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Articles Tagged with Cetera

Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas (“SSEK”), a national law firm specializing in representing wronged investors, is looking into allegations against Mengxuan Zhang, previously employed by Cetera Investment Services out of Pasadena, CA.   According to allegations, Ms. Zhang allegedly falsified customer signature pages on new account forms for some customers of Cetera. This included reusing signature pages without express permission and changing the dates on the forms so as to appear that customers had re-executed. One of the forms in question was an “illiquid investment acknowledgment form.”  This is the type of form an investor in such products as GPB Capital or NorthStar Healthcare REIT would have to sign. After admitting her wrongdoing to Cetera, Ms. Zhang was officially discharged. She is currently not employed by any Broker Dealer as a financial advisor.

For her actions, Ms. Zhang has been suspended as a stockbroker/advisor by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. (FINRA). She was also fined. Ms. Zhang accepted and consented to the findings by FINRA without admitting or denying the findings.  According to FINRA, such actions on the part of Ms. Zhang violate FINRA Rule 2010.  According to that Rule, a stockbroker/advisor must “….observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.”  Under the terms with FINRA, Ms. Zhang may not make any statement publicly which denies FINRA’s findings regardless of the fact that she never specifically denied the allegations.

Financial Advisor Fraud Attorneys

The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed civil charges accusing Cetera Advisors of defrauding its retail clients through $10M in unnecessary commissions and fees. The regulator is accusing the registered investment adviser (RIA) of selling these customers costlier share classes even though they qualified to invest in less expensive share classes of the same funds. The clients paid the additional compensation to the firm during the time that they held the more costly investments.

According to the Commission’s complaint, from at least 9/2016 through 12/2016, these Cetera customers were invested and held in mutual fund share classes that charged them 12b-1 fees that were recurring instead of shares that didn’t charge these fees. The SEC said that aside from the fees, which was compensation paid to Cetera, the share classes were identical.

The regulator also claims that Cetera took part in a program with its clearing firm in which the latter would share service fees and revenues it was paid from certain mutual funds with the RIA. Hence, this was incentive for Cetera to sell these mutual funds  instead of other investments to clients. Cetera purportedly received $1.7M as a result of this deal.

In a settlement with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a number of Cetera Financial Group brokerage firms have agreed to collectively pay $3.3M for not properly supervising whether mutual fund sales charge waivers were applied correctly clients at charitable organizations and in retirement plans. The firms that have settled include Cetera Financial Specialists, Cetera Investment Services, Summit Brokerage Services, First Allied Securities, and Girard Securities.

The $3.3M is how much these clients were excessively charged plus interest for the mutual funds that they bought from July 2009 to July 2017. According to the self-regulatory organization, the brokerage firms either: charged front-end sales charges to charitable organization and retirement plan customers that bought A shares in mutual funds even though they were eligible to have these fees waived or sold them class C/B shares while charging them back-end sales charges and “higher ongoing fees and expenses.”

FINRA accused the Cetera firms of not reasonably supervising the way the sales charges waivers were applied to the mutual fund sales and leaving it up to financial advisers to decide whether the waivers should be applied. The SRO also contends that the broker-dealers did not maintain written policies and procedures that were adequate enough to help financial advisers in making such determinations.

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Cetera Financial Group is shutting down one of its brokerage firms, J.P. Turner & Co., shortly after its purchase. Larry Roth, the independent financial network’s CEO, told InvestmentNews that the move is not part of a broader consolidation involving its different firms.

About half of J.P. Turner’s 300 investment advisers have been invited to work at Summit Brokerage Services Inc., which is also owned by Cetera. Roth has indicated the reason for the closing of J.P. Turner is so its advisers can more swiftly access the complete spectrum of support and services offered by Cetera’s network through business-to-business provider Pershing, LLC. J.P. Turner had worked with a different clearing firm as, reportedly, Pershing had refused to do business with J.P. Turner because of their checkered past.

According to Securities Lawyer and Shepherd Smith Edwards Partner Sam Edwards, “It is not surprising Pershing did not want to clear trades for J.P . Turner as the firm has long had a reputation among those in the industry, and especially attorneys representing customers, as one willing to take on brokers and allow trading that other firms would not permit. This has resulted in our firm representing many J.P. Turner clients over the years and those cases have been among some of the more egregious we have seen.”
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