Losses with Stuart Pearl of Ameriprise

If you have been the victim of unauthorized securities trades or been recommended unsuitable securities by your financial advisor, please call 1-866-817-0201.  We are interested to investors suffering losses with Stuart Pearl.  Mr. Pearl has recently entered into a regulatory settlement where he neither admits or denies the following:

investingstockphoto 1On May 14, 2015, Stuart Pearl used discretion to liquidate positions in six different securities with a total principal amount of approximately $20,000, on behalf of a senior investor. Although the investor had authorized Pearl to execute these liquidations in discussions that took place prior to May 14, 2015, Pearl failed to speak with the investor again on May 14, 2015, to confirm the investor’s authorization to make these sales.

Pearl’s use of discretion as described was without prior written authorization from the investor, and without prior written acceptance of the account as discretionary from his firm, Ameriprise. By virtue of the foregoing, Pearl violated NASD and FINRA rules.

In June 2010, two other customers of Pearl, who were retired and both in their 70s, opened a joint brokerage account with him at Ameriprise. The new account documentation provided that securities could be purchased on margin, a process or lending money to buy securities that involves a great deal of risk.

At the time they opened their account, the investors had an investment objective of “growth and income,” a risk tolerance of”conservative/moderate” and limited experience with trading on margin. They also had a combined annual income of $30,000, a liquid net worth of$500,000 and investable funds of $400,000.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, Pearl recommended that the investors purchase four securities valued at approximately $122,000 on margin. Prior to making those purchases, the customers bad no margin debt balance in their account. As a result of those investments, the investors experienced a significant increase in their margin debt balances in relation to their available funds and their account was subject to seven margin calls during the relevant period, where the parties must deposit funds into their account to pay the outstanding loan or risk liquidation of their portfolio.  The recommendation to purchase such investments utilizing margin was unsuitable and in violation of FINRA and NASD rules prohibiting unsuitable recommendations.

Ameriprise had a duty to oversee the transactions of Pearl and should be responsible for the lack of supervision given Pearl.

More information on this matter can be found in the October 10, 2017 issue of InvestmentNews.

Network 1 Financial ETF Losses

From August 2010 to September 2015 Network 1 Financial failed to establish and enforce a supervisory system reasonably designed to supervise advisor sales of complex investments such as leveraged, inverse, and inverse-leveraged exchange-traded funds (ETFs).  These are the regulatory findings that Network 1 neither denies or admits.  This issue has impacted over one hundreds securities accounts at Network 1.  If you are a Network 1 investor please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Non-Traditional ETFs are complicated investment vehicles suitable for only a small section of the investing public.  Such ETFs are designed to return a multiple of an underlying index, Such as the Russell 2000, S&P 500 or VIX, the inverse of that benchmark, or both, over the course of a day.

The performance of such ETFs over periods of time longer than a single trading session be very volatile and be substantially risky.  The results, as FINRA states, “can differ significantly from the performance . . . of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period of time.”

FINRA, the regulator of securities brokerages in the United States, has warn brokerages and their advisors that NonTraditional ETFs “are typically not suitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for more than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.”

Approximately 29 Network 1 financial advisors/brokers traded such ETFs in 167 customer accounts. These representatives executed 645 ETF transactions totaling approximately $48 million in possibly unsuitable trades.

Transactions in Non-Traditional ETFs during the referenced period, Network 1 Financial had inadequate supervisory procedures regarding the suitability and supervision of Non-Traditional ETFs transactions.

 

Loss Recovery from H. Beck

Investors with H. Beck may have grounds for recovery for investment losses in ETFs and other investments.

H. Beck recently consented to a settlement with regulators.  The settlement stated that from at least July 2008 until June 2013, H. Beck failed to properly supervise the sale of nontraditional ETFs and failed to properly supervise the recommendations made by its financial advisors. As a result, H. Beck violated NASD Rules 2310, 3010(a) through (b), and 2110, and FINRA Rules 2111, 3110(a)-(b), and 2010.

Between 2008 and 2011, H. Beck’s financial advisor James Dresselaers recommended to the Firm’s customer, EB, investments in several nontraditional exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and stocks issued by companies in the metals and mining sector. These recommendations were unsuitable for EB, a professional athlete with no investment experience, a moderate risk tolerance, and an investment objective of long-term growth. EB suffered losses of more than $1.1 million on these investments.

NASD Rule 3010(a)-(b) and FINRA Rule 3110(a)-(b) require every investment brokerage to establish and maintain a system and procedures to supervise the activities of its financial advisors that is reasonably designed to achieve compliance with securities laws and regulations and applicable NASD/FINRA rules.

FINRA rules require that financial advisors only recommend investments to suitable investors.  So if an investment poses too much risk, or possesses other characteristics that are inconsistent with the wants and needs of the investor, it is a violation to recommend that investment to such an investor.  This is commonly referred to as a “suitability” violation.

This is not the first time H. Beck has been penalized by regulators over non-traditional investments.  In March 2015, H. Beck was censured and fined $425,000 for failing to properly supervise the sale of unit investment trusts (UITs), failing to properly supervise the preparation of account reports sent to investors, and failing to enforce its own written supervisory procedures relating to financial advisors’ outside email accounts, which is a significant protection against fraud. Dresselaers also has a history of customer disputes.   This is concerning since Dresselaers is listed as the top executive at H. Beck.

Such regulatory findings and prior disputes evidence wide-spread supervisory problems at H. Beck and support private claims by investors.

Morgan Stanley $13 Mil. UIT Sanctions

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced today, September 25, 2017, that it has sanctioned Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC approximately $13 million for UIT violations by its advisors and for failing to supervise its advisors’ short-term trades of unit investment trusts (UITs).

A UIT is an investment vehicle similar to a mutual fund but with some key differences.  It is an investment company that offers units in a portfolio of securities; however, unlike a mutual fund, it terminates on a specific maturity date. UITs impose a variety of charges, including a deferred sales charge and a creation and development fee, that can total approximately 3.95 percent for a typical 24-month UIT. This can be a significant cost.  A registered representative, or advisor, who repeatedly recommends that a customer sell a UIT position before the maturity date and then “rolls over” those funds into a new UIT, an action that can also be described as “churning,” causes the customer to incur increased and unnecessary sale charges over time.

FINRA found such actions in thousands of customer accounts. FINRA further found that Morgan Stanley failed to adequately supervise advisor sales of UITs by providing insufficient guidance to supervisors regarding how they should review such transactions to detect improper short-term UIT trading, failing to implement an adequate system to detect and deter such abuse, and failing to provide for supervisory review of rollovers prior to execution. Morgan Stanley also failed to conduct training for advisors specific to these UIT issues.

Susan Schroeder of FINRA said, “Due to the long-term nature of UITs, their structure, and upfront costs, short-term trading of UITs may be improper and raises suitability concerns. Firms must adequately supervise representatives’ sales of UITs –including providing sufficient training –and have in place a system to detect potentially unsuitable short-term UIT rollovers.”

In assessing sanctions, FINRA has recognized Morgan Stanley’s cooperation in having initiated a firmwide investigation that included, among other things, interviewing more than 65 firm personnel and the retention of an outside consultant to conduct a statistical analysis of UIT rollovers at the firm; identified customers affected and establishing a plan to provide remediation to those customers; and provided substantial assistance to FINRA in its investigation.

Todd Jones of J.P. Morgan investment fraud

If you have suffered investment losses while investing with J.P. Morgan financial advisor Todd Jones, you may be entitled to a recovery.  Mr. Jones has recently been accused of committing fraud in a large number of his investors’ accounts.  Call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2The regulatory action was initiated by FINRA concerning unauthorized trades by Jones in certain high risk investments.  The FINRA regulatory settlement identifies that in July 2015, while registered with J.P. Morgan, Jones made trades in his investors’ accounts without permission in the accounts of 12 firm customers and mismarked most of the trades as “unsolicited,” which means that the trade was made at the request of the investor.

While many investors believe that their financial advisor or stock broker can make trades as he/she sees fit, regulations require that there must actually be verbal authority from the account owner contemporaneous to the trade.  Absent such verbal authorization, there must written authority.

On July 6 and 7, 2015, Jones exercised discretion to purchase a total of $208,714 of VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil (UWTI) in the accounts of 12 firm clients. This investment was not only unauthorized, the investment was also a very risky investment that is designed to multiply the gains or losses of the underlying holdings by three.

None of the 12 clients, had provided Jones with written permission to exercise such trades in their brokerage accounts.  Regulatory rules provides in relevant part that, “No… registered representative shall exercise any discretionary power in a customer’s account unless such customer has given prior written authorization to a stated individual or individuals and the account has been accepted by the member . . .” .

The trades likely enriched Jones by thousands of dollars while putting his clients in financial jeopardy.

Though Jones appears to be out of the securities industry, FINRA impose a fine and a four-month suspension.  Jones neither confessed or denied the allegations.

 

Diones LaCerte Investment Fraud Investigation

We are currently investigating the actions of Colorado Springs broker Diones LaCerte.  Ms. LaCerte was most recently a financial advisor for Morgan Stanley.  If you information or would like to discuss a potential claim that you have concerning Ms. LaCerte, please call 303-300-5022 in Colorado or 1-866-817-0201 outside of Colorado to speak to a Colorado licensed attorney.

Ms. LaCerte has recently been alleged by FINRA regultators to have committed significant fraud. Between July 1,2012 and December 31,2014, LaCerte engaged in an unsuitable pattern of short-term trading of Unit Investment Trusts (“UITs”) in 107 of her customers’ accounts.  This is a significant type of fraud perpetrated on a large number of investors.   Diones LaCerte settled the charges without admitting or denying fault.

The actions of LaCerte constitute an unsuitable pattern of short term trading of UITs in 107 customer accounts. This is similar to churning an account.  Short term trades of a high commission and high cost investment puts the advisor’s financial gain ahead of that advisor’s investors.

UITs typically carry significant upfront charges, such as costs and commissions, and as with mutual funds, short-term trading of UITs is generally improper. During the Relevant Period, in connection with these 107 customer accounts, LaCerte repeatedly recommended that the customers purchase UITs and then sell these products well before their maturity dates.

The primary issue brought by FINRA concerns the selling of UITs less than two years after purchase.  The majority of the UlTs that LaCerte recommended had maturity dates of at least 24 months. Nevertheless, LaCerte repeatedly recommended that her customers sell their UIT positions less than one year after purchase. Indeed, the average holding period for the UITs purchased in these customers’ accounts was less than 300 days. In addition, on more than 100 occasions, LaCerte recommended that her customers use the proceeds from the short-term sale of a UIT to purchase another, similar UIT. LaCerte’s recommendations caused the customers to incur unnecessary sales charges, and were unsuitable in view of the frequency and cost of the transactions.

Diones LaCerte has a significant history of customer complaints prior to the current regulatory action.  The CRD of Ms. LaCerte, the record a financial advisor has with FINRA regulators, indicates that she has received many customer complaints concerning the sale of unsuitable investments, and these complaints have led to five investor lawsuits brought or threatened in the past three years.

Colo. Attorney for Sonya Camarco Victims

Sonya Camarco is an LPL Financial advisor based in Colorado Springs who stole approximately $2.8 million from her investors/clients.  Camarco then used the stolen funds for personal expenses such as buying several homes.

If you are a victim, please call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation on your rights.  Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney licensed in Colorado who has helped hundreds of victims of financial advisor fraud and theft from across the country.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sonya D. Camarco with five counts of fraud charges and has frozen her assets after SEC investigators said she used third-party checks and other means to forward client funds toward personal expenses like mortgage and credit card payments.  Federal authorities filed charges against Comarco on or about August 27, 2017 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

broker in handcuffs

Camarco forged clients’ signatures on at least 129 first- and third-party checks, having them sent to a post office box and signing them over to an entity she controlled, an entity named “C Investments,” according to the SEC. Camarco bilked one widow victim for more than $1 million, investigators say.

These actions not only raise questions on the actions of Camarco, but also raises question as to the LPL supervisors charged with overseeing Camarco.  Reasonable supervision is designed to detect and stop these types of actions.  There are also money laundering issues on the part of those who helped Camarco commit her crimes.

Prior to working for LPL, Camarco had worked from both Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

Jeffrey Pederson, from his offices in the Denver Tech Center, has handled cases in the past with similar facts and has experience in this type of advisor scheme where an advisor uses similar mechanisms to gain control of the investor’s funds.   Consequently, he knows the documents to seek in discovery from defendants or to subpoena from non-defendants, and additional avenues of recovery to allow victims to increase their level of repayment.

George Merhoff Loss Recovery

Investors of George Merhoff, a broker and advisor with Cetera Advisors, can call 1-866-817-0201 for a free initial consultation with an attorney concerning loss recovery.  All consultations are confidential and representations done on a contingent basis, where attorney fees paid from the ultimate settlement or judgment.

Merhoff, a securities broker located in Oregon, has been the subject of approximately 16 lawsuits in the past two years.  These lawsuits concern the recommendation of unsuitable securities.  Merhoff sold a significant amount of oil and gas investments to his investors over the last six years.  Oil and gas investments are inherently speculative.

The sale of unsuitable securities is not only a negligent action, but also a form of fraud.  The payout to the broker/advisor from these investments are generally higher.  This gives the broker or advisor an incentive to omit from the investor the high level of risk that these investments pose.

Suitability violations exist anytime a recommended investment is inconsistent with the wants 7crude-oil-pumps-power-transmission-elementsand needs of an investor.  FINRA, the regulator overseeing financial advisors and securities brokers, prohibits the recommendation of unsuitable securities.  These rules also require that the advisor or broker to “know the customer.”  This means that the advisor or broker must know the wants and needs of his investors, along with that investor’s tolerance for risk and objectives for the account.

Since the oil and gas investments are speculative investments that are inherently volatile, they would not be suitable investors indicating that they can afford to take significant risk with the funds.  The investments would not be suitable for investors looking to receive regular income from their investments or take only moderate risk.

Oil and gas investments of particular interest include Linn Energy (“LINE” or “LNCO”), PennGrowth and Teekay Partners.  Also of interest are investors investing in REITs or utilizing margin loans on the recommendation of Merhoff.

 

John Correnti Investment Losses

If you have suffered investment losses with John Correnti, most recently with AXA, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation concerning your rights.

Mr. Correnti was terminated by AXA in July 2016 as the result of allegations concerning market manipulation.  The manipulation concern certain low-priced investments that were traded over-the-counter.  This is a serious type of securities fraud.  Such investments are easy to manipulate by a broker because they generally have a low volume of trading.  If a broker can get several of clients in a short time period or have one client make a significantly large purchase he can artificially inflate the price.  The problem from market manipulation generally comes in that the broker trades in his own account ahead of the purchase, sells once the price is artificially inflated and then the investment crashes since no other investors are available to keep the price inflated, though it is unclear if Correnti directly profited from the alleged market manipulation.  Notwithstanding, a violation may exist even if the broker does not directly profit as either a fraud on the market or by the damage the broker causes the investor/customer.

FINRA sought to investigate Correnti for these allegations and allegations that he was intentionally selling investments to his customer/investors beyond the supervision of AXA compliance and managers.   Correnti, at the regulatory hearing, chose to stop his testimony and, as a result, stopped contesting the charges.  He was then expelled from the securities industry by FINRA.

 

Victims of Jay D. Jordan

We are currently investigating Jay D. Jordan, also known as Jay Dee Jordan and J.D. Jordan, of Oklahoma City and previously an advisor of WFG Investments has been found by regulators to have systemic fraud in the accounts of his investors (customers). These victims of Jordan should speak to a private attorney about their rights by calling 1-866-817-0201.  Initial consultations are free and all information is kept confidential.

Between June 1,2012 and March 31, 2016 FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokerages and financial advisors, has made the findings that Jordan engaged in a series of significant violations of FlNRA Rules that resulted in substantial customer harm.  These violations resulted from the following misconduct:

He recommended and engaged in unsuitable trading in nontraditional ETFs in 84 of his customers accounts. These trades, which were unsuitable from both a reasonable-basis and a customer-specific perspective, collectively resulted in customer losses exceeding $8 million.

He exercised discretion without having obtained prior written authorization in the accounts of at least six customers.

He mismarked 927 of his customers’ purchases of nontraditional ETFs as “unsolicited” when he had, in fact, solicited those transactions. He failed to report two customer complaints to his Firm, and then surreptitiously attempted to settle one of the claims away from the Firm through the improper use ofhis personal email account.

He failed to produce requested documents and information pursuant to a FiNRA Rule 8210 information request. As a result ofthe foregoing, Jordan violated NASD Rules 2310(a) (before July 9. 2012) and 2510(b),and FiNRA Rules 2010,21 ll (a) (on and after July 9,2012), 45 ll and 8210.

Additionally, over the course of his career, he has been the subject of at least 15 threatened or filed suits.  Such suits are generally handled through the FINRA arbitration process.