Tag Archives: arbitration

Pagartanis Loss Recovery

If you were a victim of Steven Pagartanis please call 1-866-817-0201.  The Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson, PC is a firm that specializes in suits concerning securities brokers.

Pagartanis, the former Lombard and Cadaret broker from Long Island, N.Y., pleaded guilty Monday, December 10, 2018, in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for running a Ponzi scheme over 18 years

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Steven Pagartanis victims invested over $13 million and saw actual losses of more than $9 million,  according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

This former licensed securities broker solicited elderly victims to invest in real estate-related investments, including those affiliated with publicly traded companies and an international hotel conglomerate, according to the Department of Justice. Pagartanis promised his investors returns consistent with conservative investments-that their principal would be secure and earn a fixed return of 4.5% to 8% annually.

The victims wrote checks payable to an entity secretly controlled by Mr. Pagartanis at his direction, according to the government. He utilized a network of bank accounts to launder the stolen funds, which he used to pay personal expenses, buy luxury items and make the phony interest or dividend payments to other victims, according to the Department of Justice. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Recovery of these losses will focus on the employers of Pagartanis.  These employers are required to have supervisory safeguards in place to prevent such actions.  FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, has rules that require licensed brokerages to take steps to monitor and detect private securities transactions away from the firm.  Consequently, liability exists even if such actions were not taking place right under the nose of the firms.  FINRA offers an arbitration forum to recover such losses.

The SEC also filed a civil suit concerning this matter in May 2018.

Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney who helps investors recover losses from brokerage firms through the FINRA arbitration process.

Ami Forte Investigation

If you suffered losses with Ami Forte, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.  Jeffrey Pederson, PC handles claims against securities brokerages nationwide for unsuitable securities and unauthorized trading violations.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced on October 3, 2018 that it was widening the investigation of Ami Forte.  FINRA is the national regulatory agency that oversees securities brokerages.  It does so with the oversight of the SEC.

The October 3 notice advises Forte that the regulator will include additional potential violations of rules tied to conflicts of interest and fraud. Other violations included in the October 3 notice relates to rules tied to suitability, municipal securities advisory activities and books and records.

Forte, once Morgan Stanley’s most celebrated and prominent financial advisor with $2 billion in assets under management, lost her job at Morgan Stanley when an FINRA arbitration panel entered a substantial judgment against her.  The panel ordered her, her branch manager and Morgan Stanley to pay $34 million to the estate of Home Shopping Network co-founder Roy Speer in 2016. Lynnda Speer, Roy Speer’s widow, argued that the estate had been harmed by unauthorized trading, churning and elder abuse.

The initial investigation began in January 2018.  FINRA had made a preliminary determination concerning violations of multiple FINRA rules.  These rules concerning inappropriate exercises of discretion in an account and inappropriate recommendation of direct participation investments.

Forte had recently begun a career resurrection of sorts. In March 2018, Pinnacle Investments announced Forte as its chief business development officer.

This was short-lived.  BrokerCheck records indicate that the employment with Pinnacle ended Oct. 17,

Jeffrey Pederson has represented hundreds of investors over the past 15 years in FINRA arbitrations nationwide.  Time limitations may exist.  Investors suspecting wrongdoing should call at their earliest convenience

John Simoncic Investment Fraud

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) barred John Scott Simoncic from the securities industry.  Mr. Simoncic had most recently been a broker for Financial West Group.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation if you were an investor of Mr. Simoncic.

There are multiple allegations concerning multiple investors against Mr. Simoncic.  They include the unauthorized and excessive trading in client accounts.  Allegations also include the sale of unsuitable investments.  This is the sale investments to an investor that are inconsistent with the risk an investor was willing to assume.

Between August 2014 and March 2016, Simoncic executed 54 of the 97 trades in a single customer account in inverse and/or leveraged Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), an investment vehicle somewhat similar to a mutual fund.  The investor did not have an understanding of the ETFs Simoncic traded in her account; she did not understand how inverse and leveraged ETFs worked, the risks associated with the extended time Simoncic held the ETF positions in her account, or that her account was concentrated in one particular volatility ETF, the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (UVXY), for over nine months.

Such ETFs are especially dangerous.  Although leveraged and/or inverse ETFs seek daily investment results, Simoncic held the ETF positions in the investor’s account for multiple trading sessions. For example, Simoncic executed 37 transactions in shares of the ProShares UltraShort S&P 500 (SDS), an inverse double-leveraged ETF, with holding periods generally ranging from four to 97 days. These transactions in the SDS resulted in an overall loss of more than $15,000. Simoncic also concentrated 93 percent of the investor’s portfolio in shares of UVWY, the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures—a risky, double-leveraged and speculative ETF—for 295 days, that resulted in losses that exceeded $20,000. Thus, approximately $35,000 of the investor’s total losses of approximately $60,000 related to ETF trading.

Mr. Simoncic has previous regulatory actions and customer complaints that should have alerted his employer.  We believe that the former employers of Mr. Simoncic are responsible for investors losses.

 

Andrew Todd Yocum Loss Recovery

Investors of Andrew Todd Yocum may be entitled to recovery of their losses.  Mr. Yocum is a former broker of Morgan Stanley and Summit Brokerage.  He has entered into regulatory settlements with both the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) and Florida regulators.   If you have suffered investment losses as a result of investing with Yocum please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney.

In 2015, FINRA, the national regulatory agency that oversees securities brokers and brokerages, commenced an investigation into Yocum.  It alleged the he effected unauthorized securities transactions, exercised discretion over portfolios without written authorization, and recommended unsuitable concentrated purchases of energy sector securities to senior investors.

Unsuitable investments are investments that are either too risky or otherwise do not fit the investor’s profile.  Such investments generally enrich the broker at the expense of the investor.

Yocum did not contest the charge by FINRA. Ultimately, FINRA barred him from practicing as a securities broker.

On May 4, 2017, Yocum was found by Florida regulators to have committed similar offenses.  Those offenses being the failure to get appropriate authorization from his clients and the recommendation of unsuitable securities.  Yocum neither admitted, nor did he deny, the findings.

Yocum entered the securities industry in September 2002 when he became associated with a FINRA member firm.  All securities brokerage firms in the United States must be members of FINRA.  FINRA is a self-regulatory organization that the Securities and Exchange Commission has empowered to oversee securities brokerages.

The former employers of Yocum have been sued over 30 times for their failure to supervise the portfolios of investors and ensure protection from the securities violations described above.

Yocum first became registered with FINRA through that firm on November 28,2002. YocumNYSE pic 1 remained registered with FINRA through an association with two member firms between 2002 and 2009.  Neither of these firm from that time period were identified in the FINRA investigation.

On June 1, 2009, Yocum became a broker with Morgan Stanley. On October 6, 2015, Morgan Stanley filed a Uniform Termination Notice for Securities Industry Registration. The reason for Yocum’s termination from Morgan Stanley was listed as “[a]llegations concerning acting on verbal discretion.”

Subsequent to his termination with Morgan Stanley, Yocum became affiliated with Summit.  On March 3, 2016, that firm filed a Form with FINRA noticing the regulator that it was terminating Yocum’s association as of March 1, 2016. Since March 1, 2016, Yocum did not re-associate with another FINRA member firm.

Please call the number above to speak to an attorney who handles investment disputes against brokerages such as Morgan Stanley and brokers such as Yocum.

Investors of Charla Kabana

Investors of Charla Kabana, previously of Sagepoint and LPL Financial, and currently of Kabana Financial in California, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Wall Street photo 2On August 21, 2018, Charla Kabana finalized a settlement agreement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).   Conditions include barring her from serving as a securities broker.  FINRA sought to investigate questionable variable annuity sales and other issues of Kabana.

Kabana refused to cooperate with FINRA, despite licensing requirements to the contrary.  The consequence of the failure to provide information in the investigation was the loss of her securities license.

The FINRA regulatory action came about due to the termination of Kabana by LPL.  LPL investigated Kabana and ultimately  terminated Kabana on July 11, 2016 due to “[c]oncerns regarding [Kabana's] practices in respect to variable annuity business and related responses to Compliance.”

She subsequently was able to serve as a representative of Sagepoint Financial until losing her license in August 2018.

FINRA requested financial documents and testimony on the record.  The focus being the LPLreasons for the LPL termination and the alleged irregularities in the securities sales.  Kabana refused to do so.

The record of Kabana, known as her CRD, also shows other disclosure events which should serve as a “red flag” for employers and other supervisors.  This creates potential liability for those employers and supervisors for the losses incurred by investors.

Attention Investors of John Maccoll

John C. Maccoll, who was a registered representative of UBS Financial Services and an investment advisor, is charged both criminally and civilly with defrauding at least 15 of his brokerage clients, most of them elderly and retired, in a scheme that lasted for at least a decade.  If you were an investor with Maccoll please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.  Representation will be on a contingency fee basis.

Maccoll’s career goes back 40 years.  Prior to being with UBS he spent years working as a brokerguy in handcuffs for Morgan Stanley.  We believe that he used his scheme not only at UBS but also at Morgan Stanley.

According to the SEC, he used high-pressure sales tactics to convince his brokerage customers to invest in what he described as a “highly sought after” private fund investment. The victims were convinced to sell their retirement accounts or borrow against them and make out checks to Maccoll.

The actions of Macoll are commonly referred to as “selling away.”  This is common.  A broker will either try to sell an investment of a confidant who will pay him a premium, or sometimes make up the investment completely.  Brokerage firms are required to have mechanisms in place to detect and stop such trading practices.

One customer’ defrauded invested her life savings and money from her deceased husband’s life insurance payout, which she intended to use to pay for college expenses for her three children, adding that Maccoll knew that the funds invested in his customers’ accounts were for retirement or college expenses.

Charles Bloom of Chelsea Financial

Please call 1-866-817-0201 if you were an investor with Charles Bloom of Chelsea Financial.  Bloom operated primarily in the West Palm and Royal Palm areas of Florida, but likely has investors nationwide.  We have reason to believe that Bloom engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior in the portfolios of his investors.

In October 2017, FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokers, commenced an investigation into allegations that Bloom engaged in an unsuitable pattern of trading in at least three customer accounts.

All securities brokers are required to know their investors and only recommend investments Invest photo 2that are consistent, or suitable, with the investors risk tolerance and investment objectives, among other things.  Brokers have many incentives to recommend investments that are too risky or otherwise unsuitable for investors.  This motivation can lead to large losses by an investor.  As such, the recommendation of unsuitable investments is considered to be a form of fraud.

In connection with the FINRA investigation, on June 21, 2018, FINRA sent a request to Bloom for on-the-record testimony. Brokers are required to cooperate with FINRA investigations into misconduct.  As stated in a phone call with FINRA staff on July 3, 2018, Bloom acknowledges that he received FINRA’s request and would not cooperate.

Ultimately, Bloom surrendered his license and accepted a bar from the securities industry as a result of the allegation.  However, this allegation is just the latest in a long list of allegations.  The record  of Bloom shows prior regulatory actions, a 20-day suspension, and two customer suits.  This raises the question of why Bloom was hired and why he was not given appropriate supervision in light of his history.

We represent investors in securities industry arbitration proceedings across the country.  Please call for a free and confidential consultation.

 

Recovery of CLO Losses

CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligation) investors may have recovery avenues for their losses.  These complex investments are only suitable for the most sophisticated investors willing to assume the high risk of these investments.  Investors who are less sophisticated or who seek only investments or looking for only moderate risk investments cannot legally be sold these investments.  For a consultation, please call 1-866-817-0201.

The financial industry is governed by rules concerning whether certain investments can be sold to investors.  One such limitation is that securities broker, financial advisors and investment advisors may only sell investments that are suitable, or investments that are consistent with an investors level of sophistication, investment objectives and tolerance for risk.  Complex investments that carry a high risk potential are unsuitable for your average investor looking for growth or income with a tolerance for moderate risk.

investingstockphoto 1As identified by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a CLO is very complex and risky investment.   A CLO is a security made up of loans to corporations that usually have relatively lower credit ratings. Leveraged buyouts, in which a private equity firm typically borrows money to purchase a controlling stake in a company, are a common for CLO loans. After the loans are made, they’re sold off to a manager, who bundles them together and then manages the consolidations, buying and selling loans as he or she sees fit.

A CLO manager raises money to buy the loans by selling debt and equity stakes to outside investors in slices of the total collection according to risk level.

FINRA gives an example to demonstrate how tranches work.  Think of everyone who owns a piece of the loan pool as standing in a long line. Those at the front of the line would get repaid first if any of the loans in the pool go into default, but they receive lower interest payments than those at the back of the line. The people further back are paid more for taking a greater risk that they would not be repaid in the event of losses in the underlying loan pool.

Typically, a CLO includes both debt tranches and equity tranches. The debt tranches are similar to bonds – they have credit ratings and offer regular coupon payments for a period of several years. Interest rates may be set or “floating,” meaning they vary with prevailing interest rates.

Debt tranches have first dibs on payments from the underlying loans, though here again, there are important differences within the group. Senior tranches have a higher-priority claim to payments (and receive lower interest payments) than junior tranches (which receive higher interest payments).

Equity tranches are the riskiest piece of the CLO puzzle. They have no credit ratings, are last in line for payment, and thus are the first to suffer losses if the underlying loan portfolio falters. Though equity tranche investors are simply paid whatever cash is left over after the debt investors have received their interest payments, they typically earn a higher return than debt tranche investors do.

FINRA is not alone.  The Wall Street Journal has also identified these investments as risky and complex.  The Journal points out that the race to provide higher returns has led to an even greater sales of such investments, and that such investments hit a record in 2017.

Unless you are a very sophisticated investor willing to speculate the money invested in CLOs, you should seek legal representation for losses sustained.

Attention Investors of Mark Solomon

If you were one of the investors of Mark Solomon please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.   We believe that Mr. Solomon, whose office is in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, inappropriately sold real estate investments and that his employer, M Holdings, inappropriately supervised Solomon and allowed the sales to occur.

Invest photo 2From December 16, 2014 through December 29, 2014, on behalf of a commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon solicited and sold limited partnership interests (the “offering”) to seven investors for a total of $1,400,000.  However, before soliciting and selling interests in the offering on behalf of the commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon did not provide to M Holdings the notice required. Solomon first provided written notice of his sales activity to M Holdings on August 31, 2015 after responding to inquiries made by a regulator during an examination of M Holdings.

The financial industry regulator, FINRA, brought an action against Solomon for the sales of the investments.  Solomon entered into a settlement where he agreed to a one year suspension from the securities industry.

M Holdings ultimately is responsible for the sale of the investments.  Brokerage firms are responsible for the supervision of the private securities sales of their brokers even when the sales are away from the firm.  FINRA brought action for the inadequate supervision of Solomon by M Holdings.    M Holdings was censured and agreed to pay a $135,000 fine.

 

Fifth Third Annuity Fraud

If you were recommended the purchase or sale of an annuity by Fifth Third you may have been the victim of fraud.  We represent investors nationwide and are available to discuss whether you are a victim and entitled to compensation.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in a statement on May 8, 2018 stated that it has fined Fifth Third Securities $4 million and required the firm to pay approximately $2 million in restitution to customers for failure to accurately consider and describe costs and benefits of variable annuity (VA) exchanges, and for recommending exchanges without a reasonable basis to believe they were suitable for customers.  While the FINRA action focused on variable annuities, the exchange or early liquidation of any annuity is possibly a violation.

Variable annuities are complex and expensive investments commonly marketed and sold to retirees or those saving for retirement. Exchanging one annuity with another involves a comparison of the complex features of each security. Accordingly, annuity exchanges are subject to regulatory requirements to ensure that brokers have a reasonable basis to recommend them, and their supervisors have a reasonable basis to approve the sales.  Failure to do so can cost investors hundreds of thousands of dollars and cause the investor savings to become unnecessarily illiquid.

Brokerage firms, like Fifth Third, have been on notice of this problem and other problems with annuities for years.  FINRA has warned of the limited suitability of these investments and that they should only be sold to limited types of investors and has done so more than once..  In fact, variable annuities and variable life insurance is so prone to fraud, FINRA has specific rules concerning these products.

FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to ensure that its registered representatives obtained and assessed accurate information concerning the recommended annuity exchanges. It also found that the firm’s registered representatives and principals were not adequately trained on how to conduct a comparative analysis and truthfully sell the annuities.

As a result, the firm misstated the costs and benefits of exchanges, making the exchange appear more beneficial to the customer. By reviewing a sample of annuity exchanges that the firm approved from 2013 through 2015, FINRA found that Fifth Third misstated or omitted facts relating to the costs or benefits of the annuity recommendation or exchange in approximately 77 percent of the sample.  For example:

  • Fifth Third overstated the total fees of the existing VA or misstated fees associated with various additional optional benefits, known as riders.
  • Fifth Third failed to disclose that the existing VA had an accrued living benefit value, or understated the living benefit value, which the customer would forfeit upon executing the proposed exchange.
  • Fifth Third represented that a proposed VA had a living benefit rider even though the proposed VA did not, in fact, include a living benefit rider.

FINRA found that the firm’s principals ultimately approved approximately 92 percent of VA exchange applications submitted to them for review. However, in light of the firm’s supervisory deficiencies, the firm did not have a reasonable basis to recommend and approve many of these transactions.

In addition, FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to comply with a term of its 2009 settlement with FINRA. In the 2009 action, FINRA found that, from 2004 to 2006, Fifth Third effected 250 unsuitable annuity exchanges and transactions and had inadequate systems and procedures governing its annuity exchange business. For more than four years following the settlement, the firm failed to fully implement an independent consultant’s recommendation that it develop certain surveillance procedures to monitor VA exchanges by individual registered representatives.

As a result, the firm misstated costs and benefits of VA exchanges — and in some cases omitted critical information altogether — making the exchanges appear more beneficial to customers in 77 percent of the exchanges Finra reviewed for the period of 2013 through 2015. For instance, Fifth Third transgressions included telling customers that the new VA contracts being marketed had living rider benefits guaranteeing minimum payments to customers and their beneficiary when none existed, Finra said.