Articles Posted in Broker-Dealers

A Tennessee investor is pursuing a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration claim against Kalos Capital, Inc. and its broker Martin Hunter McFarlin for the more than $100K in losses that he sustained from investing in non-traded real estate investment trusts (non-traded REITs) and the GPB Capital Automotive Portfolio. Now, the claimant is alleging omissions, misrepresentations, gross lack of supervision, unsuitable recommendations, and due diligence failures. Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LLP (SSEK Law Firm) is representing this individual in his case against Kalos and McFarlin.

Our client is a divorced dad, a small business owner, and an unsophisticated investor, which is why he turned to McFarlin and Kalos several years ago to help him invest his retirement money for him and his family. During seminars and company Christmas parties, the claimant was told that private placements were safe alternative investments.

Private Placements Are Risky Investments

An investor who filed an arbitration claim against Arkadios Capital for selling her GPB Capital Holdings private placements now has a hearing date set before a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel: April 20, 2020. This is one of the first GPB investor fraud case brought against a brokerage firm to get a hearing scheduled before one of the self-regulatory authority’s (SRO) arbitrators. Our broker fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LLP (SSEK Law Firm) are representing this claimant.

The investor, who is a woman from the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, is claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement fund losses after her financial adviser, an Arkadios broker, recommended the GPB securities to her. While with the broker-dealer, her portfolio became especially concentrated in private placements, including the GPB Holdings II Limited Partnership. Now, the claimant is contending that this GPB investment, in particular, was an extremely unsuitable recommendation for her, especially since it involved her IRA from which no losses can be offset.

Our client maintains that she was not aware of the risks involved in the investment strategy used by her Arkadios broker. She is alleging unsuitable recommendations, omissions, misrepresentations, gross negligence, due diligence failures, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and inadequate supervision. The investor is seeking damages, interest, and costs.

For alleged supervisory failures and excessive trading by one of its former brokers, Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. has been ordered to pay over $880K– $558K in restitution with interest to customers that were harmed,  as well as a $325K fine to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The broker-dealer consented to the entry of the findings but did not admit to or deny wrongdoing.

According to the SRO, from 1/2012 to 3/2017, Summit neglected to review certain automated alerts for the trading activities of its registered representatives, of which there are more than 700. Because of this, one of its brokers, was able to excessively trade in accounts belonging to 14 clients, including 533 trades on behalf of one customer. This compelled her to pay over $171K in commissions.

The broker’s excessive trading resulted in 150 alerts for this type of activity, none of which were purportedly reviewed by Summit. FINRA has since barred the former registered rep.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel is ordering Legend Securities, CEO Anthony Fusco, and three of the firm’s former brokers to pay one investor $966,708 in damages. Legend Securities was expelled by the self-regulatory authority two years ago and is no longer in operation.

The claimant, Frederick Blake, alleged the following:

Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin has imposed a $1.1M fine on target=”_blank” rel=”noopener noreferrer”>LPL Financial (LPLA) after finding that the brokerage firm did not properly register 651 of its advisors in the state. Galvin’s office contends that for six years, LPL let these brokers work in Massachusetts despite the lack of registration and that this violates the state’s securities laws.

In Massachusetts, a brokerage firm is required to register its agents before they are allowed to engage in securities-related business in the state. As of May 9, LPL had 4,219 agents who were registered in the state.

However, the lack of registration by 651 of its agents between March 2013 and April 4, 2019 prevented Massachusetts securities regulators from being able to check their qualifications and histories to ensure that investors who worked with them were in safe hands. 441 of these unregistered agents acted as financial advisors to at least one or more state residents during the period at issue. The other 210 agents supervised the agents who were advisors to these customers.

Investment News is reporting that broker-dealers and their brokers that sold GPB Capital Holdings private placements to investors have collectively been paid $167 million in commissions. That large number represents 9.3% of the $1.8 billion that supposedly accredited, wealthy investors paid for these risky private placements. Recent reports had estimated that the commissions paid were lower, at around $100 million (about 7% per transaction), but GPB Capital has apparently confirmed the much larger number.

While brokers and broker-dealers are allowed to make up to a 10% commissions for selling financial products to clients, very few investments pay such a high rate. However, private placements, such as GPB Capital, entice brokers and their firms to sell such risky investments by offering much higher commissions and fees.

For private placements, it is not uncommon for financial representatives to earn around 7% in commissions, with another 2% going to the brokerage firm. In comparison, mutual funds and other similar investments typically pay less than half as much in commissions.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has awarded 23 investors $3M in their claim against Spire Securities, its CEO David Lloyd Blisk, and CCO Suzanne Marie McKeown. The broker-dealer and its executives were accused of inadequately supervising former broker Patrick Evans Churchville, whom the investors contend fraudulently sold them investments that caused them to lose money in a $21M Ponzi scam.

Churchville sold the investments through ClearPath Wealth Management, a registered investment adviser that he operated outside of Spire Securities. Still, the claimants contended that the broker-dealer should have prevented Churchville from causing them financial harm while he was a Spire Securities broker and could have done so had they properly overseen him.

Churchville pleaded guilty in 2016 to criminal charges accusing him of operating a $21M Ponzi scam. In 2017, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for tax evasion and wire fraud.

After failing to cooperate in a probe into allegations of securities violations, George Merhoff, a former ex-Cetera Financial Group adviser, has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). He was fired by the brokerage firm in April for allegedly issuing an undisclosed payment to a firm customer.

With over 21 years working in the brokerage industry, Merhoff was a registered Cetera broker for seven years. Before that, he was registered with Pacific West Securities, where he worked for 13 years, and at AAG Securities for less than a year.

Merhoff’s BrokerCheck record shows 27 customer disputes filed since December 2015 that have either been settled or are pending. Allegations include the following:

In March 2019, Newbridge Securities Corporation (“Newbridge”) filed its Form X-17A-5, commonly called a firm’s Focus Report, with the Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”).  The Focus Report showed that in 2018, Newbridge had almost $33 million in revenues, yet reported only about $108,000 in net profits.

The accounting firm that audited Newbridge disclosed in its “Opinion on the Financial Statements” that “there is substantial doubt about [Newbridge’s] ability to continue as a going concern.”  This means that the finding from the CPA firm of Newbridge in financial trouble means investors that hold accounts with the firm should be concerned.

Newbridge is a Boca Raton, Florida based brokerage and financial services firm.  Although the firm claims to have “over 80 locations in the US”, its website only lists offices in Boca Raton, Ft. Lauderdale, Scottsdale, Chicago and a few locations in New York.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has awarded $519,000 to Stephen and Brenda Balock in their investor fraud claim against Morgan Stanley (MS). The couple contends that that one of the firm’s brokers, Tim J. Prouty, placed their funds in investments that were complex and inappropriate for them, causing them to lose money in eight accounts between 2012 and 2015. They filed their claim against Morgan Stanley in 2016.

The Balocks began working with Prouty after Stephen’s employer, the Public Service Co. of New Mexico, compelled him into early retirement due to downsizing. He had never worked with a broker before then.

The couple wanted to invest in certificates of deposit. Instead, Prouty placed them in a Morgan Stanley investment advisory program that involved more complex investments, such as options contracts, derivates, junk bonds, and exchange-traded funds. In their investor claim against Morgan Stanley, the Balocks made a number of allegations, including the following:

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