arrested for converting approximately $1.3 million in client funds by selling promissory notes to clients and depositing the funds into his personal bank account.  This activity is alleged to have occurred from November 2011 to April 2014.  Allegedly, Gardner used the money for luxury vacation packages, repaying personal funds owed to other individuals, and other items unrelated to the promised investments.

In addition, The Division of Securities for Utah’s Department of Commerce investigated Gardner after receiving a complaint from an investor.  During that investigation the department discovered a $150,000 property purchase Gardner completed with an unregistered real estate company that earned him $20,000 in compensation.  Gardner is reported to have promised the investor a steady income from the property and a significant return in five years.

However, these incidents are not the complete history of Gardner’s prior dealings.  FINRA brought action against Gardner in 2005 for “distributing copies of a brochure promoting an insurance policy that communicated false or misleading information.”

Charging documents state Gardner also was involved in a lawsuit in Pennsylvania for advising clients to “purchase life insurance policies while misrepresenting the nature and benefits of the policies.”

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shutterstock_185582-300x225According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker James Dresselaers (Dresselaers) is under FINRA investigation and subject to one customer complaint.  Dresselaers is currently employed by H. Beck, Inc. (H. Beck).  The FINRA investigation is looking into potential violations of NASD Rules 2310 and 2110 or Rules 2111 and 2010 relating to the suitability of recommendations to purchase securities made to one customer.  In December 2015 a customer filed a complaint alleging Dresselaers that recommended unsuitable investments in exchange traded funds and equity securities.

A common problem with exchange traded funds is a subset of investments called leveraged exchanged traded funds (Non-Traditional ETFs).  As a background, Non-Traditional ETFs behave drastically different and have different risk qualities from traditional ETFs.  While traditional ETFs seek to mirror an index or benchmark, Non-Traditional ETFs use a combination of derivatives instruments and debt to multiply returns on underlining assets, often attempting to generate 2 to 3 times the return of the underlining asset class.  Non-Traditional ETFs are also used to earn the inverse result of the return of the benchmark.

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shutterstock_180342179-300x200According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Peter Butler (Butler), in January 2017, was terminated by his firm Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) over claims by the firm that Butler “resigned while on suspension pending termination for violation of company policy related to selling away and disclosure of an outside activity.”  In addition to the termination Butler has been subject to one regulatory action and four customer complaints.

The regulatory action by FINRA found that Butler failed to reasonably supervise a broker who was employed as a sales associate and office manager.  FINRA found that Butler failed to detect and prevent the office manager from converting money from a business organization belonging to Butler. FINRA determined that the office manager used this control to convert funds from the business in order to pay himself an additional salary and unauthorized commissions, as well as to otherwise take money to which he was not entitled. In addition, funds were converted from firm customers who were also his family members and domestic partner by depositing those funds into the business’ bank account, from which he continued to make unauthorized withdrawals.

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shutterstock_27597505-300x200According to BrokerCheck records Robert Yahney (Yahney), associated with Merrill Lynch Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch), has been subject to five customer complaints.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Yahney has been accused by customers of unsuitable investment advice and investment strategy and appears to include options recommendations.

The most recent complaint filed in May 2017 alleges $1,000,000 in damages stemming from allegations of unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentation from February 2012 to June 2014. The claim is currently pending.  Another claim was filed by a customer in March 2017 alleging unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentation from August 2012 to July 2014 causing $300,000 in damages. The claim is currently pending.

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shutterstock_115937266-300x237According to BrokerCheck records Gaetano “Guy” Magarelli (Magarelli), now associated with Newbridge Securities Corporation (Newbridge), has been subject to five customer complaints and one lien.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Magarelli has been accused by customers of unsuitable investment advice.  Some customers have also alleged unauthorized trading among other claims.

The most recent complaint filed in June 2017 alleges $84,000 in damages stemming from a two year period.  The claim is currently pending.  Another claim was filed by a customer in March 2017 alleging that there were unsuitable trades from 2010 through 2017 causing $131,000 in damages.  The claim has been denied by the firm.

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shutterstock_187083428-300x198According to a complaint filed by the State of Illinois Securities Department Thrivent Investment has been accused of engaging in replacing its client’s existing variable annuities for new variable annuities which requiring clients to pay surrender charges and various fees that were not appropriate for the client. Thrivent Investment violated Illinois law by allegedly: (1) failing to maintain and enforce a supervisory system and adequate written procedures to achieve compliance with the securities laws; (2) failing to adequately review the sales and replacements of Variable Annuities for suitability; (3) failing to enforce its written procedures regarding documentation of sales and replacements of Variable Annuities; and (4) failing to adequately train its salespersons to variable annuity transactions.

The lawyers at Gana LLP have represented investors in their claims against brokerage firms for unsuitable investments in annuity products.  Often times the benefits of variable annuities are outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

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shutterstock_156367568-300x200In February 2017, broker Lee Rosenberg (Rosenberg) was subject to a customer complaint alleging $250,000 in damages concerning mutual funds and variable annuities.  The complaint is currently pending.  Rosenberg is currently associated with Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. (Cadaret Grant).  The law offices of Gana LLP are currently investigating customer complaints concerning this broker.  According BrokerCheck the Rosenberg has a total of four customer complaint disclosures including allegations of unsuitable investments and unauthorized trading among other claims.

Variable annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a publication entitled: Variable Annuities: What You Should Know encouraging investors to ask questions about the variable annuity before investing.  Essentially, a variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company under which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you.  The investor chooses the investments made in the annuity and value of your variable annuity will vary depending on the performance of the investment options chosen.  The primary benefits of variable annuities are the death benefit and tax deferment of investment gains.

However, the benefits of variable annuities are often outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

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shutterstock_178801067-300x200Since the beginning of 2017 broker Abraham Heimann (Heimann) has subject to three customer complaints alleging millions in damages.  Heimann left his last employer Cetera Advisors LLC (Cetera) in February 2016.  According BrokerCheck the customer complaints allege breach of fiduciary duty, unsuitable investments, negligence, and failure to diversify the portfolio, among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in April 2017 and alleges breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and failure to diversify the portfolio and claims $30,000 in damages.  The claim is currently pending.  In March 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging $2,000,000 in damages due to breach of fiduciary duty and negligence.  The complaint is currently pending.  The securities lawyers of Gana LLP continue to investigate the customer complaint against Heimann.

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shutterstock_114128113-300x238The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Craig Sutherland (Sutherland) currently associated with Money Concepts Capital Corp (Money Concepts). According to BrokerCheck records, Sutherland has been subject to seven customer complaints. The customer complaints against Sutherland allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligence among other claims.

Several of the claims involve allegations of high risk investments in Tanzania Royalty Exploration, variable annuities, non-traded REITs such as American Realty Capital Healthcare, and oil and gas related investments.  Variable annuities and non-traded REITs are high risk investments that brokers often sell to generate large commissions to the detriment of their clients.

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