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" »

August 31, 2015

11th Circuit Revives City of Miami’s Mortgage Fraud Lawsuits Against Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a lower court made a mistake when it threw out the city of Miami’s claims accusing Bank of America Corp. (BAC), Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC ), and Citigroup Inc. (C) of engaging in predatory mortgage lending to Hispanic and black borrowers. The Florida city brought its claims under the Fair Housing Act.

Miami claims that the three banks directed non-Caucasian borrowers toward more expensive loans that were frequently not affordable to them even if their credit was good. The city said that because of this “reverse redlining,” there were a lot of foreclosures, a rise in spending to fight blight, and lower property tax collections.

A U.S. district court judge threw out Miami’s mortgage lawsuits last year. Judge William Dimitrouleas claimed that the city did not have the standing to sue and the harm alleged was too remote from the conduct of the banks.

The 11th circuit, however, said that standard was too strict. It believes that the banks could have foreseen that there would be attendant harm from such alleged discriminatory practices.

Continue reading "11th Circuit Revives City of Miami’s Mortgage Fraud Lawsuits Against Wells Fargo, Citigroup, and Bank of America" »

August 28, 2015

SEC Charges J.P. Morgan Ex-Investment Bank Analyst and Friends with Insider Trading

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging ex-J. P. Morgan Securities, LLC (JPMS) bank analyst Ashish Aggarwal with illegally tipping confidential information about firm clients in impending acquisitions and mergers involving technology companies to his friend Shahriyar Bolandian. Bolandian then purportedly used the information to trade in his own accounts and in the accounts of his sister and father, while also tipping his friend Kevan Sadigh so that he too could insider trade. Together, Bolandian and Sadigh allegedly made over $672,000 in illicit profits. The regulator is also charging them both with insider trading.

According to the SEC Complaint, Aggarwal misappropriated confidential information about two deals in which J.P. Morgan had served as an adviser. After notifying Bolandian, the latter and Sadigh purchased the same call options in two companies: PLX Technology and ExactTarget. The two men allegedly traded prior to the public announcement of PLX Technology Inc.’s intended acquisition by Integrated Device Technology Inc. in 2012 and ExactTarget’s acquisition by and PLX Technology in 2013.

Continue reading "SEC Charges J.P. Morgan Ex-Investment Bank Analyst and Friends with Insider Trading" »

August 16, 2015

UBS Puerto Rico Branch Manager Had Warned that Brokers Were Pushing Improper Loan Practices

According to Reuters, internal correspondence records show that in 2012, a former branch manager at UBS Puerto Rico (UBS) warned the Swiss banking giant’s officials that its brokers were encouraging customers to get involved in improper loan practices. In a number of emails, Carlos Capacete, who was a branch manager at the time, wrote to at least two bank officers noting his suspicions of misconduct.

Reuters says that in the documents it reviewed, Capacete told regional manager Doel Garcia that he had encouraged Mariela Torres, a UBS Puerto Rico compliance director, to look into suspect loans. In another email, Capacete followed up with his inquiry to see if the loans had been investigated for possible misuse involving the bank’s credit lines.

Then, in yet another email, Capacete documented what he knew about the loans, which he believed were fraudulent, explained how he discovered the purported wrongdoing, and noted his efforts to notify Torres about the alleged misconduct. Capacete also wrote that a UBS attorney had told him that the firm had conducted an audit and found that his suspicions were wrong.

Despite this alleged audit, late last year UBS reached a $5.2 million municipal bond settlement with Puerto Rico's Office of the Commissioner of Financial Institutions to resolve allegations of improper loan practices. The bank settled that case without denying or admitting to the charges. It did, however, consent to enhancing its supervision of several brokers whom regulators said may have steered clients toward improperly borrowing money to purchase more funds. UBS also terminated a broker for the same allegations and received an arbitration award of $2.5 million against it in an early case concerning the same broker.

Continue reading "UBS Puerto Rico Branch Manager Had Warned that Brokers Were Pushing Improper Loan Practices " »

August 13, 2015

Edward Jones to Pay $20M to Resolve SEC Allegations that It Overcharged for Muni Bond Sales

Edward D. Jones & Co., the brokerage firm subsidiary of Jones Financial Companies, has consented to pay $20 million to resolve U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allegations accusing the firm of overcharging clients by at least $4.6 million on new municipal bond sales. The regulator contends that the brokerage firm offered bonds at a higher price than what securities laws require.

Underwriters are supposed to sell new bonds at an initial offering price that was negotiated with the bond issuer. The SEC claims that instead of offering the municipal bonds to customers at the worked out price, the firm allegedly brought the bonds into its own inventory and then later sold them at high prices. Also, said the Commission, in certain instances the bonds were offered to customers after they had already started to trade in the secondary market at higher prices than what was initially offered.

The regulator said that at the very least Edwards Jones was negligent with the overcharges and its behavior was “inconsistent” with the standards and written agreements that govern municipal underwriting. The SEC says it will continue its probe into the matter.

Continue reading "Edward Jones to Pay $20M to Resolve SEC Allegations that It Overcharged for Muni Bond Sales" »

July 30, 2015

Cetera Shutters J.P. Turner, Claims Move Is Not Part of Broader Firm Consolidation

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

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

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

Continue reading "Cetera Shutters J.P. Turner, Claims Move Is Not Part of Broader Firm Consolidation " »

July 27, 2015

UBS Warns Investors to Stay Away from Puerto Rico Bond Funds

In a complete turnaround, UBS AG (UBS) is now telling clients to step away from Puerto Rico bond funds. Reuters reports that in a recent letter, the firm’s Puerto Rico arm told clients that they would be contacted shortly regarding alternative investments.

Reasons cited for the warning is that the funds can no longer be used as loan collateral in the wake of the U.S. territory’s financial woes. Puerto Rico is currently $72 billion in debt. Concerns over its economy were not eased when Governor Alejandro García Padilla recently asked the island’s debt holders for help in postponing bond payments and restructuring the Commonwealth’s debt.

Reuters also reported that in the letter to UBS customers – issued on July 13 – UBS said the firm would lower the collateral value given to every Puerto Rico closed-end fund share to zero. However, noted the news agency, despite the declaration of zero value for the funds’ shares, the brokerage firm continues to list share prices on its website.

UBS Puerto Rico’s decision to reject the funds as collateral shows just how high risk the firm now views these investments. According to Sam Edwards, a partner in Shepherd, Smith, Edwards & Kantas, who is currently representing dozens of Puerto Rico investors, “UBS came up with the scheme to use the Closed-End Funds as collateral for loans from UBS Bank since they were not eligible for margin loans. It was that leverage against already internally leveraged losses that causes some of the worst losses on the island. UBS is now pulling the plug on its own plan and effectively admitting this was a faulty idea and not only too risky for investors, but now, too risky for UBS, who designed the plan in the first place.”

Once again, the evidence appears to support that UBS is protecting itself at the expense of its customers.

Continue reading "UBS Warns Investors to Stay Away from Puerto Rico Bond Funds" »

July 24, 2015

SEC Probes Whether Mutual Fund Managers Are Charging Investors Undisclosed Fees

The Securities and Exchange Commission is looking into whether Franklin Templeton, Oppenheimer Funds (OPY), J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM), and other mutual fund managers are charging investors for fund fees that have not been fully disclosed. While money managers are allowed to use some of investors’ money to pay compensation to the brokers who sell a fund's shares, as well as for certain marketing purposes, the regulator wants to know whether firms are exceeding the allowed limits.

The Commission is trying to find out whether mutual fund companies have come up with ways to make extra payments to brokers by using investor assets to cover certain services, such as the consolidation of client trading records. The agency is worried that proper disclosure of these added fees are not being made to investors. The SEC is also wondering if brokers are more inclined to recommend funds that provide such additional payments, compelling them to prioritize profit over funds.

Fund companies have said that they do properly disclose fees for marketing. Oppenheimer, which is one of the companies that the SEC has investigated over this issue, has said that it doesn't bill mutual fund clients for recordkeeping costs but that the money comes from the firm.

Continue reading "SEC Probes Whether Mutual Fund Managers Are Charging Investors Undisclosed Fees" »

July 11, 2015

Massachusetts Regulator Charges Securities America Over Bait and Switch Ads By Broker Accused of Targeting Senior Investors

Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth William Galvin is charging Securities America with inadequate supervision of a broker who is accused of using a “grossly deceptive” radio ad campaign to target older investors. The state regulator said that the financial firm shouldn’t have approved the spots that Barry Armstrong ran on his AM radio show. His show, which airs on WRKO-AM, is syndicated on different stations.

The broker purportedly ran ads asking listeners to call for information related to Alzheimer’s Disease when what Armstrong really was doing was collecting their contact information so he could offer to sell them financial advice. Galvin’s office said that the broker engaged in ‘bait and switch’ by falsely advertising one service when he was really selling another type of service.

The regulator contends that Securities America failed to identify or prevent Armstrong’s unethical conduct by neglecting to ask even one question about the content of the ads or attendant mailing materials. Now, the state wants a censure, a cease-and-desist order, and a fine imposed against the firm.

Continue reading "Massachusetts Regulator Charges Securities America Over Bait and Switch Ads By Broker Accused of Targeting Senior Investors " »

June 22, 2015

Investor Want Wells Fargo Advisers to Pay $100K in Damages Over F-Squared Investment Losses

A client of Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) is looking to recover at least $100,000 in damages for losses he sustained from investing with F-Squared Investments Inc. The arbitration case comes six months after F-Squared consented to pay $35 million to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the asset manager of making false claims about its flagship investment product’s performance. The 68-year-old widower’s claim will test whether investors can pursue broker-dealers for selling F-Squared products.

The claimant, a moderately conservative investor who was looking for moderately conservative growth for his retirement account assets, began working with a Wells Fargo financial adviser in 2011. The brokerage firm made F-Squared managed-accounts available to advisors in 2013.

According to InvestmentNews, The investor’s advisor put about $900K of the client’s money—most of his savings, says his attorney—in products managed by two ETF strategists. Over 50% of the money went into F-Squared’s AlphaSector Allocator Select. Meantime, the investor said it paid Wells Fargo about $19,000 in fees for recommending the products. He believes that the firm had a conflict when it recommended investments because they came with such high commissions. Also, the fees erased potential capital gains for the claimant.

Continue reading " Investor Want Wells Fargo Advisers to Pay $100K in Damages Over F-Squared Investment Losses" »