Articles Tagged with broker fraud

Arbitration is a formal alternative to courtroom litigation for resolving issues with neutral third party “arbitrators” issuing a binding decision after the litigants present their facts and argument. Compared to the usual courtroom procedures, arbitration is a faster, affordable and less formal legal proceeding.  FINRA, a self-regulatory-agency for the securities industry, controls the largest, most prominent arbitration forum for securities disputes. A full FINRA arbitration proceeding from initiation through hearing can take on average 16 months, but cases often are settled before the end. Sick or elderly claimants may request an expedited arbitration process within nine months.

There is a wide range of reasons that investors might want to make a legal claim against their broker-dealer and broker firm. When opening an account with brokerage firms, investors sign a contract that often contains a clause that makes handling disputes through FINRA arbitration mandatory. Notably, investors are bound to arbitrate their securities claim after the Supreme Court upheld binding arbitration provisions in Shearson/American Express Inc. v. McMahon. FINRA registered broker-dealers, and registered representatives are similarly obligated to handle disputes arising through their employment in FINRA arbitration.

The FINRA arbitration process commences when the plaintiff, known as the claimant, submits a statement of claim, outlining the case’s relevant facts, dates, names of involved parties, type of relief requested and name of accused parties. The statement of claim must be filed within the allotted time, which is within six years after the dispute. Compared with a courtroom complaint, a statement of claim is less formal and usually a more detailed account of the background story. In addition to the statement of claim, the claimant needs to pay fees and submit a Submission Agreement. The fees owed for filing a FINRA arbitration claim are based off the sought remedies, hearing sessions, discovery motions and postponement fees. Fortunately, some individuals with financial difficulties can request a fee waiver.

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 investment and securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding former UBS financial adviser Jeffrey Howell.

Per reports, Mr. Howell has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”)for providing a customer with false weekly account statements for over six years.  According to a settlement notice in connection with an investigation by FINRA , Mr. Howell sent these weekly statements with inflated values, at times overvaluing the account by close to $3 million.

Mr. Howell also allegedly used his own personal email account to distribute these reports, which compromised the accuracy of the firm’s books and records. Per BrokerCheck, Mr. Howell has not been licensed in the securities industry since 2014.

The investment and securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding Aegis Capital Corp. financial advisor Robert Guidicipietro.

According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Guidicipietro was most recently with JP Turner and Obsidian Financial prior to moving to Aegis Capital in 2012. According to industry records, Obsidian was expelled by FINRA in 2013, not long after Mr. Guidicipietro left the firm.

Mr. Guidicipietro has at least nine reportable disclosures on his FINRA record, including a civil judgment/lien, multiple customer disputes, multiple regulatory events and an “employment separation after allegations.”

The investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding Oppenheimer & Co. broker Joseph Iovino. According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Iovino has been the subject of seven reportable disclosure events, including customer complaints.

Per FINRA records, Mr. Iovino has been involved in two regulatory events, four customer complaints and an employment separation after allegations.

According to his BrokerCheck, in 1992, Mr. Iovino was terminated by Prudential Securities for violating firm policy.

The investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding Raymond James Financial Services broker Joseph Amalfitano of Malvern, PA. According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Amalfitano moved to Raymond James after stints at Citigroup and Merrill Lynch.

Mr. Amalfitano was recently the subject of two customer complaints since 2008, per FINRA records.

According to his BrokerCheck, in 2012, Mr. Amalfitano was alleged to have “maintained an unsuitable concentration of Bank of America stock” in customers’ accounts. Overconcentration can be dangerous since it has the potential to create higher risk and volatility of an account when compared to a more balanced, diversified portfolio. FINRA records indicate this case was settled.

We are pleased to announce that after a six-day long arbitration, our client was awarded his full net out-of-pocket damages of $142,168.00 by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Arbitration Panel.  The story was recently reported by InvestmentNews.  The arbitration panel also assessed all forum fees in the amount of $14,400 against the Respondent Garden State Securities, Inc.

The case was brought against Garden State alleging unsuitable investment recommendations, including over-concentration in Chinese stocks, penny stocks and low-priced securities, as well as leveraged exchange traded funds (ETFs). The claims also centered around allegations of churning and excessive trading. In the end, the Panel found Garden State liable.  Ultimately, broker-dealers must be held responsible for the recommendations their brokers make.

Our client’s case exemplifies many of the issues facing senior-aged investors today. Many seniors find themselves in situations where they have saved their entire lives for retirement and are seeking a financial professional to help guide them and preserve their nest egg. There is usually a lot of trust in the financial advisor-client relationship. But that trust can be easily and quickly abused. As they grow older, people generally became more conservative, downsizing and limiting expenses. Yet, all-too-frequently brokers recommend more speculative investments to their aging customers – for the broker’s own purposes (commonly higher commissions and fees). Such a situation is not appropriate nor permissible.

Malecki Law’s team of investment attorneys are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints regarding long-time Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor Paul F. Kane.

According to his BrokerCheck report maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”), Mr. Kane is currently the subject of a pending customer dispute.  The allegations include unsuitable investment recommendations, excessive trading and misrepresentation and omission of material facts, per FINRA.   According to the disclosures on Mr. Kane’s BrokerCheck, the customer is requesting $1.1 million in damages.

Excessive trading, also known as churning in the industry, can be disastrous for a portfolio.  When a broker trades an account excessively, large amounts of commissions and fees may be generated, if the account is commission based (as opposed to fee based).  Churning is a classic example of a broker putting his or her own monetary gain above the best interests of his or her customer.

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.”