Tag Archives: investigation

Kris Etter of IMS Securities

If you have suffered investment losses with Kris Etter of IMS Securities, particularly if you suffered losses in UDF, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.  We have suit filed against IMS and are currently investigating whether other claims may exist.

It is believed that Etter had an undisclosed conflict of interest in his recommendations of UDF.  Upon information and belief, Mr. Kris Etter sold a substantial amount of UDF to his clients and is the son of Todd Etter.  Todd Etter is the Chairman of UDF IV, one of the top officers of the company.  Mr. Todd Etter also serves as Chairman of the general partner of UDF I and UDF II and Executive Vice President of the general partner of UDF III.  This creates a substantial conflict of interest in UDF recommendations by Kris Etter.

Kris Etter and IMS also failed to properly investigate UDF before recommending it, likely because of the Etter conflict and the heightened commission paid by UDF.  IMS is one of the top four leading sellers of UDF IV in the United States.

The bottom fell out for UDF when it was revealed in December 2015 to be a Ponzi scheme. The offices were raided by the FBI, received a Wells notice, unable to release quarterly reports and was ultimately delisted for a time. Reasonable investigation into the investment of other financial firms revealed that the illegitimacy of the investment. Had IMS done sufficient due diligence it would have likewise discovered that the investment was not suitable for any investor. Instead, IMS and Etter turned a blind eye to the problems of UDF and instead focused on the profits that it was receiving from this high commission product.

The individual ultimately in charge of all IMS offices is the CEO of IMS, Jackie Wadsworth.  Ms. Wadsworth has seven customer complaints naming her for insufficient supervision of representatives under her oversight. These complaints largely concern the inappropriate recommendation by her representatives of unsuitable variable annuity and REIT investments, just like the investments sold clients of Kris Etter and IMS.

As reported in Investmentnews.com in August 2016, the balance sheet of IMS is tilted heavily toward high-commission products like variable annuities and non-traded REITs. Approximately 86% of its revenue of IMS in 2015 came from commissions from such products.

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.

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.

Dougherty & Company Investment Losses

 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced in January 2017 that it resolved a regulatory action against Dougherty & Company LLC, headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  We believe that this action exposed supervisory problems within Dougherty and may entitle investors of certain investments recovery for investment losses.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney

Dougherty entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA regulators, where Dougherty did not did not admit or deny fault, but agreed to a censure, a fine of $140,000, and required to pay $78,910 in restitution to a customer.  The action stems from the allegation that for more than four years, Dougherty did not adequately supervise a securities broker who initiated hundreds of trades for elderly customers without contacting them, thus lacking appropriate authorization, and unsuitably recommended dozens of transactions to those customers. Unsuitable recommendations are investment recommendations that were of higher risk than the investor agreed to assume.

The settlement agreement contained certain findings of fact, and those findings stated that Dougherty assigned the primary responsibility for supervising broker trading activity to a supervisor who was also responsible for supervising numerous other brokers and handling his own customers’ accounts. The supervisor’s supervision of the broker in question was not subject to adequate firm oversight or specific direction. Instead, Dougherty inappropriately relied on the supervisor’s discretion and judgment, which the supervisor did not exercise appropriately.

The findings also stated that the firm did not have supervisory tools that were reasonably designed to detect financial adviser or broker misconduct.  FINRA stated that while the supervisor received daily trade blotters and certain monthly exception reports, data generated by a brokerage firm that identifies the investments recommended by a broker and warns of potentially inappropriate investment recommendations, the firm did not provide exception reports addressing short-term trading or margin usage by the financial adviser to the supervisor.

Additionally, the firm’s exception reports designed to identify inappropriate recommendations to elderly customers excluded accounts in the name of a trust, regardless of the age of the settlor or trustee.  Such shortcomings are important because the broker’s trading activity in two of the accounts at issue did not appear on those exception reports because of the existence of a trust.

The findings also included that the firm failed to respond appropriately to warning signs about the broker’s business, such as a dramatic increase in his commissions without a commensurate change in the number of accounts that he handled or the type of products that he sold. In sum, the firm’s system of supervision was not reasonably designed under the circumstances to prevent violations of securities laws and rules, including rules governing trading without customers’ approval and unsuitable recommendations.

The full AWC can be found at the following link.

Jeffrey Pederson PC is a private law firm that has helped hundreds of investors successfully recover similar losses.

 

Paul Lebel of LPL

Paul Lebel, a broker formerly registered with LPL Financial, was barred on Tuesday, October 18, 2016, by the Securities and Exchange Commission for churning and excessively trading mutual funds in customer accounts and generating excess fees.  If you suffered losses with Mr. Lebel please call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to an attorney and receive a free consultation.

Mutual funds carry large loads which can be costly to investors if trading in and out of the funds.  These same loads can lead to substantial fees for a broker.  Brokers can defraud investors with only a few mutual fund trades.

Invest photo 2Lebel, who was with LPL broker from 2008 to 2014, “during his employment with LPL, [Lebel] defrauded four customers by churning several of their accounts,” according to the SEC which entered into a settlement with Mr. Lebel. “In particular, Lebel exercised de facto control over these customers’ accounts and excessively traded mutual fund shares which carry large front-end load fees.”

Mr. Lebel bought and sold mutual fund A shares, which are meant to be long-term, buy-and-hold investments, generating $50,000 in commissions, according to the SEC. Mr. Lebel will pay $56,500 as part of the settlement.

The SEC stated, “Lebel’s excessive trading was inconsistent with the customers’ investmentLPL objectives, and willfully disregarded the customers’ interest,”

We suspect that there are other investors who who have suffered loss as the result of fraud by Mr. Lebel.  We have help many investors recover their losses due to such action.  The amounts that we are seeking are separate and possibly in addition to the recovery by the SEC.

Steepener Note Losses, Investors Capital

FINRAInvestors Capital Corp., a Cetera subsidiary, agreed to pay $1.1 million to settle Finra charges that it recommended unsuitable short-term trades in complex products to clients including steepener notes.  We currently have suit filed against ICI for Steepener note sales and other actions of James “Jim” Ignatowich.

For more information, call 1-866-817-0201.  Initial consultation with an attorney is free and confidential.

Letters are currently being sent to investors asking them to settle for a small amount of money.  Investors should speak to an attorney before doing this action because the amount may be too small and the accepting of the settlement may waive rights for additional funds.

Financial advisers are required to sell only suitable investments to their investors.  A suitable investment is not only one that is consistent with the objectives and risk tolerance of an investor, but is also investments that are not so complex that the investor cannot appreciate the risk.

Finra’s complaint against Investors Capital revolved around recommendations for unsuitable investment trusts and steepener notes in the accounts of 74 clients.

Two Investors Capital representatives recommended short-term unit investment trust transactions with upfront sales charges ranging from 250 to 350 basis points in the customers’ accounts, according to a Finra letter of acceptance released on Monday.

Finra also charged that Investors Capital lacked adequate supervisory policies.  Brokerage firms are required to have supervisory procedures to ensure the sale of only suitable investments.  However, at Investors Capital the representatives’ behavior as to the recommendation of only suitable investments went unchecked from June 2010 to September 2015.

The clients involved in unsuitable UIT trading lost more than $240,000, according to Finra.

Finra notes that one 58-year-old client with a long-term growth account objective purchased and sold nearly 65 of the unit investment trusts, almost all of which had two-year maturity dates, in a 2.5 year period with an average holding period of three months. On at least 58 occasions, proceeds of the sale of one unit investment trust in this client’s account were used to purchase another, resulting in a loss of $50,728 in that client’s account.

Between April 2011 and December 2012, FINRA alleges that Investors Capital representatives also recommended short-term trades of “steepener” notes, which are long-term bets on the shape of the yield curve, in an unsuitable manner. The recommendations led to 63 customers suffering about $126,000 in losses.

Details of this settlement were described in the October 6, 2016 edition of Financial Adviser Magazine.

Many of the investments were sold by .  He has recently come under regulatory scrutiny, and was banned from the industry, for securities law violations whereby he was attempting to sell investments with disregard suitability, misleading investors, and violations of the “do not call” list.

Jeffrey Pederson is a private attorney who represents investors in suits concerning securities brokers and securities brokerage firms.

UBS Investor Loss Recovery

UBSIf you are an investor with UBS suffering losses in investments made between 2011 and 2014 you may be entitled to a recovery.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.

As reported by Rueters, UBS Group AG has agreed to pay more than $15 million to settle U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charges that its failure to properly train brokers led to customers buying hundreds of millions of dollars of unsuitable securities.

The SEC said on Wednesday that UBS from 2011 to 2014 sold about $548 million of “reverse convertible notes,” derivatives tied to individual stocks, to more than 8,700 retail customers who were relatively inexperienced and unsophisticated.

These notes, with mouthfuls of names as Trigger Phoenix Autocall Optimization Securities and Airbag Yield Optimization Securities, were sold to people of modest means, often with low risk tolerances, and included some retirees, the SEC said.

“UBS dropped the ball,” SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said in a statement.

Gregg Rosenberg, a UBS spokesman, in a statement said the Swiss bank was pleased to settle. It did not admit wrongdoing.

UBS’s payout includes a $6 million civil fine, $8.23 million of improper gains and about $798,000 of interest.

The case is part of a years-long crackdown by the SEC, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and other regulators to stop banks and brokerages from selling products that retail and even professional customers may not want, need or understand.

According to the SEC, UBS’s notes were designed to offer attractive yields with a lessened risk of loss.

But Ceresney said on a conference call that UBS’s training focused on describing the “potential upside” from the various products, not their volatility.

Kenneth J. Daley of Merrill Lynch Improper Conduct

Kenneth James Daley with Merrill Lynch in Glenwood Landing, NY entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA in August 2016.  Pursuant to the terms of this agreement, he was barred from association with any FINRA member, which is any brokerage firm, in any capacity. Without
admitting or denying the findings, Daley consented to the sanction and to the entry of
findings that he concealed his improper receipt of funds from a customer.  The funds were paid
in connection with purported profits in an account of his member firm. The findings stated
that the customer contacted Daley about providing him with money to allow him to benefit
by sharing in the profits in her account with Daley’s firm. The customer wrote Daley a check
for $2,500 drawn from her cash management account with the firm. Daley immediately
contacted the customer because he was concerned that his firm would learn of the deposit,
which he knew to be prohibited. In order to avoid detection by the firm, Daley instead
provided the customer with his personal banking account details for an account he held at another financial institution and informed her that she could directly deposit funds related
to purported profits in her account with the firm to his personal checking account. As a
result, the customer deposited to Daley’s personal bank account eight additional checks,
each of which was drawn off of her non-firm bank account. In total, the customer gave
Daley $29,000 in connection with purported profits in her account, all of which Daley used
for personal expenses. Throughout this time period, Daley knew he was prohibited from
accepting such payments.

The findings also stated that Daley used his personal cell phone to text message customers.
Daley was prohibited from text messaging with customers unless done through an
approved firm platform. The findings also included that Daley submitted an annual firm
attestation falsely attesting that in the prior 12 months he had not used text messaging
with any customer. As a result, Daley prevented the firm from discharging its supervisory
responsibilities with respect to the review of his electronic communications and caused the
firm to fail to maintain such communications as required under FINRA and Securities and
Exchange Commission (SEC) rules.

FINRA found that Daley recommended that the customer purchase units of a non-traditional, leveraged crude oil exchange-traded fund (ETF) without having a reasonable basis to do so. On Daley’s recommendation, the customer purchased 5,000 units for a principal amount of $41,850. Daley did not liquidate the position until after the customer had experienced losses.

The AWC can be found at the following link.