Articles Posted in Morgan Stanley

For the third time this month, The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority  has announced that it has barred yet another Morgan Stanley (MS) broker. The brokerage firm had fired financial adviser Bruce Plyer in late 2016 in the wake of allegations that he executed trades in a client’s account without authorization. Now, the self-regulatory organization is barring Plyer after he failed to appear and give testimony into FINRA’s probe into the matter.

Plyer has accepted and consented to FINRA’s findings, but he is not admitting to or denying any of them.

After being let go from Morgan Stanley, he was registered for a short time with International Assets Advisory until he left the industry early last year.

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.

According to the New York Times, even though Morgan Stanley (MS) executives have known for years about the domestic violence allegations against Douglas E. Greenberg, who was one of their leading brokers, the firm continued to allow him to stay employed in its wealth management division. However, after the NY Times tried to contact the firm about him, Greenberg was finally suspended, pending review. Now, the media is reporting that Greenberg has been fired. Still, a number of the former-Morgan Stanley broker’s exes have retained their own lawyers in light of the fact that he wasn’t let go until now.

Four women have come forward accusing him of domestic abuse. Court filings indicate that not only did Greenberg’s accusers go to the police seeking protection against the now former Morgan Stanley financial adviser, but also, according to one of the women’s attorneys, the firm was issued a federal subpoena notifying it about at least one of the allegations. Morgan Stanley was also aware that Greenberg was charged for allegedly violating a restraining order.

Still, no action was taken against Greenberg, who belonged Morgan Stanley’s exclusive Chairman’s Club as one of the firm’s highest earning brokers. Ironically, the members of this club are expected to maintain certain standards when it comes to “conduct and compliance.” Greenberg is considered one of the leading wealth managers in Oregon. Firmwide, he was among Morgan Stanley’s top 2% of brokers when it came to bringing in revenue.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred three brokers in separate, unrelated cases for alleged misconduct. They are ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) representative Thomas Alain Meier, ex-Fortune Financial broker Michael Giokas, and ex-Northwestern Mutual broker Michael Cochran.

Former Morgan Stanley broker Thomas Alan Meier is accused of making unauthorized trades in customer accounts. In the self-regulatory organization’s letter of acceptance, waiver, and consent, FINRA stated that from 7/2012 through 3/2016, Meier “effected” over 1000 transactions that were not authorized in six customers’ accounts. His allegedly unauthorized transactions involved discretion without written permission or the accounts garnering discretionary acceptance and impacted four clients.

Between 4/2016 and 10/2017, Morgan Stanley submitted 21 amended Forms U5 for Meier. The forms showed that 14 customer complaints were filed against Meier, including two arbitration cases. AdvisorHub reports that because of Meier’s alleged misconduct, customers sustained $818K in losses and over $2M in unrealized losses. To date, the brokerage firm has paid customers about $2.5M in settlements and resolved 13 of the claims.

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Martin Shkreli to Go to Prison for Seven Years

A federal judge has sentenced former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli to seven years behind bars. Shkreli was found guilty of defrauding investors of his MSMB Capital Management hedge fund while manipulating the stock of his drug company Retrophin.

His defense team had fought for a lower sentence—12 to 18 months. They pointed out that ultimately none of the investors that Shkreli bilked lost money and he didn’t profit from his fraud. Prosecutors countered that, in fact, Shkreli had caused anywhere from $9M to $20M in losses.

A few days before his criminal sentence was issued, Judge Kiyo Matsumoto ordered that about $7.36M of the ex-hedge fund manager’s assets be surrendered, including a rare Wu-Tang Clan album that he purchased for $2M. Shkreli’s legal team plans to appeal the sentence.

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Gregory Walsh, a former Morgan Stanley (MS) Assistant Vice President, is sentenced to two years in prison and three years’ supervised release. Last year, Walsh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud that involved defrauding a firm client of $4.8M.

Court documents state that in 2011 Walsh and his brother, ex-Bank of Oswego VP Geoffrey Walsh, convinced a Morgan Stanley client who was newly widowe, to lend Geoffrey over $1.1M to buy three condos in Palm Springs that would be put in her name and then sold. Instead, Geoffrey made his business the title owner of the properties and did not give the widow the documentation for the title or loan. He then sold two of the properties without her consent or knowledge and used the money for his own expenses instead of giving her the funds. When Gregory Walsh discovered what his brother had done, he did not tell his client.

In 2013, the brothers sought $2M from her for a real estate development project. Gregory did not tell the widow that his brother was involved when she asked. He then withdrew funds from her Morgan Stanley account without her consent or knowledge. In 2013, $1.7M of that money was used to pay off a credit line at Bank of Oswego for Geoffrey, who spent the rest of her funds that had been withdrawn.

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In the criminal case brought against them, two ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) investment advisers, James S. Polese and Cornelius Peterson, have pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against them. Polese was charged with conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, investment adviser fraud, and multiple counts of bank fraud. Peterson is charged with conspiracy, investment adviser fraud, and bank fraud.

In a parallel civil case, the US Securities and Exchange Commission claims that beginning in 2014, the two men defrauded three clients of almost half a million dollars. The allegations include:

*Stealing almost $450K from one client and using the funds to make their own investments and pay for Polese’s credit card bills and the college tuition of his children.
*Using a client’s assets to obtain loan financing for an entity in which they were investors.
*Investing client monies in a venture in which they both had a financial stake without telling the client.
*Getting a loan with unfavorable terms for a client.
*Charging one client advisory fees that were 50% more than what he told her they would be.

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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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According to InvestmentNews, there are six pending FINRA arbitration claims against Morgan Stanley (MS) and its former broker Angel Aquino-Velez (Aquino-Velez) concerning his selling Puerto Rico investments. The claimants are alleging misrepresentation and unsuitability regarding the sale of Puerto Rico closed-end funds and bonds they purchased through Aquino-Velez, who is based in Miami, and the brokerage firm.

InvestmentNews also reports that according to FINRA’s BrokerCheck database, Morgan Stanley has already resolved four FINRA arbitration claims valued at $2.4 million related to Aquino-Velez and Puerto Rico municipal bond investments. Aquino-Velez, who left Morgan Stanley a few months ago, was recently selling Puerto Rico COFINA bonds, which are securities backed by the U.S. territory’s sales tax revenue. Prior to working at Morgan Stanley, Aquino-Velez was with UBS Financial Services (UBS) and Merrill Lynch (BAC).

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Losses
At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, our Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been working hard these past four years to help investors who sustained serious losses when the island’s municipal bonds began to fall in value in 2013. For many of our clients, their portfolios should not have been so heavily concentrated in Puerto Rico bond funds and bonds, if at all, except that they were given bad investment advice. Many investors lost everything.
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FINRA is ordering Morgan Stanley Smith Barney LLC (MS) to pay about $9.8M in restitution to and a $3.25M fine for purportedly not properly supervising hundreds of financial representatives who sold short-term trades of UITs. The firm settled without denying or admitting to the regulator’s charges.

According to the self-regulatory organization, from 2/2012 through 6/2015, the brokerage firm’s representatives effected short-term UIT rollovers, including a number of them more than 100 days prior to maturity, in customer accounts. FINRA said that the firm did not properly supervise these reps, when they engaged in the UIT sales, nor did it properly train them regarding the investments. It also purportedly failed to give supervisors adequate guidance about how to study transactions for signs of unsuitable short-term trading. Morgan Stanley is accused of failing to put into effect a system “adequate” enough to identify short-term UIT rollovers and of not providing supervisory assessment for UIT rollovers before execution.

UITs
Unit investment trusts are investment companies that offer units in a securities of a portfolio. They are subject to termination on a certain maturity date, usually after 15 months or 24 months. They typically come with certain fees, including a creation fee and a deferred sales charge. According to FINRA, when a new UIT compels a customer to be pay higher sales charges over time, this could be a red flag indicating suitability issues.

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