January 16, 2015

UBS Settles SEC Dark Pool Case for $14M

A UBS AG (UBS) subsidiary has consented to pay $14.4 million to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission claims that the firm committed violations involving the marketing and operation of its dark pool. The subsidiary, UBS Securities LLC, is accused of placing some players at an advantage in its alternative trading system the UBS ATS, which is the second largest dark pool in the United States.

According to the regulator, the Swiss bank failed to adequately disclose the way the dark pool worked to all of its clients, which allowed only some investors to know all of its rules. The SEC said that beginning in 2008 and into 2012, UBS let customers turn in orders at prices with denominations under a penny even though market rules dictate that all orders cannot be in any denomination below one cent.

UBS pitched the PrimaryPegPlus (PPP) order type, which let traders sell and purchase securities at the under the one cent increment prices, primarily to market makers and high-frequency trading firms. This let them get in front of orders that were made at the legal, whole-penny prices.

The SEC also said that UBS did not tell all subscribers about the “natural-only crossing restriction,” which was supposed to ensure that certain orders would not execute against orders made by the high-frequency trading firms and market makers. The shield only benefitted orders made using UBS algorithms, which are automated trading strategies. It wasn't until 2 1/2 years after this feature's launch that every subscriber was notified of its existence.

The SEC is accusing UBS of other violations, including the submission of incomplete and inconsistent statements about sub-penny orders and its natural-only crossing restriction in Form ATSs. The firm also purportedly did not set up written standards for giving subscribers access to the natural-only crossing restriction.

The Commission says that from August 2008 to March 2009, and for a certain period in 2010, UBS failed to preserve certain order data for the UBS ATS. It is accused of violating confidentiality requirements when it gave employees that shouldn't have had access the private trading data of subscribers.

By settling, UBS is not denying or admitting to the SEC findings. Of the $14.4 million payment, $12 million is a penalty.

According to Bloomberg, a source said that the SEC is working on rules that will compel dark pools to follow some of the same requirements as exchanges. This would include requirements dealing with disclosure of order types available in the dark pools, as well as pricing data sources.

The regulator is reportedly considering whether to make dark pool operators tell investors who else is trading as opposed to keeping trader identities anonymous. Some critics have expressed concerns that dark pools give computerized trading firms the upper hand. Also, because certain dark pools use aggregated feeds to match traders, critics are worried that investors are getting dated data when considering whether to trade.

SEC Order (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
NY Sues Barclays Over Alleged High Speed Trading Favors in Dark Pool, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, June 26, 2014

Deutsche Bank, UBS Are Probed Over Dark Pools & High-Frequency Trading, While An Investor Sue Barclays, Institutional Investor Fraud Blog, July 30, 2014

SEC Working on Mutual Fund Regulations, Conducts Dark Pool Probes, Enacts New Exchange Rules, Institutional Investor Fraud Blog, November 20, 2014

January 5, 2015

Beneficiaries of Puerto Rico Trust File Securities Fraud Lawsuit Seeking Over $4.5M From UBS Financial Services

Plaintiffs in Puerto Rico who say they are the beneficiaries of a trust have filed a securities lawsuit against UBS Financial Services (UBS). The beneficiaries’ complaint asserts that UBS in Puerto Rico breached its duty to properly manage funds linked to UBS’s proprietary closed-end Puerto Rico bond funds.

The beneficiaries of Nellie Sánchez Carmona's estate claim that the brokerage firm acted against their best interests when it opted to keep the trust invested in the proprietary funds—a move that earned UBS underwriting and management fees, along with commissions, and interest. The beneficiaries contend that UBS and its subsidiaries purposely prevented Sánchez Carmona from collecting benefits she was owed so that the firm could keep investing her money in the closed-end funds, which were issued by the firm, and continue to collect fees.

Also, according to the plaintiffs, for 10 years UBS prevented Sánchez Carmona from finding out that she was a beneficiary of the trust, which was set up by her husband Robert Hargen. Even though he passed away several years ago, UBS, in federal filings up to at least 2010, represented that Hargen was still alive and in possession of the trust.

During this time, plaintiffs say, UBS reinvested about $664,000 of what the trust made, placing the money in the closed-end funds and making a profit on the initial principal rather than paying out the earnings to take care of Sánchez Carmona’s medical bills, which the trust was supposed to cover. UBS also is accused of making it appear as if Hargen was a Puerto Rico resident even though he had been living in Florida since 2001. UBS allegedly did this to comply with regulations, which stipulate that investors of proprietary Puerto Rican closed-end bond have to be residents of the U.S. Commonwealth (or liquidate their holdings upon changing residencies). The plaintiffs want UBS to pay them about $3.5 million in damages and $1 million for lost income and fees.

In the last year and a half, hundreds of claimants have come forward filing claims against UBS over its Puerto Rico bond funds, which quickly lost value in August 2013 as the territory's debt imploded after years of warnings to UBS and other market participants that the Commonwealth might not be able to meet its excessive debt obligations. Many of the investors on the island contend that the bond funds were recommended to them even though they were not suitable for their goals and came with risks beyond what their portfolios could handle.

UBS is already facing around $1 billion in Puerto Rico muni bond fraud claims from investors on the island and in the mainland.

UBS Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Attorneys
Our UBS Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been working hard to help investors get their money back. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today. Your initial case consultation with us is free.

Puerto Rico investors sue UBS for $4.5 million, InvestmentNews, December 31, 2014


More Blog Posts:
UBS To Nominate Executive from BlueMountain Hedge Fund That Challenged Puerto Rico Law on Debt Restructuring to Its Board, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 17, 2014

Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

December 29, 2014

Financial Firm News: NH Regulator Fines Merrill Lynch $400K for Telemarketing Compliance Shortfalls, Court Orders Vasquez Global Investments to Pay More Than $1.3M for Commodity Pool Fraud, and FINRA Sanctions Monex Securities Inc.

New Hampshire Says Merrill Lynch Must Pay $400,000 For Not Complying with Telemarketing Rules

Bank of America (BAC) Merrill Lynch has consented to pay $400,000 to resolve claims made by the New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation accusing the firm of improperly soliciting business when it called people who were on do-not-call lists and were not clients. As part of the deal, Merrill Lynch will improve its telemarketing procedures and policies. A spokesperson for the brokerage firm says it has already enhanced internal controls to avoid making inappropriate calls moving forward.

According to the regulator, not only did the broker-dealer fail to fully comprehend how to comply with the state’s rules for telemarketing but also the firm did not reasonably supervise its agents’ telemarketing activities in New Hampshire.


Vasquez Global Investments to Pay Over $1.3M For Bilking Participants in Commodity Pool
A federal judge has ordered Edwin Arden and his Vasquez Global Investments, LLC to pay over $1.3 million for running a commodity pool fraud. Per the order, issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, both Vasquez and VGI must pay over $330,000 in restitution and a monetary penalty of $994,668. They also must contend with permanent solicitation, trading, and registration bans. The order is the result of a U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission complaint issued earlier this year charging both Vasquez and his firm with solicitation fraud, misappropriation, and making false statements related to the Vasquez pool, which is an unregistered commodity trading pool.

The court order states that beginning in August 2011, Vasquez bilked and deceived at least 19 participants that had collectively invested over 580K in the Vasquez pool. He purportedly told prospective participants that he had a successful track record as a trader and investing in the pool was not high risk.

The order said that of the money Vasquez solicited from participants, VGI lost $65,374 when trading commodity futures and misappropriated $331,556 by using the money to cover the company’s operating costs and Vasquez’s personal spending. Still, Vasquez purportedly chose not to disclose the misappropriation and trading losses and sent pool participants bogus statements about the value of their pool shares and their “profitability.”


Monex Securities Inc. Ordered by FINRA to Pay $1.3M Sanction for Inadequate Supervision
FINRA has sanctioned Monex Securities Inc. and is ordering the firm to pay $1.1 million in disgorgement of commissions and interest that foreign individuals who were not registered with the regulator obtained when selling the securities for the firm. The self-regulatory organization fined Monex $175,000 for not registering the individuals, as well as for related supervisory deficiencies that took place for more than two years.

FINRA said that Monex Chief Compliance Officer and President Jorge Martin Ramos Landero executed an agreement for the firm with its parent company in Mexico that allowed employees to conduct securities business for Monex. The individuals were paid compensation for their work, which included collecting client data for opening accounts, transmitting orders, and making investment recommendations. However, these persons were not registered with FINRA.

Under the regulator’s rules, an associated individuals who works in the securities business or investment banking has to be registered with the SRO under the right registration category. This person must also pass a qualification exam.

Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP is a securities fraud law firm.


Merrill to pay $400,000 over telemarketing compliance shortfall, Investment News, December 30, 2014

FINRA Sanctions Monex Securities Inc. $1.3 Million for Failing to Register and Supervise Foreign Personnel, FINRA, December 30, 2014

Federal Court Orders North Carolina Resident Edwin A. Vasquez and His Company, Vasquez Global Investments, LLC, to Pay over $1.3 Million for Commodity Pool Fraud, CFTC, December 30, 2014


More Blog Posts:
NASAA Wants Life Partners Held Accountable for Texas Securities Act Violations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 28, 2014

OppenheimerFunds Increases Its Exposure to Puerto Rico Debt Despite Downgrade by Moody’s, S & P, and Fitch to Junk Status, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 14, 2014

Ex-Oppenheimer Fund Manager to Pay $100K To Settle Private Equity Fund Fraud Charges, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 25, 2014

December 23, 2014

FINRA Orders Wells Fargo Units to Pay $1.5M For Anti-Money Laundering-Related Lapses

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network (WFAFN) and Wells Fargo Advisors (WFA) to collectively pay $1.5M for anti-money laundering (AML) failures. According to the self-regulatory organization, the two brokerage firms did not comply with a main component of the anti-money laundering compliance program when it did not require some 220,000 new customer accounts to go through an identify verification process. The failures purportedly occurred from 2003 to 2012.

The AML compliance program mandates that brokerage firms set up and keep up a written Customer Identification Program that lets them confirm the identity of every customer setting up an account. The broker-dealer should use the CIP to get and verify a minimum amount of identifying data before opening a new customer account. The firms must also keep records of the verification process and let customers know that data is being gathered to confirm their identities.

FINRA said that the firms had a CIP system but it was deficient because of the electronic systems involved. Of the 220,000 new accounts that never had to undergo customer identify verification, some 120,000 of them were closed by the time the problem was identified.

By settling, Wells Fargo Advisors and Wells Fargo Financial Advisors, which are both Wells Fargo units, are not denying or admitting to the charges. They are, however, consenting to the entry of findings.

In other Wells Fargo-related news, homeowners suing mortgage companies that belonged to Wachovia won a $54.8 million verdict in their class action securities case over excessive fees. Wells Fargo acquired Wachovia in 2008.

The plaintiffs are borrowers with mortgages that were serviced or belonged to HomeEq serving or the lender, the now-defunct The Money Store. Homeowners have been trying to get back around $29 million for alleged excessive charges plus interest. Joseph Mazzei, the lead plaintiff claimed that both entities continued to charge late fees each month to borrowers even after mortgages went into default.

A jury said that the mortgage companies were liable for late fees. Wells Fargo never owned either The Money Store or Home Eq. Wells Fargo owned the latter, while the former, which belonged to First Union, later came under Wachovia’s fold.

FINRA Fines Wells Fargo Advisors and Wells Fargo Advisors Financial Network $1.5 Million for Anti-Money Laundering Failures, FINRA, December 18, 2014

Wells Fargo faces payout after $54.8 mln loan fee verdict, Reuters, December 19, 2014


More Blog Posts:
FINRA Bars Ex-Wells Fargo Broker From Industry For Allegedly Bilking Customers, Expels HFP Capital Markets LLC for Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 19, 2014

Wells Fargo Sued Over Allegedly Biased Lending in Chicago, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 28, 2014

Wells Fargo to Pay $5M Over Inadequate Controls, Altered Documents, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 21, 2014

December 22, 2014

Ex-Edward Jones Financial Adviser is Criminally Charged with Bilking Disabled Woman of Over $160K

Jason Cox, a former Edward Jones financial adviser, is criminally charged with allegedly defrauding a disabled woman. Robert C. Yeamans, who is the woman’s now deceased father, had tasked Cox with managing her account. The woman, who is in her fifties, is developmentally disabled.

According to a federal complaint, Cox took at least $160,000 from the investment account set up for her. He allegedly structured transactions by taking out small amounts during a short time period so he wouldn’t have to fulfill bank reporting requirements for bigger sums.

When worried banking officials asked the woman about the money, she told them she put it in a business that Cox owned but did not know what kind of enterprise it was. The bank closed her account.

The woman then opened another account at a different bank where Cox also had an account. Over $145,000, primarily from her Edward Jones account, then went into Cox’s account there. Meantime, her Edward Jones account was emptied out. In just a three-month period, $118,000 of the woman’s funds from the new account was taken out in 21 cash withdrawal transactions.

During an investigation, special agents for the Internal Revenue Service started probing Cox’s activities. He reportedly organized a sale of the woman’s condo. They also discovered that Edward Jones had fired him for stealing another client’s funds.

Unfortunately, there are financial representatives that will take advantage of a mentally disabled investor and bilk them of their funds. Elderly investors with dementia are also at risk of being defrauded. When these types of investors are harmed, this can make it hard for the victims to cover medical expenses, special care, and living expenses, as often they are no longer bringing in other steady income.

This week, in an unrelated case, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced that Jeffrey C. McClure has been permanently barred from the securities industry. McClure is accused of converting close to $89,000 from the bank account of an elderly customer while he worked for Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (WFC) and an affiliate bank. The bank has paid back the customer’s loss.

According to the self-regulatory organization, over almost two years, ending in August 2014, McClure wrote 36 checks to himself totaling $88,850 from the customer’s bank account at the affiliate. He did this without her consent or knowledge.

McClure had access to her account because the elderly customer had given him permission to pay for her expenses, including rent. Instead, he used her money to cover his personal costs.

You want to speak with an elder financial fraud attorney who can help you or your loved one get the money that was taken. Filing a civil claim is a separate action from criminal charges. Working with an experienced securities law firm can increase your chances of maximum financial recovery. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.


FINRA Bars Broker for Stealing $89,000 From an Elderly Customer
, FINRA, December 22, 2014

Feds accuse financial adviser of taking disabled woman's money, Dispatch.com, December 23, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Reliance Financial Advisors, Owners Face SEC Fraud Charges Involving Hedge Fund, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 15, 2014

Ex-California Insurer Charged with Running $11M Ponzi Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 8, 2014

Morgan Stanley Fined $4M by the SEC for Market Access Rule Violation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 11, 2014

December 17, 2014

UBS To Nominate Executive from BlueMountain Hedge Fund That Challenged Puerto Rico Law on Debt Restructuring to Its Board

UBS, AG (UBS) says that it intends to nominate BlueMountain Capital Management Executive Jes Staley to its board in May. Staley formerly served as a JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM) executive.

In a statement, UBS Chairman Axel Weber said that Staley is perfect for the role due to his professional expertise from working in global banking leadership roles for three decades. However, that may not be the only reason.

Earlier this year, BlueMountain, which is a New York-based hedge fund, joined a legal challenge against a law that would let some of the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico's agencies restructure their massive debt. UBS Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) is one of the banks accused of inappropriately placing clients’ money into closed-end funds that had high exposure to Puerto Rico municipal bonds.

When the bonds fell significantly in value last year, many investors sustained huge losses. Since then, UBS has been subject to hundreds of bond fraud arbitration cases by investors seeking to get their money back. Many claimants are alleging that the firm marketed Puerto Rico bonds to them even though the investments were unsuitable.

Following a recent meeting between officials of Puerto Rico’s power utility and investors, the prices on the territory’s bonds hit a record low. Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority is seeking to restructure $8.6 billion of debt. Under an agreement with creditors to pay back bank loans, PREPA has to submit a five-year strategic plan. The utility company recently presented an unfinished business plan. PREPA has told investors that they want more time to restructure.

On Tuesday, Puerto Rico general obligations set to mature in 2035 traded at around 84 cents on the dollar, which is the lowest it has traded since their original sale in March.

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud
In addition to representing investors who purchased securities from UBS, our Puerto Rico municipal bond fraud attorneys at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP represent customers that bought securities from Merrill Lynch (MER), Banco Popular, and Banco Santander (SAN). Our investigation has uncovered many investors who lost much of their savings in Puerto Rican debt, with some of them seeing their life savings completely wiped out.


Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP represents investors in both the U.S. and in Puerto Rico. Please contact our muni bond fraud lawyers today and ask for you free case consultation.



Puerto Rico Debt Sets Record Low After Utility Meets Investors
, Bloomberg, December 16, 2014

UBS Nominates BlueMountain Executive Jes Staley to Board
, The Wall Street Journal, December 17, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Investors File Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 9, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

December 16, 2014

FINRA Orders Merrill Lynch to Pay $2.4M in Fine, Restitution for Hundreds of Securities Transactions That Violated Fair Price Guidelines

FINRA is ordering Bank of America’s (BAC) Merrill Lynch to pay a $1.9M fine for violating fair price guidelines over seven hundred times during a two-year period. The financial firm also must pay restitution of over $540K to customers that were affected.

According to the self-regulatory organization, Merrill’s credit trading desk purchased MLC notes from retail customers at up to 61.5% under the market price. General Motors had issued the notes prior to its bankruptcy. MLC Notes stands for Motors Liquidation Company Senior Notes.

Out of 716 transactions, 510 of them involved notes bought at markdowns that were greater than 10%. The desk would then sell the notes to brokers at market cost.

Issuing a statement, FINRA EVP and market regulation head Thomas Gira said that the SRO expects firms to abide by their duties to customers in regards to fair pricing. Gira said Merrill Lynch’s markdowns of the MLC Notes were not acceptable.

FINRA says the firm lacked a proper supervisory system that could identify this kind of violation. It is accusing the firm of failing to perform assessments of the credit desk after trades were made.

Merrill Lynch is settling without denying or admitting to the securities charges. It has, however, consented to an entry of the regulator’s findings.

As part of the agreement, over the next year and a half, Merrill Lynch will provide reports related to the credit desk’s supervisory system and its effectiveness. The firm says that it has since enhanced its supervisory efforts and taken disciplinary action.

FINRA Fines Merrill Lynch $1.9 Million and Orders Restitution of $540,000 for Fair Pricing and Supervisory Violations Related to Purchases of Distressed Securities, FINRA, December 16, 2014

Reliance Financial Advisors, Owners Face SEC Fraud Charges Involving Hedge Fund, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 15, 2015

Morgan Stanley Fined $4M by the SEC for Market Access Rule Violation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 12, 2014

Madoff Ponzi Scam Victims Recover Over $10 Billion, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 5, 2014

November 24, 2014

FINRA Orders Houston-Based USCA Capital Advisors LLC to Pay $3.8M to 19 ExxonMobil Retirees

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel said that USCA Capital Advisors LLC must pay over $3.8 million to 19 ExxonMobil retirees whose investments were mismanaged the Houston-based wealth management firm. The self-regulatory organization also says that the Texas investment advisory firm misled the investors about its trading strategy.

It is not uncommon for Houston financial advisers to target ExxonMobil retirees as clients. The oil company has a huge outfit and other operations in the area. According to the investors, USCA was tasked with handling their retirement savings because of promises the investment advisors made to protect, oversee, and grow their accounts.

At a presentation by USCA RIA LLC, which is USCA’s investment advisory arm, advisers told investors about their Total Return model program, which they claimed would up S & P 500 gains while lowering the risks involved in trading equities. Investors said they were told the strategy would hold primarily exchange-traded funds and U.S. stocks in a rising market and turn the money into cash when the markets dropped. Trades were to be stimulated by “objective technical factors.”

While some investors thought the program would handle trading, others thought that the firm would monitor computerized results, using the information to trade. They invested close to $40 million. They believe that they could have made $3 million from the strategy they thought the firms’ advisers were going to employ. Instead, they sustained $1.25 million in losses.

Of the $3.8 million FINRA arbitration award, $853,000 is punitive damages. $1.9 million are damages and interest. Nearly $1 million will go to legal bills and other expenses.

Shepherd Smith and Kantas, LTD LLP is a Texas stockbroker fraud law firm.

Texas Advisory Firm Ordered to Pay Exxon Retirees $3.8 Million, NASDAQ.com, November 20, 2014

Houston wealth management firm must pay $3.8 million to retirees: panel, Reuters, November 19, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Texas Pension Fund Sues Tesco For Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 5, 2014

Ex-LPL Financial Adviser, James Bashaw from Texas, Lands at New Brokerage Firm, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 30, 2014

National Planning Holding Temporarily Stops Selling American Reality Capital Properties’ Nontraded REIT sales After Disclosure of $23M Accounting Error, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 31, 2014

November 22, 2014

SEC Enforcement: Wedbush Settles SEC Probe for $2.4M, High-Frequency Trading Firm Gets $16M Penalty, and the Regulator Suspends Companies Touting Ebola Treatment

Wedbush Settles Market Access Violation Case for $2.44M
Wedbush Securities has agreed to settle a market access violations case with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission by admitting to wrongdoing and paying $2.44 million. The brokerage firm has also agreed to hire an independent consultant.

According to the SEC order, Wedbush violated the market access rule because it didn’t have the proper risk controls in place before giving customers access to the market. Among the customers that were given this access were thousands of anonymous overseas traders.

Per the SEC’s order instituting administrative proceedings, from July 2011 into 2013, Wedbush let most of its market access customers send orders straight to U.S. trading venues via platforms to which the firm did not have exclusive and direct control.

Also settling with the SEC ex-Wedbush executive vice president Jeffrey Bell and senior VP Christina Fillhart, who are accused of causing the firm’s violation of market access rules. The SEC said that Bell should have known that the firm’s risk management controls and supervisory procedures were not in compliance with the market access rule.

The agency claims that Fillhart, whose job it was to oversee the market access business and get notice of possible violations by Wedbush and its customers, did not get the firm to implement reasonably designed risk management controls even when there were red flags. In combined total, the two of them will pay over $85,000 in disgorgement, penalties, and prejudgment interest.


SEC Imposes $16M Penalty Against High-Frequency Trading Firm Latour
In the SEC’s first enforcement action against a high-frequency trading company, Latour Trading LLC will pay a $16M penalty. The regulator claims that the high-frequency trading firm employed faulty calculations in complex trading strategies, which allowed it to purchase and sell stocks without retaining substantial capital. The SEC says that the New York firm violated rules that are supposed to prevent trading firms from taking on too much risk.

By settling, Latour is not denying or admitting wrongdoing. The $16 million penalty, however, is the largest one to date for violating the net capital rule. The rule offers different methods that brokerage firms must employ to ensure that they are properly factoring in the risk they are exposing themselves to when engaged in the market. The Commission says that Latour routinely violated these requirements in 2010 and 2011.

The SEC also charged Nicolas Niquet, the ex-Latour COO, with violating the net capital rule. Niquet, who designed the method that Latour employed to determine risks exposure to net capital, must pay a $150,000 fine.

Trading is Suspended in Companies Involved in Supposed Ebola Treatment or Prevention
The Commission has suspended trading in four companies claiming to develop services or products related to the treatment or prevention of the Ebola outbreak. The agency said there wasn’t enough information available to the public about their operations. The four companies are Bravo Enterprises, Wholehealth Products, Immunotech Laboratories, and Myriad Interactive Media Inc.

The SEC has put out an Investor Alert warning about financial scams involving Ebola-related companies. In the alert the agency noted that it is not uncommon for fraudsters to try taking advantage of a news development. The SEC noted that microcap stocks are especially at risk of fraudulent investment schemes.

Read the SEC Order Against Wedbush (PDF)

Investor Alert: Investment Scams Involving Ebola-Related Companies, SEC, November 20, 2014

High-Frequency Trading Firm Latour to Pay $16 Million SEC Penalty, The Wall Street Journal, September 17, 2015

SEC Suspends Trading in Ebola Companies (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Insider Trading Roundup: Ex-Broker Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud Involving IBM Acquisition, BNP Officials Are Under Scrutiny, and Ex-Billionaire Is Tried In Historic Brazilian Case, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 19, 2014

Rajaratnam Brother Settles Insider Trading Charges Involving Hedge Fund Advisory Firm Galleon Management, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 23, 2014

November 20, 2014

RBS Must Pay $88M to UK Regulators

Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (RBS) will pay an $88 million fine to Britain’s Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority for the 2012 computer system failure that left millions of customers without account access for weeks. Some 6.5 million customers, which is about 10% of the U.K. population, were impacted.

According to FCA enforcement head Tracey McDermott, the technical glitch happened because of RBS Groups’ failure to identify and handle the risks that can occur from IT incidents. The failure, he noted, exposed customers to the risks.

The system failure happened after a third-party contractor installed a software upgrade. Because of the collapse, bank customers, as well as those in its Ulster Bank and NatWest divisions were unable to take out, transfer, or withdraw funds.

RBS said it would invest a significant amount of money to enhance its computer system. Following the 2012 incident, the banks says it performed a complete accountability review, reduced compensation of 16 individuals that affected their bonuses and outstanding unvested awards, as well as lowered the bonuses of the division tasked with overseeing the IT services.

By settling early, RBS received a 30% discount off the fine from regulators. This is the first fine that the PRA has levied since it was established last year. The regulator is tasked with overseeing the stability of Britain’s financial system. PRA said RBS’s technology failure could have adversely impacted the nation’s banking system because it interfered with core operations of lenders, as well as affected third parties.

RBS has paid over 70 million pounds to customers, other individuals, and companies for the system failure.

If you suspect that you were the victim of securities fraud, please contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today. Your first case consultation with us is free.

RBS Fined $88 Million by U.K. Regulators for IT Failures, Bloomberg, November 20, 2014

Prudential Regulation Authority

Financial Conduct Authority


More Blog Posts:
Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 18, 2014

Insider Trading Roundup: Ex-Broker Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud Involving IBM Acquisition, BNP Officials Are Under Scrutiny, and Ex-Billionaire Is Tried In Historic Brazilian Case, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 19, 2014

RBS Securities’ Japan Unit to Pay $50M Criminal Fine Over Libor Manipulation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 7, 2014

November 18, 2014

Puerto Rico’s Prepa Sees 219% Rise in Overdue Accounts With At Least $1.75 Billion Owed

Puerto Rico’s Electrical Power Authority, also known as PREPA, is experiencing a surge in overdue accounts. According to a report from an FTI Consulting subsidiary, since 2012, the U.S. territory’s electrical authority has seen a 219% increase in the number of company and residential accounts that are at least 120 days late in making their payments. The report was generated as part of an agreement with the creditors, which retain more than $9 billion of the electrical utility company’s debt.

By September 2014, late balances owed to PREPA not just among businesses and residents, but also by government entities had hit $1.75 billion. At least $708.6 million were payments that were late by a minimum of four months.

Puerto Rico’s governmental entities owe about $758 million, with certain public corporations unable to even pay their electricity bills and refusing to agree to payment plans to get their accounts current. The FTI report recommends that Prepa put into place an amnesty period for clients that are delinquent, retain a collection agency, increase late fees and charges for reconnection, and push for timely payments.

Prepa is getting ready to unveil a plan early next year to restructure its $8.6 billion of debt. Its debt has been issued a junk rating by credit rating agencies.

Meantime, Puerto Rico is talking to four bond insurers to get at least part of up to $2.9 billion in bonds insured. These are bonds the financially beleaguered Commonwealth wants to put out later this year. The bond issues would let the territory access a deeper capital pool in the municipal bond market than the small hedge funds that purchased $3.5 billion of its debt earlier this year.

Puerto Rico is also seeking to refinance a $2.2 billion loan that the Government Development Bank made to its Highways and Transportation Authority to try and improve its poor financial health and give the territory more time to reverse its failing economy. To make the sale, the island has to pass laws that would increase an oil tax that could allow it to back the bonds.

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud
Puerto Rico’s muni bonds are the focus of hundreds of FINRA arbitration claims, with many investors complaining that they sustained huge losses because they were sold investments that were too risky for what they could afford.

Brokers for UBS (UBS), Banco Santander (BNC), and Banco Popular are among those identified as having made inappropriate recommendations to customers. A number of investors lost everything.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD LLP, our Puerto Rico muni bond fraud lawyers represent investors with FINRA arbitration claims that are seeking to recover their money. Contact our securities fraud law firm today to request your free case consultation.

Puerto Rico Electric Utility’s Late Accounts Surge 219% From ’12, Bloomberg, November 17, 2014

Read the FTI Capital Advisors Report

Puerto Rico's PREPA urged to get tough on $1.8 bln owed, Reuters, November 17, 2014

PREPA


More Blog Posts:
Investors File Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 9, 2014

Fidelity, Schwab, and Pershing Suspend Trading of Schorsch Nontraded Real Estate Investment Trusts, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 13, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013


November 13, 2014

Citigroup, Bank of America Are Selling Soured Home Loans, Sources tell Bloomberg

According to Bloomberg.com, sources are telling them that Citigroup (C) and Bank of America (BAC) are selling soured U.S. mortgages to satisfy the demand from investment firms that are raising the prices. For example, say the individuals who asked not to be named, Bank of America recently placed approximately $1 billion of beleaguered debt, including nonperforming loans. Meantime, Citigroup purportedly sold around $1 billion of re-performing and nonperforming mortgages.

Lenders are reportedly selling more defaulted mortgages to avoid the cost of holding the debt. Meantime, private-equity firms and hedge funds are trying to make money off of increasing home values. The number of firms looking to acquire debt that has soured is growing.

According to some critics, that housing regulators and other agencies have recently announced rulings that would decrease credit and lending standard for home mortgages is a sign that the government is making the kinds of errors that led to the 2008 housing crisis. With housing giants Freddie Mac (FMCC) and Fannie Mae (FNMA), handing over the majority of their earning to the Treasury Department, government-sponsored enterprises are now lacking the capital buffer they would need in the event there are losses. If the economy gets into trouble again, it may be up to taxpayers once more to bail these GSEs out. It was the U.S. Treasury that helped save Freddie and Fannie with $180 million as the government seized them, placing both under conservatorship.

Last month, the Federal Housing Finance Agency announced that even though sellers of certain asset-backed securities have to keep a minimum of 5% of the asset’s credit risks, securities backed by qualified residential mortgages are exempt from this requirement.

Our mortgage-backed securities fraud lawyers are here to help investors recoup their losses.

Bank of America, Citigroup Said to Sell Soured Home Loans
, Bloomberg, November 12, 2014

Feds to Back Risky Home Loans Again
, The Washington Free Beacon, November 10, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Detroit Suburb Charged with Muni Bond Fraud, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 6, 2014

Texas Pension Fund Sues Tesco For Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 5, 2014

National Planning Holding Temporarily Stops Selling American Reality Capital Properties’ Nontraded REIT sales After Disclosure of $23M Accounting Error, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 31, 2014

November 10, 2014

Two Former Merrill Lynch Brokers Contend with Unauthorized Trading Claims

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Ameriprise Financial (AMP) broker Lorene Fairbanks, formerly with Merrill Lynch. Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, was recently sanctioned over allegations that she effected over 57 discretionary transactions for several customers without getting the required written authorization from the clients or the approval of the firm. Fairbanks also allegedly mismarked over 50 order tickets, noting them as “unsolicited” when they were “solicited” orders. Brokers are not allowed to exercise discretionary authority in a client account without written authorization.

The Ohio broker was registered with Merrill Lynch from 8/06 to 3/12. The firm fired Fairbanks in February 2012 for purportedly taking discretion in client accounts and mismarking customer orders. She has been associated with Ameriprise since June 2012. There also have reportedly been other customer complaints accusing Fairbanks of excessive trading and unsuitable trading.

Also sanctioned by FINRA for allegations of unauthorized trading is George Zaki, another ex-Merrill Lynch broker. The self-regulatory organization contends that Zaki implemented or executed about 3,600 trades in some 80 accounts without written customer authorization between 6/10 and 8/12.

Zaki was let go by Merrill Lynch in October 2012. The firm said the termination was because of conduct related to exercising discretion in client accounts that were not discretionary. FINRA rules prohibits a registered representative from exercising discretionary power in the account of a customer without that client’s prior written permission and firm acceptance of the account.

After Zaki was terminated from Merrill Lynch, he was registered with Barclays (BARC) Capital Inc. until earlier this year.

Our broker fraud lawyers represent investors in the U.S., as well as those headquartered abroad with claims against brokerage firms in the country.

BrokerCheck, FINRA


More Blog Posts:
FINRA May Expel Ex-Broker For $6M Hedge Fund, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 15, 2014

SEC Stops Fraudulent Bond Offering by Chicago Suburb, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 25, 2014

AIG Advisor Group, Securities America, LPL Financial, Cambridge, And Even Schorsch’s Broker-Dealer Stops Selling His REITs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 7, 2014

November 3, 2014

SEC Sanctions UBS, Charles Swab, Oppenheimer, & 10 Other Firms For Improper Sales of Puerto Rico Junk Bonds

The Securities and Exchange Commission has sanctioned thirteen financial firms, including UBS Financial Services (UBS), Charles Schwab and Co. (SCHW), J.P. Morgan Securities (JPM), and Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF), for the improper sales of Puerto Rican junk bonds. A $100,00 minimum denomination had been established in junk bonds of $3.5 billion made by Puerto Rico several months ago. An SEC probe, however, revealed that there had been 66 instances when firms sold the bonds in transactions of under $100,000.

Municipal bond offerings are supposed to have a set minimum denomination that determines the smallest amount that a firm can sell to an investor during a single transaction. Typically, municipal issuers will establish high minimum denominations for junk bonds with a greater default risk. This is done to limit the bonds from ending up in the accounts of investors who may not be able to handle the risks.

The firms and their fines: UBS Financial Services for $56,400, Charles Schwab & Co. for $61,800, Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) for $61,200, Wedbush Securities Inc. for $67,200, Hapoalim Securities USA for $54,000, TD Ameritrade (AMTD) for $100,800, Interactive Brokers LLC for $56,000, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF) for $60,000, Investment Professionals Inc. for $67,800, Riedl First Securities Co. of Kansas for $130,000, J.P. Morgan Securities for $54,000, National Securities Corporation for $60,000, and Lebenthal & Co. for $54,000.

The firms are accused of violating Rule G-15 of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board. The rule sets the minimum denomination requirement. The SEC says that by conducting sales under the minimum denomination, the firms violated the Securities Exchange Act of 1934’s Section 15B(c)(1), which does not allow for any MSRB rule to be violated.

All 13 firms agreed to settle the SEC’s findings without admitting to or denying them. The firms also agreed to be censured. They will review their respective procedures and policies, as well as make the needed changes to ensure appropriate compliance moving forward.

Our Puerto Rico muni bond fraud lawyers represent investors in the Commonwealth and on the mainland. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

SEC Sanctions 13 Firms for Improper Sales of Puerto Rico Junk Bonds, SEC, November 13, 2014

Rule G-15, Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board

Securities Exchange Act of 1934
, Legal Information Institute

More Blog Posts:
Investors Have Filed Close to $1B of Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Claims against UBS, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 29, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

UBS Brokers Are Still Selling Puerto Rico Muni Bonds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 20, 2014

October 30, 2014

Ex-LPL Financial Adviser, James Bashaw from Texas, Lands at New Brokerage Firm

James “Jeb” Bashaw, the former star financial adviser at LPL Financial (LPLA) from Texas is now registered with International Assets Advisory, a small brokerage firm. LPL Financial fired Bashaw last month over allegations involving selling away. Then, for a while this month, he was with Wunderlich Securities Inc.

Selling away typically involves engaging in private securities transactions sans the required written disclosure or brokerage firm approval. It can also include borrowing from a client, as well as engaging in a transaction that is a potential conflict interest, again without the required disclosure in writing or firm approval.

Responding to the selling away allegations, Bashaw noted that he was “home supervised” and underwent more than a dozen perfect audits while affiliated with LPL. After his firing, Wunderlich took steps to hire Bashaw but there was a delay in transferring his license to the firm. In the end, the broker-dealer and Bashaw reportedly decided not to pursue a working relationship.

In 2011, Bashaw was ranked the number one financial adviser in Texas. He founded a dually registered firm in Houston, which was one of the biggest affiliated LPL practices. He reportedly managed assets of $3.8 billion.

In other LPL Financial news, this week Mark Casady, its chief executive, apologized to shareholders for the time it has taken to resolve the company’s compliance issues. The problems have cost the brokerage firm millions of dollars in settlements, restitution payments, and fines.

Casady’s statement comes a week after parent company LPL Financial Holdings Inc. announced that the broker-dealer expected to incur some $23 million in charges to settle undisclosed regulatory issues. That’s $18 million more than what had been anticipated. Following the announcement, LPL shares dropped 7%.

LPL said the regulatory matters primarily involve LPL Financial’s policies, systems, and procedures. Without going into detail, Casady said that the nature of the issues made it hard to identify or evaluate the “timing or magnitude of their resolution.”

For the last two years, LPL Financial has been contending with regulators over different issues. Earlier this month, regulators in Massachusetts announced that LPL had consented to pay back senior investors $541K for surrender charges from switching variable annuities. In June, LPL Financial was told to pay $820K in restitution and a $2 million fine to Illinois regulators for not properly mantaining books and records that documented 1035 exchanges.

Last year, FINRA fined LPL $7.5 million for close to three dozen system failures involving emails. The firm paid investors in Massachusetts $4.8 million in restitution related to their purchase of nontraded real estate investment trusts.

Our Texas broker fraud lawyers represent investors who wish to recoup their losses. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

Ex-LPL Adviser’s Talks With Wunderlich Scuttled, The Wall Street Journal, October 14, 2014

CEO Mark Casady apologizes to LPL Financial shareholders for compliance missteps, Investment News, October 30, 2014


More Blog Posts:
LPL Financial Fires Texas Branch Manager Over Selling Away Claims, Settles with Senior Investors in Massachusetts for $541,000 Over Faulty Variable Annuity Switches, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 15, 2014

Former LPL Financial Broker Must Pay Almost $2 Million For Bilking Clients, Including Elderly Investors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 29, 2014

LPL Financial Ordered to Pay $7.5M FINRA Fine Over E-Mail Failures, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 22, 2013

October 25, 2014

SEC Fines E*TRADE Subsidiaries Over $1M Penalty for Unregistered Microcap Securities Sales, Puts Out Risk Alert Regarding Broker-Dealer Duties To Clients

Earlier this month, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission put out a Risk Alert reminding brokerage firms about their duties when they take part in unregistered transactions for customers. The guidance came, along with the announcement that the agency had filed an enforcement action against former and current E*TRADE Financial Corporation (ETFC) brokerage subsidiaries that did not successfully act as gatekeepers and improperly engaged in the unregistered sales of microcap stock for customers.

According to the SEC, E*TRADE Capital Markets and E*TRADE Securities sold billions of penny stock shares for customers between 2007 and 2011. During this time, there were numerous occasions when they disregarded red flags indicating that the offerings were taking place without an applicable exemption from federal securities laws’ registration provisions.

The two brokerage firms consented to repay over $1.5 million in disgorgement plus prejudgment interest from commissions they made on the improper sales. They also have to pay a $1 million combined penalty.

The SEC’s Risk Alert provides a summary of deficiencies found during a sweep by the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations of 22 brokerage firms that frequently engage in microcap securities sales. Widespread deficiencies included inadequate policies and steps for monitoring and noticing possible red flags in sales initiated by customers, insufficient controls for assessing the way a securities was acquired by a customer, as well as whether the securities can be resold legally sans registration, and failure to submit reports of suspicious activity as mandated by the Bank Secrecy Act.

Contact our microcap fraud lawyers today to request your free case assessment.


Certain accounts, such as omnibus account, appeared to be among the ones most frequently associated with unregistered illiquid microcap shares sales. Accounts that belong to supposed stock loan companies, under the name of an LLC or a corporate entity, utilize a sub-/master structure, or belong to foreign financial institutions are some of the omnibus accounts noted.

BROKER-DEALER CONTROLS REGARDING CUSTOMER SALES OF MICROCAP SECURITIES, National Exam Program Risk Alert

The SEC Order Against the E*TRADE subsidiaries (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

Rajaratnam Brother Settles Insider Trading Charges Involving Hedge Fund Advisory Firm Galleon Management, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 23, 2014

SEC to Reject BlackRock Inc. Proposal for Nontransparent Exchange-Traded Fund
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 23, 2014

SEC To Examine Exchange Traded-Fund Regulation Again, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 22, 2014

October 14, 2014

UBS is Fined $3.6M, Plus Must Pay $1.7M in Restitution Over Puerto Rico Closed-End Mutual Fund Sales

UBS Financial Services Incorporated of Puerto Rico (UBS) has reached a settlement with the Commonwealth’s Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions (OCIF) over UBS’s offering and sale of closed-end mutual funds in Puerto Rico. As part of the agreement, UBS will pay a $3.5 million fine, as well as $1.7 million in restitution to 34 clients. As is typical with such settlements, UBS is not denying or admitting to any wrongdoing.

After examining UBS’s operations between the periods of 1/1/06 through 9/30/13, OCFI discovered that UBS had placed clients with conservative risk tolerances in high concentrations of Puerto Rico Closed-End Funds (PRCEF). OCIF further alleged that UBS recommended or allowed these clients to use “non-purpose” loans to buy more PRCEF, which should have never happened. OCFI also reported irregularities in the way some clients’ accounts were managed and said UBS had engaged in inadequate supervision and recordkeeping.

The clients that are entitled to restitution are primarily elderly investors with low net worth and conservative financial profiles. UBS is going to pay them almost $1.7 million in restitution. This offer has to be made within 45 days of the settlement’s execution. The $3.5 million penalty will go to the Securities Trading, Investor Education and Training Fund.

UBS is also required to enhance its supervision of six of its agents, who may have committed practices that were objectionable, for at least six months. UBS has agreed to reassess, and perhaps even modify, its procedures and policies to make sure the firm is complying with regulations. UBS also will review additional customers’ accounts with similar profiles as the ones affected by these claims to see if further action and restitution are required.

UBS Puerto Rico is one of the firms accused of making inappropriate recommendations to investors in Puerto Rico muni bonds. When the bonds started to fail last year, many investors suffered huge losses.

Our Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been meeting with investors on the island and in the U.S. to see how we can help recover their losses. Please contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today for a free, no obligation consultation about your investment account.



UBS Settlement with OCIF


More Blog Posts:

UBS Wealth, OppenheimerFunds Take Financial Hit From Puerto Rico Muni Bonds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 15, 2014

Investors Pursue UBS's Puerto Rico Brokerage Over Closed-End Bond Funds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, July 23, 2014

Hedge Funds Are Moving in on Municipal Debt, Including Puerto Rico Debt
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2013

October 8, 2014

Securities Fraud: Ex-Ameriprise Adviser to Pay $3M for Ponzi Scam, Four Insurance Agents Allegedly Defrauded Senior Investors, and Trading in Nine Penny Stocks is Suspended

Former Ameriprise Adviser Ordered to Jail, Must Pay $3M Restitution
Oscar Donald Overbey Jr., an ex-Ameriprise Financial Services (AMP) financial adviser, must pay back the $3 million he allegedly stole from investors while operating a Ponzi scam. The 47-year-old has been sentenced to three and a half years behind bars.

Court documents say that from 1996 into 2007, Overbey stole about $4 million of client funds that he was supposed to invest. Instead, the money was used to pay earlier investors, cover his personal expenses, and pay off his gambling debts.

In July 2012, Overbey was indicted. He pleaded guilty to wire fraud felony charges last year. Overbey reportedly told a doctor that many of his brokerage clients were fellow gamblers.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority barred him from the industry in 2007. Ameriprise fired him. It has since paid back the clients that were affected by Overbey’s fraud.

Insurance Agents Face SEC Charges Alleging Elder Financial Fraud
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging four insurance agents over their involvement in a multi-million dollar securities fraud that targeted senior investors. The elder financial fraud charges come almost a year after the regulator filed charges against Gary C. Snisky for orchestrating the scheme and bringing in insurance agents to solicit investors.

The financial scam raised about $4.3 million over 18 months. Now, the SEC is going after insurance agents Kenneth C. Meissner, Mark S. Tomich, James Doug Scott, and David C. Sorrells for soliciting funds even though they weren’t registered as a broker-dealer with the Commission.

The fraud primarily targeted annuity holders that were retired. The insurance agents sold interests in Arete LLC, which Snisky controlled. Investors were purportedly told that their money would be used to buy discounted agency bonds that were backed by the government. Instead, Snisky misappropriated about $2.8 million of their money.

Microcrap Fraud Probe Leads to Trading Suspension in Nine Penny Stocks
The SEC has suspended trading in nine penny stocks. The move is an effort to battle microcap fraud. The affected companies include Xumanii International Holdings Corp., All Grade Mining Inc., Solar Thin Films Inc., Global Green Inc., Bluforest Inc., mLight Tech Inc., DHS Holding Co., Inova Technology Inc., and Essential Innovations Technology Corp.

The SEC can elect to suspend trading in a stock if it believes that doing so is necessary to protect investors and the public. The regulator typically cannot announce in advance that a suspension is in the works because this could hinder its investigative efforts.

Ex-Ameriprise adviser gets jail time for using client money to pay gambling debts, Investment News, October 7, 2014

SEC Charges Four Insurance Agents in Securities Fraud Targeting Elderly Investors, SEC, September 26, 2014

Penny Stocks Trading Suspension Order, SEC (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

FINRA Bars Former Raymond James Adviser for Elder Financial Fraud, Charges SWS Over Variable Annuity Supervision, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 7, 2014

Former Axa Advisors Broker Faces SEC Charges Over Alleged $1.5M Ponzi Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 30, 2014

Shareholder’s $40B Class Action Securities Lawsuit Over AIG Bailout Goes to Trial, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 29, 2014

October 6, 2014

FINRA Bars Former Raymond James Adviser for Elder Financial Fraud, Charges SWS Over Variable Annuity Supervision

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Jo Ellen Fischer, an independent financial adviser with Raymond James Services Inc. (RJF), for purportedly stealing nearly $1 million from a 95-year-old client. At the time, Fisher worked for Peoples Bancorp.

According to the self-regulatory organization, from July to December 2013, Fisher converted $924,750 from the elderly customer’s trust without permission. She did this by moving funds and securities into a brokerage account under her daughter’s name. Fisher then liquidated securities and used the money to cover her personal spending, including two Rolexes, motor vehicles, a 2-carat diamond ring, and other expenses.

FINRA says that Fisher claimed that the elderly client was her daughter’s godfather and he wanted her to have the money when she was older. The SRO, however, contends that Fisher falsified documents regarding this matter. She has agreed to the bar without denying or admitting to the findings alleging elder financial fraud.

Raymond James, which terminated Fisher's registration earlier this year, is cooperating with investigators. The financial firm has filed its own action against her in federal court to get back the money she purportedly took. Raymond James has already paid back the investor.

In other FINRA-related news, the SRO is charging SWS Financial Services with approving variable annuity applications without conducting principal review to make sure they were suitable. The agency’s enforcement department claims that from 9/09 to 5/11 the firm did not have the required supervisory systems and written procedures in place for VA transactions.

SWS is accused of not conducting adequate supervisory reviews of variable annuity deals, failing to register principal reviews of VAs prior to turning the applications over to the insurer, not setting up and documenting a training plan for supervisory review of VA deals, and failing to establish surveillance procedures that could identify VA exchanges that were not appropriate.

FINRA says that during the time of these violations, variable annuity sales comprised up to 20% of the firm’s total revenue. It wants disciplinary action, including monetary sanctions, as well as an order mandating that SWS pay for the proceeding costs.

Finra Bars Ex-Raymond James Adviser Over Alleged Account Theft, The Wall Street Journal, October 3, 2014

Finra charges SWS with improper supervision of VA transactions, Investment News, October 2, 2014


More Blog Posts:

Former Axa Advisors Broker Faces SEC Charges Over Alleged $1.5M Ponzi Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 30, 2014

DOJ’s Fund for Madoff Victims Has Received 51,700 Claims Worth $40B, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, May 14, 2014

Resource Horizons Group’s Future Hangs in Balance Following $4M FINRA Arbitration Award, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 25, 2014

September 25, 2014

Resource Horizons Group’s Future Hangs in Balance Following $4M FINRA Arbitration Award

Resource Horizons Group, a regional brokerage firm and investment adviser, may no longer be able to stay in business after a $4 million Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration award was issued against it. The self-regulatory organization blames the firm for almost $3.5 million in investor losses after Robert Gist, one of the firm’s brokers, allegedly took the money. Part of the award is $1 million in punitive damages.

Last year, Gist consented to pay $5.4 million to settle SEC charges claiming that he converted about that much from at least 32 customers for his own use over a ten-year period. He went through Gist, Kennedy & Associates, Inc., which was an unregistered entity with no connection to Resource Horizons, in that financial scam.

Resource Horizons hired Gist in 2001. Even before that there already were a number of customers disputes and other disclosures on his record. Both the SEC and FINRA have now barred Gist from the securities industry.

The claimants that filed a case against Resource Horizon and three firm executives include a family trust and six individuals. Among their allegations was a claim alleging inadequate supervision.

Resource Horizons reportedly may not have enough money to pay the arbitration award. An audited filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission notes that the firm’s net income in 2013 was $286,220 and its excess net capital is only $468,628 over the $100,000 it is obligated to keep to satisfy regulatory requirements.

If Resource Horizons cannot pay the securities arbitration award, it will need to note the amount as a liability. This would get rid of its excess capital and put the firm under the $100,00 net capital requirement.

Once a financial firm drops under net capital requirements, it can no longer conduct business and must notify customers that they must now put their orders straight through to its clearing firm.

Brokerage, Execs Ordered to Pay $3.9M in Bad-Broker Case, WSJ.com, September 24, 2014

B-D's fate uncertain after $4M arbitration award, Investment News, September 25, 2014


More Blog Posts:
SEC News: Regulator Grants $30M Whistleblower Award and Charges Washington Investment Advisory Firm $600K for Undisclosed Principal Transaction, False Advertising, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 23, 2014

Man to Pay $40.4M for Texas Securities Fraud Involving Bitcoin Ponzi Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 20, 2014

SEC Investigates Pimco Exchange-Traded Fund for Artificial Inflation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 25, 2014