Articles Posted in Audits and Investigations

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Michael Fasciglione.  Mr. Fasciglione is believed to be registered with National Securities Corporation, based out of Mineola, NY.  He has also recently been registered with Oppenheimer & Co. and First Montauk Securities, according to industry records.

According to BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Fasciglione has been the subject of more than 10 customer complaints.  Stretching back as far as 1995, Mr. Fasciglione has been accused of recommending unsuitable investments to customers, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, excessive trading, fraud, unauthorized trading, taking excessive risk, misrepresentations, allowing a customer’s account to exceed comfortable margin balances, and charging excessive commissions, per FINRA records.

Of these customer disputes, FINRA records indicate that some customers received back tens of thousands of dollars in connection with their complaints.  One customer reportedly received back $300,000 in connection with an unauthorized trading complaint, while another reportedly received $120,000 in a suitability claim.

The securities fraud attorneys are interested in hearing from investors with complaints involving Dwarka Persaud.  Per his BrokerCheck Report, maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Persaud is a registered stock broker with Buckman, Buckman & Reid, based out of Shrewsbury, NJ.

Mr. Persaud’s BrokerCheck Report indicates that he has been the subject of at least six customer complaints.  At the center of several of these complaints was churning and excessive commissions.  Churning is the frequent,over-trading of a customer’s account by the broker to generate high commissions paid by the customer, benefitting the broker and the firm.  Churning is against the law and industry regulations.

Mr. Persaud is reportedly the subject of at least two currently pending customer complaints, each alleging and “unauthorized trading.”  One of these complaints also alleges churning.  The other alleges that the unauthorized trading caused more than $45,000 in losses.

FINRA has announced that it has fined Aegis Capital Corp. $950,000 for sales of unregistered penny stocks and anti-money laundering violations.    According to FINRA, this fine was also related to supervisory failures within the firm.

The firm was not the only one that FINRA appears to have come down hard upon.  Reports show that Charles D. Smulevitz and Kevin C. McKenna, who each served as the firm’s Chief Compliance and AML Compliance Offices were given 30-day and 60-day principal suspensions and fined $5,000 and $10,000, respectively, per FINRA.  Aegis’ president, Robert Eide, was also reportedly given a “time-out” in the form of a 15-day suspension for failing to disclosed more than a half-million dollars in outstanding liens, in violation of FINRA rules.

FINRA reportedly found that from April of 2009 through June of 2011, Aegis liquidated almost 4 billion shares of penny stocks which were neither properly registered nor exempted from registration with the US Securities and Exchanges Commission.  According to FINRA, Aegis committed these violations in spite of a multitude of “red flags” or warning signs that something was amiss.

“My broker dealer wants me to meet with its lawyers.”  This is the start of a FINRA registered representative’s worst nightmare.

Your heart is pounding and your head starts to race.  “Why me?” “What do they want to know?”  “What could I have done?”  “Are they going to ask me about the XYZ account?”  “I’m sure that I did everything right and by the book, didn’t I?”

If you did do something that may have been a violation of the law, FINRA Rules, or the firm’s manual, you will likely begin to think about the potential punishment (fine, suspension, termination) even before you hang up the phone or close the door to your office.  Once an investigation into your conduct starts, you are not able to leave with a “voluntary” termination, but at best would be “permitted to resign during a firm investigation.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced today that is has formally charged Malcolm Segal with running a Ponzi scheme and stealing investor money from his office in Pennsylvania.  According to his BrokerCheck Report, Mr. Segal was formerly a registered stockbroker with Aegis Capital Corp. and Cumberland Advisors.  Mr. Segal reportedly was a partner in J&M Financial and the president of National CD Sales.

According to the SEC, Mr. Segal allegedly sold what he called certificates of deposit (CDs) to his brokerage customers under the false pretense that he could get them a higher rate of interest than was then available through banks.  Mr. Segal allegedly represented to his victims that his CDs were FDIC insured and risk-free. Mr. Segal reportedly defrauded at least fifty investors out of roughly $15.5 million.

As his scheme was unravelling, Mr. Segal allegedly began to steal from his customers’ brokerage accounts by falsifying fraudulent paperwork such as letters of authorization. This fake paperwork reportedly allowed Mr. Segal to withdraw funds from his customers’ accounts without them knowing.  Ultimately, in July 2014, the scheme collapsed completely.  Mr. Segal has since been barred from the securities industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

Back in February, I wrote a piece on what to do when you get an SEC subpoena.  SEC subpoenas are only part of the securities regulatory landscape.  While the SEC can and will subpoena anyone – registered or unregistered – who is potentially the target of or may have helpful information related to an SEC investigation,  FINRA registered representatives are subject to FINRA Rule 8210 as well.

FINRA Rule 8210 allows FINRA investigators to essentially “subpoena” a person – i.e., require that they testify on the record and/or compel them to produce documents – without actually ever getting a subpoena.  Instead, FINRA uses what is commonly (and not surprisingly) referred to as an “8210 Request.”

8210 Requests are similar to SEC subpoenas in their function, but differ slightly in practice.  FINRA investigators will regularly tell parties that FINRA is not the government, but merely a private member organization.  Why is that significant?  Some may say that its significant because they cannot actually “require” someone to come testify under a threat of contempt or jailtime – that response is in a way “voluntary.”

A Letter of Acceptance Waiver and Consent was recently accepted by FINRA’s Department of Enforcement from Andre Paul Young.  Mr. Young was accused of borrowing more than $200,000 from customers in violation of FINRA rules while a registered representative of MetLife Securities, Inc.  Specifically, Mr. Young was accused of violating NASD Rule 2370, FINRA Rule 3240 and FINRA Rule 2010.

It was alleged that from June 2010 through June 2012, Mr. Young borrowed roughly $208,000 from two MetLife Securities customers for personal expenses, including those associated with the settlement of certain estate matters.  Per the AWC, the customers issued five checks from their MetLife Securities brokerage account payable to a bank account number for an account owned by Mr. Young.

Per FINRA, this conduct was in violation of MetLife Securities policies and FINRA Rules.  FINRA Rule 3240 (and formerly NASD Rule 2370) expressly prohibits brokers from borrowing funds from customers.  In addition to those violations, Mr. Young allegedly failed to timely and completely respond to requests for documents and information in violation of FINRA Rule 8210.

In recent weeks, attention has turned to the Securities and Exchange Commission‘s declining success rate when going to trial against alleged wrongdoers. Publications such as the New York Times and Wall Street Journal have run multiple articles recently about this surprising decline. Per the Wall Street Journal, the SEC’s success rate has dropped to 55% since October, as opposed to the more than 75% success rate in the three consecutive years prior.

While the cases at the center of this decline were in the works well before Mary Jo White took the helm at the SEC, many are beginning to speculate how the Commission will react. Ms. White recently touted the then 80% success rate last year, citing it as a potential reason why attorneys counsel their clients to settle rather than face trial. However, this may be on the verge of changing. Emboldened by the newfound success of defendants in defending trials against the Commission, those who may find themselves in the SEC’s crosshairs may begin to opt to go to trial.

Recent cases, such as the insider-trading investigation and trial of billionaire Dallas Mavericks owner, Mark Cuban, have only intensified the public interest in the Commission and the work it does to investigate violations of the securities laws.

The recent string of cases brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with the US Attorney’s Office against members of SAC Capital for insider trading has shone a bright light on the world of SEC investigations. Though all financial professionals surely hope that they will never be involved in an SEC investigation, the truth of the matter is that many unfortunately will.

Receiving a subpoena from any government agency can be a worrisome event in anyone’s life, but for a financial professional, receiving a subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission can be especially intimidating. More often than not, the recipient may be confused as to, “Why is the SEC contacting me?”

Individuals are typically contacted by the SEC for two reasons: 1) You are the subject of its investigation; or 2) The SEC believes you may have valuable information related to its investigation of an entity or someone else.

In a follow up to our recent critique of dividing defrauded consumers into “net winners” and “net losers” comes a decision from U.S. District Judge Jed Rakoff, who has dismissed Bernie Madoff trustee Irving Picard’s claims filed to regain nearly $1 billion from Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz, the owners of baseball’s New York Mets. The decision may potentially limit Picard’s future chances of recouping investors’ initial investments with Madoff, in what analysts have dubbed “clawback suits” filed by the trustee against the defrauded.

The judge’s decision illustrates a difference between U.S. bankruptcy law and securities law regarding when investors should return money previously received from their broker. A thorough, easy-to-read explanation of fraud can be found on our home site. For New York law, that period spans up to six years prior to a broker’s bankruptcy, while Federal law caps that limit at only two years. What Picard will be able to recoup depends greatly upon whether he will continue to be held to Federal standards. Several district court judges have in recent months sided with Madoff investors’ requests to move cases out of bankruptcy court, a setting that typically favors the trustee.

What we can all learn from these rulings is that where and when an investment is made – as well as where and when any necessary litigation takes place – can be just as important as the venture you’ve chosen to pursue. For one, it’s notable that our national standard for “clawback” measures is more favorable than that of New York, a state housing Wall Street and an immense amount of high stakes real estate, as well as many entertainment and banking endeavors. Clearly, it pays for investors to be informed about their state’s “clawback” legislature: for those of us engaging the market longterm, timing is everything, and how recently you’ve been the victim of fraud sets crucial perimeters.