Tag Archives: Illinois

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 303-300-5022 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.

 

Adam Michael Lopez Loss Recovery

If you were an investor of Adam Michael Lopez, formerly of Country Capital Management, please call 303-300-5022 to discuss your options for loss recovery.

Invest photo 2Mr. Lopez has recently received a bar from the securities industry.  He refused to respond to allegations made against him by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  These allegations included claims that he stole funds  that clients had given to him for investment, namely funds for insurance policies.

FINRA is a self-regulatory organization that polices securities brokerages under the oversight of the SEC.  This entity is charged with policing securities brokers in their interactions with investors both with their firm and away from their investment firm.

The State of Illinois is also investigating since Mr. Lopez operated out of the Springfield area.  The allegations consist of theft of funds given to Lopez for the placement in certain insurance policies and securities.

Country Capital Management had a duty to oversee the activities of Lopez.  A securities broker-dealer has obligations to oversee outside business activities of its representatives.  Consequently, civil liability may exist on the part of Country Capital to compensate the clients of Lopez.

If you have suffered such losses, Jeffrey Pederson may be able to assist you.  Jeffrey Pederson handles FINRA arbitration cases across the country and is licensed with the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois.

Losses with Stuart Pearl of Ameriprise

If you have been the victim of unauthorized securities trades or been recommended unsuitable securities by your financial advisor, please call 1-866-817-0201.  We are interested to investors suffering losses with Stuart Pearl.  Mr. Pearl has recently entered into a regulatory settlement where he neither admits or denies the following:

investingstockphoto 1On May 14, 2015, Stuart Pearl used discretion to liquidate positions in six different securities with a total principal amount of approximately $20,000, on behalf of a senior investor. Although the investor had authorized Pearl to execute these liquidations in discussions that took place prior to May 14, 2015, Pearl failed to speak with the investor again on May 14, 2015, to confirm the investor’s authorization to make these sales.

Pearl’s use of discretion as described was without prior written authorization from the investor, and without prior written acceptance of the account as discretionary from his firm, Ameriprise. By virtue of the foregoing, Pearl violated NASD and FINRA rules.

In June 2010, two other customers of Pearl, who were retired and both in their 70s, opened a joint brokerage account with him at Ameriprise. The new account documentation provided that securities could be purchased on margin, a process or lending money to buy securities that involves a great deal of risk.

At the time they opened their account, the investors had an investment objective of “growth and income,” a risk tolerance of”conservative/moderate” and limited experience with trading on margin. They also had a combined annual income of $30,000, a liquid net worth of$500,000 and investable funds of $400,000.

Between September 2011 and March 2012, Pearl recommended that the investors purchase four securities valued at approximately $122,000 on margin. Prior to making those purchases, the customers bad no margin debt balance in their account. As a result of those investments, the investors experienced a significant increase in their margin debt balances in relation to their available funds and their account was subject to seven margin calls during the relevant period, where the parties must deposit funds into their account to pay the outstanding loan or risk liquidation of their portfolio.  The recommendation to purchase such investments utilizing margin was unsuitable and in violation of FINRA and NASD rules prohibiting unsuitable recommendations.

Ameriprise had a duty to oversee the transactions of Pearl and should be responsible for the lack of supervision given Pearl.

More information on this matter can be found in the October 10, 2017 issue of InvestmentNews.

Illinois/Chicago Muni Bond Loss Recovery

Jeffrey Pederson is licensed in the federal courts for the Northern and Central Districts of Illinois, and has aided investors nationwide in the recovery of investment losses, such as muni bond losses.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation with an attorney.  We are currently investigating the potential recovery for losses in muni bonds issued by both Illinois and Chicago.

The risks of these bonds were foreseeable for years.  Financial professionals have a duty to only recommend investments that are consistent with the level of risk the investor both wants and can withstand.  Those either looking for retirement income or non-speculative investments may possibly have a claim if recommended either the Illinois or Chicago bonds.

Illinois bonds have long been at risk since the state has not had an approved budget in over two years.  The state currently has over $14 billion in unpaid bills.  This comes in the wake of similar financial problems in the territory of Puerto Rico.  In Puerto Rico, financial problems led to bankruptcy and caused thousands of investors to lose their life savings when they were led to believe that they were invested in “safe” municipal bonds.

Chicago is also on the verge of bankruptcy.  For years, the return on Chicago bonds were known to be too good to be true.  In 2014, the city’s debt was downgraded to junk status given the massive debts owed to four of its pension funds. This led to a widespread selloff in Chicago muni bonds.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, in response, instituted a record property tax increase for city residents. Bills in 2016 will be, on average, 13% higher. The increased ‘revenue’ to the city is being used to help fix the four pension funds’ large underfunded status.

The Mayor’s plan to fix the $20 billion public pension shortfall was ruled unconstitutional. The restructuring plan was passed by the state legislature in 2014, but was struck down due to the state’s constitution, which has a clause that forbids the reduction of public pensions.

William P. Carlson of Elhert

On February 21, 2017, he Securities and Exchange Commission charged William P. Carlson, Jr., a Deerfield, IL investment advisor with misappropriating more than $900,000 from a client’s account through more than 40 unauthorized transactions.  Deerfield is in the Chicago-area.

The SEC alleges that Carlson, an investment advisor representative associated with the Ehlert Group in Lincolnshire, forged a client’s signature on checks and journal requests and caused checks to be issued from the client’s account to a third party who gave the proceeds to Carlson.

Carlson had discretionary authority to place trades in the victim’s accounts. Such trades, involving the purchase and sale of mutual fund shares, were supposed to be made pursuant to a model asset allocation portfolio selected by the client based on advice from Carlson. When requested by the client, Carlson could direct disbursement of funds held in the accounts to the client. In order to disburse funds held in the accounts for the benefit of a third party, the Broker-Dealer holding the funds required a written request signed by the client.

On at least sixteen different occasions from November 2012 to April 2014, Carlson directed that a check made payable to the client be issued from the client’s account, purportedly based on instructions Carlson had received from the client. The check amounts ranged from $6,500 to as much as $97,000, and collectively totaled $437,000.

In approximately June 2014, Carlson changed his method of making unauthorized withdrawals from the client’s account. Carlson began forging the vicitm’s signature on “Check and Journal Request” forms that directed the Broker-Dealer to make disbursements of funds held in the client’s account to a third party who was a friend of Carlson’s.

In March 2015, Carlson forged the vicitm’s signature on a letter of authorization and a notarized signature sample letter permitting the firm holding the funds to issue checks from the victim’s account to Carlson’s same friend, without the need for further check and journal requests that required additional client signatures.

Between approximately June 2014 and December 2016, through the use of these forged authorizations, Carlson caused at least 25 checks—ranging in amount from $10,000 to $35,000 and collectively totaling $474,000—to be issued from the client’s account to Carlson’s friend, who in turn gave the proceeds to Carlson.

The Complaint of the SEC can be found at the following link.

Losses with Maczko of Wells Fargo

If you invested with Matthew Maczko, a broker with Wells Fargo Advisors in Oak Brook, Illinois and suffered losses that you question, please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and private consultation with an attorney concerning your rights.

Wells FargoMaczko was suspended from the securities industry last week, the week of February 7, 2017, for alleged excessive trading in the brokerage accounts of a 93-year-old customer, according to a FINRA. Maczko effectively controlled the customer’s accounts, which had an average aggregate value of $3 million.

Maczko’s trading  generated more than 2800 transactions resulting in $582,000 in commissions, $84,270 in fees and approximately $397,000 in trading losses for the account in question. Such trading activity was not only churning but was also unsuitable for Maczko’s victim given the customer’s age, risk tolerance and income needs.

Maczko also intentionally mislead FINRA regulators and investigators by telling them during testimony that he had not spoken to  other senior customers after his termination from Wells Fargo, when in fact he had spoken with them several times.

Securities brokers are required to follow the rules of FINRA.  FINRA requires that investments not only be suitable in terms of the nature of the investment, but also that the investments be quantitatively suitable.  This means that the number of trades cannot be excessive in light of the wants and needs of the customer.  Above a certain level, the trades can be seen as not being for the benefit of the customer, but for the broker.

The trades of Maczko went well beyond the acceptable number of trades.

John Burns, Ameriprise, UBS Loss Recovery

John Burns of St. Charles, MO, and formerly of Ameriprise, UBS, Edward Jones and Sagepoint, submitted an agreement settling a regulatory suit in which he was assessed a deferred fine of and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 14 months.  Such regulatory actions rarely work to compensate injured investors and injured investors should speak to an attorney concerning their losses.  If you believe that you have suffered losses, or believe the offer to settle your matter is too low, call 1-866-817-0201 for a free initial consultation with an attorney.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Burns consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he engaged in a pattern of unauthorized trading in customer accounts and made unsuitable, risky investments for a senior couple. The findings stated that Burns did not have written discretionary authority to place trades in any of these customer accounts. In some of UBSthe customer accounts, Burns executed the trades without any authorization, while in other customer accounts, Burns had some verbal authorization to exercise discretion generally, but exceeded that verbal authorization by executing trades in excess of the available funds in the account. The findings also stated that Burns made unsuitable and unauthorized investments over a twoyear period in the account of a senior retired couple, both of whom were over 65 years old. These transactions involved repeated high-risk investments in small drug company stocks which were unsuitable for the customers’ moderate risk tolerance and investment profile. The customers sustained losses in all but one of these investments in an aggregate amount exceeding $50,000.

Burns has also been the subject of five lawsuits in recent years filed by investors concerning the mishandling of their accounts.

Tobin Joseph Senefeld

FINRA  has announced that  Tobin Joseph Senefeld, formerly of PIN Financial, a Carmel, Indiana brokerage firm owned by Veros Partners, has been barred from associating with any FINRA member institution, according to its monthly disciplinary report released last week. The sanction is related to a Securities and Exchange Commission suit that claimed Senefeld and two others operated a multimillion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving farm loans.

FINRAThe SEC case claimed the three raised $15 million from 80 investors in 2013 and 2014 to fund farm loans. New investor funds were used to pay older investors when the loans went bad.

Senefeld has a long history of misconduct.  The FINRA and SEC actions are just the latest of his legal problems.  The record of Senefeld contained on FINRA’s BrockerCheck indicates that Senefeld has 27 disclosure events dating back to 1997.

The prior misconduct of Senefeld, also known as “disclosure events,” include a substantial number of state regulatory actions, including the revocation of his license by Michigan in 2000 and other regulatory punishment by 16 other jurisdictions around the same time.  Senefeld also had a long history of tax liens, terminations, and civil suits initiated against him by other investors.

Co-defendants in the present SEC matter, Matthew D. Haab and Jeffrey B. Risinger, both have settled the civil suit for about $184,000 and $100,000, respectively. Senefeld and the SEC failed to reach a settlement at an in-person meeting Oct. 28, according to court filings, so Senefeld’s case remains on course for trial.

Senefeld, PIN and Risinger have all received lifetime bans from the securities industry by FINRA.

Oil or Gas Investment Losses

Oil Stock IIJeffrey Pederson, P.C. helps investors determine if they have a right to recover investment losses in oil, gas or other investments.  Please call 1-866-817-0201 toll-free for a free and confidential consultation.

While brokers will unlikely blame the 2020 decline in energy investments on the coronavirus issues, the declines started in advance of the virus and the virus was only a small portion of the decline.

These investments have always been known to be speculative with a potential for large losses.  Heightened commissions or an inattention to risk drove brokers or adviser’s to inappropriately recommend such investments over the past few years.  The losses such investments suffered in 2020 is not first time oil and gas has gone into free-fall.  In fact, the oil and gas industry has suffered equal or greater shocks in the past decade.

In 2016, oil dropped to a price below $30 a barrel.  This happened again in 2020 when some oil futures fell below $0.  Many investors simply ignore their losses, believing that the loss is simply due to the market, without knowing that they may be entitled to a recovery.  Such individuals unnecessarily let their plans for retirement or other future plans go unfulfilled because of the financial loss they sustained.

In late 2014, countless oil, gas and other energy companies have filed for bankruptcy.  Many investors in these companies were illegally sold these investments by brokerage firms motivated by commissions paid by the investments.  Such investments can take many forms including, but not limited to, Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs), common stock, notes, bonds, mutual funds, and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs).

Regulators have put brokers on notice that oil and gas exchange traded products, ETPs, should not be recommended to average investors.

In sum, these investments are and have always been inappropriately sold to investors looking for moderate investments or otherwise looking to fund retirement or retirement savings.  The investments are and have never been stable.  This was known or should have been known by brokers and investment advisors for years.  Recommendations of oil and gas investments to such moderate investors is motivated either by heightened commissions many of these investments pay or, in some cases, negligence.

The reason brokers continue to misrepresent these investments and recommend to people who do not want such risk is the commission paid.   These investments can pay a broker and brokerage 10 to 20 times the commission that the average stock transaction pays.

Investors in certain ETFs, such as Direxion or USO, may have been inappropriately invested in these historically speculative investments.  Please call to speak to an attorney about whether you are entitled to recovery.

We are also currently investigating investments into the following energy companies:Oil Stock

American Eagle, BPZ, Buccaneer, Clean Energy Fuels, Climax Energy, Duer Wagner, Earthstone, Ensign Energy Services, Exxon, Fiduciary Claymore, Genal Energy, Hart Resources, Hercules Offshore,  Matador, Milagro Oil and Gas, Noble Energy, Petrobras, Origin Energy, Quicksilver Resources, Sabine, Samson Resources, Sandridge Energy, SBM Offshore, Southern Pacific, Walter Energy and WBH Energy.

Additionally, we are looking at MLPs focusing on energy such as Goldman Sachs MLP (GMZ) or any of the Steelpath investments.

Oil and gas limited partnership losses can do more than take away the hard earned principal of investors, it can also create tax liabilities that the investor was not expecting.  The result is that the investor could lose more than invested.  The following link discusses the risks that in more detail.

Jeffrey Pederson has represented investors in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut , Florida, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Minnesota, Missouri, 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.

 

 

 

Variable Annuity Fraud

We help investors who believe that they are victims of variable annuity fraud.  Variable annuity fraud has always been a frequent trick of brokers looking to put their own interests ahead of their investors (often by selling to those approaching retirement which is generally an unsuitable recommendation).  The investments pay an extremely high commission and the investments are only suitable for a small section of the investing public.  This fraud hit a new low last week.

Exchanging one variable annuity for another variable annuity is a form of fraud.  In May 2019 Woodbury Financial entered into a settlement agreement with regulators concerning systemic practices of exchanging annuities.  Annuities pay a commission that is very high compared to most suitable investments.  There is very little that would justify the switching of one variable annuity to another variable annuity other than the windfall that such an exchange provides the broker.

There are other schemes involving variable annuities where brokers enrich themselves at the expense of investors.  As reported in http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20140313/FREE/140319954, the Securities and Exchange Commission Thursday, March 13, 2014, filed charges against a group of brokers in a scheme wherein investors used variable annuities to wager on the lives of the terminally ill.

The brokers in question were Michael A. Horowitz of Los Angeles and Moshe Marc Cohen of Brooklyn, N.Y.

The brokers allegedly obtained the personal health and identification data of the dying patients through fraud, marking them as annuitants on variable annuity contracts that he had marketed to wealthy clients, according to the SEC’s complaint.  Under false pretenses, the brokers allegedly received their employers’ approval to sell the annuities.  The motivation with this plan, as with most fraudulent sales of variable annuities was the commission.  Variable annuities pay as large of a commission as just about any investment product that you can purchase through a securities brokerage.  The brokers reaped approximately $1 million in commissions from their sale, the SEC claimed, with Mr. Horowitz obtaining more than $300,000 and Mr. Cohen became unjustly enriched to the tune of more than $700,000.

If you have lost money with these or any other brokers you believe may have defrauded or mismanaged you portfolio call 303-300-5022 or toll-free at 1-866-817-0201.