January 30, 2016

Morgan Stanley Pays Widow Over $95K for Puerto Rico Securities Losses

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration Panel has ordered brokerage firm Morgan Stanley to pay Morrisa Schiffman (Schiffman) $95,632 for the losses she sustained from investing in Puerto Rico securities. Schiffman, who is a widow from New Jersey, had been using the income from the Puerto Rico investments to supplement her retirement. She accused the firm of making unsuitable recommendations and engaging in negligent supervision and disclose failures.

Bloomberg reports this is one of the first cases involving an investor in the U.S mainland seeking financial recovery related to the Commonwealth’s debt. More than 1,300 FINRA arbitration cases have already been filed in Puerto Rico for residents of the island who sustained heavy losses when Puerto Rico bonds began their fall in 2013.

Puerto Rico bonds were a big draw for investors in and out of Puerto Rico for a number of years because the securities are tax-exempt in the U.S. However, since these bonds dramatically declined in value nearly three years ago, investors have come forward to file arbitration claims against brokerage firms who recommended the bonds to them.

Our securities firm’s analysis has shown that, despite their tax advantages, most Puerto Rico bonds were not suitable for many customers' investment goals or their portfolios. Brokers should have steered customers away from the Puerto Rico securities instead of toward them. Because of their negligence, there are investors who have lost all of their money in these bonds.

Firms named in recent Puerto Rico muni bond fraud cases include UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico (UBS), Banco Santander, Banco Popular, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF), Bank of America’s (BA) Merrill Lynch, and others.

Puerto Rico owes $70 billion in debt. The Commonwealth recently defaulted on $37 million of payments that were due to certain creditors so that it could pay more of the general obligation debt that the island owes.

Insurers Ambac Assurance Corporation (AMBAC), Financial Guaranty Insurance Company (FGIC), and Assured Guaranty Corp. (Assured) are now suing the territory over the default, for which they’ve had to pay millions of dollars on claims.

Continue reading "Morgan Stanley Pays Widow Over $95K for Puerto Rico Securities Losses " »

January 27, 2016

Ameriprise Must Pay Woman’s Estate Over $2M For Broker Fraud

A Financial Industry Arbitration panel says that Ameriprise Financial (AMP) must pay over $2M to the estate of Glenny B. White for losses related to fraud committed by an ex-firm broker. The executor of White’s estate claims that Ameriprise Financial Services did not properly supervise former broker Jeffrey Davis.

In 2014, Davis admitted to stealing money from White and other clients. White was his client for almost ten years before she found out in 2013 that he was stealing funds from her. She died at the age of 91 in 2014.

Davis has since been fired from Ameriprise, and FINRA barred him from the brokerage industry. Last year, he was sentenced to over four years in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and admitting to stealing almost $200K from clients.

On Finra’s BrokerCheck report about Davis, it is noted that in at least two cases involving Ameriprise clients the firm had reported to the regulator that their funds were misappropriated.

Continue reading "Ameriprise Must Pay Woman’s Estate Over $2M For Broker Fraud " »

December 31, 2015

Puerto Rico Will Make $330M in Bond Payments, Defaults on About $37M

The U.S. Commonwealth of Puerto Rico will pay about $330 million of what it owes on general obligation bonds, while defaulting on bonds of approximately $37 million that are mostly owed to the Puerto Rico Infrastructure Financing Authority (Prifa) and the Public Finance Corp. Puerto Rico general obligation debt is constitutionally-guaranteed and some of the money to pay for that debt had been originally earmarked for bonds that do not have as strong of legal protections.

This has led to Financial Guaranty Insurance Co. and Ambac Financial Group Inc., which together insure over $860 million in Prifa bonds, sending a letter to Puerto Rico government officials. In the note, they called the redirecting of the funds illegal.

This is not the first time Puerto Rico has defaulted on bond payments owed. It missed payments last year and its government has already warned that further payments may be missed this year. The territory owes investors approximately $72 billion.

In December, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) arrived at a partial-default deal with bond insurers and creditors, reducing debt payments by almost 50% every year for the next five years. Creditors would take a 15% loss in exchange for stronger legal claims on the debt that is left. However, legislation still must be approved to finalize the arrangement.

Worries that creditors will sue has led to Puerto Rico asking the U.S. Congress to grant it bankruptcy protection so it can file for Chapter 9. One of the purposes of the latest bond payment plan is to delay these possible lawsuits while the territory buys more time to work out a deal with negotiators. And, while Democrats and the White House have asked Congress to pass legislation that would let the island restructure its debt, Republican lawmakers have thwarted those efforts. Now, many are expecting these creditor lawsuits in the coming days.

Continue reading "Puerto Rico Will Make $330M in Bond Payments, Defaults on About $37M" »

December 29, 2015

Securities Fraud News: Barclays to Pay $13.5M For Unsuitable Fraud Transactions, Appeals Court Upholds Asset Freeze of Wyly Brothers’ Relatives, Ex-NBA Player to Get Sentence for Ponzi Scam Conviction

Barclays Capital Gets FINRA Fine for Unsuitable Mutual Fund Transactions

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority said that Barclays Capital, Inc. (BARC) must pay over $10M in restitution plus interest to customers that were impacted by violations related to unsuitable mutual fund transactions. The self-regulatory organization said that the firm did not give certain customers the breakpoint discounts that applied. Aside from the restitution, Barclays must pay a $3.75M fine.

According to the SRO, from 1/10 through 6/15, the firm’s supervisory systems were not adequate enough to make sure that unsuitable transactions didn’t happen or that the firm’s duties related to mutual fund sales to retail brokerage clients were met. FINRA said that Barclays supervisory procedures wrongly defined a mutual fund switch as warranting three transactions within a specific period of frame. Because of this erroneous definition, the firm did not act on thousands of automated alerts warning of transactions that might be unsuitable, failed to include certain transactions for suitability review, and neglected to make sure that customesr got disclosure letters about transaction costs. Over 6,100 unsuitable mutual fund switches occurred, causing r about $8.63M in customer harm.

FINRA said that the Barclays did not give its supervisors enough guidance so that they could make sure that brokerage customers were engaging in mutual fund transactions that were suitable for their investment goals, holdings, and ability to tolerate risks. The SRO, which evaluated activities over a six-month period of time, said that 39% of mutual fund transactions were found unsuitable and customers suffered financial harm, including realized losses, of over $800K.

Also, during these five years, the firm’s supervisory system did not succeed in making sure that purchases were properly aggregated so eligible customers could get breakpoint discounts, including those involved in 100 Class A share mutual fund transactions.

By settling, Barclays is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s charges. It is, however, consenting to the entry of findings.

Continue reading "Securities Fraud News: Barclays to Pay $13.5M For Unsuitable Fraud Transactions, Appeals Court Upholds Asset Freeze of Wyly Brothers’ Relatives, Ex-NBA Player to Get Sentence for Ponzi Scam Conviction" »

December 22, 2015

Fidelity Must Pay $1M Penalty For Failing to Detect Elder Financial Fraud

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has imposed an over $1 million penalty on Fidelity Investment’s Fidelity Brokerage Services (Fidelity) for failing to protect clients from a financial fraud committed by a woman pretending to be a broker for the firm. Lisa A. Lewis (Lewis) stole over $1 million from customers, most of whom were elderly investors. FINRA says that the firm’s retail brokerage arm should have been able to detect the scam, but Lewis was able to perpetrate her fraud because Fidelity’s supervisory controls were lax.

According to the self-regulatory organization (SRO), from August 2006 to May 2013, Lewis told customers from a firm she was fired from for purported check-kiting and improperly borrowing customer funds that she was with Fidelity, when she had no such connection to the firm. Lewis set up Fidelity accounts by using the personal data of nine people and placed the accounts in their name, as well as established joint accounts with them in which she named herself co-owner. Lewis then had all communication regarding the accounts sent to her. Lewis was able to set up over 50 individual and joint accounts at the firm. She proceeded to convert assets from these accounts for her own benefit.

Last year, Lewis pleaded guilty to wire fraud related to the elder financial fraud scam, and she is now behind bars where she is serving a 15-year prison term. She also has to pay over $2 million in restitution to the customers she harmed.

Continue reading "Fidelity Must Pay $1M Penalty For Failing to Detect Elder Financial Fraud" »

December 15, 2015

LPL Financial to Pay $750K in Nontraded REIT Case Involving Elderly Investor in New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s Bureau of Securities Regulation says that LPL Financial has consented to pay $750,000 to resolve charges involving the sale of nontraded real estate investment trusts to an elderly investor. The state says that transactions were not only unlawful but also they were suitable for the 81-year-old customer.

The state says that the sale of the nontraded REITs were unsupervised, causing the investor to sustain substantial losses in 2008. Aside from the $750K, which includes $250K to the bureau, $250K in administrative fees, and $250K to the investor education fund, LPL will offer remediation to any client in New Hampshire that bought a nontraded REIT through the firm since 2007 if the sale did not meet the firm’s product-specific limitations or guidelines.

Nontraded REITS
Nontraded REITs can be high-risk investments. They are liquid and may come with substantial front-end fees of up to 15%. Distributions are not guaranteed and are determined by the alternative investments' board of directors. REITs are not traded on exchanges and there is a limited secondary market for them, which can make them difficult for investors to sell.



Continue reading "LPL Financial to Pay $750K in Nontraded REIT Case Involving Elderly Investor in New Hampshire " »

December 12, 2015

Securities Fraud News: Texas REIT’s Share Price Drops Following Ponzi Allegations, Morgan Stanley, Ex-Broker Are Found Jointly Liable in $1M Elder Fraud Case, and Brokerage Firm Resolves Variable Annuities Claims for $475K

United Development Funding IV Shares Fall After Allegations of Texas Ponzi Scheme
United Development Funding IV (“UDF IV”), a Texas-based real estate investment trust (“REIT”), saw its share price drop after Harvest Exchange published a post that said the REIT had been run like a Ponzi scheme for years. United Development was a nontraded REIT that became traded when it listed on Nasdaq last year under the symbol “UDF”.

In the report on the Harvest site, the anonymous author said that the UDF umbrella had traits indicative of a Ponzi scam, such as, it uses new capital to pay distributions to current investors and UDF companies and gives substantial liquidity to earlier UDF companies to pay earlier investors. The article said that once the funding of retail capital to the most current UDF stops, the earlier UDF companies do not seem able to stand on their own. This purportedly indicates that the structure will likely fail and investors will be the ones sustaining losses.

After the report by the online professional network of investors, UDF IV saw its share price plunge from $17.53 to $10.10. It later dropped further to $8.55/share.

Over $1M Awarded in Senior Financial Fraud Case Against Morgan Stanley and a Former Financial Adviser
A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. arbitration panel has awarded 92-year-old Genevieve Lenehan (“Mrs. Lenehan”) over $1M in her claim against Morgan Stanley (MS) and former Morgan Stanley advisor Justin Amaral (“Amaral”). Mrs. Lenehan accused Amaral of churning and reverse churning her account. Amaral also advised Mrs. Lenehan’s husband until his death five years ago.

Continue reading "Securities Fraud News: Texas REIT’s Share Price Drops Following Ponzi Allegations, Morgan Stanley, Ex-Broker Are Found Jointly Liable in $1M Elder Fraud Case, and Brokerage Firm Resolves Variable Annuities Claims for $475K" »

November 28, 2015

SEC Cases: Ex-Stockbroker Accused of Bilking Investor for Home Renovations, Marwood Group Admits to Wrongdoing Over Compliance Failures, and Ex-Goldman Sachs Employee Faces Insider Trading Charges

Former Stockbroker Raises Over $1.2M from Customers to Remodel His Home
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging ex-stockbroker Bernard M. Parker with Securities Act of 1933 and Securities Exchange Act of 1934 violations, as well as violations of Rule 10b-5. The regulator says that Parker raised over $1.2M from long-term brokerage customers and others by getting them to think they were buying real estate tax client certificates and would make up to 9% yearly interest.

Instead, says the SEC, Parker only used a small part of that money to buy the liens. He used their other funds to remodel his house, pay his father-in-law’s bills, and make car payments. The agency also claims that the ex-broker conducted the unregistered and fraudulent investment offering using his Parker Financial Services from ’08 to ’14. He also purportedly failed to notify the investment advisory firm and broker-dealer where he was dually registered about his side business.

The Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Pennsylvania has filed criminal charges against Parker in a parallel case over the alleged broker fraud.

Political Intelligence Firm Admits to Compliance Failures
Marwood Group Research LLC has admitted to compliance failures and will settle the SEC’s case against it by paying a $375,000 penalty. According to the Commission, the firm did not properly notify compliance officers about the times that analysts received potential material nonpublic data from government employees.

The firm’s own written policies and procedures are supposed to play a key part in Marwood Group’s efforts to stop nonpublic and confidential data from reaching its clients so as not to influence their decisions regarding securities trading. Yet its misconduct happened in 2013 when analysts were looking for information about pending regulatory approvals and policies at the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Continue reading "SEC Cases: Ex-Stockbroker Accused of Bilking Investor for Home Renovations, Marwood Group Admits to Wrongdoing Over Compliance Failures, and Ex-Goldman Sachs Employee Faces Insider Trading Charges" »

November 21, 2015

Securities News: Barclays to Pay $120M to Settle Libor Rigging Litigation, Investment Advisor Firm Settles Charges Over Custody Rule Violations, and SEC Accuses Man of $190M Scam Involving Private Placements, Nursing Homes

Barclays Resolves Securities Fraud Claims Related to Libor Rigging
Barclays PLC (BARC) has consented to pay $120 million to resolve securities fraud claims accusing the bank of conspiring with competitors to manipulate the London Interbank Offered Rate, also known as Libor. Barclays is the first to settle allegations made by “over-the-counter” investors.

It was just last month that the British bank consented to pay $94M to resolve litigation accusing it of trying to rig Euribor, which is the euro-denominated equivalent of Libor. Barclays has admitted to rigging both benchmarks. The bank paid settlements to regulators in the United States and in Great Britain.

Libor is used to establish rates on hundreds of trillions of dollars of transactions, such as those involving student loans, credit cards, and mortgages. Banks use Libor to assess how much it will cost to borrow from each other. To date, over a dozen banks have been sued for conspiring to rig Libor.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald in New York, who approved the class action settlement, said in August that the plaintiffs could win fraud claims if they proved that panel banks lied to the administrator of Libor about borrowing costs and the plaintiffs had depended on these fallacies. Buchwald, in 2013, threw out a “substantial” chunk of this private case, which included federal antitrust claims.


Investment Advisory Firm, Co-Founders to Pay $1M to Settle Custody Rule Violation Charges
Sands Brothers Asset Management LLC and co-founders Steven Sands and Martin Sands will pay a $1 million penalty to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of violating the custody rule. They also have consented to a year suspension from raising funds from existing or new investors. The firm will under go compliance monitoring for three years. Ex-COO and CCO Christopher Kelly will pay a $60K penalty and serve a one-year suspension from acting as a COO or practicing in front of the SEC as a lawyer.

Under the custody rule, firms have to get independent confirmation of assets when they can control or access client funds or securities. This is so that investors know their money is protected from misuse or theft. The firm, the two Sands brothers, and Kelly settled the charges without or denying or admitting to them.


Continue reading "Securities News: Barclays to Pay $120M to Settle Libor Rigging Litigation, Investment Advisor Firm Settles Charges Over Custody Rule Violations, and SEC Accuses Man of $190M Scam Involving Private Placements, Nursing Homes" »

November 9, 2015

Investors May Have Lost Up to 88% in Goldman Sachs BRIC Fund

Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (GS) is folding its BRIC fund and merging it with a broader emerging market fund. The BRIC fund, which invests in Russia, China, Brazil, and India, has been losing money. In its filing to the SEC, the bank said that it doesn’t see the nine-year-old product experiencing “significant asset growth." Unfortunately for some investors of the BRIC fund, depending on when you invested, you may have lost up to 88%.

The acronym for the fund comes from the names of the countries in which it invested. Goldman’s BRIC fund allowed investors to bet on growth in Brazil, Russia, India, and China. It was Goldman Sachs Chief Economist Jim O’Neill who invented the name, selecting the nations for their potential for growth and their importance to the economy some 14 years ago.

Following an investment boom, these large emerging markets are now starting to falter, as have investors’ previous gains. China is expected to experience its weakest expansion in 25 years and Brazil and Russia are going into recessions. While India has experienced growth, the nation’s prime minister is finding it challenging to put reforms into place.

Continue reading "Investors May Have Lost Up to 88% in Goldman Sachs BRIC Fund" »

November 7, 2015

Securities Headlines: FINRA Seeking to Fine MetLife Over Variable Annuity Sales, SEC Accuses Scottish Trader of Sending Fake Tweets, Market Rigging, and Judge Orders Man to Stop Crowdfunding Fraud

FINRA Plans to Fine MetLife for Purported Variable Annuities Violations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is looking to impose a significant fine against MetLife’s broker-dealer unit related to possible violations involving variable annuities. The company is cooperating with the regulator’s probe, which is looking at alleged suitability, misrepresentation, and supervision issues related to the selling and replacements of variable annuities.

According to MetLife’s quarterly regulatory filing, FINRA told the insurance giant that it plans to recommend disciplinary action. InvestmentNews reports that in an e-mailed statement, MetLife spokesperson John Calagna said that the company did not agree with the conclusions reached by the regulator and plans to defend itself.

SEC Charges Scottish Trader with Over Market Rigging Involving False Tweets
The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed securities fraud charges against James Alan Craig of Scotland for allegedly filing false tweets that caused sharp declines in the stock prices of two companies, even causing one of them to experience a trading halt. The regulator said that Craig sent out false statements via Twitter on accounts that he deceptively set up to make them look like legitimate Twitter accounts of known securities research firms.

According to the SEC’s complaint, Craig’s first bogus tweets caused the share price of one company to drop 28% until Nasdaq temporarily stopped trading. The next day, he sent out false tweets about another company that led to a 16% drop in the share prices of that company. Both days he purchased and sold shares of the companies he targeted to try to profit from the sharp price changes. He was mostly successful in his efforts.

Continue reading "Securities Headlines: FINRA Seeking to Fine MetLife Over Variable Annuity Sales, SEC Accuses Scottish Trader of Sending Fake Tweets, Market Rigging, and Judge Orders Man to Stop Crowdfunding Fraud " »

November 5, 2015

JPMorgan Ordered to Pay Family Trust Over $1M Related To Purported Violations Involving Short Trading, Leveraged ETFs and Ex-Firm Adviser Must Pay $22M for Fraud

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded The Elliot Family Trust DTD, Eugene Elliot, Genraza LLC, and Shawn Elliot Over $1M in their securities arbitration case against J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM).

The claimants are contending fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentation and omissions, failure to control and supervise, and violations of federal and state securities laws related to the alleged short trading of US Treasury securities and the unsuitable purchase and allocation of securities, including leveraged exchange-traded funds and unspecified options. They had initially sought compensatory damages no lower than $1.75M, rescission of the purportedly unsuitable investments, punitive damages, legal fees, and other costs. Meantime, the financial firm sought to have their case dismissed.

Following the pleadings, the FINRA arbitration panel decided that the respondent is liable for and must pay claimants over $1.145M in compensatory damages, interest on that amount, and over $43,000 in other fees.

Continue reading " JPMorgan Ordered to Pay Family Trust Over $1M Related To Purported Violations Involving Short Trading, Leveraged ETFs and Ex-Firm Adviser Must Pay $22M for Fraud" »

November 4, 2015

Securities Cases: More Brokers Identified by SEC in Stock Rigging Case, Former Ameriprise Broker Gets Prison Term for Fraud, and Boeing Settles 401K Case for Almost $57M

SEC Names More Brokers in Penny Stock Rigging Case Filed Last Year
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging three more people related to a $300M penny stock rigging case that it filed last year. In federal court, the regulator sought to lift the stay in its civil case to submit an amended lawsuit and now also name brokers Ronald Heineman and Michael Morris, as well as lawyer Darren Ofsink.

The SEC says that Morris and Heineman executed the scam through their brokerage firm awhile Ofsink made money illegally by selling unregistered shares even though no exemption for registration was valid. Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York is fling criminal charges against Ofsink ad Morris.

Per the amended SEC complaint, in 2013 Abraxas Discala, Marc Exler, and brokers Craig Josephburg and Matthew Bell were involved in a scam to raise the price of CodeSmart Holdings stock. The men intended to make money at the expense of Josephberg’s customers and Bell’s clients. Heineman and Morris, who own Halcyon Cabot Partners—the firm where Josephberg was employed—allegedly were involved in the securities scam. The two men are accused of secretly consenting to buy shares of CodeSmart at pre-set prices so that Discala could liquidate his positions at prices that were artificially raised. Meantime, Ofsink, who played a part in the execution of the company’s reverse merger into a public shell company, made money by illegally selling securities of CodeSmart that were not registered.

Trading in CodeSmart has been suspended because the company hasn’t submitted periodic reports since late 2014 and due to purportedly suspect market activity.


Former Ameriprise Adviser Gets Prison Term for Defrauding Clients of Over $1M
Former Ameriprise (AMP) adviser Susan Elizabeth Walker wills serve more than seven years behind bars for defrauding at least 24 retirement accounts of over $1.1M. Walker was convicted of tax evasion and mail fraud. She pled guilty last year to the criminal accounts.

Walker offered financial planning services through the firm from October 2008 through March 2013. She also was registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and was a securities agent under the Minnesota Department of Commerce.

Continue reading "Securities Cases: More Brokers Identified by SEC in Stock Rigging Case, Former Ameriprise Broker Gets Prison Term for Fraud, and Boeing Settles 401K Case for Almost $57M" »

October 27, 2015

Massachusetts Regulator Says Fidelity Let Unregistered Advisers Trade on Its Broker-Dealer Platform

Commonwealth William Galvin has filed an administrative complaint against Fidelity Brokerage Services. The firm is accused of letting at least 13 unregistered investment advisers trade on its broker-dealer platform, which caused Fidelity and the advisers to earn fees.

This practice, which involved unregistered advisers having their clients turn in trade authorizations to the brokerage firm so that they could access the accounts, purportedly took place for more than ten years beginning in 2005. For example, the state regulator contends that over twenty Fidelity customers paid one unregistered investment adviser $732,000 in fees over ten years in which he made over 12,000 trades in his account and nearly 29,000 trades in client accounts.

Galvin believes that Fidelity knew that this person was acting as an unregistered adviser, even at one point pressing him to register. However, claims the regulator, despite remaining unregistered, the trader was rewarded because of referrals he made to the broker-dealer. Seven Fidelity customers paid him $732,000 as compensation for his services.

Continue reading "Massachusetts Regulator Says Fidelity Let Unregistered Advisers Trade on Its Broker-Dealer Platform" »

October 19, 2015

UBS Advisory Firms To Pay Investors $13M For Failure to Disclose Closed-End Fund Strategy Modification

UBS Fund Advisor LLC and UBS Willow Management LLC will pay $17.5M, including $13 million to investors that were hurt to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing them of failing to disclose that there was a change in an investment strategy involving closed-end fund UBS Willow Fund LLC. The two UBS (UBS) advisory firms have advised the fund.

The SEC contends that from 2000 through 2008, UBS Willow Management — which was a joint venture between an outside portfolio manager and UBS Fund Advisor – invested the assets of the Willow Fund in line with the strategy discussed in marketing collateral and offering documents. However, according to the regulator's order that instituted a settled administrative proceeding, in 2008, the fund advisor changed tactics and went from focusing on investments in debt put out by beleaguered companies to buying big amounts of credit default swaps.

The Willow fund started to sustain huge losses because of the credit default swaps, which went from 2.6% of the fund's market value in ’08 to over 25% by March ’09. The fund was eventually liquidated three years later.

The SEC says that UBS Willow Management failed to notify its board of directors or the fund’s investors that the investment strategy had changed. For a time, a marketing brochure given to prospective investors misstated the strategy of the fund, and letters to investors included misleading or false information about credit default swap exposure.

Continue reading "UBS Advisory Firms To Pay Investors $13M For Failure to Disclose Closed-End Fund Strategy Modification" »

October 15, 2015

Ex-Edward Jones Advisor Gets Five Years Behind Bars for Bilking 56-Year-Old Disabled Woman

Jason Wade Cox, a former advisor for Edward Jones, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, and money laundering involving the account of a 56-year-old disabled woman. Cox had been managing the account of Jodene Beaver ever since the death of her father three years ago.

Beaver, who has mental and physical impairments, was left a trust by her father, who chose Cox as her financial adviser. Unfortunately, rather than helping Beaver, Cox stole thousands of dollars, taking money from the original account, moving the funds into her checking account, and then spending a lot of the cash on gambling. Not only did Cox spend all of Beaver’s money, but also he recommended that she sell her condominium and transfer to an apartment that had bed bugs.

According to the Internal Revenue Service, Cox got around federal banking rules by taking out from Beaver's account just under the amount that would have required him to file currency transaction reports. When bank officials asked Beaver about the money she was withdrawing for the financial adviser, she replied that they were business partners but wasn’t sure what kind of business they were involved in. Her bank closed her accounts and notified the police.

In addition to the prison sentence, Cox must serve three years supervised release and pay over $412,000 in restitution.

Continue reading "Ex-Edward Jones Advisor Gets Five Years Behind Bars for Bilking 56-Year-Old Disabled Woman" »

October 14, 2015

UBS To Pay $19.5M Over Notes Tied to Currency Index

UBS AG (UBS) has agreed to pay $19.5 million to resolve SEC charges accusing the firm of making misleading or false statements and omissions in offering materials for structured notes connected to a proprietary strategy for foreign exchange trading. The firm is accused of falsely stating to investors in the United States the structured notes linked to the V10 Currency Index with Volatility Cap were dependent upon a systematic and transparent strategy for currency trading that employed market prices to calculate the financial instruments that were underlying the index. The SEC said that UBS made undisclosed hedging trades, which lowered the index price by as much as 5%. The firm is settling without denying or admitting to the regulator’s findings.

About 1900 US investors purchased approximately $19M of structured notes connected to the index from December ’09 to November ’10. The SEC contends UBS did not have an effective procedure, policy, or process for making sure that the individuals mainly responsible for the offering documents for the notes in the US knew that UBS employees in Switzerland were taking part in practices that could hurt the price inputs for calculating the V10 Index. The firm also purportedly did not disclose that it took unwarranted markups on hedging trades, hedged trades with non-systemic spreads, and traded prior to certain hedging transactions.

Continue reading " UBS To Pay $19.5M Over Notes Tied to Currency Index " »

September 30, 2015

UBS Puerto Rico to Pay $18.5M to Settle FINRA Sanctions Over Supervisory Failures Related to Closed-End Fund Sales

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is fining UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico (UBS PR) $7.5 million for supervisory failures involving its transactions in UBS sponsored Puerto Rican closed-end funds (CEF). The brokerage firm also must pay $11 million in client restitution for losses related to those shares.

According to FINRA, a self-regulatory organization for the brokerage industry, for over four years, UBS PR neglected to monitor the combined concentration and leverage levels in customer accounts to make sure transactions were suitable for the respective profiles and objectives of its customers. FINRA said that considering that the firm’s retail customers typically kept high concentration levels in the country’s assets and frequently used these concentrated accounts as cash loan collateral—and in light of the U.S. territory’s volatile economy—UBS should have put into place a system that could reasonably identify and prevent unsuitable transactions.

Instead, the regulator said, UBS PR persuaded certain customers to establish credit lines that were collateralized by their securities accounts. If the value of the account dropped under the required collateral level, the customer would have to deposit more assets or liquidate securities. A credit line that is collateralized by an account that is very concentrated could significantly increase an investor’s risk of loss. When the market dropped in 2013, and a lot of the CEFs lost value, customers were forced to sustain hefty losses to satisfy the calls they received notifying them that their account’s value was now under the required collateral level.

Continue reading "UBS Puerto Rico to Pay $18.5M to Settle FINRA Sanctions Over Supervisory Failures Related to Closed-End Fund Sales" »

September 23, 2015

LPL to Pay $3.2M Over Nontraded REIT and ETF Sales

LPL Financial (LPLA) has agreed to pay 3.2 million fine to settle penalties related to its sale of nontraded real estate investment trusts and leveraged exchange-traded funds. The settlements were reached with the Non-Traded REIT Task Force of the North American Securities Administrators Association and regulators in Massachusetts and Delaware. The firm sold the REITs at issue for six years beginning in 2008.

Under the agreement, LPL will pay $1.425 million in civil penalties for its purported failures to put into place a supervisory system that was adequate enough to handle its nontraded REIT sales and enforce written procedures related illiquid trust sales. The money will be divvied up between the District of Columbia, 48 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. By settling with NASAA, LPL is not denying or admitting wrongdoing.

Also, the Delaware Attorney General and the Massachusetts Attorney General have arrived at their own settlements with LPL’s Boston arm. The firm consented to pay $1.8 million for putting about 200 clients from Massachusetts in high-risk leveraged ETFs. The broker-dealer and Massachusetts had come to an earlier settlement about nontraded REIT sales two years ago.

Continue reading "LPL to Pay $3.2M Over Nontraded REIT and ETF Sales" »

September 1, 2015

FINRA Orders UBS to Pay Investors Over $2.9M For Puerto Rico Bond and Fund Losses

UBS (UBS) must pay over $2.9M to investors Andres Ricardo Gomez and Ana Teresa Lopez-Gonzales for losses related to their investments in Puerto Rico securities. Mr. Ricardo, Ms. Lopez-Gonzales and their relatives filed an arbitration case with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) claiming breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, breach of contract, negligence, unsuitability, misrepresentation and omission, overconcentration, and failure to supervise under FINRA rules and Puerto Rican law.

Mr. Ricardo’s and Ms. Lopez-Gonzales’ relatives resolved the securities fraud case for an undisclosed sum before the FINRA arbitration panel issued its ruling. The allegations are related to investments in Puerto Rico municipal bonds, UBS proprietary closed-end funds, and the use of Claimants’ investments as collateral to borrow money through credit lines. UBS Financial Services and UBS Financial Services Inc. of Puerto Rico denied all claims.

The Claimants had initially sought $10 million in compensatory damages and other appropriate relief, the cancellation of all loan balances, disgorgement of fees and commissions earned by UBS, pre- and post-award interest, legal fees, expenses, and other fees. Claimants also sought punitive damages.

In response, UBS sought to have the Puerto Rico bond fund case dismissed. In addition, UBS requested that the FINRA panel order Mr. Ricardo and one of the other claimants pay $500,000 in damages.

Continue reading "FINRA Orders UBS to Pay Investors Over $2.9M For Puerto Rico Bond and Fund Losses" »