Articles Posted in FINRA

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded over $4.3M to investors in their elder financial fraud case against former First Allied Securities broker Anthony Diaz. The plaintiffs contend that he invested their retirement funds in high risk private placement investments that were unsuitable for them. They are alleging inadequate supervision, misrepresentation and omissions, unsuitability, fraud, and other violations.

Diaz is considered to be a rogue broker by the regulator, who barred him in 2015. He not only worked at 11 firms win 14 years, but also he appeared to have no problem getting another job whenever he was let go from a previous. Diaz’s BrokerCheck profile shows that he is named in 53 customer dispute and regulatory disclosures.

The arbitration award to the investors is over $1M in compensatory damages, more than $413K in legal fees, and $2.9M in punitive damages. They settled with First Allied Securities last year.

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BitConnect, an investment lending platform for Bitcoin, has suddenly announced that it is shuttering its lending and exchange operation immediately. The company said that its exchange platform would shut down in five days. In a post on its site, BitConnect said that moving forward, it would operate for “wallet service, news and educational purposes.”

The announcement caused the price of BitConnect Coins (BCC), which is its Bitcoin currency, to plunge by over 90%–from over $400/coin to about $17.25/coin. Now, its investors are left wondering what to do with their coins.

Some site users are claiming that even though the exchange for the BCCs was supposed to stay open throughout the week, they have been unable to process trades because they cannot access the exchange. CoinDesk reports that one investor sent an email, claiming over $400K in losses because of this.

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Two Brokers Barred After Not Appearing at FINRA Hearings

Guillermo Valladolid, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. According to the regulator, Valladolid did not show up at a hearing into whether, according to InvestmentNews, he “sold investments away from his employer” and neglected to disclose certain outside business activities.

Morgan Stanley terminated Vallodolid’s employment. Previous to that he worked with Merrill Lynch.

In a different FINRA case, the regulator barred another broker, Bradley C. Mascho, also after he did not appear at his hearing. Some of Mascho’s activities while at Western International Securities had come under question. The firm fired him last month, which is also when the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against Mascho and Dawn Bennett of the Bennett Group Financial and DJP Holdings. Mascho was CFO of the latter.

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Meyers Associates is Fined by FINRA Over Misleading Sales Literature
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Meyers Associates, now called Windsor Street Capital, to pay a $75K fine for a number of securities violations, including sending sales literature that was misleading via email and not supervising books and records preparations. The firm’s principal, Bruce Meyers, is now barred from working as a firm supervisor or principal.

According to the regulator’s National Adjudicatory Council, Meyers Association has been named in 16 disciplinary actions this century. It paid about $390K in sanctions for different issues, including issuing false statements, supervisory deficiencies, omissions related to a securities offering, improper review of emails, inadequate maintenance of books and records, and not reporting customer complaints in a timely manner. Last year, the US Securities and Exchange Commission turned down Meyers’ appeal of a FINRA securities ruling that prevented him from serving as firm CEO.

Ex-RBS Trader Banned and Fined £250,000 for Manipulating Libor
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority has banned ex-Royal Bank of Scotland Group (RBS) trader Neil Danzinger from the securities industry and ordered him to pay a $338,000 over allegations that he rigged the London interbank offered rate (Libor). According to the regulator, Danziger, a former RBS interest rate derivatives trader, “routinely” asked RBS Libor submitters to modify the rate to benefit his trading positions. He also allegedly factored in certain trading positions when serving as a submitter and on more than one occasion got a broker to help him to rig other banks’ yen Libor submissions.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (CGMI) to pay $11.5M in restitution and fines to resolve charges accusing the firm of displaying “inaccurate research ratings” on over 1800 stocks—that’s more than 38% of the stock that CGMI covers. According to the self-regulatory organization, the result of the inaccurate ratings was that a lot of customers ended up buying shares they wouldn’t have purchased otherwise if the right information had been provided.

Citigroup settled the case without denying or admitting to wrongdoing. The alleged inaccurate ratings would have been issued between 2011 and 2015.

According to the self-regulatory organization, CGMI showed the inaccurate ratings not just to retail customers, but also to its brokers and supervisors. These inaccuracies were caused by errors in the firm’s electronic ratings data feed that it provides to its clearing firm. As a result: the wrong rating was displayed for certain securities, ratings for securities that CGMI did not cover were provided, and/or the ratings for securities that the firm did rate were not displayed at all. The research ratings on CGMI’s actual research reports, to which brokers had access, were not impacted by these mistakes.

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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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Former LPL Broker is Barred For Not Disclosing Private Securities Sales

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced a bar against Leslie Koonce, an ex-LPL(LPLA) broker. According to the self-regulatory organization, Koonce lied when he failed to disclose that he had engaged in private securities sales. Koonce allegedly pitched a private company’s convertible promissory notes to at least 30 potential investors.

The FINRA case contends that not only did Koonce help facilitate the transfer of $175K to at least three LPL customers so they could invest in the private securities, but also, he invested $50K of his own funds. All the while, said the SRO, Koonce failed to notify LPL in writing of his involvement in these transactions. When he filed out compliance questionnaires twice in 2012, Koonce denied any involvement in these types of transactions.

LPL fired Koonce in 2015. He later went to work with Cetera and then EK Riley Investments. The ex-broker no longer works in the securities industry.

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Ex-Wells Fargo Brokers Barred Over Unsuitable Energy Securities Sales
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred brokers Charles Lynch and Charles Frieda for making unsuitable recommendations to investors, resulting in substantial financial losses to the latter. Lynch and Frieda are former Wells Fargo (WFC) representatives who were based in Southern California. Both Lynch and Frida were fired from the firm. Previous to working at Wells Fargo, both men worked at Citigroup (C) and Morgan Stanley (MS).

According to the self-regulatory organization, between 11/12 and 10/15, the former brokers recommended an investment strategy revolving around certain speculative energy stocks to over 50 customers. These securities were volatile. Because investors became very concentrated in these energy securities, they were placed at risk of substantial losses.

FINRA contends that the two brokers did not do a proper job of making sure these investments were suitable for the customers to whom they were recommending these securities.

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SEC Awards Whistleblower $4.1M
A company insider who notified the US Securities Exchange Commission about a “widespread, multi-year securities law violation” involving the employer, is getting a $4.1M whistleblower award. The individual, who is a foreign national employed abroad, also provided information and help during the regulator’s probe. Further details about the case have been kept confidential so as to protect the confidentiality and anonymity of the whistleblower.

This is the third whistleblower award issued this month by the SEC. The regulator awarded two other people $8M each for their help in another successful enforcement action.

To date, the SEC whistleblower program has awarded 50 whistleblowers over $179M.

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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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