Articles Posted in Raymond James

SSEK Investigating Ex-Raymond James Advisor, Stuart Nichols 

Another former Raymond James advisor has gotten into trouble over fraud allegations. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently barred Stuart Nichols, a former broker with the firm, after he failed to participate in the self-regulatory authority’s probe into churning allegations made against him. 

Churning involves engaging in excessive trading in a brokerage account for the purposes of making commissions. 

SSEK Investigates Eddie Lyons Of Raymond James & Associates

Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas (“SSEK”), a law firm specializing in representing wronged investors, is looking into allegations against Eddie Lyons as noted by FINRA.  Lyons was a financial advisor registered with Raymond James & Associates, Inc. He was terminated, in part, due to allegations by his clients that he engaged in unauthorized trading of accounts.

FINRA then initiated an investigation in November 2017.  The inquiry was based on several complaints from customers.  The allegations ran the gambit of bad acts. These include, but may not be limited to, unauthorized trading. 

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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Raymond James Financial Inc. (RJF) has agreed to pay $150 million to resolve all investor claims involving the Jay Peak Resort’s immigrant visa fraud. The EB-5 scam was created in 2007 by third parties and offered to foreign investors.

Although settling, the firm noted in a statement that it was never the placement agent for the fraudulent program nor did it play any other role in the scam. Raymond James also stated that it was never involved in selling the investments. The broker-dealer said that the Raymond James Financial advisor that worked with the brokerage accounts of the investment partnerships involved in the scam is no longer working the firm.

Already, investors have brought several lawsuits over this fraudulent EB-5 Immigrant Investor program. They had invested in a number of related projects at the Jay Peak ski resort. They did so to help themselves gain permanent US residency.

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FINRA Bars Registered Rep For $15M In Unauthorized Trades

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Craig David Dima, a former registered representative with KC Ward Financial, for making about $15M in unsuitable and unauthorized trades in the account of a 73-year-old retiree. According to the self-regulatory organization, there were 11 times when Dima sold nearly all of the customer’s stock in Colgate-Palmolive that she’d accrued from working with the company for nearly thirty years and he did that without permission.

After the elderly client told Dima not to sell the stock, he proceeded to sell them anyways. When the customer confronted Dima, he purportedly misrepresented that a computer or technical mistake had caused the sale. Meantime, the client was “deprived” of the “substantial dividends” from the Colgate shares she used to own. Dima charged the customer over $375K in fees, mark-downs, and mark-ups.

By settling, Dima is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s charges of elder financial fraud.

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Raymond James and Robert W. Baird Are Charged With Compliance Failures

The Securities and Exchange Commission said that Robert W. Baird and Co. and Raymond James & Associates (RJF) will pay $250K and $600K, respectively, to settle charges accusing them of compliance failures in their own wrap free programs. Both firms resolved the charges without admitting or denying to them. They did, however, consent to the regulator’s orders, which found that they violated the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and Rule 206(4)-7.

According to the SEC’s investigation, Raymond James and Robert W. Baird did not put into place the necessary policies and procedures that would have allowed them to figure out how much in commissions  their clients were charged when sub-advisers “traded away” with a brokerage firm that was not part of the wrap fee programs. As a result, said the regulator, the advisers could not let clients know the “magnitude of the costs” nor did the firm consider these commissions when trying to figure out whether the wrap fee program or sub-advisers were appropriate for clients. Because of this, claims the SEC, some clients did not know that they were paying for more than the single wrap fee for investments that were bundled.

 

Two ARCP Ex-Accounting Executives Face SEC and Criminal Charges For Allegedly Inflating the REIT’s Performance

Brian S. Block and Lisa P. McAlister are facing criminal and civil charges for allegedly overstating the performance of the American Reality Capital Properties (ARCP), now called VEREIT Inc. The two former ARCP accounting executives are accused of inflating a key metric that investors and analysts used to evaluate the publicly-traded real estate investment trust.

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Raymond James to Pay Vermont Almost $1.5M in Immigrant Visa Case
The Securities Division of the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation said that Raymond James & Associates (RJF) must pay $1.45M in penalties because one of its registered representaitves allowed investor money to be misused in a$350M development fraud involving the EB-5 program. The program lets rich foreign investors obtain permanent residency if they invest a certain amount in projects that help establish jobs for U.S. citizens.

Earlier, a Securities and Exchange Commission-appointed receiver sued Raymond James, which received wire transfers involving the scam beginning in 2008. The money was from investors who thought they were investing in a Vermont ski resort. One of the fraudsters, Ariel Quiro, is accused of borrowing against the Raymond James accounts and using nearly $2.5M of investors’ money to cover margin interest loans to the firm. Last month, Raymond James arrived at a $5.95M settlement with the Vermont Department of Financial Regulation over violations involving the ski resort. $4.5M of the money was for paying back investors.

Regarding this $1.45M fine, Vermont regulators said that it was a Raymond James representative who set up the brokerage and margin accounts involved in the alleged scam. The financial representative also failed to procure the proper documentation showing that Quiros was entitled to act for certain limited partnerships and let him authorize the transfer of $13M in limited partnership money to buy the ski resort even though written instructions directed otherwise.

Citigroup Admits Wrongdoing Over Blue Sheet Data
According to the SEC, for 15 years, Citigroup Global (C) markets provided the regulator with incomplete blue sheet data regarding trades that it executed. The coding error involved software that the firm used from 5/99 to 4/14 for processing the Commissions’ requests for the information, including data about trade times, prices, volume traded, and information identifying customers. As a result, Citigroup left out nearly 27,000 securities transactions in responses to over 2,300 blue sheet requests.

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A receiver appointed by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a lawsuit against Raymond James Financial Inc. (RJF) over its alleged involvement in a $350M development fraud. The case stems from a complaint that the regulator filed earlier this year against William Stenger and Ariel Quiros. Along with their companies, the two of them are accused of making omissions and false statements when raising funds from foreign investors to supposedly build a biomedical research facility and ski resort facilities.

Raymond James and its employees are not defendants in that lawsuit. However, the firm is mentioned in the complaint to have received wire transfers starting in 2008 from a Vermont bank. The money went to brokerage accounts at Raymond James and they were in Quiros’s name. The funds were from investors and intended for the Peak resort in Vermont.

Quiros went on to borrow against the money in his Raymond James accounts that included high interest margin loans. He purportedly used investor money to pay almost $2.5M in margin interest loans to Raymond James.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is fining Raymond James Financial Inc. https://www.securities-fraud-attorneys.com(RJFS) and Raymond James & Associates (RJA) $17M. The self-regulatory organization is accusing the company of widespread failures related to anti-money laundering compliance.

According to FINRA, from 2006 to 2014 the processes that the firm had in place to stop money laundering failed to line up with its business growth. The SRO said that the company instead depended on “patchwork” systems and procedures to identify suspect activity. Because of this, Raymond James was unable to notice certain “red flags” that arose.

FINRA also said that both firms did not perform the mandated due diligence and risks reviews for foreign institutions. RJFS is accused of not putting into place and maintaining a Customer Identification Program that was adequate.

It was just in 2012 that Raymond James Financial Services was subject to sanctions for its inadequate procedures related to anti-money laundering. The firm said that it would evaluate its AML procedures and programs.

Also sanctioned and fined is former Raymond James Anti-Money Laundering Compliance Officer Linda Busby. She is suspended for three months and must pay a $250K fine. FINRA said that along with the two firms, she did not succeed in setting up AML programs geared toward the two companies, respectively.

By settling, Raymond James Financial Services, Raymond James & Associates, and Busby are not denying or admitting to the FINRA charges.

It is important that financial firms have systems in place to identify suspect transactions that may be signs of money laundering.

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Former JPMorgan Broker Who Stole Over $20M from Richest Clients, Gambled, Goes to Prison
Michael Oppenheim, a former broker with JPMorgan Chase & CO. (JPM), has been sentenced to five years behind bars. Oppenheim pleaded guilty last year to stealing over $20 million from 10 of his richest clients. At one point Oppenheim managed nearly $90 million for 500 clients. He claims he was addicted to sports gambling.

He began betting on NFL games in 1993 and later got involved in online sports betting. After losing hundreds of thousands of dollars, he began stealing from clients to cover his losses. Oppenheim also started options trading in tech stocks to repay these clients and in one day lost $2.7M. He concealed the theft by providing customers with bogus account statements.

Prosecutors contend that Oppenheim persuaded clients to take out up to millions of dollars from their accounts by promising to put their money in low risk municipal bonds that would be kept at the bank. Instead, he used the funds to get cashier’s checks that he deposited into accounts that were his but located outside the bank. Oppenheim purportedly targeted clients he knew wouldn’t be watching their accounts closely. His scam went on for over seven years.

FINRA Bars Broker for Senior Financial Fraud
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred David Joseph Escarcega from the financial industry. Escarcega is accused of making a dozen unsuitable recommendations involving debentures tied to the life insurance policy secondary market and targeting elderly clients. He must also pay a $52,270 fine, which is how much he kept in commissions.

According to FINRA, Escarcega sold the debt instruments, which were issued by CWG Holdings Inc., from 3/12 to 6/13. The regulator said that the debentures were very risky and only suitable for investors that could afford to lose all of their investments. The 12 customers involved in this matter were not that type of investor. A lot of the investments were placed in IRAs.
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