Articles Posted in FINRA

Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas (“SSEK”), a law firm specializing in representing wronged investors, is looking into allegations made by FINRA in a recent AWC filing against Booth.   In February 2018 LPL acquired INVEST.  Booth had been working at INVEST since 2005 and has been a broker since 1988.  In the AWC it is alleged that Booth received client assets with the promise of investing said assets on behalf of the clients.  Booth instead used client assets for his own personal use and never actually invested the assets.

According to Booth’s official record or CRD, he has 25 disclosures or claims against him.  This is an unusually high number, and generally indicates poor supervision.  Almost all of the complaints are on the violative conduct listed above.  According to the FINRA CRD report, most of his former clients complain of a “Ponzi scheme using multiple shell companies.”

LPL fired Booth, and according to LPL this was done after Booth admitted to misappropriation of multiple client’s assets for his own use. It should be noted that FINRA has also barred Booth from the industry and can no longer act as a stockbroker or advisor under FINRA.

An investor who filed an arbitration claim against Arkadios Capital for selling her GPB Capital Holdings private placements now has a hearing date set before a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel: April 20, 2020. This is one of the first GPB investor fraud case brought against a brokerage firm to get a hearing scheduled before one of the self-regulatory authority’s (SRO) arbitrators. Our broker fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LLP (SSEK Law Firm) are representing this claimant.

The investor, who is a woman from the greater Atlanta, Georgia area, is claiming hundreds of thousands of dollars in retirement fund losses after her financial adviser, an Arkadios broker, recommended the GPB securities to her. While with the broker-dealer, her portfolio became especially concentrated in private placements, including the GPB Holdings II Limited Partnership. Now, the claimant is contending that this GPB investment, in particular, was an extremely unsuitable recommendation for her, especially since it involved her IRA from which no losses can be offset.

Our client maintains that she was not aware of the risks involved in the investment strategy used by her Arkadios broker. She is alleging unsuitable recommendations, omissions, misrepresentations, gross negligence, due diligence failures, breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, and inadequate supervision. The investor is seeking damages, interest, and costs.

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.

Two different groups of investors were recently awarded nearly $9.3 million in their respective Puerto Rico bond fraud claims against UBS Financial Services (UBS). These are just the latest Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration claims where the Swiss giant and its Puerto Rico-based brokerage firm have been ordered to pay customers after selling over $10 billion of closed-end funds that were heavily invested in the island’s municipal debt. To date, UBS has paid hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars to investors in either arbitration awards or settlements.

In one of these latest Puerto Rico investor fraud cases, the claimants are three investors and their related businesses and trusts. The customer claimants contend that UBS violated FINRA’s rules and the U.S. territory’s securities laws, as well as committed other fraudulent acts. Now, the FINRA arbitration panel has awarded them $4.25 million in compensatory damages, interest, and $170,000 for costs.

In the other Puerto Rico bond fraud claim, the claimants were customers alleging constructive fraud, common law fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent misrepresentation, negligent supervision, breach of contract, and fraudulent concealment. The FINRA arbitration panel awarded them $4.8 million in damages.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that because of its mutual fund waiver initiative, it has arrived at a settlement with 56 broker-dealers that will provide almost 110,000 retirement and charitable accounts with $89M in restitution. Two of the firms, Western International Securities and Park Avenue Securities, settled on the same day that the self-regulatory organization (SRO) announced the multi-firm resolution. According to FINRA, the brokerage firms neglected to wave mutual fund sales charges for accounts that were eligible and they did not properly supervise the  sales.

FINRA’s Mutual Fund Waiver Initiative

FINRA launched its mutual fund waiver initiative in 2016 after arriving at a settlements with 10 member firms that self-reported how, going as far back as 2009, their registered representatives did not always apply sales waivers when warranted to the accounts of charitable and retirement plan accounts that bought mutual fund shares. While mutual funds are offered in different share classes and usually charge a sales fee upfront, a lot of the funds will waive the upfront fee on the more expensive Class A shares for certain retirement accounts and charities. The SRO also found that the firms had failed to adequately supervise these transactions, which could have helped to ensure that the mutual fund sales waivers were granted.

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.

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has awarded 23 investors $3M in their claim against Spire Securities, its CEO David Lloyd Blisk, and CCO Suzanne Marie McKeown. The broker-dealer and its executives were accused of inadequately supervising former broker Patrick Evans Churchville, whom the investors contend fraudulently sold them investments that caused them to lose money in a $21M Ponzi scam.

Churchville sold the investments through ClearPath Wealth Management, a registered investment adviser that he operated outside of Spire Securities. Still, the claimants contended that the broker-dealer should have prevented Churchville from causing them financial harm while he was a Spire Securities broker and could have done so had they properly overseen him.

Churchville pleaded guilty in 2016 to criminal charges accusing him of operating a $21M Ponzi scam. In 2017, he was sentenced to seven years in prison for tax evasion and wire fraud.

After failing to cooperate in a probe into allegations of securities violations, George Merhoff, a former ex-Cetera Financial Group adviser, has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). He was fired by the brokerage firm in April for allegedly issuing an undisclosed payment to a firm customer.

With over 21 years working in the brokerage industry, Merhoff was a registered Cetera broker for seven years. Before that, he was registered with Pacific West Securities, where he worked for 13 years, and at AAG Securities for less than a year.

Merhoff’s BrokerCheck record shows 27 customer disputes filed since December 2015 that have either been settled or are pending. Allegations include the following:

Former Cetera Broker Allegedly Engaged in Outside Business Activities

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it is barring Nina Jessee, a former Cetera Advisors broker. The bar comes after Jessee failed to cooperate with the self-regulatory organization (SRO), which was investigating complaints about her related to alternative investments, including allegations that she had engaged in business activities that were not authorized outside of the brokerage firm.

With more than 30 years in the industry, Jessee has also been a registered broker at five other broker-dealers, including Investors Capital Corp., Financial Securities Network, NAP Financial Corporation, Marketing One Securities, and Mutual of Omaha Fund Management Company.

Jason Nelson, an ex-LPL Financial broker (LPLA), is now barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). The bar comes after Nelson refused to participate in the self-regulatory organization’s (SRO) probe into his sales activities.

LPL fired Nelson early last year after finding that he misrepresented customer financial information related to annuity sales. Without denying or admitting to FINRA’s findings, Nelson consented to the entry of findings and the bar. He worked nearly 14 years as a formerly registered broker. Previous to working with LPL Financial, Nelson was an Edward Jones broker.

It was just last month that FINRA permanently barred ex-LPL Financial broker Philip John Nalesnik, whom the broker-dealer also fired last year.

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