Articles Tagged with elder fraud

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).

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 Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced today a complaint filed against Hank Marker Werner for allegations including securities fraud for churning the account of a senior-aged blind widow customer and for making excessive and unsuitable trading recommendations in a News Release.

According to his publicly available BrokerCheck report records maintained by FINRA, Mr. Werner was employed and licensed by Legend Securities, Inc. from December 2012 to March 2016.  Prior to working at Legend Securities, Inc., he was employed by Liberty Partners Financial Services, LLC from July to December 2012, Brookstone Securities, Inc. from March 2011 to June 2012, and Alexander Capital, LP from November 2009 to March 2011, per Mr. Werner’s BrokerCheck report.

FINRA’s News Release detailed that Mr. Werner allegedly engaged in a deceptive and fraudulent scheme by churning the elderly client’s over the course of three years “to maximize his compensation by charging more than $243,000 in commissions, while causing the customer approximately $184,000 in net losses.”  The News Release also stated:

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.

A recent study by Stanford University psychologists with participation of FINRA and AARP, concluded that financial fraudsters trigger and evoke strong emotions in elderly people to try and get them to hand over money. According to the study, inducing strong emotions in older adults (ages 65-86), whether positive or negative, increased their susceptibility to falsely advertised messages and fraud. The findings suggest that older adults are likely to spend or give away their money based on the emotional state they were experiencing rather than perceived credibility of the messages they are receiving. According to FINRA, this study is a major advance on understanding how elder fraud works and since money and investing is an emotional decision, it is critical to manage emotional states to avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

Malecki Law continues to champion the rights of vulnerable elderly people who have been victimized by financial fraudsters. Last week, Jenice Malecki spoke about elder financial fraud with David Lesch on BronxNet TV’s segment Today’s Verdict. Watch Ms. Malecki speaking about instances of how elder fraud works and can be avoided here: http://www.bronxnet.org/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewvideo&Itemid=59&video_id=7353

Recently Ms. Malecki was also seen speaking about Elder Financial Exploitation on Wealth Management’s segment Case In Point with Bill Singer http://wealthmanagement.com/estate-planning/elder-financial-exploitation 

In February 2016, academics Mark Egan, Gregor Matvos and Amit Seru at the University of Minnesota and University of Chicago business schools released a report titled “The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct” on financial advisers in the United States. The report reveals how rampant securities fraud and broker misconduct is throughout the country. For the purpose of the study, these academics have analyzed the full set of disclosures of approximately 10% of employees in the finance and insurance sectors between 2005 and 2015, and taken in to account customer complaints, arbitrations, regulatory actions, terminations, bankruptcy filings and criminal proceedings. Based on this study, 7% of advisers were reported to have engaged in misconduct. The actual unreported cases may add to this number.

Here at Malecki Law, it is our mission to protect individuals who have been victimized by unscrupulous brokers. Here are some excerpts highlighting the important findings from this study:

  • According to the report, prior offenders are five times more likely to repeat their misconduct as compared to an average adviser. Approximately one-third of advisers with misconduct reports are repeat offenders. That is why we encourage all investors to investigate their broker on FINRA’s BrokerCheck

FINRA’s recently released Regulatory and Examinations Priority Letter made specific mention of multiple critical areas that the regulator will be focused on for the upcoming year.  The one that we will focus on today is the Senior investor and the steps that are and should be taken to prevent elder abuse.

As we have discussed here before, with the growing population of senior aged investors, this demographic is becoming increasingly significant in the retail investor pool nationwide.  Baby boomers are beginning to hit retirement age just as advancements in technology and medicine are leading to longer and longer lifespans.

Per 2012 census data, there are 76.4 million baby boomers which represent close to one-quarter of the then estimated U.S. population of 314 million.  These figures have coupled with longer lifespans across the boards, means that there is the potential for disaster if baby boomers’ retirement savings are not properly managed.  FINRA recognizes that “the consequences of unsuitable investment advice can be particularly severe for this investor group since they rarely can replenish investment portfolios with fresh funds and lack the time to make up losses.”

 

Watch Jenice Malecki’s interview with Bob Singer on Case In Point, a weekly segment in Wealth Management. In this segment, Ms. Malecki speaks about the rise of elder fraud exploitation and responsible steps that financial industry professionals can take to protect seniors. Ms. Malecki, the owner of Malecki Law is known for spreading legal awareness on this topic and championing the rights of elderly investors through the media, speaking engagements, legal articles and community outreach. She is pleased to be on Bob Singer’s show today, known for his contributions to Wealth Management and his own blog BrokeandBroker, sending the message out to his financially astute audiences.

CLICK HERE to watch Ms. Malecki’s video.

Jenice Malecki taped a session on elder financial fraud for Case In Point with Bob Singer , Bob Singer’s weekly segment in Wealth Management. He is a veteran Wall Street lawyer, a weekly contributor to Wealth Management, and known for his own blog BrokeandBroker. Jenice Malecki was a guest on his show this week, where she shared her insights on matters related to diminished capacity, the elderly, and Securities Law. Over the years, Ms. Malecki has been televised widely on Securities industry related topics. Stay tuned for this video on our blog.

Earlier this week, Adam Nicolazzo and Robert Van de Veire visited the Hudson Guild Senior Center to educate their members about Elder Financial Exploitation.

The Securities Fraud attorneys at Malecki Law today visited the Hudson Guild Senior Center to educate members of their Naturally Occuring Retirement Community (NORC) about Elder Financial Exploitation. Adam Nicolazzo and Robert Van de Veire addressed a group of 15-20 senior members of that community about investment fraud, common red flag signs of fraud, and how to protect their retirement income and nest eggs.

According to FINRA, the elderly lose approximately $ 2.9 billion every year due to fraud. The Malecki Law attorneys try to create awareness within communities of elders about dangers of elder financial exploitation and empower them to take legal recourse if they are victimized. The seniors get educated about regulatory authorities like FINRA and SEC, and tools like BrokerCheck available to them. The Malecki Law team used real life examples of Ponzi and affinity schemers, who are known to have preyed on the elderly, to help senior members understand the realities of financial fraud and that it comes in many forms. They also offer free consultation and case evaluation in these sessions.

Malecki Law continues to work towards positive changes in elder law within the securities industry and Jenice Malecki recently participated in a panel on Dangers of Diminished Capacity at the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association’s (PIABA) annual conference.