Articles Tagged with Suitability

shutterstock_184430612The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Neal Scott (Scott).  According to BrokerCheck records there are at least four customer complaint, one regulatory, and seven judgments or liens that have been filed against Scott.  The most recent customer complaint against Scott alleges a number of securities law violations including breach of fiduciary duty and suitability among other claims.  The claim is currently pending.

The most recent judgement or lien disclosure was filed in January 2009 and concerns a tax lien for $47,103.  Tax liens and judgements are often a sign that the broker cannot manage their own personal finances and may be tempted to recommend high commission products or strategies to clients in order to satisfy debts.

In addition, the Virginia Securities Department alleged that Scott failed to complete his registration process in time and denied his registration in the state.

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.

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shutterstock_85873471The securities fraud lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker James Flower (Flower).  According to BrokerCheck records Flower has been the subject of at least four customer complaints and one bankruptcy that was disclosed in January 2016.  The customer complaints against Flower allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, excessive use of margin, and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

An examination of Flower’s employment history reveals that Flower moves from troubled firm to troubled firm.  The pattern of brokers moving in this way is sometimes called “cockroaching” within the industry.  See More Than 5,000 Stockbrokers From Expelled Firms Still Selling Securities, The Wall Street Journal, (Oct. 4, 2013).  In Flower’s 18 year career he has worked at least 15 different firms.  What’s more astonishing is that seven of those firm’s have been expelled from the industry by FINRA and in many instances for securities laws violations for mistreating their customers.

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shutterstock_106111121The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Matthew Turner (Turner).  According to BrokerCheck records Turner has been subject to at least five customer complaints and one pending bankruptcy.  The customer complaints against Turner allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, unsuitable use of margin, and churning among other claims.

In July 2014 a customer filed a complaint alleging $40,000 in damage stemming from unsuitable investment recommendations from 2010 through 2012.  The complaint settled.  In November 2012, another customer filed a complaint alleging unsuitable investments causing $450,000.  The claim settled.  In addition, in April 2015, Turner filed for bankruptcy.  Such disclosures on a broker’s record can reveal a financial incentive for the broker to recommend high commission products or services.  A broker’s inability to handle their personal finances has also been found to be relevant in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

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.

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shutterstock_27597505The securities fraud lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker Shadi “Sean” Barakat (Barakat).  According to BrokerCheck records Barakat has been the subject of at least two customer complaints and two judgements or liens.  The customer complaints against Barakat allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, misrepresentations, and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.

One complaint filed in June 2013 alleged $500,000 in damages due to unsuitable recommendations and churning.  The complaint was settled.  Barakat has disclosed several large tax liens including a $1,758 lien in April 2015 and a tax lien of $14,331 in May 2014.  Substantial judgements and liens on a broker’s record can reveal a financial incentive for the broker to recommend high commission products or services.  A broker’s inability to handle their personal finances has also been found to be relevant in helping investors determine if they should allow the broker to handle their finances.

When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time.  Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities.  This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades.  Churning is considered a species of securities fraud.  The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions.  A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements.  Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim.  These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.

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shutterstock_132704474According to Reuters, Arch Coal which is the second-largest U.S. coal miner has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in mid-January. The investment attorneys at Gana LLP continue to report on investor losses in commodities related investments. Our firm is investigating potential securities claims against brokerage firms over improper sales practices related to recommendations in commodities products such as bonds, exchange traded notes (ETNs), structured notes, private placements, mutual funds, and individual stocks.

Arch Coal plans to cut $4.5 billion in debt from its balance sheet after suffering through a prolonged coal market downturn. Arch Coal has about 4,600 employees. As we have previously reported, coal related companies around the world are being pushed to the brink of bankruptcy due to the falling prices of commodities. Other bankruptcy filings this year include Walter Energy (Stock Symbol: WLTGQ), JW Resources, Patriot Coal, Xinergy, and James River Coal Co. among others. According to Bloomberg, more than three dozen coal operations have filed bankruptcy in just over three years. Due to a combination of factors the combined market value of U.S. coal company shares shrank to $12 billion in late July 2015 from $78 billion in 2011.

In the case of Arch Coal the company became saddled with debt since its 2011 acquisition of International Coal Group and then was unable to overcome a range of negative market trends including a drop in coal prices. The company expects its mining operations and shipments to continue uninterrupted through the reorganization process. According to sources, 25 percent of U.S. coal industry is currently in bankruptcy.

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shutterstock_143685652The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought and enforcement action (FINRA No. 2012034029401) against broker Denny Darmodihardjo (Darmodihardjo) resulting in a $25,000 fine and an 18 month suspension from the securities industry. FINRA alleged that Darmodihardjo, between September 2009, and July 2011, engaged in excessive trading of three accounts owned by customer a customer referred to by the initials “AG” in violation of the FINRA rules and recommended unsuitable short-selling and margin use in transactions for the same customer also.

In addition to the FINRA action, Darmodihardjo has a long history of complaints and disclosures including two other regulatory actions, at least 13 customer complaints, one financial disclosure, and 4 judgments or liens. In January 2014, FINRA suspended Darmodihardjo for one month and imposed a $2,500 fine after the regulator alleged that Darmodihardjo failed to timely disclose the fact that he an outstanding federal tax lien. Darmodihardjo’s BrokerCheck record now lists several tax liens including a $35,771 lien disclosed in January 2015, a $16,240 lien disclosed in October 2014, a $49,422 lien disclosed in November 2013, and a $74,197 tax lien disclosed in October 2011.

Excessive trading occurs when a broker exercises control over a customer’s account and the level of trading activity is inconsistent with the customer’s investment objectives, financial situation, experience, and other needs. Excessive trading is measured by the turnover rate or the number of times the value of the account is turned over a period of time. Another measure used is the cost-to-equity ratio or the percentage of return on the customer’s average net equity needs to return to cover commissions and other account expenses over a period of time.

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shutterstock_102757574According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Robert Yasnis (Yasnis) has been the subject of 3 customer complaints, and 3 regulatory actions. The customer complaints against Yasnis allege securities law violations that claim unauthorized trading among other claims. The most recent complaint was filed in June 2015, and alleged $34,350 in losses due to unauthorized trading in May 2011.

The most recent regulatory action was taken by the state of Florida in 2013, when the state alleged that a material false statement was made on an application for registration resulting in a denial of registration. In 1997, the state of Virginia alleged that Yasnis offered unregistered securities in the state and received a fine. Finally in 1994, the state of Texas revoked Yasnis’ securities license in the state due to allegations that he misled the state concerning the status of registration within the state.

Yasnis entered the securities industry in 1993. From February 2007, until July 2009, Yasnis was associated with Hallmark Investments, Inc. From November 2009, until April 2010, Yasnis was associated with Stephen A. Kohn & Associates, Ltd. Thereafter, from April 2010, until October 2012, Yasnis was associated with Buckman, Buckman & Reid, Inc. From October 2012, until January 2014, Yasnis was associated with Meyers Associates, L.P. Presently, Yasnis is associated with Laidlaw & Company (UK) Ltd. out of the firm’s New York, New York branch office location.

All advisers have a fundamental 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.

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shutterstock_70999552The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined (Case No. 2013036001201) broker Garrett Ahrens (Ahrens) concerning allegations that the broker used false and misleading consolidated reports with clients.

According to FINRA’s BrokerCheck records Ahrens has been in securities industry since 1989. From June 1998 until August 2015, Ahrens was associated with LPL Financial LLC (LPL Financial). In August 2015, LPL Financial allowed Ahrens to voluntarily resign alleging that the broker potentially violated certain FINRA rules relating to the use of consolidated statements. In addition to the termination and FINRA complaint Ahrens has been subject to nine customer complaints over the course of his career. Many of the more recent complaints involve allegations of investments in limited partnerships, private placements, and non-traded real estate investment trusts (Non-Traded REITs) among other investments.

As a background, a Non-Traded REIT is a security that invests in different types of real estate assets such as commercial, residential, or other specialty niche real estate markets such as strip malls, hotels, storage, and other industries. There are also publicly traded REITs that are bought and sold on an exchange with similar liquidity to traditional assets like stocks and bonds. However, Non-traded REITs are sold only through broker-dealers, are illiquid, have no or limited secondary market and redemption options, and can only be liquidated on terms dictated by the issuer, which may be changed at any time and without prior warning.

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shutterstock_168478292The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought and enforcement action against broker Leonard Goldberg (Goldberg) (FINRA No. 2011026098504) alleging during the seven year period from August 2007 through August 2014, while he was registered with FINRA through J.P. Turner & Company, LLP (JP Turner) and Newport Coast Securities Inc. (Newport Coast) Goldberg caused over $123,600 in losses to five customers while making over $77,900 for himself by using discretion without authorization in connection with 300 mutual fund and Exchange Trading Fund (ETF) transactions to his benefit and the customers’ loss. FINRA also alleged that from August 2007 through February 2012, Goldberg used discretion to facilitate a scheme of effecting fraudulent and unsuitable short term switching of Class A mutual funds – a/k/a excessive trading activity or churning – in the accounts of the five customers. Finally, FINRA alleges that Goldberg also falsified firm documents in furtherance of his scheme.

Goldberg first became associated with a FINRA member in 1972. From July 2007, until October 2010, Goldberg was associated with JP Turner. Thereafter, from October 2010, until December 2014, Goldberg was associated with Newport Coast. According to BrokerCheck records Goldberg has had at least six customer complaints filed against him during his career.

According to FINRA, Goldberg’s fraudulent and unsuitable short term mutual fund switching scheme involved replacing one Class A mutual fund position with another one more than 90 times in a five year period. FINRA determined that the accounts held those mutual funds for an average of only five to six months before Goldberg switched the funds. FINRA also found that the customers generally trusted Goldberg to trade on their behalf in their accounts and he did not inform them in advance of the trades. In sum, FINRA determined that Goldberg’s mutual fund switching had no business purpose other than to generate commissions for himself through repeated fees and charges.

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shutterstock_62862913The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought and enforcement action against broker Rasheed a/k/a Richard Adams (Adams) (FINRA No. 2015045911001) resulting in a bar from the securities industry alleging that between July 2013, and June 2014, Adams engaged in unsuitable excessive trading and churning in two of his customers’ accounts. In addition, FINRA alleged that Adams willfully failed to amend his Uniform Application for Securities Industry Registration and Transfer (Form U4) to disclose 12 unsatisfied judgments and liens.

Adams first became associated with a FINRA member in 1997. From May 2002, until August 2010, Adams was associated with E1 Asset Management, Inc. Thereafter, from August 2010, until June 2011, Adams was associated with PHD Capital, Finally, from June 2011, until May 2015, Adams was associated with Caldwell International Securities out of their New York, New York office location. In 2010, Adams created and was the 100% owner of Adams Wealth Management, Inc. (AWM).

According to FINRA, from July 2013, to June 2014, Adams exercised de facto control over two customers’ accounts referred to by the initials “AD” and “PV”. FINRA found that Adams excessively and unsuitably traded and churned AD’s account and PV’s account in a manner that was inconsistent with those customers’ investment objectives, financial situations, and needs. Specifically, FINRA found Adams’ trading activity was inappropriate because it resulted in a turnover rate in AD’s account of 16.14, and a cost-to-equity ratio of 70.99% while in PV’s account the turnover ratio was 19.16 and the cost-to-equity ratio was 91.96%. FINRA found that the improper trading activity in these two accounts resulted in losses of approximately $37,000 and generated commissions of approximately $57,000.

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