Articles Posted in Wells Fargo

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has suspended former Securities America broker Michael D. Jackson for six months following allegations that he traded options in one client’s account without telling the brokerage firm. Securities America has since fired Jackson.

According to the self-regulatory authority (SRO), in 2016, the ex-Securities America broker recommended that one customer set up an account at different firm to trade options. The customer followed his instructions. Over several months, Jackson allegedly:

  • Put in orders for over 42 options transactions sets—that’s over 100 orders—in the new account.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced this week that it is barring three former brokers. They are ex-Morgan Stanley broker (MS) Kevin Smith and former Wells Fargo (WFC) brokers Wilfred Rodriquez Jr. and Thomas A. Davis.

According to the self-regulatory authority’s order, the bar against Smith comes after he wouldn’t appear before FINRA to testify regarding allegations involving a structured products trade in a family member’s trust that he may have executed without checking with the client first.

Morgan Stanley fired Smith in 2016 in the wake of the broker fraud allegations.

26-Year Old Mayor is Arrested and Accused of Investor Fraud

Jasiel Correira, who is the mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to multiple criminal counts of wire fraud and tax fraud. The 26-year-old was arrested this week following allegations that he defrauded investors of over $230K.

Correira maintains that the investor fraud allegations are false. He refuses to step down as city mayor.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has barred Wells Fargo (WFC) broker Edward O. Daniel, after he failed to participate in a probe into allegations that he made unsuitable investments for one client. Daniel, a Texas-based broker, was with Wells Fargo Advisers for seven years before he stepped down in September 2016. He was a longtime broker of 41 years.

Soon after Daniel resignation two years ago, Wells Fargo disclosed that a customer had filed an arbitration complaint accusing him of making unsuitable investments over a several-year period. The dispute was resolved for $225K. His BrokerCheck record documents that Daniel has been named in eight disclosures, all involving complaints by customers.

Now, FINRA is barring him because he would not cooperate in the self-regulatory authority’s investigation into the unsuitable investment allegations.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has barred J. Gordon Cloutier, Jr. (Cloutier), a former Wells-Fargo (WFC) broker based in the Dallas area of Frisco, Texas, after he allegedly tried to make an unauthorized trade and requested a loan from a client.  Cloutier, who had worked at the firm for seven years, was fired in 2016.  Previous to working with Wells Fargo, Cloutier was  a Merrill Lynch broker, which is now a division of Bank of America (BAC), from 1996 to 2009.  FINRA ultimately barred Cloutier after he failed to respond to numerous attempts by the self-regulatory organization to interview him for its probe. It is FINRA’s policy to open an investigation after a broker is let go from a firm. It was Cloutier’s lack of response that led to FINRA issuing the  default bar from the industry.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LLP, our Texas broker fraud law firm represents investors in helping them to recoup their losses sustained due to broker misconduct, negligence, or carelessness. Over the years, we have successfully helped thousands of investors from our Houston offices. If you were an investors who worked with Cloutier, our Wells Fargo investor fraud attorneys want to hear from you.

Broker Fraud

According to Yahoo Finance, a number of Wells Fargo (WFC) advisors who used to work for the Private Bank’s wealth management unit are claiming that the firm pushed them to place client funds in investments that charged higher fees to clients. The ex-bank employees contend that they were pressured to cross-sell products and bill clients for fees that they would not have had to pay otherwise.

Yahoo Finance reported that there are internal company documents verifying the former employees’ claims. The media outlet said that it conducted interviews with a number of these former advisors.

The ex-Wells Fargo advisors were reportedly encouraged to place clients’ funds in complex products and separately managed accounts. The advisors claim that they were told that if they did not meet sales quotas for certain products, their compensation would suffer.

The securities lawyers with Shepherd, Smith, Edwards, & Kantas LLP (“SSEK”) are investigating claims of investors and clients of Jeffrey Randolph Wilson (“Wilson”) who works with Wells Fargo Clearing Services, LLC (“Wells Fargo”) in Las Cruces, New Mexico. In the last 18 months, at least three of Mr. Wilson’s clients have filed arbitration claims against Wells Fargo claiming that Wilson and/or Wells Fargo acted improperly regarding those clients’ accounts. These customer claims include allegations that Mr. Wilson excessively traded customer accounts, made unsuitable investment recommendations, and exposed the clients to excessive risk.

All brokers are required to make only suitable recommendations to their clients and manage their clients’ investments appropriately. That means that the brokers, like Mr. Wilson, are supposed to consider a client individually and consider that client’s willingness to take risks, age, and other factors – like whether the client is retired – into account when deciding what investments to recommend. Similarly, some investments which might have been appropriate for a client can become inappropriate, or unsuitable, if they are bought and sold too often in a client’s account. Generally, the more frequent the trading in an account, the higher risk the investment strategy.

In the case with Mr. Wilson’s clients, more than one has complained that Mr. Wilson improperly advised them to invest in energy related investments which led to substantial losses. Recently, a FINRA arbitration panel agreed with that allegation, ordering Wells Fargo Advisors to pay a client $357,000 for losses suffered in unsuitable energy and housing based investments, as well as use of margin trading.


ICFBCFS and Chardan Capital Markets Accused of Anti-Money Laundering

FINRA has fined the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China Financial Services LLC (ICBCFS) $5.3M for “systemic anti-money laundering compliance failures.”  The self-regulatory organization contends that when clearing and settling the liquidation of over 33 billion penny stock shares between 1/2013 and 9/2015, the firm did not have in place an anti-money laundering program that was reasonable enough to identify and report possibly suspect transactions, especially when penny stocks were involved.  ICBCFS is settling the case without denying or admitting to the self-regulatory authority’s findings. It has, however, consented to an entry of the findings.

ICBCFS also agreed to pay an $860K penalty to settle a US Securities and Exchange Commission case alleging anti-money laundering violations and the failure to report billions of suspect penny stock sales.

The US state of Massachusetts is investigating Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) over whether the firm engaged in unsuitable recommendations, inappropriate referrals, and other actions related to its sales of certain investment products to customers. The news of the probe comes after Wells Fargo disclosed that it was evaluating whether inappropriate recommendations and referrals were made related to 401(K) rollovers, alternative investments, and the referral of customers from its brokerage unit to its own investment and fiduciary services business.

Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin said it would examine Wells Fargo’s own internal probe and wants to make sure that Massachusetts investors who were impacted by “unsuitable recommendations” would be “made whole.” He noted that while moving investors toward wealth management accounts brings “more revenues to firms,” these accounts are “not suitable for all investors.”

As Barrons reports, referring clients to managed accounts tend to earn fee-based advisors significantly more. The article goes on to note that Galvin is looking into the use of managed accounts related to the US Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule, which includes best practices standards for the protection of consumers. The Massachusetts regulator recently referred to that same rule when the state became the first one to file such related charges in its case against Scottrade over sales contests. In that case, Galvin accused the broker-dealer of improper sales practices, including contests that offered incentives to agents who targeted retiree clients and prospective retiree clients in particular.

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SEC Reportedly Investigating Wells Fargo Over Possible Inappropriate Investment Sales to Wealth Management Clients

According to news reports, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is investigating Wells Fargo’s (WFC) Wealth Management unit to see whether its clients were inappropriately sold certain in-house investment services even though these were not in their best interests. A source told Bloomberg that the regulator’s role in the probe has not been publicly disclosed.

However, in a regulatory filing, Wells Fargo revealed that it is looking into whether inappropriate recommendations were made related to 401(k) plan rollovers, alternative investments, and brokerage customer referrals to the firm’s “investment and fiduciary-services business.” The bank noted that it was assessing these matters in its wealth management business in the wake of inquiries made by federal agencies.

Bloomberg notes that it was in 2015 that JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) consented to pay $267M over allegations that its customers were not told that it had profited by placing their funds in certain hedge funds and mutual funds that charged particular fees.

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