Articles Posted in Investment Advisers

Investment Adviser Accused of Lying to Retirement Fund Clients Pleads Guilty

Richard G. Cody, an investment adviser who ran Boston Investment Partners and is accused of lying to clients about how he handled their retirement funds, has revised his not guilty plea. Cody is now pleading guilty to both making a false declaration under oath and investment adviser fraud.

According to The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts, Cody allegedly lied to at least three investors who had relied on him to manage their retirement savings. The investment adviser is accused of fabricating documents so it would look as if their funds were still in the accounts even though hundreds of thousands of dollars had disappeared.

Douglas P. Simanski, a former Next Financial investment adviser and broker, has pleaded guilty to a $4.5M investor fraud for the criminal charges of wire fraud, securities fraud, and submitting false income tax returns. He is accused of bilking over 30 clients over a 14-year period.

According to the US Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania, between February 2002 and May 2016, Simanski “fraudulently obtained” about $4.5M from investors. He “fabricated” contracts for “Tax Free Investments” and “fake CDs” that came with a list of guaranteed return rates and payouts. The bogus documents were used to solicit investors.

Simanski went on to use some of the investors’ funds to issue returns to other investors to make it seem as if the “investments were legitimate.” He also used some of their money for personal spending and in his own E*Trade account. The former Next financial broker is accused of turning in income tax returns that were “false.”

Former Financial Adviser Now Facing Years in Prison for $20M Investor Fraud

Dawn Bennett, an ex-financial adviser and the operator of Bennett Financial Group Services, has been convicted of 17 criminal charges, including securities fraud, conspiracy, bank fraud, wire fraud, and making false statements on a loan application. It took a federal jury less than five hours to convict her for  a $20M ponzi scam that defrauded nearly four dozen investors, including many older investors and retirees. Some of her advisory clients took money out of their retirement accounts to invest with Bennett.

Prosecutors contend that the former financial adviser, who is also an ex-radio show host, used investors’ money to pay back earlier investors in Ponzi-like fashion and to fund her luxury lifestyle. This purportedly included paying priests in India to conduct religious ceremonies to keep regulators away, a $500K luxury suite at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium, and cosmetic surgery procedures.

Thomas J. Caufield, an investment advisor and the owner of and a Dallas-based investment education franchise, is now barred by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The regulator recently charged Caufield with investor fraud, accusing him of lying to over 30 investors in a $6.8M offering fraud.

According to the SEC, from at least early 2013 through December 2017, Caufield, who is from Colleyville, Texas, promised investors substantial returns if they invested in the high-yield promissory notes for what he touted was a profitable franchise. The investment advisor claimed that their money would go toward acquiring and running a franchise that would provide education programs. Instead, Caufield allegedly used a substantial portion of the over $6M in investor funds pay back earlier investors and take care of overdue franchise fees.

The Texas investment advisor is accused of providing materials with false information and making false pitches to prospective investors, including the franchise’s students and clients of DAT Capital Advisors, which was the investment adviser that Caufield owned and used to be registered in the state. Caufield allegedly did not disclose that the franchise was in poor financial health.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering TD Ameritrade Inc. (AMTD) to pay a $500K fine for not submitting mandatory suspicious activity reports (SARs) even after the broker-dealer stopped doing business with 111 independent investment advisers. The regulator contends that between 2013 and September 2015, the firm ended its business relationships with these advisers, who were not TD Ameritrade employees, due to what it found to be “unacceptable business, credit, operational, reputational or regulatory risk” to itself or customers.

While the brokerage firm did submit a number of suspicious activity reports (SARs) regarding suspect transactions made by some of these advisers it had fired, it did not submit SARs reports on some of the other advisers with whom TD Ameritrade had also ended their business relationships.

The suspect activities at issue allegedly included suspicious trading—including moving losses from trade errors to clients—inappropriate money transfers, and making false and misleading statements to customers while serving as an investment adviser managing their TD Ameritrade accounts.

Former Michigan Financial Adviser Faces SEC Charges in $2.7M Investment Scam that Defrauded Seniors

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Ernest J. Romer III, a former Michigan-based financial adviser with 47 disclosures on his Broker-Check record and who was barred by FINRA last year. Romer also pleaded no contest to embezzlement in July and is awaiting his sentence. According to the regulator, between 2014 and 2016, the ex-financial adviser defrauded unsophisticated investors and older retirees of $2.7M.

The regulator contends that Romer convinced at least 30 clients to “sell securities in their brokerage accounts” and transfer their proceeds to the companies CoreCap Solutions or P & R Capital. He purportedly gave them the impression that these were affiliated brokerage firms when, in fact, they were businesses that Romer owned. Many of these investors entrusted him with their life savings.

Steele Financial is Accused of Investor Fraud

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against investment advisory firm Steele Financial Inc. and its owner Tamara Steele. According to the regulator, they allegedly sold $13M of risky securities to over 120 advisory clients. A lot of these clients are teachers, ex-teachers, or other public education employees. The SEC contends that Steele and her investment advisory firm did not tell them that Steele Financial would be making up to 18% in commissions in sales.

According to the Commission’s investment advisory fraud complaint, from 12/2012 to 10/2016, Stele Financial and Steele sold over $15M of Behavioral Recognition Systems Inc. securities. BRS is a company that the SEC has charged with fraud in the past. Meantime, Stele and her firm made over $2.5M of commissions.

Lincoln Investment Planning to Pay Clients For Not Giving Discounts on Mutual Fund Shares

FINRA is ordering broker-dealer Lincoln Investment Planning to pay $1.37M to clients to whom it did not give the discounts they were entitled to when they purchased mutual fund A shares between 1/2011 and 6/2018.

The self-regulatory organization contends that the firm placed certain charitable organizations and retirement plan customers at a disadvantage by charging them a front-end sales charge even when they qualified to not pay the fees.

Four Transamerica entities have settled US Securities and Exchange Charges accusing them of misconduct involving investment models that were faulty. Collectively, the entities, AEGON USA Investment Management LLC (AUIM), its affiliated brokerage firm Transamerica Capital Inc., as well as its affiliated investment advisers Transamerica Financial Advisors Inc. and Transamerica Asset Management Inc., will pay $97M to retail investors that were impacted. However, the entities are not denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

The SEC’s order contends that investors placed billions of dollars into mutual funds and strategies that employed flawed investment models that AUIM developed without knowing they had errors. AUIM’s affiliated investment advisers and broker-dealer touted the quantitative models upon which their investment decisions would be made. Between July ’11 and June ’15, they purportedly offered, sold, and oversaw 15 mutual funds, variable annuity investment portfolios, variable life insurance investment portfolios, mutual funds, and separately management account strategies that were based on these quantitative models.

Unfortunately, contends the SEC’s order, the models were created by one junior analyst who was inexperienced. Not only that, but there were a number of errors in the models, which failed to operate as promised. Moreover, said the regulator, the Transamerica entities launched the Strategies and Products without first verifying that the models worked as they were meant to and without disclosing any risks identified with the models.

$1M in Junk Bond Sales Helps Fund Cetera Acquisition by Genstar Capital

According to InvestmentNews, private equity firm Genstar Capital will sell $1B of junk bonds to help pay for its acquisition of Cetera Financial Group, which will be bought for $1.7B. Genstar will use $700M of its own money in the purchase.

Cetera Financial Group is comprised of six independent brokerage firms with approximately 8,000 brokers and advisers, including Cetera Advisors, Cetera Advisors Network, First Allied Securities, Cetera Financial Institutions, Summit Financial Services, and Cetera Financial Specialists. Cetera initially spun out of ING Groep (ING), a Dutch insurer, in 2010.

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