Articles Posted in Investor Fraud

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has put out an emergency asset freeze against Peter Kohli, a former broker. According to the regulator, the Pennsylvania resident bilked at least 120 investors when he fraudulently raised over $3.2M from them between 2012 and 2015. The regulator attributes the funds collapse to the ex-broker’s “extreme recklessness.”

At the time, Kohli was CEO and president of DMS Advisors, a dually-registered investment adviser and brokerage firm. He began the DMS Funds series, comprised of four emerging market mutual funds, in 2012. The SEC claims that he overstated the funds’  level of sophistication while disregarding the risk that he and DMS Advisors might not be able to cover certain expenses.

The Commission claims  that Kohli stole money from investors as the funds became beleaguered and he committed three other frauds to keep his scam going.  He also purportedly misappropriated money he solicited to invest in one of the funds and his accused of drawing in two kinds of investments in Marshad Capital Group, which was DMS advisors’ holding company.

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NASAA Puts Out Practices and Procedures Guide to Protect Vulnerable Adults

The North American Securities Administrators Association has issued a guide to help investment advisory firms and broker-dealers create procedures and practices to help them identify and tackle suspected incidents of financial exploitation involving vulnerable adult clients, including senior investors and adults with diminished capacity. The guide provides steps that revolve around five key concepts:

  • Identifying who is a vulnerable individual
  • Governmental reporting
  • Third-party reporting
  • Delaying disbursement from the account of a client who is a vulnerable adult
  • Ongoing regulator cooperation when a disbursement is delayed or a report of suspected financial exploitation is made.

It was just recently that NASAA put into effect its Model Act to Protect Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation and this guide is a companion to the act.

If you are an elderly investor or a vulnerable adult who has suffered losses due to fraud, call our senior financial fraud law firm today.

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Charles August Banks IV was arrested in San Antonio this week. Banks, is charged with two counts of wire fraud related to a $7.5M investment that former NBA basketball star Tim Duncan made with Gameday Entertainment, a sports merchandising company. Banks became Duncan’s financial adviser nearly two decades ago while working for CSI Capital management and he advised him for years.

Banks, now a renowned wine investor,  is  also facing a securities fraud lawsuit brought by the SEC. Although Duncan, formerly with the San Antonio Spurs, isn’t named specifically in the complaint, the regulator said that the case involves an ex-pro basketball player who was Banks’ client.

The SEC claims that Banks made material misrepresentations and omissions of key facts to the basketball player to persuade him to invest in Gameday.  Among the alleged misrepresentations:

Caldwell International Securities Gets $2M Fine to Settle Churning Allegations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has imposed a $2M fine on Caldwell International Securities Corp. It is fining Greg Caldwell, who is the principal of the financial firm, $50K. He is now barred from serving as a principal in the securities industry.

FINRA contends that supervisory failures is what allowed Caldwell International Securities’ brokers to allegedly engage in churning. This involves a trader taking part in excessive trading to make the most in commissions possible. The self-regulatory organization said that the firm’s failures caused fifteen clients to pay over $1M in commissions and fees on investment recommendations that were not appropriate for them.

FINRA believes the firm grew too fast and that this was one of the reasons its inadequate supervisory system was purportedly inadequate. The SRO said that it was this lack of proper supervision that made it possible for advisors to make unsuitable investment recommendations.

The regulator said that even after customers complained, Caldwell and other senior employees did not remedy this matter. In 2015, ex-Caldwell registered representative Richard Adams was barred by FINRA. The regulator claimed that Adams made $57K in commissions while clients sustained $3K in losses because of overtrading that took place in two customer accounts.

Alabama Attorney is Accused of Defrauding Professional Athletes, Other Investors Of Over $6M
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Donald Watkins and his companies with fraud. According to the regulator, the Alabama lawyer and his Masada Resource Group LLC and Watkins Pencour LLC bilked investors, including professional athletes, out of more than $6M in supposed waste-to-energy ventures.

The SEC complaint said that the defendants made the false claim that an international waste treatment company was considering acquiring Watkins’ two companies and their affiliated companies in a multi-billion dollar deal. In reality, said the regulator, Waste Management Inc. only had a brief first meeting with the defendants in 2012. This was over a year after the defendants started telling investors that talks were moving forward and an acquisition was going to happen.

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Investment Advisor Firm Accused of Paying Off Terminally Ill Patients to Commit Fraud
The SEC has filed fraud charges against Donald Lathen and his Eden Arc Capital Management. Lathen is accused of recruiting at least 60 individuals who had less than six months to live and agreeing to pay them $10K each for the use of their names on joint brokerage accounts. When one of these individuals would die, he would allegedly redeem the investments by falsely representing that he and the terminally individual person were joint account holders.

Lathen recruited the terminally ill patients through contacts he had at hospices and nursing homes. In reality, it was Lathen’s hedge fund that owned the option investments.

As a result, of the purported omissions and misrepresentations, issuers paid over $100M in early redemptions. Lathen is accused of violating the custody rule by not properly putting the securities and money from the hedge fund in an account under the name of the fund or in one that held only client money and securities.

SEC Stops Trading in Neromamam Ltd.
The SEC has stopped the trading of Neuromama Ltd. (NERO) shares. The shares trade on the mostly unregulated over-the-counter markets and the regulator is concerned about transactions that may be “potentially manipulative, as well as other red flags that have purportedly been cropping up for years.

Neruomama’s paper value went up times four to $35B this year despite not much volume. The company’s shares went up by four times to $56/share. (On January 15, ’14, its value was $4.73B.)

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A letter to the SEC from consumer groups claims that the agency is not meeting its obligation to make sure that retail investors are getting the protections they need. The Consumer Federation of America, Americans for Financial Reform, Fund Democracy, Consumer Action, Public Citizen, and AFL-CIO gave an outline of how they want the regulator to enhance financial adviser regulation, which they believe could be more robust.

They are calling on the Commission to execute “concrete steps” to up the standards bar for brokers when it comes to giving investment advice. For right now, brokers only have to recommend investments that in general are a fit for the clients’ investment goals and risk tolerance level, even as investment advisers must abide by a fiduciary obligation.

The letter from the groups also talks about improving financial adviser disclosure in regards to compensation and conflicts, reforming the sharing of revenue, placing limits to mandatory arbitration for disputes between investors and their financial representatives, strengthening regulations for high-risk financial products, and enhancing required disclosures from financial advisers to investors about financial products.

According to a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority-released survey of investors, 92% of participants believe that there needs to be a regulatory “cop” to protect investors. 94% said that regulators should use the latest technology and tools on the job. The survey is intended to evaluate how investors feel about regulatory protections.

1,000 investors participated in the survey. Overall, said the self-regulatory organization, investors were in strong agreement that regulation and investor protections are key. The majority of investors also said that it is important that regulators detect when customers are sold unsuitable securities, if brokers are making trades to their benefit rather than that of investors, and when firms are taking risks that could hurt customers. 74% of those surveyed said they are in support of additional regulatory protections against broker misconduct.

The Survey was conducted over several days last month. Respondents came from a nationally distributed online panel. They had to meet certain criteria: U.S. citizen, at least 21 years of age, with primary or shared responsibility in their home for investment choices, and at least $10,000 in securities investments.

Intercontinental Exchange Inc. CEO Jeff Sprecher says there is a problem with US equity markets in that they allow sophisticated traders to take advantage of small investors. Speaking to analysts a conference call, he spoke about how new structure markets hurt small investors because the current atmosphere is not kind to people who need to trade but are not as privy to as much information as are others.

According to data gathered by Bloomberg, nearly 40% of volume in trading across markets occurs on private platforms, and years of technological and regulator changes have caused fragmentation in trading. This has resulted in firms that employ computerized algorithms to execute transactions faster than is humanly possible. Meantime, penny increment quotes of stock prices are undermining profits and compelling exchanges to look to automated firms to provide liquidity, while alternative venues have been legitimized (following a 2007 rule change that ordered stocks) to trade wherever the price was best. Sprecher said that this modified market structure and such new innovations are what now make it easy for sophisticated firms to take advantage of ordinary investors.

However, the ICE CEO is certain that the New York Stock Exchange can help change the industry. NYSE is the only US stock exchange where humans still help with trading on the floor and Sprecher believes this “human touch” is still necessary. ICE is about to acquire NYSE Euronext (NYX), which is the largest owner of US stock exchange.

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Imperial Petroleum and a number of its executives and suppliers with involvement in an alleged renewable fuel production scheme. The complaint names the Indiana-based company, its CEO Jeffrey Wilson, three ex-owners of E-Biofuels, and New Jersey-located companies Cima Green LLC, Caravan Trading LLC, and CIMA Energy Group, as well as their operators.

The SEC is accusing them of presenting themselves to investors as a legitimate biodiesel production business while concealing the illegal activity that was going on, which was the source of 99% of the revenue. Imperial Petroleum bought E-Biofuels as a subsidiary in 2010, and the Commission said that the latter’s owners falsely presented that they were making renewable fuel from raw agricultural products. This let E-Biofuels receive government incentives based on such representations when, actually, contends the regulator, E-Biofuels had middlemen purchase finished biodiesel while making these buys appear on bogus invoices as raw feedstock for producing biodiesel. Imperial Petroleum’s subsidiary later would sell the biodiesel that was bought for up to double what it paid.

The regulator believes that Wilson discovered that E-Biofuels wasn’t making biodiesel from raw matter, he let the fraud continue and Imperial’s yearly revenue rose from $1 million to over $100 million. Meantime, its stock price flew upward as investors were falsely told that E-Biofuels was engaged in environmentally friendly biodiesel production.

In a 3-2 vote, the SEC adopted rules to provide substantially more protections to investors who have assets held by registered broker-dealers. SEC Chairman Mary Jo White issued a statement saying she was confident the rules would give customers’ assets key “additional safeguards,” including the strengthening of audit requirements and enhanced oversight.

Under the new rules, broker-dealers would have to file reports with the Commission that are supposed to lead to greater compliance with financial responsibility rules. Brokerages have to start filing new quarterly reports with the regulator and yearly reports with the Securities Investor Protection Corporation by year’s end. Effective June 1, 2014, they will have to file yearly reports with the SEC.

These latest rules amend the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934’s Rule 17a-11 and Rule 17a-5. Per the rule amendments, a broker-dealer with custody of customers’ assets will have to file a compliance report with the Commission and work with an independent public accountant that is PCAOB-registered to put together a report based on a study of statements in the compliance report. Brokerage firms without custody of these assets need to submit an exemption report with the regulator noting its exemption from the requirements. Also, whether/not a broker-dealer has custody of clients’ assets, a firm has to let SRO or SEC staff look at the independent public accountant’s work papers if this information is needed to examine the brokerage firm and the accountant is allowed to talk about its findings with examiners.