Tag Archives: SEC

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.

 

 

NEXT Financial Supervisory Problems

NEXT Financial Group recently entered into a regulatory settlement with FINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokerages, concerning lapses in supervision that have allegedly led to fraud in investor accounts.  This is part of a continuing and ongoing series of supervisory lapses of NEXT to ensure that its brokers do not commit fraud or other misdeeds.  These lapses may serve as a basis for investors to recover losses.

On December 6, 2017, entered into its most recent regulatory settlement.  Under that settlement, NEXT was censured and received a $750,000 fine.  The current allegations leading to the action included the failure to monitor and control investment churning and inappropriate sales of variable annuities.  The size of the fine was do to the ongoing and continuing supervisory deficiencies and regulatory violations that NEXT continued to commit.  The supervisory problems extend not just to these investments but extend to other supervisory issues.  This is evidenced by the string of regulatory violations that NEXT has been accused over the past several years.

On November 22, 2011, FlNRA issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (an “AWC” is a regulatory settlement ), in which NEXT was censured, fined $50,000 and ordered to pay $2,000,000 in restitution to investors for violations of FINRA Rule 2010 and NASD Rules 2110, 2310 and 3010 arising out of its sales of certain private offerings and related supervisory deficiencies.  Additionally, NEXT was censured and fined again for supervisory issues in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

In response to prior disciplinary actions, NEXT adopted new measures in an attempt to correct prior supervisory deficiencies. The new procedures, however, employed flawed methodologies and allowed misconduct to occur. The current regulatory action involves various supervisory and other violations during the period August 2012 through September 2015 that arose in part from NEXT’s inadequate response to prior FINRA disciplinary actions.

The primary violation in the current regulatory action occurred between May 2014 and September 2015 when NEXT used faulty exception reports, reports of potentially fraudulent activity, to detect excessive trading (commonly referred to as “churning”), failed to perform any review of those exception reports for a 14-month period, and allowed churning to continue due to inadequate oversight. The failure by some compliance personnel to fulfill their job duties was not detected due to an absence of procedures requiring follow-up on delegated supervisory tasks. These supervisory failures allowed a registered representative to excessively trade a senior investor’s accounts, resulting in losses of approximately $391,893.

NEXT had similar deficiencies between August 2012 and April 2014 concerning its supervision of variable annuities (VA). The Firm failed to have a surveillance system that monitored for problematic rates of exchange regarding VAs. In addition, NEXT also had inadequate exception reports, reports used to detect fraud, and NEXT’s procedures ignored risks associated with multi-share class VAs. The Firm also had information on its website.

Colo. Attorney for Camarco Victims

Sonya Camarco is an LPL Financial advisor based in Colorado Springs who stole approximately $2.8 million from her investors/clients.  Camarco then used the stolen funds for personal expenses such as buying several homes.

LPLIf you are a victim, please call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201 or 303-300-5022 for a free consultation on your rights.  Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney licensed in Colorado who has helped hundreds of victims of financial advisor fraud and theft from across the country.

The Securities and Exchange Commission charged Sonya D. Camarco with five counts of fraud charges and has frozen her assets after SEC investigators said she used third-party checks and other means to forward client funds toward personal expenses like mortgage and credit card payments.  Federal authorities filed charges against Comarco on or about August 27, 2017 in the United States District Court for the District of Colorado.

broker in handcuffs

Camarco forged clients’ signatures on at least 129 first- and third-party checks, having them sent to a post office box and signing them over to an entity she controlled, an entity named “C Investments,” according to the SEC. Camarco bilked one widow victim for more than $1 million, investigators say.

On October 31, 2018, the State of Colorado sentenced Comarco to 20 years in prison.  Of this sentence, 10 years was for theft and 10 years was for securities fraud.

LPL, her employer, detected the fraud in July 2017, when its special investigations unit probed a suspicious check drawn from a client’s account, per the Colorado Attorney General’s Office. Camarco spent her clients’ money on credit card expenses, cars, real estate properties and taxes, the state’s investigators say.

These actions not only raise questions on the actions of Camarco, but also raises question as to the LPL supervisors charged with overseeing Camarco.  Reasonable supervision is designed to detect and stop these types of actions.  There are also money laundering issues on the part of those who helped Camarco commit her crimes.

Prior to working for LPL, Camarco had worked from both Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch.

Jeffrey Pederson, from his offices in the Denver Tech Center, has handled cases in the past with similar facts and has experience in this type of advisor scheme where an advisor uses similar mechanisms to gain control of the investor’s funds.   Consequently, he knows the documents to seek in discovery from defendants or to subpoena from non-defendants, and additional avenues of recovery to allow victims to increase their level of repayment.

Robert “Rusty” Tweed

Jeffrey Pederson PC is interested in speaking to investors of Robert “Rusty” Tweed as part of an investigation into the broker.  Tweed was previously with Cabot Lodge, Concorde Investment Services, and MAM Securities.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and private consultation with an attorney.  Many issues which may entitle investors to recovery against Tweed’s former employers, have been brought to light by a recent FINRA complaint against Rusty Tweed.  However, time is running on the ability to recover.

FINRA alleges in a complaint that between November 2009 and March 2010, Rusty Tweed obtained more than $ 1.6 million from his retail customers through a false and misleading private placement memorandum (“PPM”) he used to offer and sell interests in his Athenian Fund LP, a pooled investment fund that he both created and controlled.

Tweed drafted and circulated the private placement memo (PPM), a document that is supposed to provide investors with significant information to evaluate the investment, that misrepresented and failed to disclose material information to investors, and twenty three customers invested in the Fund without the benefit of complete and accurate information.

The misrepresentations included: (1) the total potential fees and costs associated with the Fund; (2) Tweed himself; and (3) the entities and individual who would ultimately have immediate control over the money that customers invested.

According to the Complaint, Tweed and the PPM misrepresented or failed to disclose to retail customers the following material facts:

a. First. Tweed and the PPM misrepresented the total potential costs of an investment in the Athenian Fund. opting to disclose certain costs and fees while oniitting others that would reduce any return on investment.

b. Second, Tweed and the PPM also failed to disclose that the omitted fees and costs were added only after Tweed discovered that arbitration (complaints) against him would prohibit him from opening a trading account for the Fund directly and require the use of a more expensive master fund structure.

c. Third, Tweed and the PPM failed to disclose that Tweed had replaced the Fund’s identified master fund with another entity controlled by an undisclosed person (ER). who would now have immediate control over the Fund’s assets. Tweed and the PPM likewise provided no information sufficient for investors to evaluate the risk ofentrusting their capital to ER and his company, such as relevant background. other business activities, and qualifications.

d. Fourth, Tweed and the PPM failed to disclose the additional management fees and perforniance allocations that arose when he granted control to ER and his management company, and Tweed’s own interest in those fees, which would further reduce any return on the retail investors’ capital.

As a result of these material misrepresentations and omissions. Athenian Fund investors could not evaluate the true costs and risks associated with the Fund, including those relating to the individual or the entities with immediate control over their capital.

 

Demitrios Hallas investment loss

Hallas, a former stockbroker representative at a number of New York City broker-dealers, including PHX Financial, Santander, and Forefront Capital, is alleged by the SEC to have violated the multiple federal securities laws.  Investors should speak to a private attorney about their rights. We at PedersonLaw are currently investigating this matter.  Please call 1-866-817-0201.

The allegations contained in the SEC complaint are as follows:

First, Hallas is alleged to have purchased and sold daily leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds and Notes (ETFs and ETNs) in his customers’ accounts, knowingly or recklessly disregarding that these products were unsuitable for such customers.  Hallas had no reasonable basis for recommending daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs.  This constitutes a violation of the suitability requirement that a broker must only recommend investments that are suitable in light of an investors risk tolerance, objectives and that are within an investors level of sophistication.

Second, Hallas is alleged to have stolen funds from investors.  Under the guise of soliciting funds from one of his customers for investment purposes, misappropriated a total of $170,750 from that customer.

The products in which Hallas invested his customers’ hard-earned savings were daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs, and are characterized by a significant degree of volatility and risk. As alleged in the SEC complaint, these products were unsuitable, and Hallas had no reasonable basis for these recommendations.

ETFs are investment companies and ETNs are unsecured notes. Daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs seek to deliver a multiple, the inverse, or a multiple of the inverse of the performance of an underlying index or benchmark over the course of a single trading day. To accomplish their investment objectives, daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs pursue a range of investment strategies, though the strategies are mostly speculative, and only appropriate for investors willing to take the highest level of risk.

The strategies include swaps, futures contracts, and other derivative instruments. These products are inherently risky, complex and volatile, and are only appropriate for sophisticated, high-risk investors.

Unfortunately, Hallas’s customers were unsophisticated and not suitable for such investments. The investors had limited or no investing experience and their incomes, net worth levels, and assets were modest. “The risk and volatility in daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs was inconsistent with the investment profiles of Hallas’s customers, yet Hallas purchased and sold a total of 179 daily leveraged ETF and ETN positions in their accounts from September 2014 to October 2015.”

Hallas’s investors paid a total of approximately $128,000 in commissions and fees in connection with the purchase and sale of these 179 positions. The net loss across these 179 positions was approximately $150,000.

Hallas purchased and sold 22 different daily leveraged ETFs and ETNs in his customer accounts. These products sought to double or triple the performance, or the inverse of 2 Case 1:17-cv-02999 Document 1 Filed 04/25/17 Page 3 of 17 the performance, of over a dozen different underlying indices, including the S&P 500 VIX ShortTerm Futures Index, an investment based upon a volatility index, as well as certain gold mining, oil and gas and Russian, Chinese and Brazilian stock indices.

Finally, in a what the SEC has described as a “brazen and fraudulent scheme,” Hallas misappropriated $170,750 from an unsophisticated investor, who the SEC describes as “a truck driver with no trading or finance experience and no retirement resources outside of the funds that he provided to Hallas.”  The investor transferred funds to Hallas with the understanding that Hallas would make investments on his behalf; instead, Hallas spent Customer’s A’s funds on personal expenditures – a fact that he concealed from the investor.

A comprehensive article on the deeds of Mr. Hallas can be found in Investmentnews.com.

To speak to a private attorney about the recovery of losses with Mr. Hallas, call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential initial consultation.

Mark Holt Loss Recovery

Mark Holt is a former stock broker currently serving a prison sentence for stealing the funds of his investors and sending false account documents.  The scheme victimized investors in Minnesota and likely elsewhere.  Due to the incarceration, investors seeking recovery will likely need to pursue Holt’s former employers by means of FINRA arbitration for loss recovery.

From August 2005 to February 2007, Holt was a registered representative of Geneos Wealth Management, Inc., which is both a securities brokerage and investment adviser. From February 2007 to November 2013, Holt was a registered representative of Harbour Investments, Inc., which is also a dually registered entity. Holt, 47 years old, is currently incarcerated at the Federal Correctional Institution in Oxford, Wisconsin.

guy in handcuffsDetails of the SEC action can be found in its release.

On August 14, 2014, Holt was sentenced to a prison term of 120 months followed by three years of supervised release and ordered to make restitution in the amount of $2,940,982.75.  The chances of these payments being made is not great considering Holt could be incarcerated for much of the next ten years.

The allegations are that from about September 2005 through Jan. 12, 2014, Holt “knowingly caused an email communication to be transmitted in interstate commerce via servers in Texas to a client in Minnesota that would give the client access to false account statements.”

The SEC and the criminal documents state that Holt “misappropriated [investor] funds by depositing client checks into a bank account he controlled and using these funds to pay for personal and business expenses. In furtherance of his scheme, Holt lulled his clients into believing that he had purchased various investments for them by sending fraudulent Morningstar client summaries and [...] a web-based portal, that displayed fraudulent account balances.”

“Holt made monthly payments to his clients that were intended to appear as interest or annuity payments,” in a classic Ponzi-type scheme.

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.

Losses with First Financial Equity (FFEC)

If you have suffered investment losses with First Financial Equity Corp. (“FFEC”) please call for a free consultation with an attorney at 1-866-817-0201.  Recent actions of FINRA, the financial industry regulator, indicate that investors may have been harmed by the actions of this firm.

FFEC and its chief compliance officer entered into a settlement with FINRA regulators  on March 8, 2017 concerning the lapses in supervision.  The alleged lapses allowed a variety of different fraudulent activity to occur throughout FFEC and in particular the Scottsdale, Arizona branch.  FINRA asserted that the chief supervisor of FFEC, the chief compliance officer, had not adequately supervised and that the firm did not have adequate supervisory procedures.

The most obvious result of the lack of supervision is the 26 customer complaints of broker John Schooler.  These complaints, many of which evolved into arbitration lawsuits, involved his inappropriate trades in oil & gas investments and TIC investments.

One issue alleged to be a result of the inadequate supervision is the sale of unsuitable ETFs.  Unsuitable securities are those which are not consistent with the wants and needs of an investor.  Usually, an investment is unsuitable if it puts at risk funds not earmarked for risk, or otherwise is inconsistent with who the client is as an investor.

In the case of FFEC, its brokers recommended and invested its customers in aggressive ETFs, including leveraged and inverse ETFs.  Such investments are known to be high risk, yet the brokers recommended the investments to individuals who did not express a desire for high risk investments.  Worse, many of these investments were purchased by the FFEC brokers for accounts where the brokers were given discretion and not given the required supervisory review.

To ensure suitability, FFEC brokers were required to obtain sufficient information about their investors to evaluate the investments that would be suitable.  The settlement states that this was not done.

Another issue alleged to have been caused by the lack of supervision is churning/excessive trading.  This occurs any time trades are made which the costs and fees are of an amount that the trades benefit the adviser more than the investor.

Southeast Investments, N.C. and Frank Black

We represent investors and have successfully pursued Southeast Investments and Frank Black to judgment.  The arbitration resulted in a nearly full award of investment losses plus an award of attorney fees.  To speak to a lawyer for a free and confidential consultation about losses with Southeast or Black please call 1-866-817-0201.

Black and Southeast are in trouble again.   This time by FINRA regulators.  FINRA’s Department of Enforcement alleges that Respondent Southeast Investments, acting through Respondent Frank Harmon Black, and Black violated FINRA Rules 8210, 4511, and 2010 in the provision of false documents to FINRA and giving false testimony in a regulatory interview during an investigation into whether the Firm had conducted required inspections of branch offices.

One of the false documents was a list of 43 branch inspections Black claimed he performed, including the dates he purportedly conducted the inspections. Respondents also provided five false branch office inspection checklists that Black claimed he completed during the inspections. Enforcement also alleges that for more than five years Respondents failed to ensure that Southeast preserved all business-related emails by permitting registered representatives to use private email providers.

Under an “honor system” set up by Respondents, registered representatives were obligated to send copies of their emails to the Firm to review and retain. For this conduct, Southeast is charged by FINRA regulators, pursuant to FINRA documents, with willfully violating Section 17(a) ofthe Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Exchange Act Rule 17a-4. Southeast and Black are also charged with violating NASD Rule 3110 and FINRA Rules 4511 and 2010.

The resulting penalty was just short of a quarter million dollars.  Frank Black was expelled from the securities industry.

The FINRA order can be found at the following link.

Jeffrey Pederson is a private attorney representing investors, having represented investors in FINRA arbitrations across the country.  Please call for a consultation if you have lost funds as a result of actions you suspect may be inappropriate.

 

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.