Tag Archives: unsuitable securities

Losses in Inverse VIX ETNs and ETFs

NYSE pic 1

Investments connected to the VIX index were known to be highly speculative.

We are a firm that specializes in investor loss recovery.  Investors of Inverse VIX Exchange Traded Notes (ETNs) and Inverse VIX Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs), including VelocityShares Daily Inverse VIX Short-Terms ETN (XIV) and the ProShares Short VIX Short-Term Futures ETF (SVXY), may have grounds for the recovery of their losses.

If you were sold an Inverse VIX ETN please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.

These investments were suitable for very few investors.   The sale of unsuitable investments is a form of negligence and possibly fraud.   These investments carry such a high level of risk and are so complicated that they were likely not suitable for any retail (non-institutional) investor.   “Unless you were a hedge fund manager you should not have been sold these funds.” If you were recommended such investments as part of a retirement savings portfolio you have grounds to recover your losses.  The makers of these funds have acknowledged that the fund was for hedge fund managers only, and not individual investors.

Starting on February 2 and continuing through February 6, investors saw portfolios implode due to investments in obscure products that tracked market volatility.  Such investments tracked the VIX index.  The VIX index is a complicated monitor of investment market volatility or “investor fear.”  An “inverse VIX” investment is an investment that benefits from stable markets but loses value quickly in times of volatility.  The losses in the inverse VIX investments mounted quickly until NASDAQ halted the trading of these investments on February 6, with some suffering losses of almost all value in just a few days.

For example, VelocityShares XIV plummeted 80 percent in extended trading on February 5, 2018.  This is a security issued by Credit Suisse this tracks the inverse of the VIX index tracking market volatility.  As the market rose and sank the value of XIV dropped sharply.  Such sudden drops have a cascading impact that can lead to margin calls and other losses.

The dramatic losses was foreseeable to securities brokerages, often referred to as securities “broker-dealers.”  The regulator that oversees broker-dealers, FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, issued its latest warning in a string of warnings on October 2017 to broker-dealers about VIX and inverse VIX investments.  FINRA identified such investments speculative and warned the “major losses” could result from such investments from a failure to understand how such investments work.  For example, many are short-term trading vehicles that can degrade over time.

FINRA also warned all financial advisers that VIX ETNs may be unsuitable for non-institutional investors and any investor looking to hold investment as opposed to actively trading the investment.   While this warning occurred in October 2017, similar warnings were issued in 2012.  That same month, FINRA fined Wells Fargo for unsuitable recommendations of similar volatility investingstockphoto 1funds.

FINRA stated in 2012 in a Regulatory Notice, RN 12-03, that heightened supervision is required of any broker who sells such complex investments, and specifically identified the need for brokerage firms to oversee any recommendation of an investment based upon the VIX.

While all short VIX trading is suspect and potentially recoverable, the following investments are of particular concern:  XIV, SVXY, VMIN, EXIV, IVOP, XXV, and ZIV.

Investors suffering losses in such investments despite the warnings.  This is a form of negligence and in some situations fraud.

PedersonLaw has represented investors in similar actions in most of the 50 states either directly or pro hac vice.

Vincent Sciabica Investors

Investors of Vincent Sciabica may have recourse for their losses.  A recent regulatory action has revealed wide-spread negligence and possibly fraud in the accounts Sciabica’s investors.  If you are such an investor please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Regulators allege that during the period he was employed by Morgan Stanley, Vincent Sciabica engaged in an unsuitable pattern of short-term trading of UITs in approximately 360 customer accounts.  Sciabica entered into a settlement with regulators where he did not deny or confirm these allegations.

UlTs are investment companies that offer shares of a fixed portfolio of securities in a one-time public offering, and terminate on a specified maturity date. As such, they are not designed to be used as trading vehicles. In addition, UlTs typically carry significant upfront charges, and as with mutual funds that carry front-end sales charges, short-term trading of UITs is generally improper.  Trading of these investments is unwise because of the cost, but can unreasonably enrich the broker who recommends such a strategy.

During the period when he was employed by Morgan Stanley, in connection with these customer accounts, Sciabica repeatedly recommended that the customers purchase UlTs and then sell these products before their maturity dates. The majority of the UlTs that Sciabica recommended had maturity dates of at least 24 months and carried sales charges. Nevertheless, Sciabica continually recommended that his customers sell their UIT positions less than a year after purchase.

In addition, on more than 1,000 occasions, Sciabica recommended that his customers use the proceeds from the short-term sale of a UIT to purchase another UIT with similar investment objectives. Sciabica’s recommendations caused the customers to incur unnecessary sales charges, and were unsuitable in view of the frequency and cost of the transactions.

Sciabica left his employ with Morgan Stanley in 2014 while Morgan Stanley was investigating this wrongdoing.  The investigation of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) began in November 2017.

 

Recovery of Woodbridge Loss

Landmark

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

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

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

There were glaring issues in these Woodbridge investments for an extended period of time.    These issues should have been discovered during reasonable due diligence by the brokers and agents selling the Woodbridge investments.  These investments should have been recognized as not being suitable for any investor.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had been investigating Woodbridge since 2016.  Woodbridge, the Sherman Oaks, California-based Woodbridge, which calls itself a leading developer of high-end real estate, had been under the microscope of state regulators even longer.   The focus of these regulators was the possible fraudulent sale of securities.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Attention Investors of Michael Oromaner

If you have suffered losses investing with Michael  “Mike” Oromaner please call 1-866-817-0201 to speak to an attorney about your rights.  Oromaner has a long history of suits and regulatory actions concerning the unauthorized trading in the accounts of his investors.   If you have suffered losses you may be entitled to recovery from Oromaner’s former employers.

Regulatory rules provide that brokers may not exercise discretionary power in an investor’s account unless the investor has given prior written authorization and the account has been accepted by the member firm in writing as a discretionary account.

These rules also provide that a brokerage firm, in the conduct of his business, shall observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.  Oromaner exercised inappropriate discretion in the account of a single customer during a single year 41 times.

Respondent failed to obtain prior written authorization from this investor to exercise discretion in the account and employer did not approve the account for discretionary trading.

Because of this and other misdeeds, Oromaner is currently undergoing a two-year suspension from the securities industry.

Over the course of the career of Oromaner, he has been the subject of over 16 “disclosure events.”  A disclosure event is any lawsuit, bankruptcy, regulatory action, written investor complaint or other matter negatively reflecting on an advisor’s ability to handle the funds or recommend investments.  The 16 disclosure events of Oromaner is extremely high and raises the question of whether his employers were negligent in hiring him.

Please call if you wish to discuss potential recovery of your losses.

Rights for Lisa Lowi Investors

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

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

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

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

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

Wells Fargo Losses

If you suffered losses with Wells Fargo in ETP investments or other investments that you understood to have only low to moderate risk, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.

Wells FargoFINRA, the regulator that oversees securities brokerages, ordered Wells Fargo on Monday to pay investors $3.4 million after its advisers recommended “unsuitable” investments known as volatility-linked products that were “highly likely to lose value over time.”

Wells Fargo pushed its investors into these investments, volatility-linked ETPs, as hedges, to protect against a market downturn. In fact, these investments are unsuitable for such a strategy.  The investment are, in reality, “short-term trading products that degrade significantly over time,” regulators said, and “should not be used as part of a long-term buy-and-hold” strategy.  The recommendation of such unsuitable investments is a form of negligence, and could be seen as reckless enough to be considered fraud.

Volatility-linked ETPs are complex products that most investors do not understand and, as such, they rely upon their adviser, who should be a trained professional, to understand.   Certain Wells Fargo representatives mistakenly believed that the products could be used as a long-term hedge on their customers’ equity positions to help safeguard against a downturn in the market. In fact, volatility-linked ETPs are generally short-term trading products that degrade significantly over time and should not be used as part of a long-term buy-and-hold investment strategy.

FINRA issued Regulatory Notice 17-32 shortly after announcing the settlement with Wells Fargo to remind firms of their sales practice obligations relating to these products. Wells Fargo had previously been on notice to provide heightened supervision of complex products such as ETPs in Regulatory Notice 12-03, and were advised, along with all other brokerages, to assess the reasonableness of their own practices and supervision of these products.

FINRA found, “Wells Fargo failed to implement a reasonable system to supervise solicited sales of these products during the relevant time period.”  The complete news release of the FINRA action can be found at the following link.

Loss Recovery from H. Beck

Investors with H. Beck may have grounds for recovery for investment losses in ETFs and other investments.

H. Beck recently consented to a settlement with regulators.  The settlement stated that from at least July 2008 until June 2013, H. Beck failed to properly supervise the sale of nontraditional ETFs and failed to properly supervise the recommendations made by its financial advisors. As a result, H. Beck violated NASD Rules 2310, 3010(a) through (b), and 2110, and FINRA Rules 2111, 3110(a)-(b), and 2010.

Between 2008 and 2011, H. Beck’s financial advisor James Dresselaers recommended to the Firm’s customer, EB, investments in several nontraditional exchange-traded funds (“ETFs”) and stocks issued by companies in the metals and mining sector. These recommendations were unsuitable for EB, a professional athlete with no investment experience, a moderate risk tolerance, and an investment objective of long-term growth. EB suffered losses of more than $1.1 million on these investments.

NASD Rule 3010(a)-(b) and FINRA Rule 3110(a)-(b) require every investment brokerage to establish and maintain a system and procedures to supervise the activities of its financial advisors that is reasonably designed to achieve compliance with securities laws and regulations and applicable NASD/FINRA rules.

FINRA rules require that financial advisors only recommend investments to suitable investors.  So if an investment poses too much risk, or possesses other characteristics that are inconsistent with the wants and needs of the investor, it is a violation to recommend that investment to such an investor.  This is commonly referred to as a “suitability” violation.

This is not the first time H. Beck has been penalized by regulators over non-traditional investments.  In March 2015, H. Beck was censured and fined $425,000 for failing to properly supervise the sale of unit investment trusts (UITs), failing to properly supervise the preparation of account reports sent to investors, and failing to enforce its own written supervisory procedures relating to financial advisors’ outside email accounts, which is a significant protection against fraud. Dresselaers also has a history of customer disputes.   This is concerning since Dresselaers is listed as the top executive at H. Beck.

Such regulatory findings and prior disputes evidence wide-spread supervisory problems at H. Beck and support private claims by investors.

Morgan Stanley $13 Mil. UIT Sanctions

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced today, September 25, 2017, that it has sanctioned Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC approximately $13 million for UIT violations by its advisors and for failing to supervise its advisors’ short-term trades of unit investment trusts (UITs).

A UIT is an investment vehicle similar to a mutual fund but with some key differences.  It is an investment company that offers units in a portfolio of securities; however, unlike a mutual fund, it terminates on a specific maturity date. UITs impose a variety of charges, including a deferred sales charge and a creation and development fee, that can total approximately 3.95 percent for a typical 24-month UIT. This can be a significant cost.  A registered representative, or advisor, who repeatedly recommends that a customer sell a UIT position before the maturity date and then “rolls over” those funds into a new UIT, an action that can also be described as “churning,” causes the customer to incur increased and unnecessary sale charges over time.

FINRA found such actions in thousands of customer accounts. FINRA further found that Morgan Stanley failed to adequately supervise advisor sales of UITs by providing insufficient guidance to supervisors regarding how they should review such transactions to detect improper short-term UIT trading, failing to implement an adequate system to detect and deter such abuse, and failing to provide for supervisory review of rollovers prior to execution. Morgan Stanley also failed to conduct training for advisors specific to these UIT issues.

Susan Schroeder of FINRA said, “Due to the long-term nature of UITs, their structure, and upfront costs, short-term trading of UITs may be improper and raises suitability concerns. Firms must adequately supervise representatives’ sales of UITs –including providing sufficient training –and have in place a system to detect potentially unsuitable short-term UIT rollovers.”

In assessing sanctions, FINRA has recognized Morgan Stanley’s cooperation in having initiated a firmwide investigation that included, among other things, interviewing more than 65 firm personnel and the retention of an outside consultant to conduct a statistical analysis of UIT rollovers at the firm; identified customers affected and establishing a plan to provide remediation to those customers; and provided substantial assistance to FINRA in its investigation.

Investors of Paul Vincent Blum

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

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

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

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

Annuity Losses with Roger Zullo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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