Articles Posted in FINRA Settlements

If former Cetera Advisers broker James Christopher Hayne has handled your investments  and you suffered investment losses that you suspect were due to fraud or negligence, you should speak with an experienced stockbroker fraud law firm right away. Over the years, Hayne, a Texas broker, has been named in numerous customer arbitration claims brought  before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).

With 17 years in the industry, Hayne, previously was a registered broker with Questar Capital, First Allied Securities, Edward Jones, and Morgan Stanley. His BrokerCheck record shows nine customer disputes, five of which were settled.

Most recently, there was the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claim brought against Hayne by a customer that was resolved for $325K. The former client had requested $100K in damages. In that investor fraud case, Hayne  was accused of violating both the Texas Securities Act and California Corporate Securities Law, breaching contractual duties to the claimant, negligence in the way he handled the latter’s account, and causing the customer to suffer investment losses.

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.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that Buckman, Buckman & Reid, a New Jersey-based brokerage firm, will pay about $205K in restitution to seven clients to settle claims that it did not reasonably supervise two ex-registered representatives accused of recommending “excessive and unsuitable trades.” The self-regulatory authority (SRO) has already barred both former brokers from the industry.

Also dealing with sanctions are Buckman Senior VP and owner Harry John Buckman, Jr., who supervised the two former brokers. Mr. Buckman was suspended for three months, ordered to pay a $20K fine, and must fulfill continuing education hours related to fulfilling supervisory duties.

FINRA said that the brokerage firm and Buckman neglected to identify when one of the ex-representatives was taking part in short-term Unit Investment Trust (UIT) trading on a frequent basis, as well as engaging in “other long-term investments” that charged customers substantial, upfront expenses. As a result, between ’13 to ’14 Buckman customers that were harmed ended up paying about $201K in commissions while sustaining approximately $163K in losses. Meantime, although there were red flags indicating “potentially excessive trading” by this former broker, the firm is accused of not reviewing these warnings.

Virginia Regulator Fines UBS Financial After Its Broker Makes Unsuitable Recommendations

To settle charges brought by Virginia’s State Corporate Commission accusing a UBS (UBS) broker of making unsuitable recommendations involving gold and precious metals securities to 18 clients, UBS Financial Services will pay $319K—$289K to the clients and $30K to the state.

Virginia’s regulator contends that unsuitable recommendations were made in 2013 and 2014 and caused UBS clients to hold an overconcentration of these securities, which were not even suitable for some of them. The state said that this violated its securities rules.

Prosecutors in Malaysia have filed criminal charges against a number of Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) units and several people over a massive multibillion-dollar  bond fraud involving the sovereign wealth fund the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). The individuals charged including former Goldman managing directors Roger Ng Chong Hwa and Tim Leissner, financier Jho Low, who is accused of masterminding the fraud, and ex-1MDB general counsel Jasmine Loo Ai Swan.

Malaysia Attorney General Tuan Tommy Thomas said that the criminal charges are related to fake and misleading statements issued in order to steal $2.7B from the proceeds of three 1MDB subsidiary issued-bonds. The bonds, which Goldman organized and underwrote, were valued at over $6B.

The defendants are accused of conspiring together to bribe public officials in Malaysia so as to allow for Goldman’s involvement with the bonds. The investment bank earned about $600M in fees for its work with the Malaysian sovereign fund.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is ordering Merrill Lynch to pay $300K after finding that it did not properly supervise former broker Eva Weinberg, who went to prison for defrauding former NFL football player Dwight Freeney. Merrill, which is now a wholly-owned Bank of America (BAC) subsidiary, consented to the fine and censure imposed for not properly investigating and overseeing Weinberg even after the firm had internally flagged three of her emails and a $1.7M default judgment had been rendered against her in a civil case. (It should be noted that this case is not listed on her BrokerCheck record but was reported by InvestmentNews.)

What Weinberg’s BrokerCheck record does state is that she began working in the industry in 1988, but then in 2004 she took several years away to work at a real estate company owned by a man named Michael Stern, who is also now in prison for defrauding Freeney. Even before Freeney, however, Stern already had a criminal record.

FINRA said that when Weinberg applied to Merrill for employment in 2009, she did not mention the years she had spent working for Stern. The broker-dealer went on to hire her in their Miami office where she worked with professional athletes, including Freeney. She is the one who introduced the former NFL player to Stern.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined Aegis Capital Corp. $550K for inadequate supervision and anti-money laundering systems related to its low-priced securities sales. According to the self-regulatory organization, the firm’s supervisory system that oversees trading involving delivery versus payment (DVP accounts) was not designed in a manner reasonable enough to properly “monitor and investigate” trading in the accounts, especially those involving securities transactions that were priced low.

With DVP accounts, a broker-dealer making the trades does not have to be holding the securities that are bought and sold. FINRA said that Aegis did not “adequately monitor or investigate” seven DVP customer accounts, a number of which belonged to foreign financial firms, in which trading involved the liquidation of billions of dollars of such securities. These transactions resulted in millions of dollars in proceeds. A number of these institutional clients made the transactions for underlying customers whose identities Aegis did not know.

The SRO found that Aegis failed to mark these transactions as suspect even after a clearing firm highlighted that there were anti-money laundering-related red flags. Aegis is settling FINRA’s case but without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

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Raymond James Financial to Pay Fine to FINRA Over Email Communications

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has fined Raymond James Financial Services (RJF) $2M for not maintaining supervisory systems and procedures that were “reasonably designed” enough to oversee emails. The firm settled the case but without denying or admitting to the charges. It also agreed to a risk-based retrospective review of past emails for potential violations.

FINRA examined Raymond James’ email system “during a nine-year review period.” According to the self-regulatory organization, the system had significant flaws that allowed email communications to not undergo “meaningful review.” As a result, “unreasonable risk” was created that could have allowed for “certain misconduct” to go undetected. Also, the firm did not assign enough resources or staff to the team tasked with evaluating emails that had been flagged by the system, even as the number of flagged correspondence grew in volume.

FINRA said that Raymond James “unreasonably excluded” certain personnel who worked on customer brokerage accounts from “email surveillance.” The SRO claims that the emails of 300 registered representatives who were employed in branches with their own email servers were not subject to the “lexicon” of phrases and words for detecting emails that might merit review for potentially suspect conduct.

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Craig Scott Capital, LLC Loses FINRA Membership After Its Representatives Are Accused of Excessive Trading

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has expelled Craig Scott Capital, LLC over finding that three of the firm’s registered representatives allegedly engaged in excessive trading in the accounts of customers. The self-regulatory organization said that the charges imposed on customers, including markdowns, markups, and commissions, were not in line with the latter’s financial states and goals.

Now, FINRA is holding Craig Scott Capital accountable for the excessive trading, which it described as churning. This type of excessive trading involves making trades in a customer’s account in order to earn a commission.

FINRA is also accusing the firm of not putting into place and enforcing a “reasonable supervisory system” to prevent excessive trading and failing to properly supervise the registered representatives involved in the alleged wrongdoing so these behaviours could have been prevented. The regulator accused Craig Scott’s owners of not taking reasonable action even though they detected the red flags indicating that excessive trading might be taking place.

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In a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a number of Cetera Financial Group brokerage firms have agreed to collectively pay $3.3M for not properly supervising whether mutual fund sales charge waivers were applied correctly clients at charitable organizations and in retirement plans. The firms that have settled include Cetera Financial Specialists, Cetera Investment Services, Summit Brokerage Services, First Allied Securities, and Girard Securities.

The $3.3M is how much these clients were excessively charged plus interest for the mutual funds that they bought from July 2009 to July 2017. According to the self-regulatory organization, the brokerage firms either: charged front-end sales charges to charitable organization and retirement plan customers that bought A shares in mutual funds even though they were eligible to have these fees waived or sold them class C/B shares while charging them back-end sales charges and “higher ongoing fees and expenses.”

FINRA accused the Cetera firms of not reasonably supervising the way the sales charges waivers were applied to the mutual fund sales and leaving it up to financial advisers to decide whether the waivers should be applied. The SRO also contends that the broker-dealers did not maintain written policies and procedures that were adequate enough to help financial advisers in making such determinations.

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