Articles Tagged with FINRA

man-and-woman-holding-money-300x300Broker Deborah D. Kelley is allegedly one of the key figures in the $184 billion New York pension fund “pay-for-play” bribery scandal. She was reportedly arrested in December 2016 in San Francisco on charges of securities fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to obstruct justice in an SEC investigation. This week she was barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

The salacious allegations in this scandal involves the NY retirement pension fund and Navnoor Kang, its former director of fixed income and portfolio strategy, not only made newspaper headlines but was reported in prominent magazines such as Vanity Fair. Allegedly, Mr. Kang received more than $100,000 in bribes, including prostitutes, bottle service, drugs, vacations and weekend trips, expensive watches, VIP tickets to concerts from Ms. Kelly and another broker Gregg Schonhorn, in exchange for promoting the interest of Deborah Kelley’s broker-dealer. It is reported that Navnoor Kang deposited $2 billion with Ms. Kelly’s broker-dealers. Wall Street Journal reportedly quoted U.S. attorney Preet Bharara calling this a “classic case of quid pro quo corruption.”

As per FINRA records, she was registered with Sterne, Agee & Leach Inc.in 2014 and subsequently with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. Inc. after Stifel bought the former broker-dealer. She was reported fired by Stifel for bribing the pension fund manager with entertainment and gifts to further business opportunities and misrepresentation of these expenses, as noted in the FINRA proceedings that led to her disbarment.

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There is an interesting point in this week’s Wall Street Journal titled “Brokerage Files Don’t Give The Full Pictures,” which talks about the how brokerage firms and individual brokers are held to different standards, when it comes to their BrokerCheck records. BrokerCheck, the online search tool from FINRA for brokers and brokerages, reports arbitration decisions that are not in a securities firm’s favor but not the negotiated legal settlements, whereas every settlement in a broker’s record is clearly delineated. So why does this gap exist in reporting and how does it continue to happen?

FINRA is not a government body, but it is overseen by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Within 30 days of reaching a settlement, brokerage firms are obligated to report agreements to FINRA, if the amount meets a certain threshold. However, BrokerCheck records pull information from an SEC document named “Form BD” that doesn’t ask brokerage firms about negotiated settlements. The agreement that gets reported to FINRA in the event of a settlement is not currently a part of SEC approved list of documents. This loophole in communication and reporting allows brokerage firms to maintain clean BrokerCheck records, without disclosing settlements to investors. As far as brokers are concerned, the BrokerCheck information comes from a different FINRA form that does require brokerages to disclose if they paid settlements on behalf of any employees over $15,000. It should be noted that many or most settlement payouts for brokers are actually paid for by brokerage firms and these firms are listed as co-defendants or only defendants in the FINRA arbitration proceedings.

Many individuals in the securities industry feel that data about brokerage firms should be more transparent so that they can be ranked based on this information. There are others who are “shocked” by this gaping hole in the BrokerCheck that does not paint the “full picture”, as per the WSJ story. Those in favor of the current scenario, argue that brokerage firms settle for many reasons without admitting to wrongdoing, so reporting settlements would create an unfair perception about the brokerage firm in an investors’ mind.

istock88023523small-crop-600x338-300x169According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, 17 percent of Americans 65 and older, have already been the victims of financial exploitation.

A new study by the AARP Fraud Watch Network reveals that Americans who lose money to fraud typically exhibit a higher degree of confidence investing in unregulated investments and tend to trade more aggressively than other investors. The fraud watch network interviewed 200 victims of investment fraud and conducted 800 interviews with regular investors for this study that was commissioned a year earlier.

There has been a change in the way investors save for retirement. People are now more used to taking charge of their retirement since traditional pension plans have declined and technology has made it easier for average investors to enroll in trading and retirement accounts. The AARP study quotes Shadel, their lead researcher as saying “decline in traditional pensions has prompted millions of relatively inexperienced Americans to take on the job of investing their own money.” Technology has also made it easier for scammers to reach investors.

office_suit_corportate_237605_l-300x224The 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.

subpoena-2-300x134You 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.

businessman-with-the-notebook-1-1362246-mThe 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.

According to publicly available BrokerCheck records, James Carolan Speno (CRD#431NYSE912), a New York based securities broker, formerly associated with Morgan Stanley, was recently barred by FINRA. Attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against James Speno.

Mr. Speno has spent over 45 years as a securities advisor. His most recent registration was with Morgan Stanley in New York. Prior to that he was registered with Oppenheimer & Co.; RBC Capital Markets Corporation; Salomon Smith Barney Inc.; Lehman Brothers Corp.; Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Inc., Sussex Securities Incorporated; Lehman Brothers Incorporated.

Mr. Speno is currently not registered with any firm.

Wall-Street-Sign-300x200AdvisorHub 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).

BN-LT369_1712mo_P_20151217084436-300x200It 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.

hand-cuffs-1255790-300x179Wells Fargo financial advisors, David Jeremy Welty and Ane Plate have been barred from the securities industry by FINRA and the SEC, respectively, per AdvisorHUB. Both advisors were accused of stealing customer funds.

Welty was alleged to have converted $8,700 for personal expenses from an account that was originally set up as a “memorial fund,” according to reports. Prior to his termination in December 2016, Welty worked in the Wells Fargo branch in Norristown, PA, beginning in March 2012, according to records. He reportedly consented to the bar without admitting nor denying the allegations.

Plate was accused to stealing $176,000 that was raised through the sale of securities from elderly clients’ account without authorization. According to the AdvisorHUB report, the pilfered money was allegedly used to pay Plate’s mortgage and upgrade her home. Records indicate that Plate worked at the Wells Fargo office in Deltona, FL from 2005 through 2014. Earlier this month, she was reportedly sentenced to 27 months in federal prison.