Articles Tagged with World Equity Group

shutterstock_128856874This post continues our firm’s investigation concerning the recent allegations brought by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioning brokerage firm World Equity Group, Inc. (World Equity) concerning at least seven different allegations of supervisory failures that occurred between 2009 through 2012. FINRA’s allegations include failures to implement an adequate supervisory system and concerned both internal processes at the firm and procedures and in the handling of customer accounts in the areas of suitability of transactions in non-traditional ETFs, private placements, and non-traded REITs.

FINRA requires firms preserve for at least 6 years all communications relating to its business and to provide for ways to store electronic media. FINRA found that in May 2011, the World Equity opened a new branch office at 311 W. Monroe Street, Chicago, Illinois. FINRA alleged that errors in the process of transferring several representatives at that branch to World Equity emails of the representatives were not maintained and preserved before April 13, 2012. In addition, FINRA found that the firm failed to maintain business related emails for ten representatives who used their personal emails for business purposes.

FINRA also alleged that World Equity failed to conduct due diligence in connection with private placements offering from July 2009, through January 2012. During that time FINRA alleged that the firm conducted at least eight private placements including a product called Newport Digital Technologies, Inc. (NDT) and sold more than $6 million in these offerings. In addition, FINRA found that from August 23, 2010 to July 17, 2012 the firm conducted at least five Non-Traded REIT offerings and sold more than $3 million in these offerings.

shutterstock_66745735As we previously reported, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned brokerage firm World Equity Group, Inc. (World Equity) concerning at least seven different allegations of supervisory failures that occurred between 2009 through 2012. These failures included failures to implement an adequate supervisory system reasonably designed to detect and prevent potential rule violations concerning both internal processes and procedures and in the handling of customer accounts in the areas of suitability of transactions in non-traditional ETFs, private placements, and non-traded REITs.

FINRA alleged that World Equity failed to implement an adequate system to ensure the suitability of Non-Traditional ETFs. As a background, Non-Traditional ETFs are registered unit investment trusts or open-end investment companies whose shares represent an interest in a portfolio of securities that track an underlying benchmark, index, commodity, or other instrument. Shares of ETFs are typically listed on national exchanges and trade at established market prices. Non-Traditional ETFs are different from traditional ETFs in that they return a multiple of the performance of the underlying index or benchmark or the inverse performance.

Non-Traditional ETFs may use swaps, futures contracts, and other derivative instruments in order to create leverage to achieve these objectives. In addition, most Non-Traditional ETFs are designed to achieve their stated objectives in one trading session. Between trading sessions the fund manager generally rebalances the fund’s holdings in order to meet the fund’s objectives. For most Non-Traditional ETFs the rebalancing happens on a daily basis. Further, because the correlation between a Non-Traditional ETF and its linked index or benchmark is inexact there is typically tracking error between a fund and its benchmark becomes compounded over longer periods of time. In addition, the tracking error effect becomes more pronounced during periods of volatility in the underlying index or benchmark. FINRA advised brokerage firms in June 2009 due to the effect of compounding the performance of Non-Traditional ETFs over longer periods of time can differ significantly from the performance of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period of time and because of these risks and the inherent complexity of the products, FINRA advised broker-dealers and their representatives that the products are typically not suitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for more than one trading session.

shutterstock_185219489The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned brokerage firm World Equity Group, Inc. (World Equity) alleging that between 2009 through 2012, the firm failed to implement an adequate supervisory system reasonably designed to detect and prevent potential rule violations including: (1) failure to preserve emails; (2) failure to establish and maintain account records and obtain suitability information; (3) failure to implement a supervisory system to ensure suitability of transactions in non-traditional ETFs; (4) failure to properly document adequate due diligence in connection with private placements and non-traded REITs; (5) failure to establish an adequate supervisory system for the review of activity for options activity in unapproved accounts; (6) failure to have a reasonable supervisory system to ensure compliance with Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933; and (7) failure to adequately enforce information barrier procedures.

World Equity is a full service broker dealer and has been a FINRA member since 1992. The firm is based in Illinois and has approximately 160 brokers operating out of 68 registered branch offices.

One of the offerings FINRA investigated at World Equity was Newport Digital Technologies, Inc. (NDT). In 2008, according to FINRA, World Equity hired a new syndicate manager by the initials MN to lead the business line out of the firm’s Spokane office. During MN’s tenure as syndicate manager, World Equity was involved in several private offerings including the NDT offering for which the firm acted as the placement agent. NDT had been registered with the SEC since 2000 and originally was known as Golden Choice Foods Corporation and then as International Food Products Group, Inc. (IFPG). These companies were in the consumer food business until December 2008.

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.

shutterstock_180735251The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently barred broker Robert Acri (Acri) concerning allegations that in December 2013, and January 2014, Acri failed to fully respond to a Rule 8210 request for documents and information concerning Acri’s sale of alternative investments and promissory notes.

Acri first entered the securities industry in 1988. From December 2007 through April 2009, Acri was associated with Chicago Investment Group, LLC. After that, he was representative with Spyglass Securities, LLC from June 2010 through June 2011. Acri was last associated with World Equity Group, Inc. from June 25, 2012 through June 6, 2013. World Equity Group terminated Acri by a Form U5 filed on June 10, 2013.

According to Acri’s BrokerCheck Acri listed his outside business activities as being involved in The Synergy Fund, Synergy Private Capital Fund, Kam Private Fund all of which is listed as investment related. In addition, the disclosures state that Acri is the president of IRCA Coporation.