Articles Tagged with investment

  • Salesperson seems to openly live a lavish lifestyle: The most famous Ponzi schemers have been infamous for their extravagant lifestyles. Scott Rothstein, the mastermind in a $1.2million Ponzi scheme said, “We were living like rock stars; private jets, massive amounts of money. There were lots of things that kept fueling that,” in his 2011 deposition testimony (reported in Forbes 2014). Be cautious if you are approached by a broker or advisor who fits the bill. As an extra precautionary measure, check your broker out on FINRA’s BrokerCheck.
  • Their marketing/ sales documents look like they could have come out of a printer in their home! Robert Van Zandt, known as the Bernie Madoff of Bronx, who was criminally prosecuted for running a Ponzi scheme, distributed homespun brochures that said “Learn to Earn 9% On Your Investment.” The quality of their marketing materials could be a good indication of the credibility of the investment.
  • “Guarantees” with high returns: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Look out for buzzwords like “High Return” or “Risk-Free” Investments. But in reality no investment is risk-free. In fact, higher probability of return is usually associated with higher risks, according to the risk-reward tradeoff principle. So if you are offered a guaranteed high return investment with no risks, the chances are that you are dealing with a financial scam.

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 attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from customers who have complaints against Joseph L. Bess, II.  Mr. Bess was recently registered to sell securities with Waddell & Reed, in Edmond, Oklahoma, From April 2014 to July 2016, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck records maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  Mr. Bess was registered by J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC from October 2012 to April 2014, according to BrokerCheck records.

Mr. Bess has fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for two months by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2014041059901 (AWC).  According to the AWC, Mr. Bess violated FINRA Rules 4511 (General Requirements) and 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) because from “January 2013 through January 2014, Mr. Bess marked a total of 139 order tickets for the purchase of exchange traded funds in the accounts of 21 customers as ‘unsolicited’ when, in fact, Bess had solicited each order by bringing the relevant ETF transaction to the attention of each customer.”

The AWC makes clear that pursuant to FINRA Rule 4511, broker-dealers must make and preserve books and records, and inherent in the Rule is the obligation that the records be accurate.  The AWC confirmed that “by mismarking the order tickets, Bess caused his member firm to keep inaccurate books and records.”

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Michael Margiotta.  Mr. Margiotta has been employed and registered since June 2015 with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., a broker-dealer, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Per his BrokerCheck report, prior to his employment Merrill Lynch, Mr. Margiotta was employed by UBS Financial Services Inc. from October 2008 to June 2015, and with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. from December 2003 to November 2008, as well as other prior firms.

Mr. Margiotta’s BrokerCheck report indicates that he has received two customer complaints.  The first complaint received by Mr. Margiotta involved allegations that he purchased securities that were unsuitable for the investor and sought damages of $1 million, according to the BrokerCheck report.  That complaint resulted in a settlement to the investor of $355,000 to the investor the BrokerCheck report details.  The second complaint received by Mr. Margiotta alleged unsuitability and that the broker informed the client “oil had bottomed out for sure prompting [the investor] to purchase securities which plummeted,” according to BrokerCheck records.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Barry D. Abrams.  Mr. Abrams is currently employed and registered with Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., and works at the broker-dealer’s Marlton, New Jersey office, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck records maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

Per his BrokerCheck report, Mr. Abrams was previously employed and registered by Securities Service Network, Inc. from 2001 to 2013 and was discharged from that firm for “exercise[ing] discretion in a client account without written authorization from the client and without firm approval.”  Prior to his employment and dismissal from Securities Service Network, Inc., Mr. Abrams was employed and registered with Morgan Stanley from 1995 to 2001, according to BrokerCheck records.

In 2015, Mr. Abrams was fined and suspended from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer for 15 business days by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2013039371801 (AWC).  According to the AWC, Mr. Abrams violated NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) (Discretionary Accounts) and FINRA Rule 2010 (Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade) by placing discretionary transactions in a customer’s account without first obtaining prior written authorization from the customer and acceptance by the firm for such discretionary trading.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced on July 19, 2016 in a News Release that it had fined Prudential Annuities Distributors, Inc. $950,000 for “failing to detect and prevent a scheme that resulted in the theft of approximately $1.3 million from an 89-year-old customer’s variable annuity account.  Prudential Annuities Distributors acts as a principal underwriter and distributing broker-dealer for life and annuity products issued by its affiliates.

According to the News Release, a former registered Sales Assistant named Travis Wetzel, who worked at LPL Financial, stole money from the elderly customer’s account by submitting to Prudential Annuities Distributors 14 forged annuity withdrawal requests.  The News Release detailed that each month, from July 2010 to September 2012, Mr. Wetzel submitted 4 to 5 withdrawal requests totaling approximately $50,000.  The News Alert detailed that all withdrawn funds were deposited into an account in Mr. Wetzel’s wife’s maiden name that was controlled by Mr. Wetzel.

Prudential Annuities Distributors consented to the fine by submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2012034423502 (AWC).  According to the AWC, each transaction submitted by Mr. Wetzel triggered an alert, or a “red flag,” putting Prudential Annuities Distributors on notice that his requests may be fraudulent.  Each alert required that a person manually review and confirm each transaction, and for each transaction, personnel determined the activity appeared legitimate, according to the AWC.  The AWC also noted that for 44 transfers, Prudential Annuities Distributors also determined that the withdrawn funds were paid to the customer, when they were not actually sent to the customer.

According to a recent InvestmentNews article, Preferred Apartment Communities Inc. began selling an investment known as a Nontraded Preferred Share after 2011.  The article detailed that the investment is redeemable back to Preferred Apartment Communities Inc. after five years, and if the investor needs to redeem it before five years, they must pay a redemption fee that decreases over time.  If the investor seeks to redeem during the first year, the redemption fee is 13%, according to the article.

Nontraded REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) have long been an area of concern for securities regulators like the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) because they are generally illiquid investments that pay high upfront commissions to the brokers who sell them.

Nontraded REITs pose suitability concerns for investors.  Brokers who recommend them must make sure the investors are not over-concentrated in the investment, and that they have disclosed all of the risks associated with them, including the investment’s illiquid nature and the high fees earned, leading to questions of whether the investment is in the best interest of the investor.

The securities fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors who have complaints against stockbroker Kenneth Daley.  Mr. Daley was employed and registered from October 2007 to June 2016 with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc., a Garden City, New York broker-dealer, according to his publicly available BrokerCheck, as maintained by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  According to BrokerCheck records, Mr. Daley voluntarily resigned from Merrill Lynch amid allegations that he was involved in “[c]onduct involving improperly receiving money from a client via checks written from an outside account.”

Per his BrokerCheck report, prior to his employment and subsequent resignation from Merrill Lynch, Mr. Daley was employed by Wachovia Securities from 2003 to October 2007.

Subsequent to his resignation, Mr. Daley was barred from association with any FINRA member broker-dealer on June 27, 2016 by FINRA, after submitting a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent No. 2016050129701 (AWC).  According to the AWC, Mr. Daley violated:

This week, it has been reported that the Department of Labor proposed tougher laws after issuing new regulations requiring financial advisors and brokers managing 401k and retirement accounts to act in the best interest of their clients. These rules were proposed a year ago and after deliberating on it for a year, the White House has finalized these tougher requirements. However, it might be a year before these rules go into effect.

An academic study commissioned by the White House revealed that “conflicts of interest” in financial investing was costing Americans about $17 billion a year in retirement savings. Although brokers are required to only recommend “suitable” investments under the current “suitability standard”, they can push a more expensive product that pays a higher commission than a cheaper fund that would be equally appropriate for that investor.

The new rule fiduciary rule is aimed to at reducing fees and commissions that erode retirement savings and hold brokers to higher standards. It will cast a wider net on who is subject to the fiduciary standard.

The New York securities and investment fraud attorneys at Malecki Law are interested in hearing from investors in Highland Funds’ series Energy Master Limited Partnerships (MLPs).

Highland Funds’ four Energy MLPs have declined by approximately 23% in the year to date, per Morningstar.  These funds include:

  • Highland Energy MLP C (HEFCX)