Articles Posted in Broker-Dealers

SEC Approves New FINRA Rule That Will Designate Some Brokerage Firms as “Restricted”

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) rule 4111, which will require certain brokerage firm members with histories of broker misconduct to put aside reserve funds to pay for both future and unpaid investor claims, has now been approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

These broker-dealers will be deemed “restricted” based on numeric thresholds to be determined by the self-regulatory organization (SRO) that involve six conditions including disclosure events involving the firm or its registered individuals, firings, and affiliated registered individuals from broker-dealers that already have been expelled.

San Diego-Based Brokerage Firm Under Scrutiny Over Sierra Income Sales

LPL Financial Holdings (LPLA), the largest independent brokerage firm in the United States, has finalized its acquisition of Lucia Securities, a San Diego-based broker-dealer and registered investment advisor. With over $1.5B in assets, Lucia Securities and its advisors will operate under the name Lucia Capital Group. 

Even prior to the acquisition, our San Diego broker fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas (SSEK Law Firm at Investorlawyers.com) were investigating Lucia Securities over its sale of Sierra Income Corporation investments to customers. LPL Financial also used to market and sell investments in this nontraded business development company (BDC) to investors but stopped.

Coastal Equities Has Been The Subject of $3M in Investor Arbitration Claims

Coastal Equities, a mid-sized broker-dealer, recently arrived at a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which it agreed to give $280K in restitution to several customers. The firm is accused of failing to reasonably supervise one of its registered representatives, who recommended trades that were allegedly excessive and unsuitable. Those who were harmed were retirees and senior investors.

It was just last year that Coastal Equities said in its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that investors had submitted $3M in arbitration claims against the firm. 

Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Accuses Bank of Inadequate Internal Controls  

JPMorgan Chase Bank has been ordered to pay a $250M penalty. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) contends that the bank engaged in “unsafe and unsound practices” related to its internal controls and an internal audit of fiduciary duties. 

With fiduciary assets of $29.1 trillion, JPMorgan has one of the biggest and complex fiduciary businesses. It offers many types of investment strategies via different investment vehicles to its clients. The Bank is not denying or admitting to the agency’s findings.

Morgan Stanley Fires Financial Advisors After Inherited Account Credits Investigation

Morgan Stanley (MS) announced recently that it has terminated a number of financial advisors after a months-long investigation into payments being made to retired Morgan Stanley financial advisors under Morgan Stanley’s own Legacy Account Payments Program. 

Morgan Stanley’s “sunset plan” allows brokers who are retiring from the firm to split fees and commissions with brokers who inherit the retiring broker’s accounts.  

Colorado Investment Firm Fined $200K For Investing Unqualified Buyers Into Unsuitable Investments 

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has ordered First Western Capital Management Co. to pay a $200K fine over allegations that, over a 7-year period, it invested over $666M of clients’ funds into securities that they didn’t qualify for. As a result, 81 clients were placed in securities that were reserved for qualified institutional buyers (QIBs), which are investors that have at least $100M in assets.

The firm is a Denver-based investment adviser. Our Colorado investment fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas are offering free case consultations to customers that were harmed by these unsuitable investment recommendations and sales that the SEC says were initiated by at least nine of First Western’s investment adviser representatives. Contact us today at (720) 439-2827

Galvin’s Office Files Civil Lawsuit Alleging Overconcentration, Unsuitable Investments 

William Galvin, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, has filed civil charges against former NEXT Financial Group broker, Charles Chester Kulch. 

The state is accusing him of selling real estate investment trusts (REITs) and variable annuities (VA) to customers for whom they were unsuitable and overconcentrating their portfolios in these high risk, illiquid investments.

Former Financial Representative Is Facing Criminal Trial for Annuity Fraud 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has fined Northwestern Mutual Investment Services $350K for failing to properly supervise former stockbroker, Sampson Pearson, which enabled him to defraud customers of $570K. Northwestern Mutual Investment Services is the brokerage arm of Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.

Pearson, who was barred by the self-regulatory organization (SRO) in 2017, is charged in federal court with aggravated identity theft, mail fraud, and filing false tax returns. According to his BrokerCheck record, he is named in 13 disclosures, including 11 customer disputes. 

Another National Securities Broker Is Accused of Making Inappropriate Recommendations 

Frank Avallone, a National Securities broker since 2015,  is currently the subject of two pending customer complaints accusing him of making unsuitable investment recommendations that resulted in six-figure losses for each claimant. He is not the only registered representative from this firm accused of suitability issues.

Unsuitable investments are any recommendation that is inappropriate for the investor. Such a recommendation is contrary to a broker’s duty to only make investment recommendations that are appropriate for the customer as it pertains to their age, financial resources, investing experience, and risk tolerance level. 

FINRA Says SagePoint Financial Brokers Unsuitably Recommended Early UIT Rollovers 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is ordering SagePoint Financial to pay over $1.6M in fines and restitution after it executed over $895 million in unit investment trust (UIT) transactions that resulted in more than $17.2 million in sales charges. 

Of these UIT transactions, over $203.7 million of the proceeds were from sales that occurred over 100 days before a UIT’s maturity date. FINRA found that these unsuitable early rollovers caused customers to pay over $1.3 million in sales charges that they wouldn’t have otherwise if only they’d held onto their UITs until they matured.

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