Articles Posted in Securities Fraud & Unsuitable Investments

Trust Funds are an especially susceptible vehicle for fraud committed by FINRA registered stock brokers and financial advisors.  Two of the primary issues in such cases are “conflict of interest” and “breach of fiduciary duty.”

Trust funds can be created for a wide variety of reasons.  Frequently, though, they are used as a means to afford an orderly transfer of wealth to a younger generation.  They can offer a whole host of benefits that would make a trust fund the preferred choice over an outright gift.  For example, the recipient/beneficiary may be very young, and the trust could afford some level of control or stability to prevent the beneficiary from squandering the money.   Another reason may be certain tax advantages offered by the trust structure that would not be available in an outright give.

Regardless of the reason or reasons for its creation, a trust is going to need a trustee.  The trustee is the party responsible for overseeing the trust and managing its assets.  While trusts can hold different types of assets, they frequently contain securities, like as stocks and bonds. Therefore, such trusts would, by necessity, involve brokerage accounts.  In that case, clients will oftentimes look to their stockbroker/financial advisor to put on a “second hat” and serve as trustee.  The logic being “I already trust him/her with my money so why not let them be the trustee.”  However, this is where significant problems can be created.

New research shows that getting senior-aged investors to exhibit heightened emotions may cause those investors to more easily part with their hard-earned savings and retirement proceeds, according to a New Release published by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

The research was made possible with funding from the AARP Fraud Watch Network and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.  In the study, Stanford University Psychologists found that inducing emotions in older adults increased their intention to buy falsely advertised items, according to the News Release.  As reported, the study was conducted on younger adults and older adults, with both groups were induced to exhibit excitement or anger before watching advertisements known to be misleading.  According to the Release, the young adults group tended to believe advertisements based on their believability, and not subjective emotional states, while older adults tended to believe the misleading advertisements based only on their emotional states.

One researcher was quoted as noting “Whether the con artist tries to get you caught up in the excitement of potential riches or angry at the thought of past and future losses, the research shows their central tactic is the same and just as effective… Cons are skilled at getting their victims in to a heightened emotional state where you suspend rational thinking and willingly hand over your hard earned money to a crook.”

The New York securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors in Highland Funds’ series Energy Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs).

Highland Funds’ four Energy MLPs have declined by approximately 23% in the year to date, per Morningstar.  These funds include:

  • Highland Energy MLP C (HEFCX)

exclamation-point-icon-1444386The investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law announce the firm’s investigation into potential securities law claims against broker-dealers relating to the improper sale of natural gas and oil linked structured notes and similar products to investors.

Malecki Law is interested in hearing from investors who purchased structured notes issued by well-known financial institutions, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch (NYSE: BAC), Citigroup (NYSE: C), Credit Suisse (NYSE: CS), Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS), JP Morgan Chase (NYSE: JPM), Morgan Stanley (NYSE: MS), UBS (NYSE: UBS), and Barclays (NYSE: BCS).

These investment products, often bearing such names as “Phoenix,” “Plus,” “Enhanced Return,” “Principal Protected,” “Bullish,” “Leveraged Upside” or “Accelerated Return,” were reportedly marketed to investors as a way to make significant returns and income from the rising price of oil.  In addition to promises of increased gains, investments like these are frequently also sold to investors with assurances that their potential losses would be limited and their initial investment would be protected.

United Development Funding (“UDF”) has come under fire in recent months – being accused of operating like a “Ponzi scheme.”  It has allegedly disclosed that since April 2014, it has been under SEC investigation.

UDF operates several publicly-traded and non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) along with other real estate related companies, according to reports.  UDF reportedly operates in a manner that is different from traditional REITs – in that its assets are not real estate holdings, but rather development loans that it originates.

The UDF fund family is reportedly comprised of four public companies – United Mortgage Trust (non-traded), UDF III (non-traded), UDF IV (publicly traded symbol: UDF), and UDF V (non-traded).

The securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors in MainStay Investments’ Cushing series Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs) and Energy Equity mutual funds.  MainStay Investments is a subsidiary of New York Life Insurance Company.

Among the MainStay Cushing portfolio of funds, a number of them declined between 33% and 57% in 2015 year to date, per Morningstar.  These funds include:

  • MainStay Cushing® Royalty Energy Inc A (CURAX)

The securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors in Tortoise Capital Advisors and explore their potential options for recovering their losses.

The Kansas-based Tortoise Capital Advisors is a “privately owned investment manager . . . that primarily provides its services to high net worth individuals . . . and caters to corporations, pooled investment vehicles, investment companies, and pension and profit sharing plans . . . typically invest[ing] in [the] energy and infrastructure sector,” per Bloomberg Business.

Among Tortoise’s portfolio of funds, a number of them declined between 17% and 36% in 2015 alone, per Morningstar.

The investment and securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints about Wells Fargo stockbroker Gregg D. Lazarescu.

According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Lazarescu has been the subject of at least two customer complaints while registered with his prior firm Morgan Stanley.

In addition to Wells Fargo and Morgan Stanley, FINRA reports that Mr. Lazarescu was registered with MetLife, Chemical Investment Services Corp., Citicorp Investment Services, and Chase Investment Services Corp.

Shares of OncoMed (OMED) plunged more than 40% today, January 25th, in the wake of a report concerning a pancreatic cancer drug the company had reportedly been working on.  According to Marketwatch, “an independent data safety monitoring board advised ‘of several findings regarding futility’ of a Phase 2 treatment of pancreatic cancer.’”

Investors who have lost money in OncoMed may be legally entitled to recover some or all of their losses and are encouraged to contact the attorneys at Malecki Law to explore their rights.

Unfortunately, issues like the one presently facing OncoMed can happen in the market.  Even more unfortunate is that often times financial advisors will improperly advise their clients to take large positions in advance of the release of a report concerning a company’s prized drug, like Tarextumab.

The securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against Florida stockbroker John T. Keyser. Mr. Keyser is reportedly registered with Dawson James Securities, Inc. in Boca Raton, Florida. Industry records indicate that Mr. Keyser has also recently been registered with Viewtrade Financial and SAL Financial Services.

According to BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Keyser has been the subject of three customer complaints and a suspension of his license.

In 1998, Mr. Keyser reportedly had his FINRA (then NASD) license to sell securities suspended for failing to pay an arbitration award against him.