Tag Archives: Texas

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.

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.

Binary options recovery scams

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), in a press release on March 16, 2017 warned investors against companies or persons that approach victims of binary options fraud claiming that, for an up-front fee, they can help them recover the sums invested or the losses incurred on unlawfully operating trading platforms.  Investors should verify that they are dealing with a licensed attorney or regulator prior to engaging in such recovery efforts.

As stated in the release by FINRA, binary options are inherently risky all-or-nothing propositions. When a binary option expires, it either makes a pre-specified amount of money, or nothing at all, in which case the investor loses his or her entire investment.  These options may be fraudulent and sold on illegitimate securities boards, but participation in such options may open an investor to further victimization.

FINRAAfter an individual has participated in such investment activity, fraudulent individuals obtain investor information from the illegitimate boards selling the options and then calls the investors, and can further be spotted with the following hallmarks during the :

  • urgent correspondence and high-pressure calls that specifically refer to your binary options accounts;
  • claims that the caller is with, or acting at the behest of, U.S. government agencies; and
  • subsequent correspondence with official-looking documents that make it look as if money is available, and can be recovered for a fee.

FINRA cautions investors that some of these offers may be fraudulent because it is often very difficult to track down the person or group that has scammed them.

“Following a significant loss, investors may be anxious to get back at least some of their money. This can leave them vulnerable to follow-up frauds that add to existing losses with devastating financial consequences,” said Gerri Walsh, FINRA’s Senior Vice President of Investor Education.

The FINRA release can be found at the following link.

Oil / Gas Investment and Tax Loss

Oil StockSome Energy, Oil and Gas investments can only legally be sold to a limited section of the investing public.  If you suffered losses we may be able to  help.  Contact us at 303-300-5022 or 1-866-817-0201 (toll-free) for a free consultation.

Oil and gas investors do not have to sit and watch their life savings diminish.  These investors have rights though many are unaware of the recourse they have for such losses.

Many investors have received high pressure sales of oil and gas investments.  Brokers and other investment professionals like to sell these types of investments because they usually pay a very high commission.  These commissions can be 10 to 20 times higher than the commission on your average stock sale.  The high commissions will often cause these individuals to ignore the rules in the sale of such investments. The two rules that are usually ignored are those concerning accreditation and suitability.

Oil and gas limited partnerships can generally only be sold to “accredited” investors.  Such investors are individuals whose liquid net worth, their net worth excluding their home, is in excess of $1 million. The second rule that is commonly violated in the sale of such investments is the suitability rule.  Oil and gas investments are known by investment professionals to generally be very high risk investments.  Investments need to be consistent with the level of risk that an investor is willing or able to take.  For example, a person approaching or in retirement or who cannot otherwise afford to take high levels of risk with their investments could not legally be offered an oil and gas investment.

Likewise, an individual who expresses a desire for conservative or moderate investments would not be a suitable investor. There are many other rules that can potentially be violated in the sale of oil and gas investments.

Problems exist not just with the investment losses, but also with the tax consequence of investing in these companies.  A detailed description is found in the following Link to Forbes.   In short, these investments are partnerships.  When debt is defaulted upon by a partnership, and the lender “writes off” the debt, the write off means that the owners (the investors) are taxed as if they received the amount written off as income.  Considering some limited partnerships defaulted on billions in loans, the tax obligation of investors is substantial.

If you have any questions, please feel free to give us a call.  These rules apply no matter if you invest in individual oil or gas investments or invest through a mutual fund or master limited partnership (MLP).

Common oil and gas investments we see recoverable losses include Linn Energy (“LINE” or “LNCO”) and more information can be found at www.jpedersonlaw.com/blog/linn-energy-losses/, Williams Companies (“WMB”), Penn West Petroleum (“PWE”), BP Prudhoe Bay Royalty Trust (“BPT”), Breitburn Energy Partners, LP (“BBEP”), Hawthorne, SandRidge Energy, Williams Ridgewood Energy, Apco, Atlas Energy, Midstates Petroleum, Peabody Energy, Resolute Energy, XXI Energy, Nobel, Permian Basin, and Breitling Energy.  Some of these losses may be recoverable by class action while others may require individual FINRA arbitration suits.

More information on SandRidge can be found at this link.

Oil Stock IIJeffrey Pederson is an attorney who works with investors to recover losses in FINRA arbitration and has represented investors in Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut , Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, and Wyoming, in FINRA arbitration actions against securities brokerage firms for unsuitable investments.  Please call for a confidential and free consultation.

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.

Platinum Partners

We are currently investigating losses suffered by investors in Platinum Partners.  If you have suffered losses please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

As reported on December 19, 2016 in the Wall Street Journal, top executives of hedge fund Platinum Partners were arrested Monday morning and will be charged with defrauding investors in one of the biggest such cases since Bernard L. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme.  The level of fraud is anticipated to approach or top $1 billion.

guy in handcuffsPlatinum previously reported more than $1 billion in assets under management.  This includes holdings scattered in eclectic investments like loans to bankrupt companies and thinly-traded pharmaceutical stocks. In form of a true Ponzi-type operation, Platinum boasted a performance track record with no down years for its funds.

The scheme targeted members of the Jewish community in New York, New Jersey, Florida and Texas.

The indictment unsealed Monday in federal court in Brooklyn charges Platinum founder and Chief Investment Officer Mark Nordlicht, co-chief investment officer David Levy, and former president Uri Landesman with counts of securities fraud, investment adviser fraud and conspiracy.

Authorities in New York said these Platinum executives and others falsely inflated the value of Platinum’s assets, allowing Platinum Partnersthe firm to collect a hefty cut of all investment gains and project a veneer of financial stability. In actuality, the firm’s investments were worth far less, and Platinum’s executives knowingly faked the performance figures, authorities said.

Charles Fackrell Fraud

If you were an investor with Charles Fackrell and believe you may be a victim of his fraud, or simply wish to know your rights, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

LPLFackrell,  a former LPL adviser based in North Carolina, was sentenced by a federal court to more than five-years in prison for running a $1.4 million Ponzi scheme that operated under the name “Robin Hood.”

The former adviser pleaded guilty to one count of securities fraud in April and was sentenced last week to 63 months in jail.

From May 2012 to December 2014, Fackrell ran his Ponzi fraud, misusing funds from at least 20 investors. He was a registered broker with LPL during that time.

Fackrell “used his position of trust to solicit victim investors and steer them away from legitimate investments to purported investments with” various “Robin Hood” named entities, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office. “These were entities [Mr.] Fackrell controlled and through which he could access the victim’s funds.”

Promising guaranteed annual returns of 5% to 7%, Mr. Fackrell “solicited his victim investors by making false and fraudulent representations, including that the investors’ money would be invested in, or secured by, gold and other precious metals,” according to the U.S. attorney. In fact, Mr. Fackrell spent only a fraction of investor money on such assets, the government claims, and diverted over $700,000 back to his investors in the fashion of a Ponzi scheme.

He used the balance of the money to cover personal expenditures, including hotel expenses, groceries and medical bills, and to make purchases at various retail shops and to make large cash withdrawals.

Information for this post was found at investmentnews.com.

Ameritas Broker Theft and Other Losses

If you have suffered losses, believe funds are missing from your account, or had funds stolen while with Ameritas Investment Corp., please call the Law Offices of Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

We are currently investigating losses and missing funds of Ameritas investors due to inadequate supervision of Ameritas brokers.  Ameritas recently submitted an AWC, a settlement with regulators, in which the firm was censured and fined $50,000. Without admitting or denying the findings, the firm Stock handcuffsconsented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that it failed to adequately monitor and otherwise supervise a registered representative’s activities. The findings stated that the firm did not detect that the representative changed a customer’s address of record to the address of the representative’s branch office, and then requested disbursements from the customer’s account to the new address of record. The customer did not authorize either the address change or the disbursement of funds. As a result, the firm sent funds from the customer’s account to the branch office, where the representative misappropriated the money. The firm’s supervisory systems and procedures at the time were not sufficient to adequately monitor its representative’s requests to change the customer’s address of record without her knowledge and to disburse funds to her new address.

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.