Articles Posted in GunnAllen Financial

After undergoing major litigation costs, GunnAllen Financial Inc. has agreed to be acquired by Progressive Asset Management Inc., which already controls a smaller broker-dealer. Progressive claims to be a “socially conscious” investment firm.

The combination of the firms would appear to create a broker-dealer with about 1,000 independent advisors and brokers in more than 200 offices nationwide. If so, the resulting firm would be ranked in the 30 largest independent broker-dealers, according to information available from InvestmentNews.

The terms of the acquisition have not been disclosed, according to David Levine, executive vice president of Progressive, who also did not specify whether his firm would be acquiring GunnAllen’s broker-dealer firm or only its advisers and assets. Often buyers of troubled securities firms seek to buy only the assets leaving behind creditors with little or nothing, including former clients of the firm who have ongoing suits and claims.

Even though regulators are calling on broker-dealers to employ stricter hiring standards when it comes to screening brokers who have already gotten in trouble for alleged broker misconduct, many firms continue to hire these suspect workers. It doesn’t help that broker-dealers have a tendency to not reveal key details when a registered representative leaves the company under suspect circumstances in order limit the firm’s liability from potential investor lawsuits and arbitration claims.

For example, in 2003, Jeffrey Southard was working for American Express Financial Advisers (now Ameriprise Financial Inc.) when he was accused of selling unregistered securities and combining client funds with his own money. At the time, Southard accused American Express Financial Advisors of falsely accusing him of misdeeds and acting unprofessionally by violating his personal confidentiality. He left the firm to join Gunn-Allen Financial Inc. In July 2008, GunnAllen fired him.

Last month, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities accused the former GunnAllen broker of stealing $1.3 million from 16 senior investors. The state regulators also barred Southard from the securities business and ordered him to pay $50,000 in restitution.

The New Jersey regulators say American Express Financial Advisors failed to properly disclose to clients the problems that could have arisen from working with Southard. The regulators’ order also accuses Southard of misleading his clients. Many of them switched to GunAllen when he left American Express Financial Advisors after he told them that he was leaving was to pursue better opportunities. The New Jersey regulators say that while working with GunnAllen, Southard continued to engage in broker misconduct by selling fake bonds as tax-free investments.

Opinions among industry members are mixed about whether broker-dealers are doing enough to weed out broker candidates with already questionable performance records.

Related Web Resources:

Busted brokers continue bilking clients at new firms, Investment News, December 7, 2008
Ex-GunnAllen broker bilked $1.3M from seniors, Investment News,
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GunnAllen Financial Inc. has settled Financial Industry Regulatory Authority charges that it was allegedly involved in a trade allocation scheme, in addition to several reporting, anti-money laundering, supervisory, and recordkeeping deficiencies. The trade allocation scheme was allegedly conducted by Alexis J. Rivera, the former head trader at GunnAllen.

FINRA says that in 2002 and 2003 and acting through Rivera, GunnAllen participated in a “cherry picking” scam. Rivera took profitable stock trades and put them into his wife’s personal account instead of GunnAllen customer accounts. Rivera allegedly made over $270,000 in illegal profits.

The ex-trader has been barred from FINRA. The trade allocation scheme violated FINRA rules and the federal securities laws’ anti-fraud provisions. Rivera’s supervisor, Kelley McMahon, has agreed to a six-month suspension from taking part in a principal role with any FINRA-registered company. She has also agreed to a $25,000 fine.

A former broker and branch manager of a Michigan office of GunnAllen Financial, Inc. are accused of selling fraudulent investments. His clients, many of whom are retirees, recently learned that the partnership investments may have been part of a Ponzi scheme. According to reports, a mastermind of the scheme stated in a sworn statement that the investments were fraudulent and that he had acted on the advice of the GunnAllen broker/manager.

Frank Bluestein, who has been in the investment business for an over a decade, joined GunnAllen Financial in 2004. There, he was not only a registered stockbroker but also as one of the firms’ branch office managers. According to reports, Bluestein, his son and another broker worked in a Detroit area office fo GunnAllen.

Along with other investments, Bluestein’s clients were persuaded to invest millions of dollars into partnerships which ceased paying earlier this year. Those who invested recently learned about investigations, a court action seeking to freeze partnership assets and that their total investment in the partnerships could be in peril

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