Tag Archives: class action

Investment Professionals, Inc. (IPI)

If you have suffered investment losses with Investment Professionals, Inc. (IPI) and believe that it may be due to mismanagement, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential attorney consultation.

Invest photo 2IPI has recently agreed to pay a fine to the Massachusetts Attorney General for violations of the suitability rule.  This rule requires a financial adviser to not recommend investments that are of a higher risk than an investor either wants or is financially able to take.  The allegations were that IPI was recommending risky investments to seniors who could not afford to take such risks. Though the action was brought by Massachusetts, the systemic nature is a good indication that such violations are occurring in other states as well.

IPI’s business model is based upon partnering with community banks so that the bank’s existing depository customers can be used to provide revenue to IPI and additional revenue to the bank. Though IPI is based in San Antonio, Texas, it engages in such partnerships around the country.

Networking agreements between IPI and their bank partners reveal a referral program where bank employees of its partner banks refer bank customers to IPI financial advisers for monetary incentives. In exchange for allowing IPI representatives convenient access to bank customers, IPI’ s bank partners receive “rent,” or commonly referred as a kickback, which is a percentage of the sales that IPI representatives earn from selling products at bank branches.

While IPI and their bank partners profit from their networking arrangements, the pervasive sales culture emphasizing and rewarding the volume of production at the expense of compliance with policies and procedures, suitability, and oversight means that certain senior citizen bank customers have been harmed .

As identified in the regulatory complaint, IPI has partnered with the following. banks and credit union in Massachusetts: Eastern Bank, Mutual Bank, East Boston Savings Bank, Edgartown National Bank, The Cooperative Bank, and Homefield Credit Union.  Between January 2014 and June 2016, the top ten IPI representatives working out of Massachusetts community banks received approximately 2,208 customer referals. Approximately forty-five percent ( 45%) of these bank referrals to IPI financial were referrals of semor citizens, those individuals aged 65 or older. Approximately fourteen percent (14 %) of those referred invested in market-linked certificates of deposit (“MLCDs”) and approximately thirty-nine percent (39%) invested in annuities. Eastern Bank, is IPI’s largest partner in Massachusetts. Eight of the top ten highest producing IPI representatives in the stat work at Eastern Bank branches.

IPI’s aggressive sales contests exist against a backdrop of lax supervision from offices located in Texas and Kentucky that management personal at IPI identified as “not adequate.” Although IPI’s own policies and procedures prohibit “activities that are designed to reward sales for a particular financial product or family of products” and prohibit activities that “would only serve as a luxury” to representatives, in 2016 IPI rewarded the top ten percent of the previous year’s highest-producing representatives with a trip to Turks and Caicos. In 2015, IPI held a sales contest approved by IPI’ s President and CEO whereby representatives who achieved sales of products up to $150,000.  This served as motivation to put seniors in inappropriate investments.

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.

First Financial Equity Corp. Losses

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Morgan Stanley ETF Losses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Tobin Joseph Senefeld

FINRA  has announced that  Tobin Joseph Senefeld, formerly of PIN Financial, a Carmel, Indiana brokerage firm owned by Veros Partners, has been barred from associating with any FINRA member institution, according to its monthly disciplinary report released last week. The sanction is related to a Securities and Exchange Commission suit that claimed Senefeld and two others operated a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving farm loans.

FINRAThe SEC case claimed the three raised $15 million from 80 investors in 2013 and 2014 to fund farm loans. New investor funds were used to pay older investors when the loans went bad.

Senefeld has a long history of misconduct.  The FINRA and SEC actions are just the latest of his legal problems.  The record of Senefeld contained on FINRA’s BrockerCheck indicates that Senefeld has 27 disclosure events dating back to 1997.

The prior misconduct of Senefeld, also known as “disclosure events,” include a substantial number of state regulatory actions, including the revocation of his license by Michigan in 2000 and other regulatory punishment by 16 other jurisdictions around the same time.  Senefeld also had a long history of tax liens, terminations, and civil suits initiated against him by other investors.

Co-defendants in the present SEC matter, Matthew D. Haab and Jeffrey B. Risinger, both have settled the civil suit for about $184,000 and $100,000, respectively. Senefeld and the SEC failed to reach a settlement at an in-person meeting Oct. 28, according to court filings, so Senefeld’s case remains on course for trial.

Senefeld, PIN and Risinger have all received lifetime bans from the securities industry by FINRA.

Platinum Partners

We are currently investigating losses suffered by investors in Platinum Partners.  If you have suffered losses please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

As reported on December 19, 2016 in the Wall Street Journal, top executives of hedge fund Platinum Partners were arrested Monday morning and will be charged with defrauding investors in one of the biggest such cases since Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  The level of fraud is anticipated to approach or top $1 billion.

guy in handcuffsPlatinum previously reported more than $1 billion in assets under management.  This includes holdings scattered in eclectic investments like loans to bankrupt companies and thinly-traded pharmaceutical stocks. In form of a true Ponzi-type operation, Platinum boasted a performance track record with no down years for its funds.

The scheme targeted members of the Jewish community in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

The indictment unsealed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn charges Platinum founder and Chief Investment Officer Mark Nordlicht, co-chief investment officer David Levy, and former president Uri Landesman with counts of securities fraud, investment adviser fraud and conspiracy.

Authorities in New York said these Platinum executives and others falsely inflated the value of Platinum’s assets, allowing Platinum Partnersthe firm to collect a hefty cut of all investment gains and project a veneer of financial stability. In actuality, the firm’s investments were worth far less, and Platinum’s executives knowingly faked the performance figures, authorities said.

Charles Fackrell Fraud

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Information for this post was found at investmentnews.com.