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Articles Posted in Oppenheimer

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.

Non-Traditional Exchange-Traded Funds Are Not Suitable For Every Investor

Our securities fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas (SSEK Law Firm) are looking into complaints by investors whose brokers may have inappropriately recommended that they invest in non-traditional exchange-traded funds (ETFs). 

These types of ETFs are leveraged, inverse and inverse-leveraged exchange-traded funds and they are not for every investor. This is definitely the type of investment that a financial representative and its broker-dealer should assess for suitability on a customer-by-customer basis. 

FINRA Orders Oppenheimer To Pay $3.8M

Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) must pay over $3.8M in restitution to customers who may have had to pay excess sales fees for the early rollovers of their United Investment Trusts (UITs). The order comes from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and includes an $800K fine for not reasonably supervising these early UIT rollovers. 

The self-regulatory organization (SRO) contends that from 1/2011 to 12/2015 of the $6.4B of United Investment Trust transactions that Oppenheimer executed, $753.9M of these were early rollovers. 

Oppenheimer Broker Involved In Customer Dispute Cases  

Cesar Hurtado, who has been with Oppenheimer since 2003, is currently under scrutiny in the wake of recent customer disputes and is being investigated by Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas.

One of the claims alleging fraud, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and negligent misrepresentation was settled for $285K.  Another customer dispute case, which is still pending, makes similar claims and is seeking $100K in damages. 

Recently, Oppenheimer was found liable for the conduct of one of its former brokers named Mark Hotton. Hotton joined Oppenheimer in November 2005, and proceeded to fleece a number of his clients, according to financial regulators. FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, has filed a disciplinary action against Hotton which is still pending.

According to the complaint, Hotton outright stole almost $6 million from his brokerage customers, and directed another $2.5 million to outside businesses that Hotton was affiliated with in some way. These numbers don’t even include the millions of dollars that FINRA believes that Hotton caused by excessively trading, or churning, customer accounts to generate commissions for himself.

The level of fraud that Hotton was engaging in should be shocking if it wasn’t becoming increasingly commonplace. In 2006, a customer filed a lawsuit against Hutton after it was convinced by Hotton to invest $4 million in real estate transactions. The customer claimed that Hotton simply stole the entire investment, which was accomplished by forging contracts, forging mortgages, forging account statements, and directing the investment being made into a shell corporation that he had created with a similar name to the company that was supposed to be invested in. Ultimately, that lawsuit was settled for millions of dollars which Hotton was individually liable for. Yet this lawsuit, its allegations, and its results were never disclosed to other customers as regulations require, permitting Hotton to continue to seek new customers to bilk.

Date: August 7, 2013

The attorneys at Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas LLP are investigating claims by investors with Oppenheimer & Co.  Although the firm’s investigations are usually target more specifically at particular conduct of a firm or broker, Oppenheimer & Co.’s supervisory system has been found so woefully inadequate by numerous regulators and arbitration Panels over the last several years that almost any trading strategy permitted in Oppenheimer customer accounts becomes suspect.

For example, in 2008 the Massachusetts Securities Division filed suit against Oppenheimer for its sales of Auction Rate Securities (ARSs).  Specifically, the regulator alleged that Oppenheimer marketed ARSs as safe alternatives to money markets and certificate of deposits (CDs).  In actuality, ARSs are complex debt securities that can suffer complete failures and ultimately leave the investor holdings a completely illiquid asset with no way to get their money back out.  The regulator further claimed that Oppenheimer was aware of many disruptions and failures that occurred in the ARS market in 2007, but blithely ignored these warnings.  Oppenheimer did not investigate the potential ramifications for the ARS securities that had been, and were currently being, sold to their clients.  Oppenheimer did not warn its clients of these warning signs.

Lawyers representing a retired couple in a claim against Oppenheimer & Co., Inc. recently obtained an award from a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) arbitration panel awarding them $800,000 in damages.  The claim was based upon an investment of the couple’s money, including retirement assets, into various energy stocks, including Breitburn Energy Partners, Sandridge Permian Trust, Atlas Resource Partners, and Vanguard National Resources.  The arbitration panel found that Oppenheimer was negligent in the treatment of the clients, and awarded $800,000 in damages, $61,5217 in costs, and post-judgement interest.

The broker, Evan Fischer, appears to have moved to Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc., despite the fact he currently has four customer claims against him, including the one recently concluded with this award, which allege various types of mismanagement of client assets.  It is unclear whether these other customer complaints involve investments in energy stocks like Breitburn or Sandridge.

Unfortunately, when brokers act improperly with some clients, as Mr. Fischer has been accused of doing by at least four different clients, they often do so with many clients.  If you are or were a client of Mr. Fischer and believe you may have been inappropriately invested or otherwise lost money with him, contact the law firm of Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas LLP for a free, no obligation evaluation of your account to determine if you might have a claim to attempt to recover some or all of your losses.  All communications will be kept strictly confidential, and you will not be billed in any way for a consultation.

The financial fallout caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria is being felt not just on the island of Puerto Rico, but in the U.S. mainland as well. Puerto Rico bonds, which were already in trouble prior to the storms because of the island’s faltering economy and bankruptcy, are expected to take even more of a hit. Moody’s Investors Service assesses the future of the bonds, which were already at a Caa3 rating, as negative. The ratings agency said that the “disruption of commerce” caused by hurricanes will drain Puerto Rico’s “already weak economy” further. All of this is expected to impact not just the Puerto Rico bonds but also the mutual funds based on the U.S. mainland that hold them, which means that investors will be impacted.

According to InvestmentNews, Morningstar stated that 15 municipal bond funds, “14 of them from Oppenheimer Funds (OPY),” have at least 10 % of their portfolios in the island’s bonds. The 15th fund is from Mainstay. Morningstar reported that through September 28, the funds lost a 1.57% average for the month. The Oppenheimer Rochester Maryland Municipal Bond (ORMDX), which has 26% of its portfolio in Puerto Rico bonds, was considered the worst performer. In addition to Oppenheimer and Mainstay, other U.S.-based funds that are losing money from Puerto Rico bonds, include, as reported by The New York Times:

· Paulson & Co., which has invested billions of dollars in Puerto Rico securities. The Wall Street firm is run by hedge fund manager John A. Paulson.

Ex-Oppenheimer Stockbroker Pleads Guilty in Insider Trading Case
David Hobson, an ex-Oppenheimer Holdings (OPY) investment adviser, was sentenced to six months behind bars for insider trading using information provided to him by a friend who was employed with Pfizer Inc. at the time.

Hobson pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him. He was ordered to forfeit over $385K. His friend, Michael Maciocio, reached a plea deal with prosecutors for his part last year.

Hobson started insider trading in 2008 while employed at RBC Capital Markets and he continued with his illicit activities at Oppenheimer. He was Maciocio’s stockbroker.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) must pay $3.4M in sanctions. According to the regulator, for eight years the firm was about four years late when submitting 365 filings about disciplinary actions that it brought against its brokers and in arbitration and litigation settlements. FINRA is also accusing Oppenheimer of not giving seven claimants the documentation they needed in their arbitration against Mark Hotton, an ex-registered representative, and of overcharging 825 customers more than $1M collectively for mutual fund shares over a six-year period.

The self-regulatory organization claims that the late filings to FINRA took place between 2008 and 2016 and that Oppenheimer failed to provide claimants the documentation related to the Mark Hotton allegations between 2010 and 2013. The failure to apply the appropriate fee waiver discount for mutual fund shares purportedly occurred between 2009 and 2015.

Already, Oppenheimer has paid over $6M to settle customer disputes alleging inadequate supervision of Hotton and another $1.25M to 22 customers who did not file arbitration cases but suffered losses, too. Oppenheimer also was ordered to pay a $2.5M fine to FINRA last year over the Hotton claims. The former broker, whom FINRA permanently barred from the securities industry three years ago, was sentenced sentenced to 11 years in prison for stealing client monies and excessively trading their brokerage accounts.

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