Articles Tagged with broker-dealer

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Matthew Maczko.  Mr. Maczko was employed and registered with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC, a national broker-dealer out of the firm’s Oakbrook, Illinois, from February 2008 to September 2016, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  He was previously registered with UBS Financial Services, Inc. from November 1998 to March 2008, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2017, Mr. Maczko was permanently barred from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2016050430201.  According to the AWC, Mr. Maczko violated NASD Rule 2310 and Rule 2111, both pertaining to suitability of investment recommendations, because from 2009 to 2016, Mr. Maczko “effected excessive transactions in four brokerage accounts of [a] customer … who is now 93 years old,” and “during this period, Maczko effected over 2800 transactions in these accounts that generated approximately $581,650 in commissions, $84,270 in other fees, and approximately $397,000 in trading losses.”  As the AWC went on, “[t]his level of trading was unsuitable.”

FINRA Suitability Rules require that recommendations made by the broker to the customer be suitable.  This means that the broker must consider the investor’s age, investment experience, age, tax status, other investments, as well as other factors when making a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

We frequently represent individuals who have received an SEC Subpoena, and often the first question asked is, “Why did I get this subpoena? I did nothing wrong.”  The SEC investigates many kinds of misconduct, and the people they seek information and documents from (through the use of Subpoenas) very often are not “targets” of the investigation, but the SEC may believe they could be a “witness,” or may have useful information that could aid the investigation.  Understanding the common investigations the SEC may commence is a good first step to understanding what prompted the Subpoena.

According to the SEC, the most common types of investigations of potential securities violations include:

  • Misrepresentation or omission of important information about securities – when promoting the sale of securities, brokers, broker-dealers and other securities professionals should ensure that promotional materials accurately reflect the characteristics and risks of the securities.

You just received a Subpoena from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).  What will you have to produce?  We regularly represent securities industry professionals and investors who have gotten these Subpoenas, and the reaction is usually the same: people are nervous and concerned.  How will this affect your business, and how what will it take the comply?

Getting an SEC Subpoena is a serious matter, and it is imperative that you carefully comply in a timely manner.  Subpoenas will typically require you to produce documents or testify, or both.  Your goal should always to limit your involvement with the federal authorities, and this begins with your production of documents in response to the Subpoena.

The first step is to remember that just because you received a Subpoena does not mean you automatically did something wrong.  You may not be the SEC’s target, but may be someone the Commission believes has information related to another person or business.  The SEC is not obligated to tell you whether they view you as a target or a witness, and you should not assume you are a target.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Solomon David Krispeal.  Since January 2016, Mr. Krispeal has been employed and registered with PHX Financial, Inc., a Hauppauge, New York broker-dealer, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  He was previously registered with Legend Securities, Inc. from March 2013 to February 2016, Aegis Capital Corp. from April 2012 to March 2013 and with John Thomas Financial from January 2008 to April 2012, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2017, Mr. Krispeal was fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for 30 days by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2014042764601.  According to the AWC, Mr. Krispeal violated FINRA Rule 1122 (Filing of Misleading Information as to Membership or Registration) and Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) because he did not disclose an arbitration he was named as a respondent in, and when he did make the disclosure, he “inaccurately disclosed that the matter was ‘withdrawn,’ rather than ‘settled.’”  FINRA Rule 1122 require that brokers and brokerage firms accurately disclose information regarding membership and registration to FINRA and correct any filings when required.

In addition to this regulatory matter, Mr. Krispeal has been made the subject of seven customer complaints, including two matter that have resulted in a settlement or an award, according to BrokerCheck records.  In one case (FINRA Case No. 13-00830) where which Mr. Krispeal was listed as a respondent and the customer made allegations of unauthorized trading, unsuitability and churning, the customer was awarded $75,000 (nearly all of the stated damages of $95,000), according to FINRA Dispute Resolution records.  Mr. Krispeal’s BrokerCheck Report also disclosed that the second case resulting in settlement concerned a customer’s allegations of unauthorized trading and alleged forgery.

AdvisorHub reported on January 23, 2017 that the SEC permanently barred Ane Plate from the securities industry for stealing from her elderly clients.  Ms. Plate was most recently registered as a broker from May 2005 to June 2014 with Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network, LLC out of the broker-dealer’s Orlando, Florida office.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Order detailed that from October 2013 to April 2014, she made 15 unauthorized sales of securities from her elderly clients’ accounts totaling over $176,000.  In a regulatory action brought by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Ms. Plate submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2014041705101 (AWC) where she accepted and consented to findings by FINRA that she facilitated the $176,000 to be transferred to her client’s bank account where she then arranged for 15 checks to be issued from the customer’s account, payable to her.  The AWC detailed that in total, Ms. Plate converted $140,058 from her brokerage customer, and that this conduct violated FINRA Rules 2150 (Improper Use of Customers’ Securities or Funds) and 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade).  Ms. Plate was terminated from her employment with Wells Fargo for this same conduct, according to her publicly available BrokerCheck report as maintained by FINRA.

The SEC Order stated that on May 20, 2015, Ms. Plate pled guilty to one count of Theft, Embezzlement, or Misapplication by a Bank Officer or Employee, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 656, in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida.  Ms. Plate’s criminal case is titled United States v. Ane Plate, Case No. 6:15-cr-00084-GKS-GJK (M.D. Fla).

It was reported by AdvisorHub on January 24, 2017 that the firm terminated three high producing brokers who were being investigated internally.  The three brokers were members of the PC Wealth Management Group.

The first broker, Michael Paesano, was reported to

have been terminated over “concerns” of his “exercise of discretion and investment strategy,” according to the AdvisorHub article.  According to Mr. Paesano’s publicly available BrokerCheck report, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), he has been the subject of 15 customer complaints, spanning his employment and registration at two broker-dealers, including Morgan Stanley from May 2011 to January 2017 and UBS Financial Services, Inc. from August 2005 to May 2011.  According to Mr. Paesano’s BrokerCheck report and the AdvisorHub article, the most recent customer complaint, alleging unsuitable investments and $1,000,000 in damages, resulted in a settlement of $245,000 to the customer.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Matthew Meehan.  Mr. Meehan was last employed and registered with E.J. Sterling, LLC, a Garden City, New York, broker-dealer, from November 2011 to October 2015, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  He was previously registered with Aegis Capital Corp. from March 2010 to November 2011 and with Gunnallen Financial, Inc. from September 2008 to March 2010, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2017, Mr. Meehan was fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for 12 months by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2016050114901 .  According to the AWC, Mr. Meehan violated FINRA Rule 2111 (Suitability) and FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) because from January 2014 through June 2015, he exercised discretion without the customers’ written authorization to do so, and engaged in unsuitable trading in several customers’ accounts “resulting in annualized turnover rates of 12, 21, and 32, respectively, and annualized cost-to-equity ratios of 54%, 110%, and 179%, respectively.”  Trading at these levels of turnover and cost-to-equity ratios could be considered churning, which is defined as excessive trading by the broker in the client’s account to generate commissions.

FINRA Rules require that recommendations made by the broker to the customer be suitable.  This means that the broker must consider the investor’s age, investment experience, age, tax status, other investments, as well as other factors when making a recommendation to buy or sell securities.

The securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have purchased Variable Universal Life Insurance (VUL) policies.

According to Investopedia, VUL policies combine a death benefit with investment feature.  The investment feature generally includes sub-accounts, as with other variable annuities, that invest in stocks and bonds, or mutual funds that have exposure to stocks and bonds.  While a VUL investment feature may offer an opportunity to gain an increased rate of return by investing in securities, it generally comes with higher management fees and commissions.  As a result, these commissions and fees must be weighed against the risk of loss in the securities purchased.  These risks must be disclosed to the investor prior to investment.

Issues surrounding VUL policies are not new.  A U.S. News and World Report article from 2011 highlighted that these types of policies generally come with higher fees, fewer investment options and sometimes surrender policies.

As reported recently, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has commenced an investigation into the cross-selling activities of several broker dealers in the wake of the Wells Fargo fallout. FINRA’s objective has reportedly been to determine just how much cross selling is taking place (including promotion of products such as credit cards and loans) and what incentives are being provided to employees to engage in the conduct.

A FINRA spokesperson was quoted as saying, ““In light of recent issues related to cross-selling, FINRA is focused on the nature and scope of broker-dealers’ cross-selling activities and whether they are adequately supervising these activities by their registered employees to protect investors.”

Supervision at broker dealers is a very critical aspect of customer service. It is important that brokers and their firms are only promoting and selling products to customers that are appropriate for that customer and in the customer’s best interest. As has been shown by the Wells Fargo disaster, cross-selling incentive programs can compromise that goal by creating a conflict of interest.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Eric L. Swenson.  Mr. Swenson was last employed and registered with PNC Investments, from the broker-dealer’s Fort Pierce, Florida office, from November 2014 to October 2016, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  He was previously registered with Scottrade, Inc. from October 2003 to January 2014, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2016, Mr. Swenson was fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for nine months by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2014039902901.  According to the AWC, Mr. Swenson violated FINRA Rules 3270 (Outside Business Activities of Registered Persons) and FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) because he did not inform his registering firm about his outside business activity, Impact Energy Gum, Inc.  The AWC detailed that while Mr. Swenson told his firm that he would be an investor in the company, which activity was approved, he did not disclose that from July 2012 through December 2013, he also contacted potential distributors, exporters, equipment vendors and lessors on behalf of Impact and was involved in attempts to solicit potential investors to purchase securities of Impact and obtained a short-term loan to Impact from a family member.  The AWC stated that Mr. Swenson did not fully disclose the extent of his involvement with Impact, in violation of Rule 3270.

Mr. Swenson’s BrokerCheck records detail that he was permitted to resign and was discharged from PNC Investments and Scottrade, respectively, amidst allegations of failing to fully disclose information regarding his outside business activity.