Articles Tagged with unathorized trading

shutterstock_71403175The law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a string of customer complaints against broker Shawn Burns (Burns) currently registered Salomon Whitney LLC (Salomon). According to The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) BrokerCheck system, the customer complaints primarily allege unauthorized trading, failure to execute, suitability, misrepresentation, fraud, churning, and breach of fiduciary duty.

Burns has been in the industry since 1999. In only 15 years Burns has been employed by 10 different firms. After leaving Westrock Advisors, Inc. in May 2007, Burns became registered with J.P Turner & Company, L.L.C. until June 2009. From June 2009, until July 2011, Burns was registered with First Midwest Securities, Inc. Thereafter, Burns was registered with Salomon until August 2012. Then Burns became associated with Cape Securities Inc. until April 2014 before again going back to Salomon where he is currently registered.

Burns has had 12 customer complaints filed against him during his career, one termination, and five judgments or liens. These statistics are troubling because so many customer complaints are rare. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. These disclosures do not necessarily have to include customer complaints but can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters. The number of brokers with multiple customer complaints is far smaller.

shutterstock_70999552The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently brought a complaint against brokerage firm Randor Research & Trading Company (Randor) and registered representatives William Scholander (Scholander) and Talman Harris (Harris) alleging that between February 2011, through March 2013, Radnor displayed a pattern of disregard of its supervisory obligations concerning reporting, disclosure, and compliance responsibilities. FINRA alleged that this disregard included the firm’s failure to report customer complaints, failure to update a registered representative’s Form U4 and failure to ensure that material information was disclosed to customers, and to maintain and enforce adequate supervisory systems and written procedures.

Radnor has been a member of FINRA since 2004, is based in the Philadelphia area and had one branch office in New York. The firm has 17 registered persons working in the two branches. Scholander has been registered with 13 different firms since 1998. Harris has been registered with 16 different firms since 1998. Harris was the branch manager of the New York office during the period.

FINRA alleged that in late 2011, Radnor failed to report two customer complaints made against its brokers. One customer claimed that certain trades were unauthorized and made a demand for damages. According to FINRA, another potential customer claimed that a broker of the firm had participated in unethical or illegal behavior possibly market manipulation. Despite those claims, FINRA claimed that Radnor chose not to report the complaints as required by FINRA rules. FINRA also alleged that Radnor also chose not to report the unauthorized trade complaint on the Form U4 of Scholander and Scholander knowingly failed to ensure that his Form U4 was timely updated to reflect the complaint. As a result, FINRA alleged that both Radnor and Scholander willfully violated the FINRA rules.

shutterstock_182054030The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently suspended former Cambridge Investment Research, Inc. (Cambridge) broker Steven Walstad (Walstad) alleging that Walstad recommended and effected numerous unsuitable Class A share mutual fund purchases and sales involving six customer accounts. In addition, FINRA alleged that Walstad exercised discretion in one customer’s account without the customer’s prior written authorization.

Walstad first became registered with a FINRA firm in 1996 and was associated with Cambridge from April 18, 2008, through November 30, 2012. FINRA alleged that Walstad recommended and executed 78 purchases of Class A share mutual funds in six customer accounts without a reasonable basis to believe were suitable for the customers. All financial advisors, as part of their suitability obligations, must have a reasonable basis for the investments that they recommend to customers. The reason that FINRA found that Walstad’s trades were without a reasonable basis is that the customers were charged front-end sales loads in connection with the Class A share purchases but Walstad mistakenly believed that these front-end sales loads had been waived.

Purchase of Class A shares, as opposed to purchasing Class B or C shares, is advantageous to the customers only if they held the mutual funds on a long-term basis. However, FINRA found that these customers held the Class A shares for less than thirteen months and therefore Walstad lacked a reasonable basis to believe that his recommendations to purchase Class A shares were suitable for these six customers.

shutterstock_111649130The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned Securities America, Inc. (Securities America) broker James McLaughlin (McLaughlin) alleging that between October 2010, through October 2012, McLaughlin: (i) engaged in excessive trading (churning) in four customers’ accounts; (ii) recommended unsuitable short-term trading of mutual funds in four customers’ accounts; (iii) engaged in unauthorized trading in three customers’ accounts and; (iv) exercised discretion in one customer’s account without having written authorization.

McLaughlin was registered as a broker from 1989 until October 2012. McLaughlin was registered with Securities America from October 2000, until October 2012. On October 29, 20l2, Securities America terminated McLaughlin’s registrations for violating firm policies and procedures relating to excessive trading.

FINRA alleged that McLaughlin excessively traded at least four customers’ accounts. By analyzing the number of trades, turnover rate, and cost-to-equity ratio for these accounts FINRA determined that across a two-year relevant period from October 2010, through October 2012 that the accounts were excessively traded. In one account 286 purchase and sale transactions occurred resulting in a turnover rate of 47.63 and a cost-to-equity ratio of 228.03%. In a second account 459 purchase and sale transactions occurred resulting in a turnover rate of 15.86 and a cost-to-equity ratio of 69.54%. In a third account FINRA alleged that McLaughlin executed 140 purchase and sale transactions resulting in a turnover rate of 6.79 and a cost-to-equity ratio of 32.74%. Finally, in fourth customer’s account FINRA found McLaughlin executed 111 purchase and sale transactions resulting in a turnover rate of 8.75 and a cost-to-equity ratio of 44.50%.

shutterstock_146470052The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in an acceptance, waiver, and consent action (AWC) and barring former Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. (Stifel Nicolaus) broker Robert Head (Head) concerning allegations that between August 2013, and October 2013, Head exercised discretion, aka unauthorized trading, in the account of a customer without obtaining the customer’s prior written consent in violation of NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010. In addition, FINRA alleged that Head recommended transactions to the same customer between January 2010, and October 2013, that were qualitatively and quantitatively unsuitable for the customer.

From August 2008, until January 2014, Head was registered with Stifel Nicolaus. Since that time, Head has not been registered with any brokerage firm. In December 2013, Head was discharged from Stifel Nicolaus for alleged violation of the firm’s policy regarding exercising discretion in a client’s account without written authorization.

According to FINRA, Head managed a Stifel Nicolaus trust account for a customer from August 2008, until October 2013. The customer was retired with an original account application listing investment objectives of “Growth and Income” and “Speculation / Active Trading / Complex Strategies.” FINRA found that in November 2009, the account’s investment objective was changed to identify only ”Speculation / Active Trading / Complex Strategies.” FINRA found that the customer never gave Head written authorization to exercise his own discretion for her account.

shutterstock_50740552The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker David Herlicka (Herlicka) concerning allegations that from 2003 through 2011 Herlicka made unsuitable trade recommendations to seven customers in connection with the sales of Variable Universal Life (VULs). FINRA found that Herlicka also made misstatements and failed to adequately disclose information regarding VULs, including the fact that they have surrender fees. FINRA also alleged that Herlicka recorded false information regarding customer net worth and annual income on VUL applications for four of these customers and that he, in 2011, also effected an unauthorized trade of a VUL for a customer.

VUL are complex insurance and investment products that investors must fully understand the risks and benefits of prior to investing. One feature of a VUL policy is that the owner can allocate a portion of his premium payments to a separate sub-account that can be used to grow in value through investments. Monthly charges for the life insurance policy, including a cost of insurance charge and administrative fees, are deducted from the policy’s cash value. The cash value of the policy may increase or decrease based on the performance of the sub-account investments. In addition, the VUL policy terminates, or lapses, if at any time the net cash surrender value is insufficient to pay the monthly cost deductions. Upon termination of the policy, the remaining cash value becomes worthless.

Given the costs involved in purchasing VULs, brokers must be careful to ensure that the recommendation to invest in VULs is suitable for the client. For example, if a policy is too expensive for the client to continue to make premium contributions to the policy could lapse over time. This is precisely what FINRA alleges that Herlicka failed to consider in some recommendations to his clients.

The law office of Gana Weinstein LLP is investigating a string of securities arbitration cases involving broker Mark Lisser (Lisser) which generally allege securities violations including churning, excessive use of margin, churning, unsuitable investments, and breach of fiduciary duty. All the cases have been filed before The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Lisser was registered with Prestige Financial Center, Inc. from February 2008, until November 2010. Thereafter, he was an associated person with Global Arena Capital Corp.

shutterstock_24531604As a background “churning” occurs in a securities account when a dealer or broker, acting in his own interests and against those of his customer, induces transactions in the customer’s account that are excessive in size and frequency in light of the character of the account. In order to show that churning took place a claimant must demonstrate that the broker-dealer exercised control over the account and that the broker engaged in excessive trading considering the objectives and nature of the account.

shutterstock_175000886The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned and barred financial advisor Matthew Davis (Davis) concerning allegations that in connection with a FINRA investigation into allegations of misconduct in several customer accounts, FINRA staff scheduled Davis’ on-the-record (OTR) testimony and Davis failed to appear for the scheduled testimony and informed the agency that he would not appear at another time.

Davis was associated with Beneficial Investment Services, Inc. from November 2008, through April 2010. Thereafter, Davis was associated with OneAmerica Securities, Inc. (OneAmerica) from April 2010, through July 2013. He is not currently associated with a FINRA member.

FlNRA alleged that its staff requested that Davis appear and provide testimony on March 24, 2014, regarding allegations that Davis engaged in misconduct in several customer accounts. The allegations of misconduct included claims of conversion, misrepresentation of customer holdings and account value, forgery, discretionary unauthorized trading, attempts to settle a customer complaint without the firm’s knowledge, and unsuitable investment recommendations. Through Davis’ counsel, FINRA was informed that he would not appear for testimony.

shutterstock_160350671The law office of Gana Weinstein LLP recently filed a securities arbitration on behalf of an investor against JHS Capital Advisors, LLC f/k/a Pointe Capital, Inc. (JHS Capital) concerning allegations that the broker recommended unsuitable investments, churned the account, and ultimately depleted the claimant’s assets.

The claimant is sixty-one years old and spent the majority of his career running seed companies. The claimant alleged that he had little understanding of the stock and bond markets. The complaint alleged that Enver Rahman “Joe” Alijaj (Alijaj), a broker with JHS Capital, cold called claimant and aggressively pursued the opportunity to manage claimant’s money. The complaint alleged that prior to opening his account with JHS, claimant never maintained a brokerage account. The claimant alleged that he explained to Alijaj that he wanted to focus on preservation of his capital.

In reliance on Alijaj’s assurances, the claimant alleged that he provided the broker with a substantial portion of his net worth. Rather than comply with the claimant’s investment needs, the complaint alleged that Alijaj took advantage of the claimant’s inexperience by investing the funds in unreasonably volatile stocks and excessively traded (churned, a type of securities fraud) his account to generate excessive commissions. According to the complaint, within days of opening the account, Alijaj leveraged the account and actively traded speculative small cap stocks in unsuitable investments including A-Power Energy Generation Systems Ltd. (APWR), Silicon Motion Technology Corp (SIMO), and Yingli Green Energy Holdings Co. (YGE).

shutterstock_155045255The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned brokerage firm Dawson James Securities, Inc., (Dawson James) concerning allegations that the firm did not provide for supervision reasonably designed to comply with certain applicable securities laws and regulations.

FINRA has stated that at a minimum, written supervisory procedures should describe: (a) identification of the individual responsible for supervision; (b) supervisory steps and review procedurals to be taken by the supervisor; (c) the frequency of reviews; and (d) the documentation of reviews. FINRA found that the Dawson James’ written supervisory procedures failed to provide for one or more of the four above-cited minimum requirements for adequate written supervisory procedures for conduct concerning: (1) disclosure of potential conflicts of interests to clients; (2) trading in the opposite direction of solicited customer transactions; (3) certain broker sales practice concerns such as unauthorized trading, suitability, excessive trading, and free-riding; (4) concentration of securities in clients’ accounts; (5) the sharing of profits and losses in clients’ accounts; (6) wash transactions; (7) coordinated trading; and, (8) the review of representatives’ electronic communications, among other violations.

FINRA alleged that the firm failed to investigate numerous ”red flags” relating to the activities of one registered representative referred to by the initials “DM”, including: (1) numerous exceptions generated on the firm’ s supervisory reports which included commissions charged to DM’s clients; (2) high concentrations of one security in DM’s clients’ accounts; and, (3) numerous cancel rebill requests for DM’s clients’ accounts. FINRA also found that James Dawson failed to enforce its written supervisory procedures that required electronic correspondence be reviewed on a daily basis. FINRA also found that from January 2007 through February 2008, the firm failed to ensure that the firm’s Head Trader, referred to as the initials “AE” carried out his delegated supervisory responsibilities relating to proprietary trading; trade reporting; clock synchronization; short sale compliance; compliance with the manning rule; mark ups and mark downs; and, compliance with inventory guidelines.

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