Tag Archives: California

DC Solar Ponzi – Loss Recovery

DC Solar is accused of operating a large Ponzi-type scheme concerning  a number of tax equity investment funds from 2015-2018.  The company, whose products include solar generators as well as light towers that can be used at sports events, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in February 2019 in Reno, Nevada.  This Ponzi scheme, as with most Ponzi schemes, is about a failure of investigation as much as the underlying fraud.

In a February 8, 2019 affidavit related to those bankruptcy proceedings, an FBI agent said the manner in which the Benecia, California-based company appeared to have operated reflected “evidence of a Ponzi-type investment fraud scheme.”

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission accused DC Solar’s owners by name of engaging in a Ponzi scheme, according to a separate court filing.

As late as December 20, 2018, DC Solar had been seen in the business media as an “Energy Powerhouse.”  The company was well known and sponsored a NASCAR team.  Those fortunes reversed quickly.

Sufficient investigation by advisors would have revealed insufficient lease revenue and that the funds coming in to compensate the lack of lease revenue was simply investor money.  As such, payments of profits was simply earlier investors receiving the investment funds of newer investors.  Detecting such arrangements is the charge of brokers, advisors and their firms as part of their due diligence obligations.

Civil action has been commenced against the property of DC Solar, which is considered the defendant in the case. Because it is a civil action, no criminal charges need be placed against the property’s owner, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

However, 87 defendant items are traceable to an investment fraud and money laundering scheme run by companies described in other court documents as those associated with DC Solar.

The defendant properties listed are $62,546110.43 in multiple domestic and foreign bank accounts; $1,944,091.07 in cash seized at the Carpoffs’ Martinez home and Benicia offices; an estimated $500,000 worth of jewelry and other personal items; and a $782,949 money transfer for that luxury box at the Raiders NFL football team’s future stadium in Las Vegas, Nev.

Most of the bank accounts had been opened with China Bank and Trust, which is based in Taiwan with multiple international subsidiaries, according to its website. Other accounts were opened with E-trade, J.P. Morgan, BBVA Compass and Bank of America, the attorneys wrote.

Once of the largest victims is Berkshire Hathaway.  Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc on Wednesday said a $377 million charge it incurred recently was tied to a solar generation company that U.S. authorities have linked to fraud.

 

Attention Motty Mizrahi Investors

The SEC has halted an ongoing fraud perpetrated by Motty Mizrahi and targeting members of the Los Angeles Jewish community.  If you are a victim, call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to a private attorney about your rights.

FBIThe SEC filed an emergency action in federal court against Mizrahi and MBIG Company, his sole proprietorship, alleging that, since June 2012, they defrauded at least 15 investment advisory clients out of more than $3 million.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Mizrahi falsely claimed that MBIG used sophisticated trading strategies to generate “guaranteed” investment returns of between 2-3% per month risk-free, clients would not lose their money, and could withdraw their funds at any time.

Unbeknownst to his investors, however, MBIG had no bank or brokerage account of its own – rather, clients unwittingly sent money to Mizrahi’s personal bank account. Mizrahi used the money to fund his personal brokerage account, in which he engaged in high-risk options trading producing losses of more than $2.2 million, and to pay personal expenses. The SEC alleges that Mizrahi covered up his fraud by issuing MBIG’s clients fabricated account statements, showing positive account balances and profits from trading. When clients demanded proof of MBIG’s securities holdings, Mizrahi showed them brokerage statements reflecting a multi-million dollar balance for a fictitious MBIG brokerage account.

On March 27, 2019, the Honorable Judge Percy Anderson of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California granted emergency relief, including a temporary restraining order against the defendants and an order freezing their assets.

In a parallel action, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California announced on March 29, 2019 it filed wire fraud charges against Motty Mizrahi and another individual.

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.

 

GPB Capital Loss Recovery

Investors of GPB or any GPB Capital investments, please call 1-866-817-0201 about potential loss recovery.  Initial consultations are free and confidential.  Jeffrey Pederson is a private attorney who has successfully represented investors nationwide in obtaining settlements or judgments for investment losses.

Information exists to support that GPB Capital was inappropriately sold by independent brokerage firms across the country.  These investments, often promoted as investments in car dealerships and waste management, are now illiquid and essentially worthless.  These brokerages are liable for the losses of their investors.

The investments were sold by a number of independent brokerages across the country.  That list of brokerages includes, but is not limited to, Royal Alliance Associates, Sagepoint Financial, FSC Securities, and Woodbury Financial.

Investors led to believe GPB was a viable investment

Many investors trusted the recommendation to invest in GPB

Brokerages have duties to investors in the sale of investments such as GPB.  These investments were high-risk, and brokerage were only allowed to recommend the investments to individuals who can withstand the high level of risk and illiquidity that these investments pose.   Despite the fact that these investments are only suitable for a small fraction of the investing public brokers sold large quantities of GPB to a broad portion of their clientele.  The motivation appears to be the heightened commission paid on this investment.

These broad selling practices has resulted in $1.8 billion of GPB investment sales from investors who bought the high-commission private placements.  The GPB investment, which is considered a private placement, had a transaction cost of 12%.  10% of the cost was commission to the broker and broker-dealer and 2% was in offering and organization costs.

On August 17, 2018, GPB halted sales to review accounting.  The purported reason given by GPB was to “integrate the high volume of recent acquisitions.”

On August 24, 2018, GPB announced that the fund will restate its 2015 and 2016 financial statements.  The adjustments were due to errors in income and the source of such income that came to light in audits done on the investments.

The fund also missed  2 required filings to the SEC in 2018.  The SEC requires a private company like GPB with more than $10 million in assets and 2,000 individual investors to file financial statements with the SEC.

Invest photo 2

Many GPB investors thought they were getting a safe investment.

On September 12, 2018, Massachusetts top securities regulator William Galvin started an investigation into the sales practices of independent stock brokerage firms in connection with the recommending of investments in GPB Capital Holdings.

GPB investments were always known to be very high risk.  As such, the investments were not suitable for a large portion of the investing public.  Brokers have a legal obligation to only recommend suitable investments.   The motivation for selling such risky investments to moderate investors is likely the result of the excessive commissions that were paid the brokers for such sales – commissions much higher than would be paid for the sale of suitable investments.

Commissions may be seen as one of the motivators to sell this risky investment without conducting reasonable research into the investment.  These investments were known to pay a very high commission.  Brokers on average made a commission of over 8.3%.  Compare this to stock sales where the commissions are usually less than 1%.

The Massachusetts Securities Division has information about one independent stock brokerage firm’s sales practices in connection with GPB sales, coming in the wake of GPB’s announcement that GPB has temporarily stopped bringing in new funds.  It has also suspended redemptions while it concentrates on accounting and financial reporting.

In addition, there is an issue with the failure to file financials.  Such a failure should have been discovered by any brokerage firm selling the investments and should have been a red flag of the extreme risk in the recommendation of the investments.  Two private GBP investments that are required because of their size to file financial statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission failed to meet filing deadlines.

These matters have led to a sweep by regulators of 63 securities brokerages that sell GPB, with the regulators requesting data on the extent of sales activity in Massachusetts, disclosure and marketing documents that the firms provide to investors on the solicitations and data on investor suitability.

“While my Securities Division’s investigation is in the very nascent stages,” stated Massachusetts Securities Division head William Galvin, “Recent activity within GPB raises red flags of potential problems. These red flags, coupled with the fact that sales of private placements [a particularly risky type of investment that is not traded on a public market] by independent broker-dealers have been an ongoing source of investor harm, have led to this investigation.”

Brokerages with questionable GPB sales include, but are not limited to the following; Geneos; FSC; Woodbury; Triad; Sagepoint; Royal Alliance; Madison Avenue Securities; National Securities Corp. (NSC); Moloney Securities; Sandlapper; DFPG; Dawson James; Colorado Financial Service Corp.; Stephen A. Kohn; Orchard Securities; Kalos Capital; Center Street Securities; Avere Financial; and Coastal Equities.

Subsequent to the action by Galvin, the SEC and FINRA both initiated their own investigations concerning the sale GPB.  The most common GPB fund is GPB Automotive Portfolio, LP.

Attention Kenny Kim, IFG Investors

If you were an investor of Kyusun “Kenny” Kim of IFG, please call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to an attorney about your rights for recovery.  Most cases are handled on a contingency basis, where the attorney does not receive fees unless there is a recovery.

Mr. Kim has been accused, and ultimately barred from the securities industry, by regulators  for systematically committing securities violations in the accounts of senior investors for the time period of 2006 through 2015.  He is accused of both of recommending unreasonably risky, or unsuitable investments, to senior investors, and of falsifying the documents of the investors to allow him to convey to his supervisors that the recommendations were suitable.

Invest photo 2As a broker, Mr. Kim’s actions are governed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  FINRA has a suitability rule that requires that a broker have a reasonable basis for believing that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for the customer based on the customer’s investment profile, which includes, among other factors,
the customer’s age, financial situation and needs, investment experience, and risk
tolerance.

Kim was selling alternative investments to seniors.  Alternative investments are investment other than stocks, bonds and mutual funds.  They include REITs that do not trade on a stock exchange and structured notes.  Though structured notes may look like bonds or mutual funds, such investments contain a derivative component that make the investment extremely risky and speculative in nature.  An investor may need to speak to an attorney just to confirm an investment is actually a structured note.  Such recommendations were improper for investors with conservative or moderate risk tolerances.

Adding to the risk, Kim improperly recommended that many of the investors unreasonably concentrate their portfolios in these alternative investments.  This only increased the level of speculation in the portfolio.

This is only the latest chapter in a long history of regulatory actions and customer lawsuits.  FINRA has indentified 23 investor lawsuits, either filed or threatened, concerning Kim.

While Mr. Kim has been expelled from the securities industry, this does little to compensate investors who have lost their life savings.  Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors across the country in similar suits in front of FINRA.  Please call for a free and confidential consultation.

 

Losses in Inverse VIX, LJM, SVXY

NYSE pic 1

Investments connected to the VIX index were known to be highly speculative.

We are a firm that specializes in investor loss recovery.  Investors of Inverse VIX Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) and Inverse VIX Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), including VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Terms ETN (XIV), the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (SVXY), and the LJM Partners’ Preservation and Growth fund (LJMIX and LJMAX) may have grounds for the recovery of their losses.

If you were sold an Inverse VIX ETN please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.

These investments were suitable for very few investors.   The sale of unsuitable investments by a securities broker is a form of negligence and possibly fraud.   These investments carry such a high level of risk and are so complicated that they were likely not suitable for any retail (non-institutional) investor.   “Unless you were a hedge fund manager you should not have been sold these funds.” If you were recommended such investments as part of a retirement savings portfolio you have grounds to recover your losses.  The makers of these funds have acknowledged that the fund was for hedge fund managers only, and not individual investors.

Investment advisory firms also sold these investments, and in many cases sold the investments inappropriately.  These include SRS Capital, IFAM, Movants Capital Management, Tradition Capital Management, and Investment Advisor Group.

Starting on February 2 and continuing through February 6, investors saw portfolios implode due to investments in obscure products that tracked market volatility.  Such investments tracked the VIX index.  The VIX index is a complicated monitor of investment market volatility or “investor fear.”  An “inverse VIX” investment is an investment that benefits from stable markets but loses value quickly in times of volatility.  The losses in the inverse VIX investments mounted quickly until NASDAQ halted the trading of these investments on February 6, with some suffering losses of almost all value in just a few days.

For example, VelocityShares XIV plummeted 80 percent in extended trading on February 5, 2018.  This is a security issued by Credit Suisse this tracks the inverse of the VIX index tracking market volatility.  As the market rose and sank the value of XIV dropped sharply.  Such sudden drops have a cascading impact that can lead to margin calls and other losses.

Of particular concern, though any sale of such an investment to a retail investor is concerning, are investors who purchased such shares through the following brokerage firms:  Credit Suisse, Fidelity, Merrill Lynch, and Wells Fargo.

The dramatic losses was foreseeable to securities brokerages, often referred to as securities “broker-dealers.”  The regulator that oversees broker-dealers, FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, issued its latest warning in a string of warnings on October 2017 to broker-dealers about VIX and inverse VIX investments.  FINRA identified such investments speculative and warned the “major losses” could result from such investments from a failure to understand how such investments work.  For example, many are short-term trading vehicles that can degrade over time.

FINRA also warned all financial advisers that VIX ETNs may be unsuitable for non-institutional investors and any investor looking to hold investment as opposed to actively trading the investment.   While this warning occurred in October 2017, similar warnings were issued in 2012.  That same month, FINRA fined Wells Fargo for unsuitable recommendations of similar volatility investingstockphoto 1funds.

FINRA stated in 2012 in a Regulatory Notice, RN 12-03, that heightened supervision is required of any broker who sells such complex investments, and specifically identified the need for brokerage firms to oversee any recommendation of an investment based upon the VIX.

While all short VIX trading is suspect and potentially recoverable, the following investments are of particular concern:  XIV, SVXY, VMIN, EXIV, IVOP, LJMIX (“LJM”), LJMAX, XXV, and ZIV.

FINRA is conducting sweep investigations of all brokerages that sold any and all of these investments to retail investors.  ‘The sweep is part of Finra’s continuing focus on the suitability of sales of complex products, including leveraged and volatile products, to retail customers,’ stated FINRA.

In addition to suitability, there is also concern that due diligence by these brokerages should have revealed that the index was subject to manipulation.  This was recently reported by the Financial Times of London.  A scholarly report from researches at the University of Texas in 2017 identified the mechanism for manipulating the VIX.  FT reports that the Securities and Exchange Commission is currently investigating such allegations.

Investors suffering losses in such investments may have valid claims despite the warnings contained in the prospectus.  These investments should not have been offered to any retail investors.

PedersonLaw has represented investors in similar actions in most of the 50 states either directly or pro hac vice.

Lawsuits Concerning Charles Frieda

If you suffered investment losses investing with Charles Frieda, formerly of Wells Fargo, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup, please call 1-866-817-0201.  Mr. Frieda has been found to have been reckless in his handling of investor portfolios, particularly in the recommendations of oil and gas investments.

Frieda recently entered into a regulatory settlement  agreement with FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokerages.

FINRA Rule 2111 provides that brokers “must have a reasonable basis to believe that a recommended . . . investment strategy involving a security or securities is suitable for the customer, based on the information obtained through reasonable due diligence of the [broker] to ascertain the customer’s investment profile.”

Oil Stock IIBetween November 2012 and October 2015, Frieda and another Wells Fargo representative recommended an investment strategy to more than 50 customers, which was a majority of their customers, causing the customers accounts to become significantly over-concentrated in a single sector of the overall market.

The over-concentration primarily involved four speculative oil and gas stocks. Due to the speculative nature of the recommended investments and the high level of concentration, this investment strategy was unsuitable and exposed customers to significant potential losses.

The regulatory settlement simply bars Frieda from the securities industry.  Recovery of losses requires investors to contact a private attorney.

During the relevant period, in many instances, Frieda failed to properly consider and failed to obtain accurate customer investment profile information to determine the suitability of his over-concentration strategy and the securities he recommended as part of that strategy.

The CRD of Frieda, the record kept by regulators concerning wrongdoing, shows that
Frieda has been sued more that 30 times in his short career.  Most of these suits concern the recommendation of unsuitable securities, such as the oil and gas securities for which he is currently under fire.

 

Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors across the country in similar suits to recover investment losses.  Please call for more information.

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.

Robert “Rusty” Tweed

Jeffrey Pederson PC is interested in speaking to investors of Robert “Rusty” Tweed as part of an investigation into the broker.  Tweed was previously with Cabot Lodge, Concorde Investment Services, and MAM Securities.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and private consultation with an attorney.  Many issues which may entitle investors to recovery against Tweed’s former employers, have been brought to light by a recent FINRA complaint against Rusty Tweed.  However, time is running on the ability to recover.

FINRA alleges in a complaint that between November 2009 and March 2010, Rusty Tweed obtained more than $ 1.6 million from his retail customers through a false and misleading private placement memorandum (“PPM”) he used to offer and sell interests in his Athenian Fund LP, a pooled investment fund that he both created and controlled.

Tweed drafted and circulated the private placement memo (PPM), a document that is supposed to provide investors with significant information to evaluate the investment, that misrepresented and failed to disclose material information to investors, and twenty three customers invested in the Fund without the benefit of complete and accurate information.

The misrepresentations included: (1) the total potential fees and costs associated with the Fund; (2) Tweed himself; and (3) the entities and individual who would ultimately have immediate control over the money that customers invested.

According to the Complaint, Tweed and the PPM misrepresented or failed to disclose to retail customers the following material facts:

a. First. Tweed and the PPM misrepresented the total potential costs of an investment in the Athenian Fund. opting to disclose certain costs and fees while oniitting others that would reduce any return on investment.

b. Second, Tweed and the PPM also failed to disclose that the omitted fees and costs were added only after Tweed discovered that arbitration (complaints) against him would prohibit him from opening a trading account for the Fund directly and require the use of a more expensive master fund structure.

c. Third, Tweed and the PPM failed to disclose that Tweed had replaced the Fund’s identified master fund with another entity controlled by an undisclosed person (ER). who would now have immediate control over the Fund’s assets. Tweed and the PPM likewise provided no information sufficient for investors to evaluate the risk ofentrusting their capital to ER and his company, such as relevant background. other business activities, and qualifications.

d. Fourth, Tweed and the PPM failed to disclose the additional management fees and perforniance allocations that arose when he granted control to ER and his management company, and Tweed’s own interest in those fees, which would further reduce any return on the retail investors’ capital.

As a result of these material misrepresentations and omissions. Athenian Fund investors could not evaluate the true costs and risks associated with the Fund, including those relating to the individual or the entities with immediate control over their capital.

 

Invement losses with John Blakezuniga

John Blakezuniga, formerly of Vanguard Capital, recently entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA regulators, where he agreed to a fine but did not admit or deny fault, concerning alleged fraudulent activity in the portfolios of his investors.  Blakezuniga sometimes goes by the name of John Blake, sometimes by the name John Zuniga, and sometimes by John Blake-Zuniga.

Jeffrey Pederson, PC helps investors recover such losses.  For a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer, please call 1-866-817-0201.

As identified in the FINRA regulatory settlement, referred to as an AWC, between 2007 and 2013, Blakezuniga borrowed $775,000 (which he has not fully repaid) from two firm customers Invest photo 2in violation of the firm’s policy. As a result, Blakezuniga violated NASD Rules 2370 and 21 10 and FINRA Rules 3240 and 2010.

Blakezuniga separately violated FINRA Rule 2010 by falsely answering “no” to a question on the firm’s 2013 annual compliance questionnaire that asked if he had ever borrowed money from a customer.

In addition, from 2010 to 2014, Blakezuniga recommended approximately 1,280 transactions in inverse and inverse leveragedExchange Traded Funds (“nontraditional ETFs”) in 85 customer accounts without a reasonable basis for the recommendations. By doing so, Blakezuniga violated NASD Rule 2310 and FINRA Rules 2111 and 2010.

Borrowing funds from an investor/customer is fraudulent because of the discrepancy in the bargaining power between broker and investor.  The prohibition is codified in NASD and FINRA rules.  NASD Rule 2370 and FINRA Rule 3240′ generally prohibit registered representatives from borrowing money from any customer subject to limited exceptions and in accordance with firm procedures.

Likewise, lacking a reasonable basis for the recommendation of an investment is violative. NASD Rule 2310 and FINRA Rule 21113 require registered representatives to have reasonable grounds for believing that a recommendation is suitable for a customer based upon the customer’s disclosed security holdings and financial situation and needs. A violation ofthese rules also constitutes a violation of FINRA Rule 2010.