Tag Archives: Arizona

Kris Etter of IMS Securities

If you have suffered investment losses with Kris Etter of IMS Securities, particularly if you suffered losses in UDF, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.  We have suit filed against IMS and are currently investigating whether other claims may exist.

It is believed that Etter had an undisclosed conflict of interest in his recommendations of UDF.  Upon information and belief, Mr. Kris Etter sold a substantial amount of UDF to his clients and is the son of Todd Etter.  Todd Etter is the Chairman of UDF IV, one of the top officers of the company.  Mr. Todd Etter also serves as Chairman of the general partner of UDF I and UDF II and Executive Vice President of the general partner of UDF III.  This creates a substantial conflict of interest in UDF recommendations by Kris Etter.

Kris Etter and IMS also failed to properly investigate UDF before recommending it, likely because of the Etter conflict and the heightened commission paid by UDF.  IMS is one of the top four leading sellers of UDF IV in the United States.

The bottom fell out for UDF when it was revealed in December 2015 to be a Ponzi scheme. The offices were raided by the FBI, received a Wells notice, unable to release quarterly reports and was ultimately delisted for a time. Reasonable investigation into the investment of other financial firms revealed that the illegitimacy of the investment. Had IMS done sufficient due diligence it would have likewise discovered that the investment was not suitable for any investor. Instead, IMS and Etter turned a blind eye to the problems of UDF and instead focused on the profits that it was receiving from this high commission product.

The individual ultimately in charge of all IMS offices is the CEO of IMS, Jackie Wadsworth.  Ms. Wadsworth has seven customer complaints naming her for insufficient supervision of representatives under her oversight. These complaints largely concern the inappropriate recommendation by her representatives of unsuitable variable annuity and REIT investments, just like the investments sold clients of Kris Etter and IMS.

As reported in Investmentnews.com in August 2016, the balance sheet of IMS is tilted heavily toward high-commission products like variable annuities and non-traded REITs. Approximately 86% of its revenue of IMS in 2015 came from commissions from such products.

Binary options recovery scams

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in a press release on March 16, 2017 warned investors against companies or persons that approach victims of binary options fraud claiming that, for an up-front fee, they can help them recover the sums invested or the losses incurred on unlawfully operating trading platforms.  Investors should verify that they are dealing with a licensed attorney or regulator prior to engaging in such recovery efforts.

As stated in the release by FINRA, binary options are inherently risky all-or-nothing propositions. When a binary option expires, it either makes a pre-specified amount of money, or nothing at all, in which case the investor loses his or her entire investment.  These options may be fraudulent and sold on illegitimate securities boards, but participation in such options may open an investor to further victimization.

FINRAAfter an individual has participated in such investment activity, fraudulent individuals obtain investor information from the illegitimate boards selling the options and then calls the investors, and can further be spotted with the following hallmarks during the :

  • urgent correspondence and high-pressure calls that specifically refer to your binary options accounts;
  • claims that the caller is with, or acting at the behest of, U.S. government agencies; and
  • subsequent correspondence with official-looking documents that make it look as if money is available, and can be recovered for a fee.

FINRA cautions investors that some of these offers may be fraudulent because it is often very difficult to track down the person or group that has scammed them.

“Following a significant loss, investors may be anxious to get back at least some of their money. This can leave them vulnerable to follow-up frauds that add to existing losses with devastating financial consequences,” said Gerri Walsh, FINRA’s Senior Vice President of Investor Education.

The FINRA release can be found at the following link.

Losses with First Financial Equity (FFEC)

If you have suffered investment losses with First Financial Equity Corp. (“FFEC”) please call for a free consultation with an attorney at 1-866-817-0201.  Recent actions of FINRA, the financial industry regulator, indicate that investors may have been harmed by the actions of this firm.

FFEC and its chief compliance officer entered into a settlement with FINRA regulators  on March 8, 2017 concerning the lapses in supervision.  The alleged lapses allowed a variety of different fraudulent activity to occur throughout FFEC and in particular the Scottsdale, Arizona branch.  FINRA asserted that the chief supervisor of FFEC, the chief compliance officer, had not adequately supervised and that the firm did not have adequate supervisory procedures.

The most obvious result of the lack of supervision is the 26 customer complaints of broker John Schooler.  These complaints, many of which evolved into arbitration lawsuits, involved his inappropriate trades in oil & gas investments and TIC investments.

One issue alleged to be a result of the inadequate supervision is the sale of unsuitable ETFs.  Unsuitable securities are those which are not consistent with the wants and needs of an investor.  Usually, an investment is unsuitable if it puts at risk funds not earmarked for risk, or otherwise is inconsistent with who the client is as an investor.

In the case of FFEC, its brokers recommended and invested its customers in aggressive ETFs, including leveraged and inverse ETFs.  Such investments are known to be high risk, yet the brokers recommended the investments to individuals who did not express a desire for high risk investments.  Worse, many of these investments were purchased by the FFEC brokers for accounts where the brokers were given discretion and not given the required supervisory review.

To ensure suitability, FFEC brokers were required to obtain sufficient information about their investors to evaluate the investments that would be suitable.  The settlement states that this was not done.

Another issue alleged to have been caused by the lack of supervision is churning/excessive trading.  This occurs any time trades are made which the costs and fees are of an amount that the trades benefit the adviser more than the investor.

First Financial Equity Corp. Losses

Please call for a free consultation with an attorney if you suffered losses First Financial Equity Corp., particularly if you suffered losses in ETF or annuity investments.

First Financial Equity, a securities brokerage firm headquartered in Scottsdale, Arizona, as identified by FINRA in February 2017, entered in a regulatory settlement with FINRA regulators concerning allegations that financial advisers were receiving excessive commissions and selling unsuitable ETF investments and annuities.  The suit also revealed that systemic problems existed in the supervising of the advisers that would prevent such violations.

A FFEC broker who typifies the problems at FFEC is John Schooler.  This FFEC broker has 26 customer complaints.  Such complaints generally evolve into arbitration lawsuits against the firm.  The complaints against Schooler involve TIC, oil/gas and other inherently aggressive investments.

Under the terms of the Offer of Settlement with FINRA, the firm consented to, without
admitting or denying the same, the entry of the following findings. The findings
stated that First Financial Equity failed to establish, maintain, and enforce an adequate supervisory system, including written procedures, designed to ensure that the firm’s sales of leveraged and inverse ETFs (nontraditional ETFs) complied with applicable securities laws, and
NASD and FINRA rules.

The findings also stated that First Financial Equity failed to establish, maintain,
and enforce an adequate supervisory system and written procedures related to the sale
of multi-share class variable annuities and to maintain records supporting customer
suitability determinations with respect to variable annuity purchases.

Leveraged and inverse ETF are a high risk investment that pays advisers a high commission.  This creates a problem in that it provides motivation for advisers to recommend such investments to investors not seeking high risk.  Such suitability violations are in violation of FINRA rules in addition to the anti-fraud provision of federal and most state securities laws.

 

The firm failed to provide sufficient training to its registered representatives and principals on the sale and supervision of multi-share class variable annuities. The findings also included that the firm failed to implement a reasonable supervisory system and procedures to supervise variable annuity exchanges.

Morgan Stanley ETF Losses

If you have suffered losses with an ETF purchased through Morgan Stanley please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney concerning your rights. We have reason to believe that Morgan Stanley engaged in systematic wrongdoing in the sale of certain ETFs based upon recent findings of the The Securities and Exchange Commission.

The SEC announced on February 14, 2017 that it has settled with Morgan Stanley for $8 million for inappropriate sales of complex exchange traded funds to advice clients.  More importantly, Morgan Stanley admitted to wrongdoing.

Morgan Stanley failed to obtain a signed client disclosure notice, which stated that single inverse ETFs were typically unsuitable for investors planning to hold them longer than one trading session unless used as part of a trading or hedging strategy.  This is important because the number of clients this impacted number in the hundreds.

The investment recommendations were also unsuitable, in violation of the regulatory duties that Morgan Stanley owes its investors.  Morgan Stanley solicited clients to purchase single inverse ETFs in retirement and other accounts, the securities were held long-term, and many of the clients experienced losses.

The SEC’s order further finds that Morgan Stanley failed to follow through on another key policy and procedure requiring a supervisor to conduct risk reviews to evaluate the suitability of inverse ETFs for each advisory client.  Among other compliance failures, Morgan Stanley did not monitor the single-inverse ETF positions on an ongoing basis and did not ensure that certain financial advisers completed single inverse ETF training.

Morgan Stanley also owes a duty to the investors to follow its own internal regulations.  The SEC’s order finds that Morgan Stanley did not adequately implement its policies and procedures to ensure that clients understood the risks involved with purchasing inverse ETFs.

“Morgan Stanley recommended securities with unique risks and failed to follow its policies and procedures to ensure they were suitable for all clients,” said Antonia Chion, Associate Director of the SEC Enforcement Division.

Charles Fackrell Fraud

If you were an investor with Charles Fackrell and believe you may be a victim of his fraud, or simply wish to know your rights, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

LPLFackrell,  a former LPL adviser based in North Carolina, was sentenced by a federal court to more than five-years in prison for running a $1.4 million Ponzi scheme that operated under the name “Robin Hood.”

The former adviser pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in April and was sentenced last week to 63 months in jail.

From May 2012 to December 2014, Fackrell ran his Ponzi fraud, misusing funds from at least 20 investors. He was a registered broker with LPL during that time.

Fackrell “used his position of trust to solicit victim investors and steer them away from legitimate investments to purported investments with” various “Robin Hood” named entities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. “These were entities [Mr.] Fackrell controlled and through which he could access the victim’s funds.”

Promising guaranteed annual returns of 5% to 7%, Mr. Fackrell “solicited his victim investors by making false and fraudulent representations, including that the investors’ money would be invested in, or secured by, gold and other precious metals,” according to the U.S. attorney. In fact, Mr. Fackrell spent only a fraction of investor money on such assets, the government claims, and diverted over $700,000 back to his investors in the fashion of a Ponzi scheme.

He used the balance of the money to cover personal expenditures, including hotel expenses, groceries and medical bills, and to make purchases at various retail shops and to make large cash withdrawals.

Information for this post was found at investmentnews.com.

Ameritas Broker Theft and Other Losses

If you have suffered losses, believe funds are missing from your account, or had funds stolen while with Ameritas Investment Corp., please call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

We are currently investigating losses and missing funds of Ameritas investors due to inadequate supervision of Ameritas brokers.  Ameritas recently submitted an AWC, a settlement with regulators, in which the firm was censured and fined $50,000. Without admitting or denying the findings, the firm Stock handcuffsconsented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it failed to adequately monitor and otherwise supervise a registered representative’s activities. The findings stated that the firm did not detect that the representative changed a customer’s address of record to the address of the representative’s branch office, and then requested disbursements from the customer’s account to the new address of record. The customer did not authorize either the address change or the disbursement of funds. As a result, the firm sent funds from the customer’s account to the branch office, where the representative misappropriated the money. The firm’s supervisory systems and procedures at the time were not sufficient to adequately monitor its representative’s requests to change the customer’s address of record without her knowledge and to disburse funds to her new address.

Paul Lebel of LPL

Paul Lebel, a broker formerly registered with LPL Financial, was barred on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, by the Securities and Exchange Commission for churning and excessively trading mutual funds in customer accounts and generating excess fees.  If you suffered losses with Mr. Lebel please call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to an attorney and receive a free consultation.

Mutual funds carry large loads which can be costly to investors if trading in and out of the funds.  These same loads can lead to substantial fees for a broker.  Brokers can defraud investors with only a few mutual fund trades.

Invest photo 2Lebel, who was with LPL broker from 2008 to 2014, “during his employment with LPL, [Lebel] defrauded four customers by churning several of their accounts,” according to the SEC which entered into a settlement with Mr. Lebel. “In particular, Lebel exercised de facto control over these customers’ accounts and excessively traded mutual fund shares which carry large front-end load fees.”

Mr. Lebel bought and sold mutual fund A shares, which are meant to be long-term, buy-and-hold investments, generating $50,000 in commissions, according to the SEC. Mr. Lebel will pay $56,500 as part of the settlement.

The SEC stated, “Lebel’s excessive trading was inconsistent with the customers’ investmentLPL objectives, and willfully disregarded the customers’ interest,”

We suspect that there are other investors who who have suffered loss as the result of fraud by Mr. Lebel.  We have help many investors recover their losses due to such action.  The amounts that we are seeking are separate and possibly in addition to the recovery by the SEC.

Steepener Note Losses, Investors Capital

FINRAInvestors Capital Corp., a Cetera subsidiary, agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle Finra charges that it recommended unsuitable short-term trades in complex products to clients including steepener notes.  For more information, call 1-866-817-0201.

Letters are currently being sent to investors asking them to settle for a small amount of money.  Investors should speak to an attorney before doing this action because the amount may be too small and the accepting of the settlement may waive rights for additional funds.

Financial advisers are required to sell only suitable investments to their investors.  A suitable investment is not only one that is consistent with the objectives and risk tolerance of an investor, but is also investments that are not so complex that the investor cannot appreciate the risk.

Finra’s complaint against Investors Capital revolved around recommendations for unsuitable investment trusts and steepener notes in the accounts of 74 clients.

Two Investors Capital representatives recommended short-term unit investment trust transactions with upfront sales charges ranging from 250 to 350 basis points in the customers’ accounts, according to a Finra letter of acceptance released on Monday.

Finra also charged that Investors Capital lacked adequate supervisory policies.  Brokerage firms are required to have supervisory procedures to ensure the sale of only suitable investments.  However, at Investors Capital the representatives’ behavior as to the recommendation of only suitable investments went unchecked from June 2010 to September 2015.

The clients involved in unsuitable UIT trading lost more than $240,000, according to Finra.

Finra notes that one 58-year-old client with a long-term growth account objective purchased and sold nearly 65 of the unit investment trusts, almost all of which had two-year maturity dates, in a 2.5 year period with an average holding period of three months. On at least 58 occasions, proceeds of the sale of one unit investment trust in this client’s account were used to purchase another, resulting in a loss of $50,728 in that client’s account.

Between April 2011 and December 2012, FINRA alleges that Investors Capital representatives also recommended short-term trades of “steepener” notes, which are long-term bets on the shape of the yield curve, in an unsuitable manner. The recommendations led to 63 customers suffering about $126,000 in losses.

Details of this settlement were described in the October 6, 2016 edition of Financial Adviser Magazine.