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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has taken action against two former Wells Fargo (WFC) representatives. Ex-broker Michael Garris has been suspended for a year after the self-regulatory organization found that he made 26 unauthorized trades in the account of a client who he knew had died.

Garris was fired by Wells Fargo over a year ago. According to FINRA, he made more than $9K in commissions from the unauthorized transactions in late 2017, several months after the client’s nephew had notified him of the death. Garris failed to tell the brokerage firm of the client’s passing.

Wells Fargo has since refunded the commissions that Garris made from the transactions, reversed the transactions that were not authorized, and placed the account back to its former positions from before the customer died.

State Street To Pay More Than $88M After Overcharging For Mutual Funds

State Street Bank and Trust Company will pay over $88M to resolve US Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing it of overcharging investment advisory clients, including mutual funds, for expenses related to its custody of client assets. From 1998 to 2015, State Street allegedly collected $170M in overcharges involving out-of-pocket custodial costs that it paid on behalf of clients. While the clients had consented to pay for these costs, they did not agree to being overcharged for them.

Of the $170M in excessive charges, $110M was for a concealed markup added to the charge for transmitting financial messages via the Society of Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT) network. As part of the settlement, State Street will pay almost $49M of disgorgement plus prejudgment interest and a $40M penalty.

Did you invest with Centaurus Financial, Inc. or J.P. Turner & Co., Inc. and suffer losses in Structured CDs, Structured Notes, Non-Traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (“REITs”), or other investments?  If so, we may be able to help you recover your losses.

The Doss law firm and Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas are investigating claims on behalf of investors, many of which are retired and current Flour Corp. employees, who have suffered losses at the hands of Centaurus financial advisors who were formerly with J.P. Turner.  Those advisors, in many cases, mismanaged client investment accounts by placing them in high-risk and illiquid structured CDs, structured notes, non-traded REITs and other complicated investments.

Structured products, such as structured CDs and notes, are very complex and highly risky investments that are rarely suitable for most investors.  Similarly, non-traded REITs and other private placement investments are illiquid and risky investments that are not appropriate for most individual investors, especially retirees.  These investments are often sold as being safe and paying higher interest rates than most other investments.  However, the promised higher rates are often only guaranteed for a short time – typically a year – and are much riskier than more traditional investments.  Additionally, with most private placements, the supposed interest payments are often just a return of the investor’s own money, not a rate of return for the investment.  Ultimately, these investments typically lock investors into them long-term, resulting in limited income and often substantial losses.

A Texas investor has filed an investor fraud claim against Kalos Capital, Inc. and its financial advisor Joshua Daniel Stivers, who operated under the name Platinum Wealth Advisory. The retired investor claims that Stivers promised her an investment plan that was low risk and conservative. Instead, the Kalos Capital advisor allegedly employed an unsuitable employment strategy that was improperly allocated and involved investing in private placements, including the GPB Holdings II, LP Fund.

The investor contends that this has resulted in substantial losses for her. Now, she is seeking up to $500K, with interest, plus costs.

GPB Private Placements Funds

Did you invest with Darren Oglesby (Monroe, LA) and/or Money Concepts Capital Corp. and suffer losses in GPB Capital or other private placement transactions?  If so, we may be able to help you recover your losses.

Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, a national law firm dedicated to representing wronged investors, is investigating claims on behalf of current and former clients of Darren Oglesby and/or Money Concepts Capital Corp.  who were sold GPB Capital and other private placements, such as non-traded real estate investment trusts (“REITs”).  Private placements, such as GPB Capital, are often marketed to investors as safe ways to obtain a higher return.  In truth, these investments are high-risk securities and typically illiquid and impossible to accurately price.

GPB Capital is a good example of what can go wrong with such private placements and why they are supposed to only be sold to very sophisticated investors willing to take high risks.  For GPB Capital, the company raised a reported $1.8 billion from investors nationwide.  Nevertheless, it has been more than a year since the company failed to make required SEC reports.  Since then, financial information has been consistently delayed, the company’s auditor quit, several regulators have opened investigations into GPB Capital, the FBI raided the company’s offices in New York, a former business partner accused the company of being a “Ponzi scheme” and a current business partner has publicly reported accounting irregularities.

David Rosenberg, the CEO of Prime Automotive Group and a business partner of GPB Capital Holdings, is suing the private placement issuer in a Massachusetts Superior Court. According to Rosenberg’s complaint, GPB Capital has been operating a Ponzi-like scam that involved using investors’ funds to pay other investors and enhance its auto dealerships’ performances. Rosenberg is now the second former GPB Capital business partner to allege in public filings that GPB is essentially operating a Ponzi Scheme.

GPB Capital is a New York-based issuer of risky private placements that is invested primarily in auto dealerships and trash hauling companies. The firm has been under close scrutiny in the wake of allegations that it engaged in financial misconduct and as the value of its numerous GPB funds have dropped significantly from around $1.8 Billion down to about $1 Billion.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the New York City Business Integrity Commission, and the New Jersey Bureau of Securities are all investigating GPB Capital and its various funds. Additionally, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin is investigating more than 60 brokerage firms whose brokers sold GPB private placements to investors. The “temporary” cessation of distributions to investors, since late last year, the firm’s failure over the last two years to provide financial statements, and its auditor’s resignation without completing its audit last year have only served to raise questions and increase concerns.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that because of its mutual fund waiver initiative, it has arrived at a settlement with 56 broker-dealers that will provide almost 110,000 retirement and charitable accounts with $89M in restitution. Two of the firms, Western International Securities and Park Avenue Securities, settled on the same day that the self-regulatory organization (SRO) announced the multi-firm resolution. According to FINRA, the brokerage firms neglected to wave mutual fund sales charges for accounts that were eligible and they did not properly supervise the  sales.

FINRA’s Mutual Fund Waiver Initiative

FINRA launched its mutual fund waiver initiative in 2016 after arriving at a settlements with 10 member firms that self-reported how, going as far back as 2009, their registered representatives did not always apply sales waivers when warranted to the accounts of charitable and retirement plan accounts that bought mutual fund shares. While mutual funds are offered in different share classes and usually charge a sales fee upfront, a lot of the funds will waive the upfront fee on the more expensive Class A shares for certain retirement accounts and charities. The SRO also found that the firms had failed to adequately supervise these transactions, which could have helped to ensure that the mutual fund sales waivers were granted.

National Financial Services, which is Fidelity Investments’ clearing and custody unit, has given its brokerage firm clients 90 days to get rid of all GPB Capital Holdings private placements from its platform. The announcement means that investors and their financial advisers will have to move their GPB fund assets to a different custodial firm. Considering that there are a lot of broker-dealers who use National Financial as their primary custodial firm and to clear the investments of clients, the decision is likely to impact a lot of parties.

A main reason for the edict is that, reportedly, neither Fidelity nor National Financial are clear about the actual value of the GPB private placements. Third-party vendors typically provide this information. According to InvestmentNews, Fidelity spokesperson Nicole Abbott said that at the moment GPB is not meeting her company’s policy regarding alternative investments.

In Trouble with Investors and Regulators

In two mortgage-backed securities settlements reached with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Nomura Securities International will collectively pay customers about $25M. The enforcement actions involve residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) and commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS), respectively.

According to the SEC, Nomura failed to properly supervise its bond traders, who are accused of making statements that were false and misleading to customers by trying to get them to buy RMBS and CMBS. This purportedly included providing misleading information about:

    • How much Nomura had paid for the securities.

According to InvestmentNews, alternative asset management company GPB Capital Holdings has notified investors and custodians that its different private placement funds have recently suffered 25-73% losses in value. It’s largest funds, the GPB Automotive Portfolio and GPB Holdings II—together, these two raised $1.27B from investors—have experienced 38% and 25.4% drops, respectively. Such significant losses are clearly not good for investors, who, collectively, have invested about $1.8B in all of the GPB funds.

These private placement funds are invested mostly in waste management and car dealerships and they, along with GPB Capital Holdings, have come under intense scrutiny by both the government and investors. Set up in 2013, the company last year suspended all redemptions involving its funds. An auditing company retained by GPB Capital stepped down in November not long after questions regarding the company’s accounting practices and sales methods arose.

About 60 broker-dealers have sold GPB funds to investors. Advisers usually make a substantial commission for selling the private placements—a typically higher rate than what they’d get for selling mutual funds.

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