Tag Archives: class action

Douglas Simanski Fraud

Investors of Douglas Simanski should call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney.

FBIFederal regulators allege that Douglas Simanski raised more than $3.9 million from approximately 27 of his brokerage customers and investment advisory clients by telling them that he would invest their money in either a “tax-free” fixed rate investment, a rental car company, or one of two coal mining companies in which Simanski claimed to have an ownership interest.

The investors were largely in the Altoona, PA area.  Most of the investors were elderly.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a civil action in the United States District Court for Western Pennsylvania on November 2, 2018.  The complaint describes the fraudulent scheme of Simanski and seeks civil penalties and disgorgement.

As stated in the SEC  complaint, “Simanski convinced some of his most trusting and vulnerable clients, many of them retired or elderly, to invest their money while knowing the investments were not legitimate, that he would make virtually no securities investments on their behalf, and would instead use their money for personal expenses or to repay other investors.”

Simanski placed investor funds in brokerage and bank accounts that Simanski opened in his wife’s name.  He would then use the life savings of his investors for his own personal needs.

The record of Simanski shows that his employers ultimately discovered the wrongdoing after investors brought the matter to the attention of regulators.

Sean Kelly Theft

If you were an investor of Sean Kelly, previously of Center Street Securities, Capital Financial Services, and Lion’s Share Financial, please call 1-866-817-0201.  We are currently investigating his theft of investor funds.

Kelly, a Georgia stock broker, is facing criminal and SEC charges alleging that he stole at least $1 million from a dozen clients.  These clients include elderly widows and military veterans.  Kelly stole their savings and used the money for luxuries including Super Bowl tickets and vacations.

Sean Kelly, 49, of Marietta, Ga., and a stockbroker for Center Street Securities Inc., also is accused of falsely presenting himself to clients as both a brokerage firm and an investment advisor, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Administration.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

The financial fraud of Kelly should have been foreseen by his employers.  The record of Kelly shows a broker with significant financial problems.  He has a history of multiple tax liens, a bankruptcy, and what is described as a “continuation of a prior bankruptcy.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has filed criminal charges against Kelly and placed him under arrest, according to the SEC.

The SEC Complaint indicates that the fraud was fairly simple.  Kelly would have his clients make checks out to Lion’s Share.  The Complaint goes on state that Kelly used Lion’s Share as “his personal piggy bank.”

There has also been a temporary restraining order entered.  Such an order freezes the assets of Kelly.

Kelly, who has been a stockbroker for about 18 years, has been stealing money from clients since at least 2014, using recruiting techniques such as offering free tax preparation services for veterans and holding free retirement planning seminars in assisted living facilities, according to the SEC.

The theft could be well-above the $1 million currently estimated.   The number is reliant upon the documents the SEC has been able to obtain from the investigation of Kelly.  There are likely many more investors who will need to bring actions on their own to obtain recovery of their losses.

Brokerage firms have a duty to investigate and monitor outside business activities such as the activities of Kelly.  Further, FINRA requires securities brokerages to carry fidelity insurance.

Kelly’s use of Lion’s Share was well known to his employers.  Insufficient safeguard’s existed to protect the investors.

Ami Forte Investigation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

John Simoncic Investment Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

 

Andrew Todd Yocum Loss Recovery

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

GPB 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 are now illiquid and essentially worthless.  These brokerages are liable for the losses of their investors.

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

On August 17, 2018, the firm halted sales to review accounting.  The purported reason 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.

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.

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 broker-dealers 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, recent activity within GPB raises red flags of potential problems. These red flags, coupled with the fact that sales of private placements by independent broker-dealers have been an ongoing source of investor harm, have led to this investigation,” Galvin, the lead regulator, stated.

Galvin goes on to state, “I must also express my serious concerns regarding the expected proposal by the SEC to expand who can participate in private securities offerings. Without a strong fiduciary rule to prevent sales practice abuses, it is utter folly not to know that main street investors will be hurt.”

Stephen Hurtuk investors

Please call 1-866-817-0201 if you were an investor of Stephen Hurtuk.  Mr. Hurtuk has recently surrendered his license instead of attempting to defend claims that he inappropriately recommended unsuitable investments to a significant number of his investors.  Hurtuk was previously with both Citigroup and Stifel, Nicolaus.

Invest photo 2On June 27, 2017, FINRA, the regulatory authority that oversees securities brokerages, sent a request to Hurtuk for on-the-record testimony. The request was sent in connection with FINRA’s investigation into potentially unsuitable recommendations by Hurtuk to eight customers, between May 2015 and September 2016. Instead of responding to the request, Hurtuk chose not to defend though the failure to defend would mean the revocation of his license.

An unsuitable investment is any investment that is not consistent with either the objectives, sophistication, or risk tolerance of an investor.  For example, a conservative investor reliant upon his or her savings who loses more than 15% of a portfolio in a year was likely sold an unsuitable investment.  This is because the risk of loss was greater than the investor was willing to assume.

The regulatory action only addressed 16 months during 2015 and 2016.  However, we believe offending investment recommendations extend beyond this period.  We are interested in those recommended unsuitable investments from 2011 onward.

Consistent with this, the employers of Mr Hurtuk, Stifel and Citigroup, have defended six filed or threatened legal suits concerning the unsuitable recommendations of Stephen Thomas Hurtuk.  These suits extend from 2007 through the present.  Five of these suits have settled.

His affiliation with Citigroup was in Canfield, Ohio and lasted from 2001 to 2007.  Stifel was his employer from 2007 until 2017 and he operated out of Boardman, Ohio.

We help investors such as the victims of Mr. Hurtuk.  Cases are generally handled on a contingency basis, where attorney fees are paid by a percentage of the settlement or judgment obtained.  Cases against securities brokerages are subject to binding arbitration through FINRA.  Jeffrey Pederson has handled such arbitration cases across the country.   Please call for a free and confidential consultation and see if your losses are recoverable.

Investors of Charla Kabana

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attention Investors of John Maccoll

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

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

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

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

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

Charles Bloom of Chelsea Financial

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

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

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

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

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

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