The New York Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman announced today the unsealing of a 35-count indictment of and the arrest of Robert H. Van Zandt, a Bronx tax preparer who for years sold promissory notes in alleged real estate investments “guaranteeing” high rates of interest return. He sold these promissory notes out of his tax preparation business, the Van Zandt Agency, while he was licensed by various broker-dealers to sell securities.
Malecki Law currently represents a large group of investors who purchased promissory notes totaling almost $10 million in aggregate from Mr. Van Zandt in an arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA“), the independent regulator of securities companies. The arbitration is pending against MetLife Securities, Inc., a broker-dealer who employed Mr. Van Zandt during a period in his career. While investors purchased the promissory notes directly from Robert Van Zandt and through the Van Zandt Agency, he was then licensed by MetLife Securities, Inc. to sell securities, and MetLife was required to perform certain supervisory and audit duties as a result of that employment relationship.
Malecki Law is also investigating the potential for other actions against other broker-dealers arising from Mr. Van Zandt’s alleged real estate investments.
Broker-dealers owe heightened audit and supervisory duties of these off-site and often unregistered offices because promissory note fraud and other Ponzi-like frauds and schemes have become common. Under FINRA Rules, SEC guidance and prevailing industry standards, broker-dealers have affirmative duties to oversee and supervise the conduct of their associated persons, both inside and outside of their offices.
Specifically, firms have been repeatedly advised, both through FINRA Rules, NASD Rules and FINRA/NASD Notices to Members, to beware of certain improper or fraudulent activities which are regularly conducted and can have devastating effects on customers. Notice to Members 98-38 specifically outlined that geographically diverse offices present supervisory risks and potential problems in detecting faulty sales practices.
FINRA has, itself, has recently fined firms for lax supervisory performance, or inadequate systems for detecting potential fraud. Mr. Van Zandt, through the Van Zandt Agency, operated a tax preparation business, creating the sort of environment that would require heightened supervision.
The New York Attorney General noted in their press release that the fraud continued through at least 2011 and involved at least $4.6 million. We believe it was a larger scheme. Investors who believe they purchased similar investments through Mr. Van Zandt or any other employee at the Van Zandt Agency should immediately contact an attorney at Malecki Law to see if they qualify for an action against a broker-dealer who licensed and employed these individuals during the relevant time period.