Tag Archives: churning

Attention investors of William McWilliams

Jeffrey Pederson PC is investigating and interested in speaking to investors of William H. McWilliams, formerly of Raymond James and currently of Stifel Nicolaus.  This is in wake of a regulatory AWC entered into by William McWilliams with FINRA that alleges unauthorized trading by McWilliams.  FINRA is the regulatory agency that oversees investment brokers.

FINRA alleged that from August 2014 through December 2014, McWilliams exercised discretionary trading authority without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers and the Firm at least 28 times in eight customer accounts. As a result of such conduct, McWilliams violated regulatory rules NASD Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.  These are rules that all securities brokers must follow.

NASD Rule 2510(b) mandates, “No member or 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, as evidenced in writing by the member or the partner, officer or manager, duly designated by the member, in accordance with Rule 3010.”

NASD Rule 2510(d)(I) states, that the written authorization requirement does not apply to “discretion as to the price at which or the time when an order given by a customer for the purchase or sale ofa definite amount ofa specified security shall be executed, except that the authority to exercise time and price discretion will be considered to be in effect only until the end ofthe business day on which the customer granted such discretion, absent a specific, written contrary indication signed and dated by the customer.”

FINRA Rule 2010 requires associated persons to observe high standards of commercial honor andjust and equitab!e principles oftrade.

During the Relevant Period, while employed at Raymond James, McWilliams exercised discretionary trading authority in response to customer liquidation requests at least six times in four Firm customer accounts without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers and without having the accounts accepted as discretionary accounts by Raymond James.

McWilliams also inappropriately exercised discretion at least 22 times in four other customer accounts. ln these instances, McWilliams failed to discuss the subject trades with the customers on the day ofthe transaction and the Firm prohibited the use ofdiscretion in these circumstances. By virtue ofexercising discretion in the accounts of eight customers without written authorization, McWilliams violated NASD Rule 2510(b) and FlNRA Rule 2010.

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.

Southeast Investments, N.C. and Frank Black

We represent investors and have successfully pursued Southeast Investments and Frank Black to judgment.  The arbitration resulted in a nearly full award of investment losses plus an award of attorney fees.  To speak to a lawyer for a free and confidential consultation about losses with Southeast or Black please call 1-866-817-0201.

Black and Southeast are in trouble again.   This time by FINRA regulators.  FINRA’s Department of Enforcement alleges that Respondent Southeast Investments, acting through Respondent Frank Harmon Black, and Black violated FINRA Rules 8210, 4511, and 2010 in the provision of false documents to FINRA and giving false testimony in a regulatory interview during an investigation into whether the Firm had conducted required inspections of branch offices.

One of the false documents was a list of 43 branch inspections Black claimed he performed, including the dates he purportedly conducted the inspections. Respondents also provided five false branch office inspection checklists that Black claimed he completed during the inspections. Enforcement also alleges that for more than five years Respondents failed to ensure that Southeast preserved all business-related emails by permitting registered representatives to use private email providers.

Under an “honor system” set up by Respondents, registered representatives were obligated to send copies of their emails to the Firm to review and retain. For this conduct, Southeast is charged by FINRA regulators, pursuant to FINRA documents, with willfully violating Section 17(a) ofthe Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 17a-4. Southeast and Black are also charged with violating NASD Rule 3110 and FINRA Rules 4511 and 2010.

The resulting penalty was just short of a quarter million dollars.  Frank Black was expelled from the securities industry.

The FINRA order can be found at the following link.

Jeffrey Pederson is a private attorney representing investors, having represented investors in FINRA arbitrations across the country.  Please call for a consultation if you have lost funds as a result of actions you suspect may be inappropriate.

 

William P. Carlson of Elhert

On February 21, 2017, he Securities and Exchange Commission charged William P. Carlson, Jr., a Deerfield, IL investment advisor with misappropriating more than $900,000 from a client’s account through more than 40 unauthorized transactions.  Deerfield is in the Chicago-area.

The SEC alleges that Carlson, an investment advisor representative associated with the Ehlert Group in Lincolnshire, forged a client’s signature on checks and journal requests and caused checks to be issued from the client’s account to a third party who gave the proceeds to Carlson.

Carlson had discretionary authority to place trades in the victim’s accounts. Such trades, involving the purchase and sale of mutual fund shares, were supposed to be made pursuant to a model asset allocation portfolio selected by the client based on advice from Carlson. When requested by the client, Carlson could direct disbursement of funds held in the accounts to the client. In order to disburse funds held in the accounts for the benefit of a third party, the Broker-Dealer holding the funds required a written request signed by the client.

On at least sixteen different occasions from November 2012 to April 2014, Carlson directed that a check made payable to the client be issued from the client’s account, purportedly based on instructions Carlson had received from the client. The check amounts ranged from $6,500 to as much as $97,000, and collectively totaled $437,000.

In approximately June 2014, Carlson changed his method of making unauthorized withdrawals from the client’s account. Carlson began forging the vicitm’s signature on “Check and Journal Request” forms that directed the Broker-Dealer to make disbursements of funds held in the client’s account to a third party who was a friend of Carlson’s.

In March 2015, Carlson forged the vicitm’s signature on a letter of authorization and a notarized signature sample letter permitting the firm holding the funds to issue checks from the victim’s account to Carlson’s same friend, without the need for further check and journal requests that required additional client signatures.

Between approximately June 2014 and December 2016, through the use of these forged authorizations, Carlson caused at least 25 checks—ranging in amount from $10,000 to $35,000 and collectively totaling $474,000—to be issued from the client’s account to Carlson’s friend, who in turn gave the proceeds to Carlson.

The Complaint of the SEC can be found at the following link.

Joseph Henry Murphy, B. C. Zeigler, RBC

On February 16, 2017, Wisconsin broker Joseph Henry Murphy of B. C. Ziegler and Company and formerly of RBC entered into an AWC settlement with FINRA Regulators.

As identified in FINRA regulatory findings, on February 11, 2015 Murphy exercised discretion in 27 non-discretionary accounts of his customers, placing a total of 80 transactions.  In the days leading up to the trades, Murphy had conversations concerning these transactions with his clients and the clients gave the broker express verbal approval for these trades and his proposed strategy, but Murphy did not receive authorization from these customers on the same day that he executed the transactions.  This is in violation of FINRA rules that require contemporaneous authorization for trades in non-discretionary accounts.

On October 27, 2015 he then again exercised discretion in 20 non-discretionary accounts, placing a total of 32 trades. Once again, in the days leading up to the trades, Murphy discussed these transactions with the clients and they gave Murphy express verbal approval for these trades and his proposed strategy, but he did not receive authorization from these customers on the same day that he executed the transactions.

On December 22, 2015 Murphy made 11 mutual fund transactions for a single customer after a short telephonic discussion with that customer. In that discussion neither the specific mutual funds nor the specific amounts that would be invested were expressly identified, and Murphy used his discretion to make those transactions. Murphy did not obtain written authorization, which is required for an account to be discretionary, from any of the 48 customers to exercise discretion in their accounts and RBC, the employer of Murphy at the time, did not approve these accounts for discretionary trading.

For these actions, Murphy received a 10-day suspension and a $5000 fine.

A link to the AWC of FINRA is found here.

Losses with Matthew David Niederbaumer

Please call if you suffered losses with Matthew David Niederbaumer of Huron, South Dakota and employed by Thrivent Investment Management.

Mr. Niederbaumer submitted an AWC, a settlement agreement where a securities broker neither admits but cannot deny fault, in which he was fined $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 10 business days.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Niederbaumer consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he exercised discretion in executing transactions in connection with the sale and purchase of exchange-traded notes and funds in five of his customer’s accounts. The findings stated that while the customers consented to the transactions, Niederbaumer did not obtain the customers’ prior written authorization to exercise discretion in the accounts, and his member firm did not approve the accounts for discretionary trading.

Part of the concern in this matter is the fact that the trades involved exchange traded notes (ETN).  ETN investments carry a high commission and are high risk.  The possibility for abuse and improper intent is much more likely when such trades result in a commission higher than normal, and the chance that a customer would reject a recommended investment with such a high commission if consulted is greater.

The record of Mr. Niederbaumer’s compiled by FINRA can be found at the following link.

Losses with Maczko of Wells Fargo

If you invested with Matthew Maczko, a broker with Wells Fargo Advisors in Oak Brook, Illinois and suffered losses that you question, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and private consultation with an attorney concerning your rights.

Wells FargoMaczko was suspended from the securities industry last week, the week of February 7, 2017, for alleged excessive trading in the brokerage accounts of a 93-year-old customer, according to a FINRA. Maczko effectively controlled the customer’s accounts, which had an average aggregate value of $3 million.

Maczko’s trading  generated more than 2800 transactions resulting in $582,000 in commissions, $84,270 in fees and approximately $397,000 in trading losses for the account in question. Such trading activity was not only churning but was also unsuitable for Maczko’s victim given the customer’s age, risk tolerance and income needs.

Maczko also intentionally mislead FINRA regulators and investigators by telling them during testimony that he had not spoken to  other senior customers after his termination from Wells Fargo, when in fact he had spoken with them several times.

Securities brokers are required to follow the rules of FINRA.  FINRA requires that investments not only be suitable in terms of the nature of the investment, but also that the investments be quantitatively suitable.  This means that the number of trades cannot be excessive in light of the wants and needs of the customer.  Above a certain level, the trades can be seen as not being for the benefit of the customer, but for the broker.

The trades of Maczko went well beyond the acceptable number of trades.

John Burns, Ameriprise, UBS Loss Recovery

John Burns of St. Charles, MO, and formerly of Ameriprise, UBS, Edward Jones and Sagepoint, submitted an agreement settling a regulatory suit in which he was assessed a deferred fine of and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 14 months.  Such regulatory actions rarely work to compensate injured investors and injured investors should speak to an attorney concerning their losses.  If you believe that you have suffered losses, or believe the offer to settle your matter is too low, call 1-866-817-0201 for a free initial consultation with an attorney.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Burns consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he engaged in a pattern of unauthorized trading in customer accounts and made unsuitable, risky investments for a senior couple. The findings stated that Burns did not have written discretionary authority to place trades in any of these customer accounts. In some of UBSthe customer accounts, Burns executed the trades without any authorization, while in other customer accounts, Burns had some verbal authorization to exercise discretion generally, but exceeded that verbal authorization by executing trades in excess of the available funds in the account. The findings also stated that Burns made unsuitable and unauthorized investments over a twoyear period in the account of a senior retired couple, both of whom were over 65 years old. These transactions involved repeated high-risk investments in small drug company stocks which were unsuitable for the customers’ moderate risk tolerance and investment profile. The customers sustained losses in all but one of these investments in an aggregate amount exceeding $50,000.

Burns has also been the subject of five lawsuits in recent years filed by investors concerning the mishandling of their accounts.

Dougherty & Company Investment Losses

 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced in January 2017 that it resolved a regulatory action against Dougherty & Company LLC, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We believe that this action exposed supervisory problems within Dougherty and may entitle investors of certain investments recovery for investment losses.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney

Dougherty entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA regulators, where Dougherty did not did not admit or deny fault, but agreed to a censure, a fine of $140,000, and required to pay $78,910 in restitution to a customer.  The action stems from the allegation that for more than four years, Dougherty did not adequately supervise a securities broker who initiated hundreds of trades for elderly customers without contacting them, thus lacking appropriate authorization, and unsuitably recommended dozens of transactions to those customers. Unsuitable recommendations are investment recommendations that were of higher risk than the investor agreed to assume.

The settlement agreement contained certain findings of fact, and those findings stated that Dougherty assigned the primary responsibility for supervising broker trading activity to a supervisor who was also responsible for supervising numerous other brokers and handling his own customers’ accounts. The supervisor’s supervision of the broker in question was not subject to adequate firm oversight or specific direction. Instead, Dougherty inappropriately relied on the supervisor’s discretion and judgment, which the supervisor did not exercise appropriately.

The findings also stated that the firm did not have supervisory tools that were reasonably designed to detect financial adviser or broker misconduct.  FINRA stated that while the supervisor received daily trade blotters and certain monthly exception reports, data generated by a brokerage firm that identifies the investments recommended by a broker and warns of potentially inappropriate investment recommendations, the firm did not provide exception reports addressing short-term trading or margin usage by the financial adviser to the supervisor.

Additionally, the firm’s exception reports designed to identify inappropriate recommendations to elderly customers excluded accounts in the name of a trust, regardless of the age of the settlor or trustee.  Such shortcomings are important because the broker’s trading activity in two of the accounts at issue did not appear on those exception reports because of the existence of a trust.

The findings also included that the firm failed to respond appropriately to warning signs about the broker’s business, such as a dramatic increase in his commissions without a commensurate change in the number of accounts that he handled or the type of products that he sold. In sum, the firm’s system of supervision was not reasonably designed under the circumstances to prevent violations of securities laws and rules, including rules governing trading without customers’ approval and unsuitable recommendations.

The full AWC can be found at the following link.

Jeffrey Pederson PC is a private law firm that has helped hundreds of investors successfully recover similar losses.

 

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.