Articles Tagged with investor protection

Per reports, William Galvin, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, recently filed complaints against Securities America and its broker Barry Armstrong over allegedly misleading advertisements that targeted vulnerable seniors.

Securities America allegedly participated in and failed to supervise Mr. Armstrong, in conducting a misleading radio advertising campaign.  In what has been described as a “bait and switch” technique, Mr. Armstrong reportedly ran the Alzheimer’s disease ads as a pretext to obtain the contact information needed to sell another service.

Mr. Armstrong, who hosts his own radio show, was said to have run ads on various AM radio stations that instructed listeners to call him for free information on Alzheimer’s disease.  Once listeners called in, their contact information was allegedly used to advertise financial services. According to reports, these deceptive ads were submitted to Securities America for review and were all approved by the firm.

This week, the attorneys at Malecki Law sent letters to several United States Senate and House of Representatives members, urging them to support the Department of Labor’s (DOL) proposal to hold financial advisors to a higher standard and act in the best interest of retirement investors. These members of the Congress include the Honorable Charles E. Schumer, the Honorable Jerrold Nadler, and the Honorable Kirsten E. Gillibrand.

Millions of Americans have worked their whole life to build a retirement nest egg and count on their retirement savings to support them through their golden years. The DOL’s proposal addresses loopholes in the current rules that make it far too easy for some advisers to take advantage of these hard-working Americans and line their own pockets with retirement savings. Our system is so broken that brokers often can and do put their own interest in commissions above the interests of their clients, causing them to be in unsuitable products just so the broker could earn additional commissions.

When someone turns their life savings over to someone for advice, they believe their financial adviser is going to do what’s best for them.  We have never heard a client recount a story of a financial advisor that told them that they are not fiduciaries, in fact, we hear just the opposite.  We all see the advertisements on television that say the financial advisers are there to help us, but we need to know that financial advisers are obligated to put client interests first, as well as be able to receive that assurance in writing.

Another oil and gas venture domino falls.  The Securities and Exchange Commissions (SEC) released a press release on July 6, 2015 announcing charges brought against Luca International, a California based oil and gas company, and Bingqing Yang, the company’s CEO.  The SEC charged Luca and Ms. Yang with running an alleged $68 million Ponzi scheme and affinity fraud against the Chinese-American community in California and elsewhere.

The SEC alleged that Ms. Yang knew the company was failing, but misrepresented the projected returns of the company as 20-30% annually.  Ms. Yang allegedly also commingled funds and diverted $2.4 million through a separate offshore entity to purchase a home and pay for personal expenses.

Ms. Yang allegedly relied on two tactics: affinity fraud and Chinese citizens who sought to immigrate to the United States through the EB-5 visa program, which grant green cards for making certain investments in U.S. companies.  Other Luca employees were also reported to be implicated in the fraud.  Additionally, the SEC’s press release noted that in a separate administrative action, Wisteria Global and one Hiroshi Fujigami settled charges that they acted as brokers for the Luca entities and were to disgorge ill-gotten gains of more than $1.1 million.

The Wall Street Journal reported on July 2, 2015 that many investors may suffer losses as a result of the attempts by Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) to restructure its debt with its creditors in order to avoid a default and other Puerto Rico economic woes.

While clearly many investors are and will continue to be harmed in this market, the pain is likely to be harder felt by two sets of victims of UBS’s closed-end bond funds that are tied to debt issued by PREPA, other utilities and Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds.

We recently wrote regarding how the brokers who recommend products such as UBS’s closed-end funds may have also been given faulty information from the firm.  Then, Reuters ran an article describing a taped meeting at UBS where leadership threatened the UBS Puerto Rico brokers to sell the closed-end funds at all costs despite growing concerns about the products.  In one of the first arbitration awards to be announced in which UBS was ordered to pay $1 million to an investor related to the UBS closed-end bond funds, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitrator stated that a recommendation of the bond fund was unsuitable because it was “grossly overconcentrated… any proper UBS branch office or other review should have detected such obvious unsuitability.”

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