Tag Archives: unsuitable securities

Attention Investors of Kyle P. Harrington

Investors of Kyle Patrick Harrington may have recourse for their losses.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

Harrington has been alleged to have committed several forms of deceit in his dealings with investors and regulators in the last eight years.  This includes actions while employed at National Securities (NSC), Bannockburn Partners, Matrix Captial, First Allied, and Robert B. Ausdall.  He is currently a representative of Aurora Capital and also operates under the name of Harrington Capital Management.  Responsibility for the actions of Harrington fall not just on Harrington, but also on his employers.

The types of deceit alleged over the years include churning, creating of falsified documents, theft of investor funds, unsuitable investments, excessive trading, unauthorized purchases made in investor accounts, and other forms of misrepresentations and fraud.

Of all the allegations of deceit, the most recent is a civil suit filed by FINRA.   The FINRA suit involves a series of alleged deceptions by Kyle Harrington with the help of his assistant, Linda Milberger, to conceal Harrington’s alleged theft of customer funds and private securities transactions, securities transactions done outside of his firms’ fraud monitoring to put his investors in questionable investments.

Harrington is also alleged to have created false documents to submit to FINRA to conceal his misconduct not just from his employers, but also from regulators. For her part, Milberger falsified wire request forms which allowed Harrington’s conversion of customer funds, submitted those falsified wire request forms to her firm and another brokerage as if they were authentic records, and knowingly assisted Harrington in providing an altered bank statement to regulators.

In particular, in August 2012, Harrington convinced an investor to authorize a wire transfer to Harrington’s registered investment advisor firm for a purported investment. In fact, after the investor’s funds were wired to Harrington’s business checking account, Harrington took the investor’s funds without her knowledge or consent, and used it to pay his own business expenses.

When difficulties arose completing the $20,000 wire transfer from the investor’s account in August 2012, Harrington’s assistant, Milberger, altered the wire request form that the investor had signed without the investor’s knowledge or consent, on at least two occasions, in order to transfer all available cash out ofLD’s account to Harrington. Milberger submitted the altered wire request forms to her own firm and another broker dealer as iftheywere authentic, thereby causing those firms to maintain inaccurate books and records regarding the wire transfer.

In August 2012 and early 2013, Harrington also engaged in a series of private securities transactions with multiple individuals through which he sold over 300,000 shares of restricted stock he had purportedly received as compensation from a company named Islet Sciences, Inc. for approximately $276,000. Harrington failed to disclose these transactions, including his role as seller of the securities, to his employing firm or seek its prior approval of them.

Harrington not only failed to disclose his private securities transactions in Islet but he actively attempted to conceal them. Specifically, in July 2014, during a firm audit of his business, Harrington submitted falsified records to his firm mischaracterizing payments he had received for the sale of his Islet stock.

Additionally, Harrington has been the subject of nine actual or threatened investor lawsuits, multiple other regulatory investigations and employment terminations.  This information is contained in the CRD of Harrington.

David Lerner Associates REIT Investigation

David Lerner Associates agreed to pay a $650,000 fine for the sale of unsuitable REITs to its investors and other violations.  Very little of the fine will compensate investors for their losses.  Instead, investors suffering losses contact a private attorney.  For a free, confidential consultation, investors can call Jeffrey Pederson at 1-866-817-0201.

LandmarkThe non-traded REITs at issue in the regulatory action were REITs now known as Apple Hospitality REIT investments.  The offerings included are Apple 7, Apple 8 and Apple 9.

Suitability violations are for the recommending of investments that are too risky, complicated or volatile for an investor considering the investors objectives, risk tolerance and investment sophistication.  Non-traded REITs such as Apple are generally only suitable for only a limited slice of the investing public.  Investors, including those looking for either stability, income, low risk, preservation of capital or liquidity from this investment, were likely inappropriately sold this investment.

The agreement to settle the charges was in the form of a consent order entered into with New Jersey regulators.  Of the fine, $100,000 went to pay for costs and $50,000 was to pay for investor education programs.

More information on the fine and the regulatory action can be found at the following link.

Investigation – K.C. Ward, Craig David Dima

FINRA barred former K.C. Ward Financial registered representative Craig David Dima
for making unauthorized and unsuitable trades totaling approximately $15 million in a
73-year-old retiree’s account, and for misrepresenting the reasons for the trades to the
customer.  This was announced in FINRA’s May Disciplinary Report.

NYSE pic 1Susan Schroeder, FINRA Acting Head of Enforcement, said, “There is no place in this industry
for brokers who take advantage of elderly customers. Protecting senior investors from
predatory behavior such as unsuitable and unauthorized trading is part of our core mission
and will always be a priority for FINRA.”

FINRA found that on 11 occasions, Dima sold virtually all of the customer’s Colgate-
Palmolive stock, accumulated over 28 years of employment at the company, without the
customer’s permission. In fact, Dima sold the customer’s shares even after the customer
told Dima not to sell the stock, which she considered a valuable long-term investment
and reliable source of dividends.

When confronted by the customer about the sales, Dima misrepresented to her that they were caused by a “computer glitch” or a technical error. In connection with Dima’s unauthorized sales and subsequent repurchases of Colgate stock, Dima charged the customer more than $375,000 in mark-ups, mark-downs and fees and deprived the customer of substantial dividends had she held the Colgate shares as intended.

FINRA also found that Dima’s trading of the customer’s Colgate shares was unsuitable and
violated FINRA rules prohibiting excessive mark-ups and mark-downs.

Attention Investors of Voigt Cullen Kempson III

Pederson, PC is investigating the actions of V. Cullen Kempson III currently of American Portfolios and previously of Commonwealth Financial Network.   Kempson has previously settled charges of unauthorized trading in the account of a deceased investor and is currently facing felony weapons charges.  To speak to an attorney for a free and confidential consultation please call 1-866-817-0201.  

A recent settlement agreement Kempson enter into with FINRA regulators agrees to the 30-day suspension for making a large number of unauthorized trades in the account of an investor Kempson knew was deceased.  In the agreement, referred to as an AWC, Kempson neither admits nor denies fault.

The alleged facts are that in February 2007, A Kempson investor opened two investment Invest photo 2advisory accounts with Kempson at the Firm. At the time, the investor signed an agreement with the Firm granting Kempson discretionary trading authority, the ability to make securities trades without first contacting the investor.  A broker must contact an investor prior to the making of trades unless the broker has been granted authority by the investor in writing to make trades in an account.

On June 13, 2015, the investor passed away. Although Kempson was aware of the investor’s death since at least June 29,2015, Kempson did not inform his Firm of the investor’s death and continued to effect trades on a discretionary basis in the accounts.

Between June 29,2015 and April 5, 2016, Kempson effected a total of 40 trades in the deceased individual’s accounts.  FINRA Rule 2010 requires members to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade. After the investor passed away, Kempson had no written authority to conduct any trades in the investor’s accounts. FINRA charged that, by effecting 40 trades in a deceased customer’s accounts, Kempson violated FINRA Rule 2010.

Additionally, in February 2017, Kempson was charged on felony weapons charges for the unlawful possession of a weapon.  As stated in his CRD, he case is in front of the New Jersey Superior Court in Essex Vincinage.  He has asserted that he is not guilty.

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.

Attention Investors of Jeffrey Dragon

FINRA alleges that over a two-year period, Jeffrey Dragon, a registered representative of Berthel Fisher & Co. Financial Services. Inc., generated more than $421,000 in concessions for himself and his firm. at the expense of his customers, by recommending and effecting a pattern of unsuitable short-term trading of unit investment trusts ( UITs ).

Invest photo 2Specifically, between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2014 (the ‘UIT Period’ ) Dragon recommended to 12 customers – many of whom were seniors, unsophisticated investors, or both – that they liquidate UIT positions that they had held for only a few months, and which they had purchased on Dragon s recommendations, and then use the proceeds to purchase other UITs. Because each UIT purchased carried a new sales load, and because UITs are designed not to be actively traded, Dragon s recommendations were excessive and unsuitable.

Dragon’s recommendations to these customers were further unsuitable. in that he designed his recommendations to prevent his customers’ UIT purchases from qualifying for sales-charge discounts. Despite regularly recommending that customers purchase UITs in amounts that exceeded volume-discount “breakpoints” of $50,000 and $100.000. Dragon routinely structured their investments – by spreading the amounts over smaller purchases and multiple days – in order to avoid reaching those thresholds. By doing so. Dragon sought to increase his concessions at his customers’ expense.

Berthel allowed this activity to occur – and. in fact, profited from it – as a direct result of its inadequate system for supervising UIT trading. Throughout the UlT Period. Berthei’s only regular supervisory review of UIT recommendations and customer activity consisted of manual reviews of daily trade blotters that did not indicate either how long UIT positions had been held before liquidation or the source of funds used to purchase new UITs. Thus, Berthel’s supervisory system was not reasonably designed to prevent short-tenn and potentially excessive UIT trading.

Berthel’s supervisory system was also inadequate because it was not reasonably designed to prevent short-term and potentially excessive trading in mutual funds. As with UlTs. the firm’s supervisory system lacked any methods, reports, or other tools to identify mutual-fund switching or trading patterns indicative of other misconduct between January 1. 2013 and December 31, 2015 (the ‘ Mutual Fund Period’ ).

Likewise, Berthel’s supervisory system was not reasonably designed to censure that the firm’s UIT and mutual-fund customers received all sales-charge discounts to which they were entitled during the UIT Period and Mutual Fund Period, respectively. Instead. Berthel relied 2 on its registered representatives and its clearing firm to determine whether UIT and mutual-fund purchases should receive sales-charge discounts, and conducted no review or supension to determine i f those discounts were applied correctly.

This not only allowed Dragon s breakpoint-manipulation scheme to go unchecked, it also resulted in further injury to Berthel s customers: from 2010 through 2014, Berthel failed to detect that more than 2,700 of its customers’ UIT purchases did not receive applicable sales-charge discounts. As a result, Berthel customers paid excessive sales charges of approximately $667.000, nearly all of which was paid to Berthel and its registered representatives as dealer concessions.

Invement losses with John Blakezuniga

John Blakezuniga, formerly of Vanguard Capital, recently entered into a settlement agreement with FINRA regulators, where he agreed to a fine but did not admit or deny fault, concerning alleged fraudulent activity in the portfolios of his investors.  Blakezuniga sometimes goes by the name of John Blake, sometimes by the name John Zuniga, and sometimes by John Blake-Zuniga.

Jeffrey Pederson, PC helps investors recover such losses.  For a free and confidential consultation with a lawyer, please call 1-866-817-0201.

As identified in the FINRA regulatory settlement, referred to as an AWC, between 2007 and 2013, Blakezuniga borrowed $775,000 (which he has not fully repaid) from two firm customers Invest photo 2in violation of the firm’s policy. As a result, Blakezuniga violated NASD Rules 2370 and 21 10 and FINRA Rules 3240 and 2010.

Blakezuniga separately violated FINRA Rule 2010 by falsely answering “no” to a question on the firm’s 2013 annual compliance questionnaire that asked if he had ever borrowed money from a customer.

In addition, from 2010 to 2014, Blakezuniga recommended approximately 1,280 transactions in inverse and inverse leveragedExchange Traded Funds (“nontraditional ETFs”) in 85 customer accounts without a reasonable basis for the recommendations. By doing so, Blakezuniga violated NASD Rule 2310 and FINRA Rules 2111 and 2010.

Borrowing funds from an investor/customer is fraudulent because of the discrepancy in the bargaining power between broker and investor.  The prohibition is codified in NASD and FINRA rules.  NASD Rule 2370 and FINRA Rule 3240′ generally prohibit registered representatives from borrowing money from any customer subject to limited exceptions and in accordance with firm procedures.

Likewise, lacking a reasonable basis for the recommendation of an investment is violative. NASD Rule 2310 and FINRA Rule 21113 require registered representatives to have reasonable grounds for believing that a recommendation is suitable for a customer based upon the customer’s disclosed security holdings and financial situation and needs. A violation ofthese rules also constitutes a violation of FINRA Rule 2010.

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.

Charles Lee Deremo

Cadaret, Grant & Co., Inc. of Syracuse, New York and Stockbroker Charles Lee Deremo of Apple Valley, Minnesota submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent.

If you invested with either Cadaret or Deremo, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation with an attorney.

Cadaret was censured and fined $10,000 and Deremo was fined of $5,000,
suspended from association with any FINRA member, which is any stockbrokerage or financial advisory firm, in any capacity for 10 business days.

The firm and Deremo consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that the firm failed to enforce its own procedures and conduct an adequate suitability review of Deremo’s recommended investment strategy for a customer.  This is in violation of FINRA rules that require a brokerage firm to review recommendations of brokers to verify that the recommendations are suitable.

The findings, which were neither admitted nor denied, stated that the firm failed to identify that Deremo’s basis for the recommendation of a strategy for the customer may not have been suitable given the customer’s age, his investment objectives, his risk tolerance and the concentration of his investment. Moreover, the customer relied on monthly withdrawals from his variable annuity for living expenses.

The regulatory document giving more details of the underlying facts can be found with the following link.

If you believe you were also sold unsuitable securities, please call the number above for a free consultation on your legal rights and whether you have grounds for recovery.  Regulatory actions such as this can often expose the basis for additional private actions.

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.