Tag Archives: Advisor fraud

NEXT Financial Supervisory Problems

NEXT Financial Group recently entered into a regulatory settlement with FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokerages, concerning lapses in supervision that have allegedly led to fraud in investor accounts.  This is part of a continuing and ongoing series of supervisory lapses of NEXT to ensure that its brokers do not commit fraud or other misdeeds.  These lapses may serve as a basis for investors to recover losses.

On December 6, 2017, entered into its most recent regulatory settlement.  Under that settlement, NEXT was censured and received a $750,000 fine.  The current allegations leading to the action included the failure to monitor and control investment churning and inappropriate sales of variable annuities.  The size of the fine was do to the ongoing and continuing supervisory deficiencies and regulatory violations that NEXT continued to commit.  The supervisory problems extend not just to these investments but extend to other supervisory issues.  This is evidenced by the string of regulatory violations that NEXT has been accused over the past several years.

On November 22, 2011, FlNRA issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (an “AWC” is a regulatory settlement ), in which NEXT was censured, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $2,000,000 in restitution to investors for violations of FINRA Rule 2010 and NASD Rules 2110, 2310 and 3010 arising out of its sales of certain private offerings and related supervisory deficiencies.  Additionally, NEXT was censured and fined again for supervisory issues in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In response to prior disciplinary actions, NEXT adopted new measures in an attempt to correct prior supervisory deficiencies. The new procedures, however, employed flawed methodologies and allowed misconduct to occur. The current regulatory action involves various supervisory and other violations during the period August 2012 through September 2015 that arose in part from NEXT’s inadequate response to prior FINRA disciplinary actions.

The primary violation in the current regulatory action occurred between May 2014 and September 2015 when NEXT used faulty exception reports, reports of potentially fraudulent activity, to detect excessive trading (commonly referred to as “churning”), failed to perform any review of those exception reports for a 14-month period, and allowed churning to continue due to inadequate oversight. The failure by some compliance personnel to fulfill their job duties was not detected due to an absence of procedures requiring follow-up on delegated supervisory tasks. These supervisory failures allowed a registered representative to excessively trade a senior investor’s accounts, resulting in losses of approximately $391,893.

NEXT had similar deficiencies between August 2012 and April 2014 concerning its supervision of variable annuities (VA). The Firm failed to have a surveillance system that monitored for problematic rates of exchange regarding VAs. In addition, NEXT also had inadequate exception reports, reports used to detect fraud, and NEXT’s procedures ignored risks associated with multi-share class VAs. The Firm also had information on its website.

Walter Marino Annuity Complaints

Walter Marino has come to our attention for issues concerning his variable annuity sales and large number of customer complaints.  Marino most recently worked for Benjamin Securities, Lincoln Investments, Planmember and Legend Equities.  If you wish to discuss your rights with an attorney call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.

The most recent issue with Marino is a regulatory complaint filed against him by the securities regulator FINRA.  This complaint constitutes the 16th “event” in the CRD record of Marino.  An event on a CRD is an occurrence which reflects poorly on a broker’s ability to handle the funds of others.  Events include terminations of employment, being sued by a customer/investor, being the focus of a regulatory action, and other similar black marks.

This most recent regulatory complaint involves the sale of variable annuities.  In May and June 2014, Respondent Walter Marino recommended unsuitable replacements (also known as exchanges) of variable annuities to two customers without having a reasonable basis for recommending the transactions.  An investment is unsuitable when the investment puts the interests of the broker ahead of that broker’s investor.

Marino received substantial commissions, approximately $60,000, from the unsuitable transactions. Marino’s investors, however, received no benefit from the exchanges Marino recommended. Indeed, both customers suffered financial harm due to the costs incurred as a result of the annuity replacements since the liquidation of annuities causes the investor to not only lose the substantial commissions and fees that the investor paid to get into the annuity, but the investor commonly incurs significant charges in liquidating the annuities.

Marino’s recommendation to one such investor resulted in that investor incurring an $82,523.23 surrender charge, a charge commonly assessed upon the liquidation of a variable annuity. In addition, switching annuities can have substantial tax ramifications.   When Marino recommended replacing non-qualified annuities, Marino failed to utilize the tax-free exchange available under Section 1035 of the Internal Revenue Code (“1035 exchange”).

The new annuities that Marino recommended to replace those being surrendered also resulted in an increase costs to the investors.  The increases included increases in annual mortality and expense charges, a new, advisory fees of 1.5%, and new surrender periods which decreased the ability to liquidate the annuities.

By recommending annuity replacements that benefit him but caused substantial financial harm to his customers, Marino violated regulatory rules that require him to sell suitable investments to his investors.

These issues should not be a surprise to those familiar with Marino’s history.  The CRD of Marino indicates that he is an alumni of the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm, the brokerage firm that was the focus of the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

Losses with Larry Charles Wolfe

Jeffrey Pederson PC assists investors in recovering losses such as those incurred as the result of the misdeeds of brokers, such as the alleged misdeeds of Larry Charles Wolfe.  Currently with Stoever, Glass & Co., Wolfe was previously with Aegis Capital Corp., and Herbert J. Sims & Co. Those suffering losses with this broker are likely entitled to recovery from either Wolfe or his employer.  Call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2FINRA has announced that it has entered into a settlement with Larry Charles Wolfe for making unauthorized transactions in his clients’ accounts.  The allegations are that between November 10, 2015 and November 16,2015, Wolfe inappropriately exercised discretion in the accounts of 39 investors without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers or written approval of the accounts as discretionary from his employing member firm, in violation of numerous state and federal securities laws.

A securities broker must obtain authorization from an investor prior to making a securities transaction in the investor’s account unless that broker has written authorization to make such a trade.

Additionally, MSRB Rule G-17 and FINRA rules require that each broker or dealer in municipal securities to deal fairly with customers and prohibits registered representatives from engaging “in any deceptive, dishonest, or unfair practice.”

The trades are believed to involve municipal bonds and other securities.

In addition to this regulatory action, Wolfe has been sued by investors at least ten (10) times, primarily for allegations of unauthorized, excessive, or unsuitable trades.  Additionally, at least two (2) other investors have threatened suit.  Despite Mr. Wolfe being accused of wide-scale fraud he has not yet lost his license and is still working in the securities industry.