Tag Archives: FINRA

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.

 

Recovery of CLO Losses

CLO (Collateralized Loan Obligation) investors may have recovery avenues for their losses.  These complex investments are only suitable for the most sophisticated investors willing to assume the high risk of these investments.  Investors who are less sophisticated or who seek only investments or looking for only moderate risk investments cannot legally be sold these investments.  For a consultation, please call 1-866-817-0201.

The financial industry is governed by rules concerning whether certain investments can be sold to investors.  One such limitation is that securities broker, financial advisors and investment advisors may only sell investments that are suitable, or investments that are consistent with an investors level of sophistication, investment objectives and tolerance for risk.  Complex investments that carry a high risk potential are unsuitable for your average investor looking for growth or income with a tolerance for moderate risk.

investingstockphoto 1As identified by FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a CLO is very complex and risky investment.   A CLO is a security made up of loans to corporations that usually have relatively lower credit ratings. Leveraged buyouts, in which a private equity firm typically borrows money to purchase a controlling stake in a company, are a common for CLO loans. After the loans are made, they’re sold off to a manager, who bundles them together and then manages the consolidations, buying and selling loans as he or she sees fit.

A CLO manager raises money to buy the loans by selling debt and equity stakes to outside investors in slices of the total collection according to risk level.

FINRA gives an example to demonstrate how tranches work.  Think of everyone who owns a piece of the loan pool as standing in a long line. Those at the front of the line would get repaid first if any of the loans in the pool go into default, but they receive lower interest payments than those at the back of the line. The people further back are paid more for taking a greater risk that they would not be repaid in the event of losses in the underlying loan pool.

Typically, a CLO includes both debt tranches and equity tranches. The debt tranches are similar to bonds – they have credit ratings and offer regular coupon payments for a period of several years. Interest rates may be set or “floating,” meaning they vary with prevailing interest rates.

Debt tranches have first dibs on payments from the underlying loans, though here again, there are important differences within the group. Senior tranches have a higher-priority claim to payments (and receive lower interest payments) than junior tranches (which receive higher interest payments).

Equity tranches are the riskiest piece of the CLO puzzle. They have no credit ratings, are last in line for payment, and thus are the first to suffer losses if the underlying loan portfolio falters. Though equity tranche investors are simply paid whatever cash is left over after the debt investors have received their interest payments, they typically earn a higher return than debt tranche investors do.

FINRA is not alone.  The Wall Street Journal has also identified these investments as risky and complex.  The Journal points out that the race to provide higher returns has led to an even greater sales of such investments, and that such investments hit a record in 2017.

Unless you are a very sophisticated investor willing to speculate the money invested in CLOs, you should seek legal representation for losses sustained.

Attention Investors of Mark Solomon

If you were one of the investors of Mark Solomon please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.   We believe that Mr. Solomon, whose office is in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania, inappropriately sold real estate investments and that his employer, M Holdings, inappropriately supervised Solomon and allowed the sales to occur.

Invest photo 2From December 16, 2014 through December 29, 2014, on behalf of a commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon solicited and sold limited partnership interests (the “offering”) to seven investors for a total of $1,400,000.  However, before soliciting and selling interests in the offering on behalf of the commercial real estate limited partnership, Solomon did not provide to M Holdings the notice required. Solomon first provided written notice of his sales activity to M Holdings on August 31, 2015 after responding to inquiries made by a regulator during an examination of M Holdings.

The financial industry regulator, FINRA, brought an action against Solomon for the sales of the investments.  Solomon entered into a settlement where he agreed to a one year suspension from the securities industry.

M Holdings ultimately is responsible for the sale of the investments.  Brokerage firms are responsible for the supervision of the private securities sales of their brokers even when the sales are away from the firm.  FINRA brought action for the inadequate supervision of Solomon by M Holdings.    M Holdings was censured and agreed to pay a $135,000 fine.

 

Steve Knuttila investor recovery

If you were an investor with Steve Knuttila please call 1-866-817-0201 to discuss your options for investment loss recovery.  Jeffrey Pederson represents investors nationwide in issues of investment mismanagement and investment fraud.

Mr. Knuttila has recently lost his securities license and has come under the scrutiny of Minnesota securities regulators after a long history of defrauding investors and mismanaging the life savings of people.  FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, discloses the number of “disclosure events” a broker receives.  Such events include regulatory investigations, investor lawsuits and written investor complaints concerning a broker.  Four such disclosure events require a brokerage to give a broker heightened supervision or terminate a broker.  In the case of Mr. Knutilla, he has over 20 such disclosure events.

Knuttila has previously worked with a Questar and Capital Financial Services.  Both these firms have potential liability for the actions of Knuttila.  The history of disclosure events made the hiring and continued employment of Knuttia questionable.

Invest photo 2The beginning of the end for Knuttila was in 2017.  In November 2017, FINRA, the regulator overseeing stockbrokers nationwide, began an investigation into allegations that Knuttila made unsuitable recommendations to customers. The sale of unsuitable investors is a form of negligence and can be a form of fraud.  On May 10, 2018, FINRA staff sent a request to Knuttila for on-the-record testimony pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210. As stated in his phone call with FINRA staff on May 21, 2018, and by this agreement, Knuttila acknowledges that he received FINRA’s request and will not appear for on-the-record testimony at any time.  FINRA barred Knuttila from the securities industry.

On April 2, 2018, the Minnesota Department of Commerce issued a Consent Order permanently barring Knuttila from engaging in the sale or offering of securities and any related securities activity in the State of Minnesota, revoking his insurance producer’s license, and fining Knuttila $40,000, of which $30,000 was stayed, based upon findings that Knuttila made misrepresentations and omissions of fact, breached his fiduciary duties, and made unsuitable recommendations in connection with the sale of securities.

 

Tags:  Knutilla, Knutttila, CFS, Minnesota, Minot, North Dakota, Perham.

 

 

Christopher Wendel Investors

If you are an investor suffering losses with Christopher Wendel, please 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.  Mr. Wendel has been implicated in the improper sale of Woodbridge  notes and other securities violations.  Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors nationwide in cases concerning Woodbridge and other similar securities actions.

Wendel solicited investors to purchase promissory notes in Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds, a purported real-estate investment fund.  Wendel did not provide notice to SA Stone Wealth Management, his employer, prior to participating in these private securities transactions, nor did he obtain approval from SA Stone.  Despite the lack of notice, SA Stone had a duty to investigate and approve securities sales to prevent its representatives from “selling away.”

Invest photo 2Investment firms are liable for not following FINRA’s strict guidelines concerning the monitoring of representatives to ensure the representatives do not sell unapproved investments, such as Woodbridge.  Common knowledge within the securities industry is the fact that representatives often seeks to sell investments that are unapproved for either the higher commissions or illegal kickbacks that the investments provide.  The problem is that the increased compensation is because the investments either are financially unsound or, in some cases, based upon fraud.

Additionally, there were glaring issues  in these Woodbridge investments for an extended period of time.    These issues should have been discovered during reasonable due diligence by the brokers and agents selling the Woodbridge investments.  These investments should have been recognized as not being suitable for any investor.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission SEC had been investigating Woodbridge since 2016.  Woodbridge, the Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge, which calls itself a leading developer of high-end real estate, had been under the microscope of state regulators even longer.   The focus of these regulators was the possible fraudulent sale of securities.

In 2018, FINRA found that Wendel violated FINRA Rules by providing a false written response and testimony concerning one of the private securities transactions.

This is not the first time Mr. Wendel has been accused of handling the funds of others improperly.  The record of Mr. Wendel shows the six private lawsuits have been initiated concerning his actions.  He has also previously been investigated by SA Stone for the sale of unapproved securities, a common form of fraud.  He was also terminated for the sale of securities that were unapproved by SA Stone.   We believe those securities were Woodbridge securities.  SA Stone apparently allowed several months to elapse before taking action concerning the sale of Woodbridge.

Eric Sampson Loss Recovery

We are actively pursuing actions to recover losses incurred by victims of Eric Sampson.  Victims are primarily investors of Sampson’s My Investment Advisor (“My IA”).  If you are a victim, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential initial consultation.

Sampson operated at different times out of St. George, UT, Washington, UT, Greenwood Village, CO and Colorado Springs, CO.  Investments sold by Sampson that are considered fraudulent include Golden Assets, LLC, Shooks Run, LLC, The Hills at Santa Clara, and Wright Indoor Comfort.

At all relevant times, Sampson was a licensed securities broker, working first for Girard Stock handcuffsSecurties and subsequently World Choice Securities.  The practice of Sampson was a hybrid brokerage investment advisory practice that he controlled and that was made aware to his employers.  In such a situation, the investment advisory is required by pay the brokerage for supervision.  The brokerage, in turn, is charged with ensuring that the advisory is not selling investments fraudulently.

Federal criminal charges are currently pending against Sampson.  There is also currently a case against Sampson and My IA by Utah regulators.

As stated in the Federal criminal action, “It was the object of [Sampson's] scheme and artifice to defraud for defendant Sampson to fraudulently obtain money from his MY IA clients through false statements, misrepresentations, deception, fraudulent conduct, and omissions of material facts, and thereafter cause the money to be diverted for defendant SAMPSON’s personal use and benefit.”

Recovering Woodbridge Losses of Peter Holler

If you were an investor with Peter Holler and invested in Woodbridge notes, please call 1-866-817-0201 about options to recover losses.

We believe Holler and his employer have the bulk of responsibility for these losses.  During the relevant period when Holler sold Woodbridge, which coincides with his time working for Securities Services Network (SSN), Holler solicited investors to purchase promissory notes in Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds, a purported real-estate investment fund. Ultimately, Holler sold approximately $1.39 million in Woodbridge notes to 19 individuals, nine of whom were SSN customers. He received $49,790 in commission in connection with these transactions.

Woodbridge has been identified as a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC ).  The allegations are that Woodbridge gave notes to investors for funds to be used as hard money loans to be used in the development of real property.  Instead the funds were co-mingled by Woodbridge and used to pay earlier investors.   Woodbridge became insolvent shortly after the SEC brought its action.

LandmarkRecovery from the Woodbridge bankruptcy may be difficult.  Woodbridge and its subsidiaries are in bankruptcy proceedings in federal court in Delaware.  The Woodbridge notes were largely unsecured despite assertions to the contrary by those soliciting the notes.  As a general rule, bankruptcy are where unsolicited claims are extinguished.  Holler and SSN had a duty to know these facts prior to investing an investors and disclosing to the investors this incredibly high risk of loss.

These Woodbridge investments were not properly reported to his employer and his employer either turned a blind eye or failed to do the requisite supervision to monitor against such outside business activity.  As a result, the investments were sold though they were not suitable to be sold to any investor.  This creates potential liability on the part of both Holler and SSN.

The regulator FINRA brought an action against Holler for his sale of Woodbridge.  This regulatory action echos the concern that the Woodbridge investments and their sale were not appropriately vetted.

FINRA rules state, “prior to participating in a private securities transaction, [a broker] shall provide written notice to the member with which he is associated describing in detail the proposed transaction and the person’s proposed role therein and stating whether he has received or may receive selling compensation in connection with the transaction.” FINRA Rule 3280(e) defines a private securities transaction as any securities transaction outside the regular course or scope of an associated person’s employment with a member. FIN RA Rule 20 I 0 requires associated persons, in the conduct or their business, to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.

The record  of Holler indicates that he and his former employer, Securities Services Network, currently facing two investor suits over the sale of Woodbridge notes.   Both suits suits were filed subsequent to the bankruptcy of Woodbridge in December 2017.

Securities Services Network previously terminated Holler in August 2017 for the sale of Woodbridge notes.  BrokerCheck identifies that Holler was terminated because the Woodbridge sales were unapproved by the firm.  Despite this, Securities Services Network

We represent a number of investors across the country in obtaining recovery of Woodbridge losses.  Please call for a free consultation.

 

 

Fifth Third Annuity Fraud

If you were recommended the purchase or sale of an annuity by Fifth Third you may have been the victim of fraud.  We represent investors nationwide and are available to discuss whether you are a victim and entitled to compensation.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in a statement on May 8, 2018 stated that it has fined Fifth Third Securities $4 million and required the firm to pay approximately $2 million in restitution to customers for failure to accurately consider and describe costs and benefits of variable annuity (VA) exchanges, and for recommending exchanges without a reasonable basis to believe they were suitable for customers.  While the FINRA action focused on variable annuities, the exchange or early liquidation of any annuity is possibly a violation.

Variable annuities are complex and expensive investments commonly marketed and sold to retirees or those saving for retirement. Exchanging one annuity with another involves a comparison of the complex features of each security. Accordingly, annuity exchanges are subject to regulatory requirements to ensure that brokers have a reasonable basis to recommend them, and their supervisors have a reasonable basis to approve the sales.  Failure to do so can cost investors hundreds of thousands of dollars and cause the investor savings to become unnecessarily illiquid.

Brokerage firms, like Fifth Third, have been on notice of this problem and other problems with annuities for years.  FINRA has warned of the limited suitability of these investments and that they should only be sold to limited types of investors and has done so more than once..  In fact, variable annuities and variable life insurance is so prone to fraud, FINRA has specific rules concerning these products.

FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to ensure that its registered representatives obtained and assessed accurate information concerning the recommended annuity exchanges. It also found that the firm’s registered representatives and principals were not adequately trained on how to conduct a comparative analysis and truthfully sell the annuities.

As a result, the firm misstated the costs and benefits of exchanges, making the exchange appear more beneficial to the customer. By reviewing a sample of annuity exchanges that the firm approved from 2013 through 2015, FINRA found that Fifth Third misstated or omitted facts relating to the costs or benefits of the annuity recommendation or exchange in approximately 77 percent of the sample.  For example:

  • Fifth Third overstated the total fees of the existing VA or misstated fees associated with various additional optional benefits, known as riders.
  • Fifth Third failed to disclose that the existing VA had an accrued living benefit value, or understated the living benefit value, which the customer would forfeit upon executing the proposed exchange.
  • Fifth Third represented that a proposed VA had a living benefit rider even though the proposed VA did not, in fact, include a living benefit rider.

FINRA found that the firm’s principals ultimately approved approximately 92 percent of VA exchange applications submitted to them for review. However, in light of the firm’s supervisory deficiencies, the firm did not have a reasonable basis to recommend and approve many of these transactions.

In addition, FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to comply with a term of its 2009 settlement with FINRA. In the 2009 action, FINRA found that, from 2004 to 2006, Fifth Third effected 250 unsuitable annuity exchanges and transactions and had inadequate systems and procedures governing its annuity exchange business. For more than four years following the settlement, the firm failed to fully implement an independent consultant’s recommendation that it develop certain surveillance procedures to monitor VA exchanges by individual registered representatives.

As a result, the firm misstated costs and benefits of VA exchanges — and in some cases omitted critical information altogether — making the exchanges appear more beneficial to customers in 77 percent of the exchanges Finra reviewed for the period of 2013 through 2015. For instance, Fifth Third transgressions included telling customers that the new VA contracts being marketed had living rider benefits guaranteeing minimum payments to customers and their beneficiary when none existed, Finra said.

Help for investors of Larry Boggs

Please call 1-866-817-0201  to discuss your rights if you invested with Larry Martin Bogs, formerly of Wedbush and Ameriprise.  Discussions will be confidential and initial consultations are free of charge.

On January 5, 2018, the regulator overseeing securities brokerages, FINRA issued a press release.   An AWC, a regulatory settlement agreement containing factual findings, was issued in which Boggs was barred from association with any FINRA member firm in all capacities.   This would include a bar from all securities brokerages in the United States.

Without admitting or denying the findings,Boggs consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he engaged in excessive and unsuitable trading in customer accounts. The findings stated that Boggs used his control over the customers’ accounts to excessively trade in them in a manner that was inconsistent with these investors’ investment objectives, risk tolerance and financial situations.

Boggs engaged in a strategy that was predicated on short-term trading of
primarily income-paying equity securities that were identified on a list of recommended
securities by his member firm. Boggs would typically buy or sell these securities based on
whether they were added to or removed from this list, and would frequently liquidate
positions that increased or decreased by more than 10 percent.

The findings also stated that Boggs improperly exercised discretion in these accounts without written authorization from the customers or the firm. The findings also included that Boggs caused the firm’s books and records to be incorrect by changing the investment objectives and risk tolerance for several of these customers in order to conform to his high-frequency trading strategy, even though the customers’ investment objectives and risk tolerance had not actually
changed.