Tag Archives: Stockbroker fraud

Attention James T. Booth Investors

If you were an investor of James T. Booth previously of LPL and Invest Financial, please call 1-866-817-0201.  Initial consultations are free and confidential.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced an Indictment charging Booth with securities fraud, wire fraud, and investment adviser fraud charges in connection with his years-long scheme to defraud customers of his financial services firm, Booth Financial Associates (“Booth Financial”) which is affiliated with LPL Financial and Invest Financial.  Throughout Booth’s scheme, he solicited money from clients of Booth Financial and falsely promised to invest their money in securities offered outside of their ordinary advisory and brokerage accounts.  Instead, he used nearly all of the money to pay personal and business expenses.  In total, Booth fraudulently obtained approximately $5 million from his investors.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

“As alleged, James Booth convinced his clients that he would deliver solid and secure returns on their investments.  Instead, as alleged, Booth delivered only lies and deceit, and bilked some 40 clients of nearly $5 million.  Booth is now in federal custody and will have to answer for his alleged crimes,” stated the DOJ.

The DOJ further stated, “In an elaborate scheme of false promises and deception, it is alleged that Booth attained almost $5 million by luring investors to move their assets with the guarantee of safer investments and higher returns.  Instead, Booth allegedly pocketed the money. ”

Booth provided investors fabricated account balances and statements to prevent investors from seeking a return of their money, and to induce additional investments.  He further concealed the truth from investors by using money obtained from new investors to make redemption payments to previous investors, in a Ponzi-like fashion.

Securities Fraud of Kerry Lee Hoffman

The SEC charged Kerry Lee Hoffman, former LPL advisor from Chicago, with securities fraud.  If you invested with Hoffman call 1-866-817-0201 to discuss your rights and potential for recovery.  The fraud concerned sales of GT Media in which he partnered with childhood friend and convicted thief Thomas Conwell.

Between July 2015 and July 2018, Conwell and Hoffman raised over $3.3 million from approximately 46 investors through the sale of unregistered GT Media, Inc. securities.

According to the SEC Complaint, Conwell, who was previously enjoined by the SEC and criminally convicted for stealing money from investors, made numerous false representations to investors, including that two Fortune 500 companies were seeking to acquire GT Media and that GT Media would soon conduct an initial public offering.

The prior conviction of Conwell was from January 2006, when Conwell pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud, bank fraud and obstructing an SEC investigation and he was sentenced to 48 months in prison.  He was barred from the securities industry by the SEC in 2000.

 

The complaint filed by the SEC also alleges that Conwell, in the present matter concerning GT Media, misappropriated $161,500 from investors, which he used to pay his personal expenses. According to the complaint, Hoffman, a registered representative and investment advisory representative at LPL, solicited certain of his advisory clients to invest in GT Media securities without disclosing his financial conflicts of interest, including his compensation from GT Media and his short-term loans to GT Media that were repaid using investor funds.

The failure to disclose such conflicts is fraud, but a greater fraud is the failure to disclose the lack of due diligence investigation, along with other material financial information that Hoffman would have possessed.

The SEC action is currently pending in federal district court in Chicago.

Hoffman’s record indicates that he was a broker with LPL until September 2018.  At that time he was allowed to voluntarily resign after allegations were made against him concerning a failure to disclose certain outside business activity.  He had been a broker with LPL since February 2010.

Hoffman had previously been fired by UBS when a co-worker accused him of making securities trades without the authorization of the investor.  This fraud was public record when he was hired by LPL.

 

Recover Nina Jessee Investment Losses

Nina S. Jesse, formerly of National Capital Corp. and Cetera Advisors, has been sued over 20 times for her improper recommendation of unsuitable investments.  Her former employers are responsible for failing to supervise Jessee.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney if you have suffered losses you believe were too aggressive or not appropriately investigated by Jessee or her employers.

Ms. Jesse is permanently barred from the securities industry.  FINRA, the regulatory body that oversees securities brokerage firms, investigated Jessee.  The focus of the investigation was the large number of complaints that Nina Jesse sold unsuitable investments.  The sale of unsuitable investments is a form of fraud.  A broker motivated by commission or other payment recommends investments that are overly risky or otherwise inconsistent with an investor’s objectives or tolerance for risk.  The investors then suffers losses as the result of the broker’s greed.

The bar of Nina Jessee was issued when Jessee failed to provide documents or otherwise contest the regulator’s allegations.  Her attorney acknowledged that she received the regulatory action but declined to participate.

Another subject of the investigation was undisclosed outside business activity of Jessee.  The reason that disclosure of such activity is important is that brokers will commonly use their access to investors to direct investment toward their own business or the business of a friend.  This is done despite the lack of oversight by the broker’s employer or verification that the business is worthy of anyone’s investment.

Suits concerning losses with investors such as Nina Jessee are largely handled through an arbitration process.  Investors suffering losses should speak to an attorney knowledgeable with the investment arbitration process.  Please call the number above to discuss Nina Jesse and the recovery process.

Pagartanis Fraud

If you were a victim of Steven Pagartanis please call 1-866-817-0201.  The Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson, PC is a firm that specializes in suits concerning securities brokers.

Pagartanis, the former Lombard and Cadaret broker from Long Island, N.Y., pleaded guilty Monday, December 10, 2018, in federal court to conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud for running a Ponzi scheme over 18 years

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Steven Pagartanis victims invested over $13 million and saw actual losses of more than $9 million,  according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

This former licensed securities broker solicited elderly victims to invest in real estate-related investments, including those affiliated with publicly traded companies and an international hotel conglomerate, according to the Department of Justice. Pagartanis promised his investors returns consistent with conservative investments-that their principal would be secure and earn a fixed return of 4.5% to 8% annually.

The victims wrote checks payable to an entity secretly controlled by Mr. Pagartanis at his direction, according to the government. He utilized a network of bank accounts to launder the stolen funds, which he used to pay personal expenses, buy luxury items and make the phony interest or dividend payments to other victims, according to the Department of Justice. He faces up to 20 years in prison.

Recovery of these losses will focus on the employers of Pagartanis.  These employers are required to have supervisory safeguards in place to prevent such actions.  FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, has rules that require licensed brokerages to take steps to monitor and detect private securities transactions away from the firm.  Consequently, liability exists even if such actions were not taking place right under the nose of the firms.  FINRA offers an arbitration forum to recover such losses.

The SEC also filed a civil suit concerning this matter in May 2018.

On June 26, 2019, a FINRA arbitration panel awarded an investor a judgment in the amount of $1.46 million against Pagartanis for his role iin the multi-million dollar Ponzi scheme.

Jeffrey Pederson is an attorney who helps investors recover losses from brokerage firms through the FINRA arbitration process.  This is just one of the 17 customer complaint disclosures on his record.

Sean Kelly Theft

If you were an investor of Sean Kelly, previously of Center Street Securities, Capital Financial Services, and Lion’s Share Financial, please call 1-866-817-0201.  We are currently investigating his theft of investor funds.

Kelly, a Georgia stock broker, is facing criminal and SEC charges alleging that he stole at least $1 million from a dozen clients.  These clients include elderly widows and military veterans.  Kelly stole their savings and used the money for luxuries including Super Bowl tickets and vacations.

Sean Kelly, 49, of Marietta, Ga., and a stockbroker for Center Street Securities Inc., also is accused of falsely presenting himself to clients as both a brokerage firm and an investment advisor, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Administration.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

Investors have recourse when investment professionals turn bad.

The financial fraud of Kelly should have been foreseen by his employers.  The record of Kelly shows a broker with significant financial problems.  He has a history of multiple tax liens, a bankruptcy, and what is described as a “continuation of a prior bankruptcy.”

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia has filed criminal charges against Kelly and placed him under arrest, according to the SEC.

The SEC Complaint indicates that the fraud was fairly simple.  Kelly would have his clients make checks out to Lion’s Share.  The Complaint goes on state that Kelly used Lion’s Share as “his personal piggy bank.”

There has also been a temporary restraining order entered.  Such an order freezes the assets of Kelly.

Kelly, who has been a stockbroker for about 18 years, has been stealing money from clients since at least 2014, using recruiting techniques such as offering free tax preparation services for veterans and holding free retirement planning seminars in assisted living facilities, according to the SEC.

The theft could be well-above the $1 million currently estimated.   The number is reliant upon the documents the SEC has been able to obtain from the investigation of Kelly.  There are likely many more investors who will need to bring actions on their own to obtain recovery of their losses.

Brokerage firms have a duty to investigate and monitor outside business activities such as the activities of Kelly.  Further, FINRA requires securities brokerages to carry fidelity insurance.

Kelly’s use of Lion’s Share was well known to his employers.  Insufficient safeguard’s existed to protect the investors.

John Simoncic Investment Fraud

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) barred John Scott Simoncic from the securities industry.  Mr. Simoncic had most recently been a broker for Financial West Group.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation if you were an investor of Mr. Simoncic.

There are multiple allegations concerning multiple investors against Mr. Simoncic.  They include the unauthorized and excessive trading in client accounts.  Allegations also include the sale of unsuitable investments.  This is the sale investments to an investor that are inconsistent with the risk an investor was willing to assume.

Between August 2014 and March 2016, Simoncic executed 54 of the 97 trades in a single customer account in inverse and/or leveraged Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), an investment vehicle somewhat similar to a mutual fund.  The investor did not have an understanding of the ETFs Simoncic traded in her account; she did not understand how inverse and leveraged ETFs worked, the risks associated with the extended time Simoncic held the ETF positions in her account, or that her account was concentrated in one particular volatility ETF, the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (UVXY), for over nine months.

Such ETFs are especially dangerous.  Although leveraged and/or inverse ETFs seek daily investment results, Simoncic held the ETF positions in the investor’s account for multiple trading sessions. For example, Simoncic executed 37 transactions in shares of the ProShares UltraShort S&P 500 (SDS), an inverse double-leveraged ETF, with holding periods generally ranging from four to 97 days. These transactions in the SDS resulted in an overall loss of more than $15,000. Simoncic also concentrated 93 percent of the investor’s portfolio in shares of UVWY, the ProShares Ultra VIX Short-Term Futures—a risky, double-leveraged and speculative ETF—for 295 days, that resulted in losses that exceeded $20,000. Thus, approximately $35,000 of the investor’s total losses of approximately $60,000 related to ETF trading.

Mr. Simoncic has previous regulatory actions and customer complaints that should have alerted his employer.  We believe that the former employers of Mr. Simoncic are responsible for investors losses.

 

Investor Losses with Cadaret Grant

Investors suffering losses with Cadaret Grant may have recourse.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Cadaret entered into a regulatory settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority on September 11, 2018.   Cadaret agreed to pay an $800,000 fine.  It also agreed to a censure and to review and change its policies to detect inappropriate sales practices by its brokers.  One focus was on the sale and exchanges of variable annuities.

Invest photo 2Cadaret failed to employ sufficient compliance personnel to adequately supervise its brokers.  Brokers have many incentives to recommend investments that are too aggressive or otherwise unsuitable for an investor.  Sufficient compliance personnel are needed and required by regulators to protect investors from this known risk.

All licensed securities brokers have a legal obligation to recommend only suitable investments.  Investments are all known to have a certain range of risk when recommended.  Certain investments are known to have higher risks than others.  Investments that can increase sharply in value can sometimes decrease equally as fast.  Investments can only be recommended when the risk the investment poses is consistent with the risk consistent with the investor.  For example, a retired individual should only be recommended investments with little to no risk.  So when such an individual loses 20% or more of portfolio value in a year, the portfolio was likely unsuitable when first recommended.

As a result of its insufficient compliance, Cadaret had only three compliance people overlooking weekly trades, or “blotter reviews.”  Such reviews are needed to detect over-concentration of portfolios, such as portfolios being invested too heavily in either one investment, a single industry, or being too heavily weighted in a single investment vehicle, such as stocks or annuities.  Such concentration is unsuitable because it greatly increases the level of risk in the portfolio.

The blotter review also protected investors from broker churning.  This is an action where a broker puts his/her own interest ahead of the investor.   Excessive trades are made that work more to generate commissions for the broker than to protect the interests of the investor.

Churning depends on the cost of the exchange.  With products such as variable annuities, churning can happen with a single exchange.  One of the issues faced by Cadaret is from the replacement of one variable annuity with another.  There are very few circumstances where variable annuity exchanges are justified.

Cadaret’s supervisory procedures also required examiners in the compliance department to conduct periodic inspections of branch offices to detect and prevent violations by registered representatives in those locations. However, Cadaret employed an insufficient number of compliance examiners for this purpose. For instance, in 2014, the Firm tasked three compliance examiners with inspecting over 400 geographically-disperse branches. As a result, these inspections were conducted in a manner not reasonably designed to identify violative activity.

Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors across the United States in suitability suits.  These suits are largely handled through FINRA arbitration.  Please call for consultation.

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 Kenny Kim, IFG Investors

If you were an investor of Kyusun “Kenny” Kim of IFG, please call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to an attorney about your rights for recovery.  Most cases are handled on a contingency basis, where the attorney does not receive fees unless there is a recovery.

Mr. Kim has been accused, and ultimately barred from the securities industry, by regulators  for systematically committing securities violations in the accounts of senior investors for the time period of 2006 through 2015.  He is accused of both of recommending unreasonably risky, or unsuitable investments, to senior investors, and of falsifying the documents of the investors to allow him to convey to his supervisors that the recommendations were suitable.

Invest photo 2As a broker, Mr. Kim’s actions are governed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  FINRA has a suitability rule that requires that a broker have a reasonable basis for believing that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for the customer based on the customer’s investment profile, which includes, among other factors,
the customer’s age, financial situation and needs, investment experience, and risk
tolerance.

Kim was selling alternative investments to seniors.  Alternative investments are investment other than stocks, bonds and mutual funds.  They include REITs that do not trade on a stock exchange and structured notes.  Though structured notes may look like bonds or mutual funds, such investments contain a derivative component that make the investment extremely risky and speculative in nature.  An investor may need to speak to an attorney just to confirm an investment is actually a structured note.  Such recommendations were improper for investors with conservative or moderate risk tolerances.

Adding to the risk, Kim improperly recommended that many of the investors unreasonably concentrate their portfolios in these alternative investments.  This only increased the level of speculation in the portfolio.

This is only the latest chapter in a long history of regulatory actions and customer lawsuits.  FINRA has indentified 23 investor lawsuits, either filed or threatened, concerning Kim.

While Mr. Kim has been expelled from the securities industry, this does little to compensate investors who have lost their life savings.  Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors across the country in similar suits in front of FINRA.  Please call for a free and confidential consultation.