Articles Posted in Failure to Supervise

Broker-Dealers Accused of Not Properly Supervising Custodial Accounts

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it has fined five major firms $1.4M in total for not reasonably supervising custodial accounts. The broker-dealers are:

  • Citigroup (C), which will pay $300K.

Collateral Yield Enhancement Strategy (CYES) Damages: SSEK Investigating Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor 

Shepherd Smith Edwards & Kantas (SSEK), a law firm specializing in representing wronged investors is looking into allegations against Gordon Harper, a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch out of Upper Montclair, New Jersey. Prior to that, he worked at Banc of America and Edward Jones. 

According to allegations in a recent Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA) claim, Gordon Harper recommended something called Harvest Volatility Management CYES (also known as collateral yield enhancement strategy). Harvest is a money manager which, as the name implies, attempts to manage volatility. 

26-Year Old Mayor is Arrested and Accused of Investor Fraud

Jasiel Correira, who is the mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, has pleaded not guilty to multiple criminal counts of wire fraud and tax fraud. The 26-year-old was arrested this week following allegations that he defrauded investors of over $230K.

Correira maintains that the investor fraud allegations are false. He refuses to step down as city mayor.

Deutsche Bank Securities Inc. and Deutsche Bank AG (DB) will pay a $30M civil penalty to resolve charges brought by the Commodity Futures Trading Commission accusing them of spoofing. According to the regulator, from at least 2/2008 through 9/2014, DB AG, with the help of a number of precious metal traders, sought to rig the price of precious metals futures contracts that were traded on the Commodity Exchange, Inc.

The CFTC’s order said that the traders worked alone and with each other to buy or sell these contracts while planning all along to cancel them before they were executed after a smaller offer was made on the opposite side of the market. The spoof orders were purportedly made to give the impression of market depth in order to generate trading interest.

The regulator found that through the traders’ actions, Deutsche Bank AG sought to not only rig the price of precious metals futures contracts but also to profit from these manipulations. The CFTC said the firm worked with one trader in Singapore who made orders and trades to “trigger customer stop-loss orders.”

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Investment Firm and Its CEO Are Expelled and Barred for Inflating the Price of Shares Before Selling Them

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has expelled Hallmark Investments and barred Steven G. Dash, who is the firm’s CEO, over a securities scam that involved selling stocks at inflated prices. According to the self-regulatory organization, Hallmark, Dash, and firm representative Stephen P. Zipkin used an outside broker-dealer and engaged in manipulative trading, as well as in trade confirmations that were misleading, to sell almost 40,000 shares of stock to 14 customers at prices that were fraudulently inflated. Zipkin has been suspended by FINRA for two years and he will have to pay over $18K in restitution.

Hallmark purportedly employed a trading scam to sell the Avalanche shares that they owned at $3/share. Meantime, the prices for Avalanche were selling at the public offering price of $2.05/share and Hallmark sold other Avalanche shares to other customers for as low as 80 cents/share. Also, the investment firm, Zipkin, and Dash failed to tell customers that Hallmark owned the shares they were buying or that it was marking up the transactions (or that the shares could be bought for less on the open market) even as it sold the shares to others at lower prices.

Apollo Global Management (APO) has agreed to settle for $52.7M allegations that the firm misled fund investors regarding fees and a loan agreement, as well as failed to supervise a senior partner. The settlement was reached with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, which found during its probe that Apollo advisers did not adequately disclose benefits they obtained. This ended up harming fund investors.

Four private equity fund advisors will be paying part of the settlement include:

· Apollo Management V, LP

Gary Mitchell Spitz, a broker and a registered principal of an Iowa-based brokerage firm, is suspended from associating with any FINRA member for a year and must pay a $5,000 fine. The SRO says that Spitz did not perform proper due diligence of an entity—a Reg D, Rule 506 private offering of up to $2 million—even though this action is mandated by his firm’s written supervisory procedures.

FINRA’s finding state that because of Spitz’s inadequate review, he did not make sure that the offering memorandum had audited financials of the issuer or make sure that these financials were accessible to non-accredited investors prior to a sale—also, a Regulation D requirement. The SRO says that Spitz let certain registered representatives, who were associated with the firm, to sell the entity’s shares and turn in offering documents that customers had executed directly to that entity. This meant that Spitz did not get copies of the documents or perform a suitable review of the transactions before they were executed. Certain customers even invested in the entity prior to Spitz getting the subscription documents from these representatives.

Spitz also is accused of not acting to make sure that the representatives made reasonable attempts to get information about the financial status, risk tolerance, and investment goals of customers. FINRA says he did not retain and review these representatives’ email correspondence and that they worked for a company that was the entity’s manager. Spitz let these representatives use the company’s email address to dialogue with customers and prospective clients but that the firm’s server did not capture the correspondence.

FINRA is fining Guggenheim Securities, LLC $800,000 for allegedly not supervising two collateralized debt obligation traders accused of hiding a trading loss. The traders are Alexander Rekeda and Timothy Day. Rekeda, who is the financial firm’s ex-CDO Desk head, has to pay $50,000 and is suspended for a year. Day’s fine is $20,000 and he received a four month suspension. By settling, none of the parties are denying or admitting to the FINRA securities charges.

Due to a failed trade, the CDO Desk at Guggenheim acquired a €5,000,000 junk-rated tranche of a CLO in October 2008. When the desk was unable to sell the position, Rekeda and Day convinced a hedged fund client to buy the collateralized loan obligation for $950,000 more than it had initially agreed to pay by misrepresenting the CLA. FINRA said that to conceal the CLO position’s trading loss, the two traders gave the customer order tickets that upped the CLO position’s price and lowered the price of other positions. Day, allegedly at Rekeda’s order, is accused of lying to the client when the latter asked about the price modifications by saying that the CLO position had a third-party seller that had settled the trade at a higher price and wanted the customer to pay this rate. The client agreed, and, in exchange, Day and Rekeda said that they would compensate the customer via other transactions, including waiving the fees owed related to resecuritization transactions, adjusting the prices on several other CLO trades, and providing a payment in cash. No records, however, indicate that these transactions were related to the CLO overpayment.

In other FINRA securities news, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit has affirmed a district court’s ruling that a broker-dealer that acted as the managing broker-dealer in a Tenant in Common securities cannot be compelled to arbitrate claims filed by investors of the failed enterprise. In Berthel Fisher & Co. Financial Services Inc. v. Larmon, Judge Michael Melloy agreed that for the SRO’s purposes, the investors are not the financial firm’s “customers.”

According to Commodity Futures Trading Commission Bart Chilton, the financial system needs to undergo a “cultural shift” that should include employing a risk-based compensation structure instead of one that is “purely profit-based.” Speaking at the Hard Assets Investment Conference last month, Chilton said that bonus systems and incentives create a “poisonous” system in “our financial corporate culture,” compelling individuals to make earning as money as they can as quickly as they can their main priority.

Chilton also talked about how the system inadequately, if at all, uses “puny penalties” to deal with “bad behaviors” and that short-term profiteering is rewarded. He blames both results on the current compensation system employed by many financial firms. Risk management comes second under profit motive, with inducements generated to increase high risk trading, leverage, and the exploitation of funds. Chilton is recommending the implementation of a compensation system based on risk tolerance, with additional compensation and bonuses to be rewarded gradually. He believes that this will lead to longer-term strategies and actions, as well as “longer-serving employees.” He said that while the government may not be able to obligate financial firms to practice morality, it can takes steps to discourage misconduct by creating rules and laws that mandate good behavior.

In other CFTC news, the agency recently settled four separate speculative limits violation cases for $3 million. On September 21, Citigroup Inc. (C) and affiliate Citigroup Global Markets Ltd. consented to pay $525K to settle allegations that on the Chicago Board of Trade they went beyond the speculative position limits in wheat futures contracts. Four days later, Sheenson Investments Ltd., which is located in China, and its owner Weidong Ge consented to pay $1.5 million over allegations that they violated speculative limits in soybean and cotton futures.

FINRA says that Citigroup Inc. subsidiary Citi International Financial Services LLC must pay over $1.2M in restitution, fines, and interest over alleged excessive markdowns and markups on agency and corporate bond transactions and supervisory violations. The financial firm must also pay $648,000 in restitution and interest to over 3,600 clients for the alleged violations. By settling, Citi International is not denying or admitting to the allegations.

According to FINRA, considering the state of the markets at the time, the expense of making the transactions happen, and the value of services that were provided, from July ’07 through September ’10 Citi International made clients pay too much (up to over 10%) on agency/corporate bond markups and markdowns. (Brokerages usually make clients that buy a bond pay a premium above the price that they themselves paid to obtain the bond. This is called a “markup.”) Also, from April ’09 until June ’10, the SRO contends that Citi International did not put into practice reasonable due diligence in the sale or purchase of corporate bonds so that customers could pay the most favorable price possible.

The SRO says that during the time periods noted, the financial firm’s supervisory system for fixed income transactions had certain deficiencies related to a number of factors, including the evaluation of markups/markdowns under 5% and a pricing grid formulated on the bonds’ par value rather than their actual value. Citi International will now also have to modify its supervisory procedures over these matters.

In the wake of its order against Citi International, FINRA Market Regulation Executive Vice-President Thomas Gira noted that the SRO is determined to make sure that clients who sell and buy securities are given fair prices. He said that the prices that Citi International charged were not within the standards that were appropriate for fair pricing in debt transactions.

If you believe that you were the victim of securities misconduct or fraud, please contact our stockbroker fraud law firm right away. We represent both institutional and individual investors that have sustained losses because of inadequate supervision, misrepresentations and omissions, overconcentration, unsuitability, failure to execute trades, churning, breach of contract, breach of promise, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, margin account abuse, unauthorized trading, registration violations and other types of adviser/broker misconduct.

Before deciding to work with a brokerage firm that is registered with FINRA, you can always check to see if they have a disciplinary record by using FINRA’s BrokerCheck. Last year, 14.2 million reviews of the records of financial firms and brokers were conducted on BrokerCheck.

Read the Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent

Citigroup Fined for Bond Markup, The Wall Street Journal, March 19, 2012

FINRA BrokerCheck®

More Blog Posts:

Securities Claims Accusing Merrill Lynch of Concealing Its Auction-Rate Securities Practices Are Dismissed by Appeals Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 30, 2011

Merrill Lynch Faces $1M FINRA Fine Over Texas Ponzi Scam by Former Registered Representative, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 10, 2011

Bank of America’s Merrill Lynch Settles for $315 million Class Action Lawsuit Over Mortgage-Backed Securities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 6, 2011

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