Tag Archives: churning

Investors of Mark Kaplan of Vanderbilt

We are currently looking to speak to investors of Mark Kaplan of Vanderbilt Securities.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 is you have suffered investment losses.  We believe there is potential for certain investors to recover these losses.

Between March 2011 and March 2015 , Mark Kaplan of Vanderbilt Securities engaged in investment churning and unsuitable excessive trading in the brokerage accounts of a senior customer. We believe that such actions were likely widespread and impacted many of Kaplan’s investors.  Kaplan willfully violated federal securities laws and FINRA regulations by such actions.

Invest photo 2Kaplan has been known for years by Vanderbilt to have problems in his handling of investor accounts.  Morgan Stanley terminated Kaplan in 2011 for his alleged improper activity in Kaplan’s customer accounts.  Additionally, Kaplan has been the subject of seven separate customer lawsuits concerning improper securities transactions.

A recent regulatory action by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) alleges that Kaplan took advantage a 93-year-old retired clothing salesman who had an account with Kaplan.   This investor not only placed his complete reliance in Kaplan but was also in the beginning phases of dimensia.

The investor opened accounts at Vanderbilt Securities with Kaplan during March 2011.  As of Match 31, 2011, the value of the investor’s accounts was approximately $507,544.64. Social Security was the investor’s only source of income during the Relevant Period. Kaplan exercised control over the accounts.  The investor relied on Kaplan to direct investment decisions in his accounts, contacting Kaplan frequently.

The investor was experiencing a decline in his mental health.  In 2015, a court granted an application by the investor’s nephew to act as his legal guardian and manage his financial affairs.

During the Relevant Period, Kaplan effected more than 3,500 transactions in the investor’s accounts, which resulted in approximately $723,000 in trading losses and generated approximately $735,000 in commissions and markups for Kaplan and Vanderbilt. Kaplan never discussed with the investor the extent of his total losses or the amount he paid in sales charges and commissions.

More can be learned about such excessive trading at the warning page for the SEC.

Please call the number above to determine if you have also been taken advantage of and your rights for recovery.


Investment Fraud of Marlon Cole, Legend

We are investigating the potential investment fraud actions of Marlon Cole of Legend Securities.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney specializing in the representation of investors.

Mr. Marlon Cole has also Spartan Capital, Fordham Financial, E.J. Sterling and Blackbook Capital.  He has recently been the subject of scrutiny by securities regulators.  He recently entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA, one of these regulators where Cole neither admitted nor denied the allegations against him.

The allegations against Cole are that from April 2013 through October 2014, while Cole was associated with Legend Securities, FINRA alleges that Cole engaged in excessive trading, unsuitable trading, and unauthorized trading. Specifically, Cole engaged in excessive trading in the investment accounts of six senior citizen investors that had trusted Cole as their broker.

One way to prove that an account was traded excessively is through the cost/equity ratio, the level of costs of an account per year as a percentage of the value of the account.  Turnover, the number of times the account was sold and purchased, also serves to measure illicit activity.  During the Relevant Period, Cole’s trading generated cost-to-equity ratios ranging from 29.82% to 589% and turnover rates ranging from 6.01 to 63.39. Such costs and turnover rates were inconsistent with the objectives of the senior investors, yet generated steady commissions for Cole.

Under FINRA Rule 2111, a registered representative must have a reasonable basis to believe, that a recommended securities transaction or investment strategy is suitable for a customer. Relevant to Cole’s trading here, the Rule prohibits excessive trading and trading that lacks a reasonable basis in light of a customer’s investment objectives and risk tolerance.

Rule 2111 also requires that where a representative controls an account, a series of recommended transactions, even if suitable by themselves, is not excessive and unsuitable for the customer when taken together in light of the customer’s investment profile.

When the costs in an account are so high that there can be no expectation of a reasonable return, no rational investor would knowingly agree to them.   That is what happened in the present matter.  The six customers here had investment objectives of growth and income or speculation. The sales charges for the six customers were in the form of both commissions and markups and mark-downs.  Both were excessive in light of the profiles.

This is not the first time Cole has been alleged to have engaged in securities fraud.  In 2011, Cole entered into a similar settlement with the Alabama Securities Commission.  That settlement centered on allegations that Cole “engaged in dishonest or unethical practices” including unauthorized trading in a customer account.


Losses with Stuart Pearl of Ameriprise

If you have been the victim of unauthorized securities trades or been recommended unsuitable securities by your financial advisor, please call 1-866-817-0201.  We are interested to investors suffering losses with Stuart Pearl.  Mr. Pearl has recently entered into a regulatory settlement where he neither admits or denies the following:

investingstockphoto 1On May 14, 2015, Stuart Pearl used discretion to liquidate positions in six different securities with a total principal amount of approximately $20,000, on behalf of a senior investor. Although the investor had authorized Pearl to execute these liquidations in discussions that took place prior to May 14, 2015, Pearl failed to speak with the investor again on May 14, 2015, to confirm the investor’s authorization to make these sales.

Pearl’s use of discretion as described was without prior written authorization from the investor, and without prior written acceptance of the account as discretionary from his firm, Ameriprise. By virtue of the foregoing, Pearl violated NASD and FINRA rules.

In June 2010, two other customers of Pearl, who were retired and both in their 70s, opened a joint brokerage account with him at Ameriprise. The new account documentation provided that securities could be purchased on margin, a process or lending money to buy securities that involves a great deal of risk.

At the time they opened their account, the investors had an investment objective of “growth and income,” a risk tolerance of”conservative/moderate” and limited experience with trading on margin. They also had a combined annual income of $30,000, a liquid net worth of$500,000 and investable funds of $400,000.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, Pearl recommended that the investors purchase four securities valued at approximately $122,000 on margin. Prior to making those purchases, the customers bad no margin debt balance in their account. As a result of those investments, the investors experienced a significant increase in their margin debt balances in relation to their available funds and their account was subject to seven margin calls during the relevant period, where the parties must deposit funds into their account to pay the outstanding loan or risk liquidation of their portfolio.  The recommendation to purchase such investments utilizing margin was unsuitable and in violation of FINRA and NASD rules prohibiting unsuitable recommendations.

Ameriprise had a duty to oversee the transactions of Pearl and should be responsible for the lack of supervision given Pearl.

More information on this matter can be found in the October 10, 2017 issue of InvestmentNews.

James Davis Trent

Investors suffering losses with James Davis Trent may be entitled to recovery from his brokerage employers, AXA, Proequities and Allstate.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with a private attorney.

investingstockphoto 1Trent entered into a regulatory settlement with FINRA in which Trent was suspended from
association with any FINRA member in all capacities for six months. In light of Trent’s
financial status, no monetary sanction has been imposed. Without admitting or denying
the allegations, Trent consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he
engaged in a pattern of recommending unsuitable short-term trading of Class A mutual
fund shares to customers, resulting in the customers (all of whom were retired) incurring
approximately $6,362.50 in unnecessary sales charges, while Trent received approximately
$2,910 as his commission from the sales loads.

Short-term trading of mutual funds is a form of churning, an action where there is very little benefit to the investor but significant commissions to the broker.  Such actions are in violation of FINRA rules and the anti-fraud provisions of state and federal securities laws.

The regulatory findings stated that Trent recommended all of the transactions that were executed in the customers’ accounts at the firm, including short-term trading involving Class A front-end-loaded mutual funds. In the transactions at issue, Trent recommended the purchase of Class A mutual fund shares and, within less than a year, recommended the sale of the positions, resulting in an average holding period for the customers’ accounts of six months. Given the long-term nature of investments in Class A mutual fund shares and the customers’ investment profiles, Trent lacked a reasonable basis to believe that the recommended securities transactions were suitable for the customers.


Losses with Larry Charles Wolfe

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

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

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

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

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

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


Investigation of Harold Stephen Pomeranz

Invest photo 2Harold Stephen Pomeranz of Stifel Nicolaus of New York entered into a regulatory settlement with FINRA regulators to settle charges against him.  Though Pomeranz neither admitted or denied fault, FINRA asserted the following factual findings and assessed a deferred fine of $5,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for three months.

Pomeranz consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he
recommended a number of unsuitable short-term unit investment trust (UIT) transactions
in an elderly customer’s account. The findings stated that the UITs Pomeranz recommended
to the customer had maturity dates of 24 months, and carried initial sales charges ranging
from approximately 2.5 percent to 3.95 percent. Yet the average holding period for the UITs Pomeranz recommended was less than 14 months. Moreover, on numerous occasions,
Pomeranz recommended that the customer use the proceeds from the short-term sale
of a UIT to purchase another UIT with similar or even identical investment objectives.
Pomeranz’s recommendations to purchase and sell UITs on a short-term basis caused the
customer to incur unnecessary sales charges and were unsuitable in view of the frequency,
size and cost of the transactions.

Securities brokers are not allowed to charge commissions and costs that are excessive in relation to the average equity in the portfolio.  So when a broker makes trades in products that have costs of 3 to 4% it only takes a few before those trades become excessive and in violation of the duties owed the investor.

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.