Tag Archives: fraud

Attention Investors of Western International

If you lost money investing with Western International, please call 1-866-817-0201.  The initial consultation with an attorney is free.  Jeffrey Pederson represents investors nationwide in securities brokerage disputes.

NYSE pic 2Western recently entered into a regulatory settlement where it neither admitted not denied the following facts.  Those facts are that from January 1, 2011 to November 5, 2015 (the “Relevant Period”), Western failed to establish, maintain and enforce a supervisory system to ensure that representatives’ recommendations regarding certain ETFs (exchange traded funds) and also failed to comply with certain securities laws in the sale of these ETFs.

In addition, Western allowed its representatives to (1) recommend Non-Traditional ETFs without performing reasonable diligence, the required level of investigation into the investments, to understand the risks and features associated with the investments, and (2) recommend NonTraditional ETFs that were unsuitable, either due to the known high level of risk in the investments or inherent complexity, for certain customers based on their ages, investment objectives and financial situations.

Non-Traditional ETF’s, such as the ETFs that were sold by Western, are designed to return a multiple of an underlying index or benchmark, such as the VIX or S&P, the inverse of that index or benchmark, or both, over the course of a day. As a result, the performance of Non-Traditional ETFs over periods of time longer than u single trading session “can differ significantly from the performance of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period or time.” Because of these risks and the inherent complexity of these products, FINRA has advised broker-dealers and their representatives that Non-Traditional ETIls “are typically not suitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for more than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.”

We have spoken to a number of investors who have suffered similar losses and believe that such investments were intended for highly sophisticated investors only, such as hedge fund managers, and could not be legitimately sold to retail investors.  So if your were investing for retirement and were sold such investments, you likely have grounds for recovery.

Recovery of Woodbridge Loss

Landmark

Woodbridge investors believed real estate ensured the safety of their investments.

Investors of Woodbridge may have the ability to recover the losses they sustained.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 or 303-300-5022 for a free consultation with a private attorney concerning potential loss recovery.

Regulators have charged the Woodbridge Group of Companies with operating a Ponzi scam.  This creates liability on the part of those advisors selling Woodbridge.

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.

On December 21, 2017,  the SEC charged the Woodbridge Group of Companies with operating a $1.2 billion Ponzi scheme that targeted thousands of investors nationwide.  “The only way Woodbridge was able to pay investors their dividends and interest payments was through the constant infusion of new investor money,” per Steven Peikin of the SEC.

Prior to the charge, in January 2017, the SEC served a subpoena on Woodbridge for relevant electronic communications.  Woodbridge failed to respond to this subpoena.  This left the SEC to seek court intervention to compel Woodbridge to produce potentially damaging documentation the SEC believes existed.  The SEC filed its allegation that Woodbridge is a Ponzi scheme within weeks of its access to Woodbridge’s documents.

Through court filings, the SEC states that Woodbridge “has raised more than $1 billion from several thousand investors nationwide” and it “may have been or may be, among other things, making false statements of material fact or failing to disclose material facts to investors and others, concerning, among other things, the use of investor funds, the safety of the investments, the profitability of the investments, the sales fees or other costs associated with the purchase of the investments.”

Shortly after the issuance of the order sought by the SEC Woodbridge declared bankruptcy.  This filing does not extinguish the rights of investors.  These investors have claims against the brokers and advisors selling the investments.

Woodbridge has additionally stated that it has also received inquiries from about 25 state securities regulators concerning the alleged offer and sale of unregistered securities by unregistered agents.

The Woodbridge Group of Companies missed payments on notes sold to investors the week of November 26, 2017, and December 5, 2017 filed chapter 11 bankruptcy.  The company blamed rising legal and compliance costs for its problems.

Woodbridge said it had settled three of the state inquiries and was in advanced talks with authorities in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho and Michigan when it filed for Chapter 11 protection.

The company’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, resigned on December 2  but will continue to be paid a monthly fee of $175,000 for work as a consultant to the firm.

Those at Woodbridge are not the only ones responsible for investor losses.  The Colorado Division of Securities is considering sanctions against investment advisor Ronald Caskey of Firestone, Colorado.  Caskey is the host of the Ron Caskey Radio Show.  James Campbell of Campbell Financial Group in Woodland Park, Colorado and Timothy McGuire of Highlands Ranch, Colorado are also the subject of regulatory investigations by the state regulator.  The Colorado Division of Securities has also begun investigating Jerry Kagarise of Security 1st Financial of Colorado Springs.  Another seller of Woodbridge in the Springs area is Carrier Financial.

These and other Colorado investment advisors have raised approximately $57 million from 450 Colorado investors.  Woodbridge continued to solicit investors through these advisors, in addition to radio and online ads, through October 2017, just prior to the bankruptcy filing.

While the regulatory actions will do little to compensate the damaged investors, these actions support private civil actions for recovery by investors.  We are investigating and in the process of bringing suit against Colorado investment advisors selling Woodbridge investments, and would like to share what we have learned with other investors in Colorado and nationwide.

Rueters is the source of some of the information contained herein.

Rights for Lisa Lowi Investors

Lisa Lowi has been sued 35 times  over the past three years for recommending unsuitable investments to her investors at Janney Montgomery Scott and RBC Capital Markets.  Unsuitable investments are investments that carry more risk than an investor is willing to take, such moderate to high risk investments for a retired investor.  Lowi has recently been barred from the securities industry from failing to comply with a regulatory investigation into her offering unsuitable investments.  If you are an investor of Lowi’s please call toll-free at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney

In 2017, FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokers, was conducting an investigation of Lowi in connection with customer complaints and arbitration claims alleging, among other things, unsuitable trading.

On September 7, 2017, FINRA staff sent Lowi’s attorney a written request for testimony concerning the unsuitable securities allegations. As stated in Lowi’s attorney’s email to FINRA staff on October 11, 2017, and by this agreement, Lowi acknowledges that she received FINRA’s request and simply decided not appear for on-the-record testimony.  This is viewed as conceding the violation.

FINRA Rules require that brokers subject to FINRA’s jurisdiction provide information, documents and testimony as part of a FINRA investigation. FINRA rules provide that “[a broker] in the conduct of its business shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.” By refusing to appear for on-the-record testimony as requested pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210, Lowi violates FINRA Rules 8210 and 2010.

Jeffrey Pederson PC is a private attorney protecting the rights of investors and recovering investment losses nationwide.

Todd Jones of J.P. Morgan investment fraud

If you have suffered investment losses while investing with J.P. Morgan financial advisor Todd Jones, you may be entitled to a recovery.  Mr. Jones has recently been accused of committing fraud in a large number of his investors’ accounts.  Call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Invest photo 2The regulatory action was initiated by FINRA concerning unauthorized trades by Jones in certain high risk investments.  The FINRA regulatory settlement identifies that in July 2015, while registered with J.P. Morgan, Jones made trades in his investors’ accounts without permission in the accounts of 12 firm customers and mismarked most of the trades as “unsolicited,” which means that the trade was made at the request of the investor.

While many investors believe that their financial advisor or stock broker can make trades as he/she sees fit, regulations require that there must actually be verbal authority from the account owner contemporaneous to the trade.  Absent such verbal authorization, there must written authority.

On July 6 and 7, 2015, Jones exercised discretion to purchase a total of $208,714 of VelocityShares 3x Long Crude Oil (UWTI) in the accounts of 12 firm clients. This investment was not only unauthorized, the investment was also a very risky investment that is designed to multiply the gains or losses of the underlying holdings by three.

None of the 12 clients, had provided Jones with written permission to exercise such trades in their brokerage accounts.  Regulatory rules provides in relevant part that, “No… 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 . . .” .

The trades likely enriched Jones by thousands of dollars while putting his clients in financial jeopardy.

Though Jones appears to be out of the securities industry, FINRA impose a fine and a four-month suspension.  Jones neither confessed or denied the allegations.

 

Investors of Paul Vincent Blum

If you suffered losses with Paul Vincent Blum, most recently a financial advisor with RBC, please call 1-866-817-0201.

In 2017, FINRA was conducting an investigation of Blum in connection with customer complaints and arbitration claims alleging, among other things, unsuitable trading. To date, Blum has approximately 23 customer complaints.  Many of the complaints concern his recommendation of energy sector investments to investors not wishing to speculate or unwilling to high levels of risk known to exist in the energy sector.  Many of these complaints were settled by Blum’s employers, including RBC.  He has also been accused of making misrepresentations concerning bonds, including the taxable nature of certain bonds.

On July 21,2017, FINRA staff sent Blum’s counsel a written request for on-the-record testimony pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210. As stated in Blum’s counsel’s email to FINRA of July 25,2017, Blum aclmowledges that he received FINRA’s request and will not appear for on-the-record testimony in front of FINRA. FINRA requires that persons subject to FINRA’s jurisdiction provide information, documents and testimony as part of a FINRA investigation.

As a result of the failure to cooperate in the regulatory investigation of FINRA, Blum has been barred from association with any FINRA member, which would include any and all securities brokerages in the United States.

Walter Marino Annuity Complaints

Walter Marino has come to our attention for issues concerning his variable annuity sales and large number of customer complaints.  Marino most recently worked for Benjamin Securities, Lincoln Investments, Planmember and Legend Equities.  If you wish to discuss your rights with an attorney call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.

The most recent issue with Marino is a regulatory complaint filed against him by the securities regulator FINRA.  This complaint constitutes the 16th “event” in the CRD record of Marino.  An event on a CRD is an occurrence which reflects poorly on a broker’s ability to handle the funds of others.  Events include terminations of employment, being sued by a customer/investor, being the focus of a regulatory action, and other similar black marks.

This most recent regulatory complaint involves the sale of variable annuities.  In May and June 2014, Respondent Walter Marino recommended unsuitable replacements (also known as exchanges) of variable annuities to two customers without having a reasonable basis for recommending the transactions.  An investment is unsuitable when the investment puts the interests of the broker ahead of that broker’s investor.

Marino received substantial commissions, approximately $60,000, from the unsuitable transactions. Marino’s investors, however, received no benefit from the exchanges Marino recommended. Indeed, both customers suffered financial harm due to the costs incurred as a result of the annuity replacements since the liquidation of annuities causes the investor to not only lose the substantial commissions and fees that the investor paid to get into the annuity, but the investor commonly incurs significant charges in liquidating the annuities.

Marino’s recommendation to one such investor resulted in that investor incurring an $82,523.23 surrender charge, a charge commonly assessed upon the liquidation of a variable annuity. In addition, switching annuities can have substantial tax ramifications.   When Marino recommended replacing non-qualified annuities, Marino failed to utilize the tax-free exchange available under Section 1035 of the Internal Revenue Code (“1035 exchange”).

The new annuities that Marino recommended to replace those being surrendered also resulted in an increase costs to the investors.  The increases included increases in annual mortality and expense charges, a new, advisory fees of 1.5%, and new surrender periods which decreased the ability to liquidate the annuities.

By recommending annuity replacements that benefit him but caused substantial financial harm to his customers, Marino violated regulatory rules that require him to sell suitable investments to his investors.

These issues should not be a surprise to those familiar with Marino’s history.  The CRD of Marino indicates that he is an alumni of the Stratton Oakmont brokerage firm, the brokerage firm that was the focus of the film The Wolf of Wall Street.

James Fleming Investment Loss Recovery

Please call 1-866-817-0201 to discuss potential investment loss recovery for investors of James Fleming.  Mr. Flemming previously work for Investors Capital Corp. (“ICC”) and currently works for Questar.  Initial consultation with an attorney is free of charge.

Wall Street photo 2As identified by FINRA regulators, between June 2010 and December 2014 (the ”Relevant Period”), Fleming engaged in a pattern of short-term trading of UITs in two customers’ accounts. UITs are investment companies that offer shares of a fixed portfolio of securities in a one-time public offering, and terminate on a specified date. As such, they are not designed to be used as trading vehicles. In addition, UITs typically carry significant upfront charges, and as with mutual funds that carry front-end sales charges, short-term trading of UITs is presumptively improper.

During the Relevant Period, in connection with two customers’ accounts, Fleming repeatedly recommended that the customers purchase UITs and then sell them well before their maturity dates. The UITs that Fleming recommended had maturity dates of 24 months or longer and carried significant sales charges.

Nevertheless, on 177 occasions, Fleming recommended that his customers sell their UIT positions within eight months oftheir purchase. The holding period for the UITs ranges from between three and 235 days, with an average holding period ofonly 96 days. In addition, on several occasions, Fleming recommended that his customers use the proceeds from the short-term sale of a UIT to purchase another UIT with similar investment objectives. Fleming’s recommendations caused the customers to incur unnecessary sales charges, and were unsuitable in view ofthe frequency and cost ofthe transactions.

Regulators suspended Flemming for a period of four months and imposed a $10,000 fine.

Annuity Losses with Roger Zullo

LPLIf you suffered investment losses or stuck in a variable annuity, or other investment losses, as a result of Roger Zullo, formerly of LPL Financial, please call 1-866-817-0201.

On April 4, 2017, Zullo entered a Consent Order, a settlement, with the Massachusetts Securities Division resolving charges made in an administrative complaint by the state against Zullo and LPL.

The complaint alleged that Zullo, under the oversight of LPL, defrauded their clients, falsified client financial suitability profiles, and sold his customers unsuitable variable annuities. Pursuant to the Consent Order, without admitting or denying any allegations of fact or violations o flaw, he consented to a permanent bar from the securities industry in Massachusetts, a $40,000 administrative fine, and disgorgement of $1,875,348. Payment for disgorgement was waived due to Zullo’s circumstances, however, this does not preclude investors from retaining private attorneys to seek this recovery from LPL.

The action stems largely from variable annuity sales.  Zullo, allegedly, recommended variable annuities to elderly individuals.  Investment professionals have a legal duty to only recommend suitable investments.  Variable annuities are inherently unsuitable for seniors.  Not only do they lock-up the funds at a time when people need access to their funds, the investments pay the broker a very high commission.  This commission is for the sale of many aspects of the variable annuity that senior investors do not need.  These include tax deferral and life insurance.  When a broker makes a heightened commission for the sale of things that are unneeded, the broker puts his interests ahead of the investors, and that constitutes a form of fraud known as the sale of “unsuitable investments.”

Zullo first became registered with FINRA as an IR in September 1998. He maintained that registration through consecutive associations with two member firms between September 1988 and August 2004. From August 2004 through December 2016, he was registered as an Investment Representative with LPL.

In November 2004, Zullo also became registered as IP through his association with the Firm. Zullo maintained those registrations through his association with the Firm until December 2016. Zullo worked for the Firm as a broker-dealer agent and investment adviser representative in Wellesley, Massachusetts.

On January 10,2017, FINRA sent a request for information and documents pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210 to Zullo with a response date of January 24, 2017. Zullo, through his counsel, requested two extensions to the January 10 request. Pursuant to these requests, FINRA extended the response date to March 1,2017.

Zullo did not provide any documents or information to FINRA in response to the January 10 request. On March 2,2017, FINRA sent a second request for documents and information pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210 to Zullo with a response date of March 16, 2017. Zullo did not provide any documents or information to FINRA in response to the March 2 request.

The resulting FINRA punishment is a permanent bar from the securities industry.

Anthony Vincent Ferrone securities violations

If you have suffered securities losses with Anthony Vincent Ferrone, formerly of Morgan Stanley, Ameriprise and Stifel Nicolaus, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with a private attorney.   We believe that investors may be entitled to recovery for securities losses based upon recent actions concerning allegations of securities violations.

NYSE pic 2In July 2017, Mr. Ferrone was barred by FINRA from the securities industry.  The reason was because of his refusal to give complete testimony in a regulatory investigation concerning allegations that he sold investors unsuitable investments.

Unsuitable investments are investments recommended by a broker that are too aggressive or otherwise consistent with the investment objectives of an investor.  It can also mean any investment where a broker puts his personal compensation ahead of those of his investors.  Investors sold unsuitable investments are entitled to damages from the broker and the broker’s employer.

This is a recent event in a history of events concerning alleged mismanagement of funds and other red flags as to Mr. Ferrone’s ability to act as a broker.  Ferrone has four other allegations of mismanagement by investors, which are largely based on suitability issues.

Although Ferrone appeared for the FINRA investigation review on June 21, 2017, he did not provide complete testimony to FINRA. Specifically, during the review, Ferrone stated that he did not intend to proceed further on that date or at any future date and departed prior to the completion of his testimony.

 

 

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.