Articles Posted in Stifel, Nicolaus, & Co. Inc.

Ohio Financial Advisor Andrew Elsoffer Named in Multiple Customer Disputes

Andrew Bruce Elsoffer, who Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. fired in 2018, is suspended by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for two years, beginning March 7, 2022. The suspension comes in the wake of customer allegations that he exercised discretion in their accounts without their written authorization. 

He also allegedly lent money to one client, his personal friend, for home renovations without the firm’s approval. The friend later repaid him. 

Former Stifel, Nicolaus Broker is Accused of Variable Annuity Violations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has suspended an ex-Stifel, Nicolaus (SF) broker for four months over variable annuity transactions that he purportedly inappropriately recommended to certain investors. At the time of the alleged variable annuity fraud, James Keith Cox worked with Sterne, Agee & Leach. Stifel Financial later acquired that firm.

According to the regulator, Cox recommended a number of VA transactions even though there was no reasonable grounds for thinking they were appropriate for the investors. In addition to the suspension, Cox will disgorge the $25,460 he was paid in commissions.

FINRA Bars California Man From Industry Over $100M in Undisclosed EB-5 Investment Sales
A FINRA hearing panels has barred a California-based registered representative for taking part in private securities transactions involving $100M in EB-5 Investments that he failed to disclose to his employer financial firm. Jim Seol sold the EB-5 investments through his business Western Regional Center Incorporated.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel said that Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. (“Stifel”) must pay June and Perry Burns over $100K for losses they sustained from Puerto Rico bonds and oil and gas investments. The Burns are in their eighties and they invested a “substantial” amount of their life savings with Stifel.

In their Puerto Rico bond fraud arbitration claim, the couple accused Stifel of negligence, unauthorized trading, and unsuitable investments, among other violations. For that portion of their case, the FINRA panel awarded the Burns $79,709, which was everything they lost, and also fees and interest. Despite the ruling, Stifel, in its own filings, continues to deny the couple’s allegations. The broker-dealer tried to have the case thrown out and removed from its FINRA records.

Senior Investors Sustained Losses From Investing in Puerto Rico Bonds
Unfortunately, the Burns are not the only senior investors whose retirement savings were seriously harmed because brokerage firms and their brokers recommended that retirees invest in Puerto Rico bonds and Puerto Rico bond funds even though these securities were too risky for their portfolios and/or not aligned with their investment objectives. For the past few years, our senior financial fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas have been working with older investors in the US mainland and the island of Puerto Rico to help them get their lost investments back. Aside from Stifel, other brokerage firms are accused of inappropriately recommending Puerto Rico bonds and close-end bond funds to investors, including UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), Santander Securities (SAN), Banco Popular, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley (MS) and others.

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Ex-UBS Broker is Accused of Inflating Customer’s Account 
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jeffrey Hamilton Howell from the broker-dealer industry. The former broker is accused of giving  a customer bogus weekly account statements that overvalued an account by up to $3M. The alleged misconduct is said to have occurred between 9/2008 and 11/2014.
According to FINRA, Howell sent the customer over 300 Stock Tracking Reports that misstated the client’s portfolio in amounts ranging from $289K to approximately $3M. He purportedly used his personal e-mail to send the customer some of the fake reports. This left UBS with records and books that were not accurate.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has announced that PNC Investments will pay nearly $225K in restitution for charging retirement clients too much for mutual fund investments. According to the regulator, the brokerage firm did not apply waivers for investors in certain Class A share mutual funds even though there was a waiver for front-end charges for eligible customers.

Instead, said FINRA, PNC Investments sold Class A shares customers with a front-end load or other shares that had a back-end load and higher fees and expenses, some of which were charged on an ongoing basis. Because of this, certain customers were charged excessive fees and paid them.

FINRA said that PNC Investments charged 121 customer accounts in excess of $191,740 for mutual funds—although the actual amount, with interest, was closer to $224,750. PNC will pay restitution to eligible investors.

The brokerage firm self-reported the overcharges after reviewing its own conduct last year to assess whether it was issuing the sales waiver to those that were eligible. FINRA said that the broker-dealer experienced lapses in supervision, did not keep up written policies and procedures that were adequate, and failed to help advisers assess when to waive the sales charges.

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Former Colts Football Player Sues Bank of America for $20M

Dwight Freeney, formerly with the Indianapolis Colts and currently an NFL free agent, is suing Bank of America (BAC) for securities fraud. He and his Roof Group LLC say they were bilked of over $20 million.

In his securities fraud case, Freeney contends that the bank’s wealth management division is to blame for taking part, aiding, and abetting in the scam that cost him money. He noted that Bank of America went after him in 2010 to become one of its high net worth and affluent clients.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has sanctioned thirteen financial firms, including UBS Financial Services (UBS), Charles Schwab and Co. (SCHW), J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM), and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF), for the improper sales of Puerto Rican junk bonds. A $100,00 minimum denomination had been established in junk bonds of $3.5 billion made by Puerto Rico several months ago. An SEC probe, however, revealed that there had been 66 instances when firms sold the bonds in transactions of under $100,000.

Municipal bond offerings are supposed to have a set minimum denomination that determines the smallest amount that a firm can sell to an investor during a single transaction. Typically, municipal issuers will establish high minimum denominations for junk bonds with a greater default risk. This is done to limit the bonds from ending up in the accounts of investors who may not be able to handle the risks.

The firms and their fines: UBS Financial Services for $56,400, Charles Schwab & Co. for $61,800, Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) for $61,200, Wedbush Securities Inc. for $67,200, Hapoalim Securities USA for $54,000, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) for $100,800, Interactive Brokers LLC for $56,000, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF) for $60,000, Investment Professionals Inc. for $67,800, Riedl First Securities Co. of Kansas for $130,000, J.P. Morgan Securities for $54,000, National Securities Corporation for $60,000, and Lebenthal & Co. for $54,000.

Financial Industry Regulatory Authority says that Century Securities Associates, Inc. and Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Inc. must pay almost $1 million over the sale of inverse and leveraged exchange-traded funds. Stifel Financial Corporation (SF) owns both firms.

According to the SRO, for more than four years Century and Stifel recommended non-traditional ETFs that were not suitable to customers because a number of its representatives did not fully comprehend the products’ features or the risks involved. The instruments were marketed to retail investors with conservative investment goals. A number of customers ended up holding the investments for long periods and they suffered net losses.

The regulator says that Century and Stifel failed to set up proper training for their representatives and lacked the reasonable supervisory systems for the sale of these non-traditional ETFs. Instead, the firms oversaw these investments the way they did traditional ETFs. Also, they did not set up a procedure to deal with the risk for the longer-term holding periods involving these complex investments.

The SEC is charging Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and its former Senior Vice President David W. Noack with securities fraud over the sale of unsuitable, high-risk complex investments to 5 Wisconsin school districts. Stifel and Noack allegedly misrepresented the risks involved in investing $200 million in synthetic collateralized debt obligations (CDOs) and did not disclose certain material facts. The investments proved a “complete failure.”

The Five Wisconsin School Districts:
• Kimberly Area School District • Kenosha Unified School District No. 1 • School District of Waukesha • School District of Whitefish Bay • West Allis-West Milwaukee School District

All five school districts are suing Stifel and Royal Bank of Canada in civil court. Robert Kantas, partner of Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas LTD LLP, is one of the attorneys representing the school districts in their civil case against Stifel and RBC. Attorneys for the school districts issued the following statement:

“We believe that Stifel, Royal Bank of Canada and the other defendants defrauded the five Wisconsin school districts, along with trusts set up to make these investments. In 2006, these defendants devised, solicited and sold $200 million ‘synthetic collateralized debt obligations’ (CDOs), which were both volatile and complex, to these districts and trusts. While represented as safe investments, these were in fact very high risk securities, which were wholly unsuitable for the districts and trusts. In an attempt to protect taxpayers and residents, the districts hired attorneys and other professionals to investigate the investments and the potential for fraud. Then, with a goal of seeking full recovery of the monies lost in this scheme, a lawsuit was filed in Milwaukee County Circuit Court in 2008 to seek fully recovery of the losses and maintain and protect valuable credit ratings of these districts. To date, more than 3 million pages of documents have been obtained and examined by the attorneys for the districts. The districts also properly reported to the SEC the nature and extent of the wrongdoing uncovered. Over the past year, they have provided the SEC with volumes of documents and information to facilitate its investigation.”

In its complaint filed in federal court today, the SEC says that Stifel and Noack set up a proprietary program to assist the school districts in funding retiree benefits through the investments of notes linked to the performance of CDOs. The school districts invested $200 million with trusts they set up in 2006. $162.7 million was paid for with borrowed funds.

The SEC contends that Stifel and Noack, who both earned substantial fees even though the investments failed completely, took advantage of their relationships with the school districts and acted fraudulently when they sold financial products that were inappropriate for the latter. The brokerage firm and its executive also likely were aware that the school districts weren’t experienced or sophisticated enough to be able to evaluate the risks associated with investing in the CDOs. Both also likely knew that the school districts could not afford to suffer such catastrophic losses if their investments were to fail. Despite this, says the SEC, Noack and Stifel assured the school districts that for the investments to collapse there would have to be “15 Enrons.” They also allegedly failed to reveal certain material facts to the school districts, including that:

• The first transaction in the portfolio did poorly from the beginning.
• Within 36 days of closing, credit rating agencies had placed 10% of the portfolio on negative watch.
• There were CDO providers who said they wouldn’t participate in Stifel’s proprietary program because they were worried about the risks involved.

The SEC claims that Stifel and Noack violated the:

• Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Section (10b))
• The Securities Act of 1933 (Section 17(a))
• The Securities Act of 1934 (Section 15(c)(1)(A))

The Commission is seeking, permanent injunctions, disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, financial penalties, and prejudgment interest.

Related Web Resources:
SEC Charges Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and Executive with Fraud in Sale of Investments to Wisconsin School District,, August 10, 2011
SEC Sues Stifel Over Wisconsin School Losses Tied to $200 Million of CDOs, Bloomberg, August 10, 2011
Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)

School Lawsuit Facts

More Blog Posts:

Wisconsin School Districts Sue Royal Bank of Canada and Stifel Nicolaus and Co. in Lawsuit Over Credit Default Swaps, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 7, 2008
SEC Inquiring About Wisconsin School Districts Failed $200 Million CDO Investments Made Through Stifel Nicolaus and Royal Bank of Canada Subsidiaries, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 11, 2010 Continue Reading ›

According to local new services, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is asking five Wisconsin school districts for additional information about the $200+ million in synthetic collateralized debt obligations that they purchased through Stifel Nicolaus and Royal Bank of Canada subsidiaries in 2006. The CDO’s are now reportedlyworthless.

The districts collectively bought the CDOs with $35 million of their own money and more than $165 million borrowed from Depfa bank. Since then, the entire investment has failed. In March, Depfa noticed default on the district trusts which had been established for the investments and took the $5.6 million in interest that had been earned since the purchase was made.

In their 2008 securities fraud lawsuit against the investment firms, the districts accused the defendants of deceptive practices and fraud. School officials contend that they were misled into investing in CDO’s because of a Stifel product that was supposed to build trusts for post-retirement teacher benefits. They say that they weren’t told that that they could lose their entire investment because of the 4 – 5% default rate among companies within the CDO. They also contend that they were never advised that their investments included sub-prime mortgage debt, credit card receivables, home equity loans, and other risky investments.

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