July 7, 2016

Rhode Island Investment Adviser to Plead Guilty in $21M Ponzi Scam

The U.S. Attorney’s Office has issued a statement announcing that Patrick E. Churchville, the president and owner of ClearPath Wealth Management, will plead guilty to one count of tax fraud and numerous counts of wire fraud related to the running a $21M Ponzi scam. According to prosecutors, Churchville also used $2.5M of investor money to buy a house and neglected to pay over $820K of his federal income taxes.

Court documents report that a federal probe determined that from ‘08 through October ’11 the Rhode Island investment adviser and his firm invested about $18M in JER Receivables on behalf of investors. The government said that in 6/10, Churchville found out that the investments were no longer rendering returns and that ClearPath had been the subject of misleading and fraudulent representations by JER principals. However, instead of notifying clients that he lost millions of dollars of their money, he tried to hide the losses while continuing to collect investment fees.

As a result, Churchville misappropriated about $21M of investor money, misusing their funds while bringing in money from new investors. For example, he used investor money to repay JER investors while pretending that the funds were investment returns. He also lied when he told investors that past investments with JER Receivables had resulted in high return rates.

The government’s probe, conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and the IRS Criminal Investigation, also found that Churchville set up a scam in which he used investor money as collateral and, without their permission, used the funds to help him get $2.5M to buy a home. He did not report that money as income on his personal tax returns, hence the more than $820K nonpayment of his taxes.

Continue reading "Rhode Island Investment Adviser to Plead Guilty in $21M Ponzi Scam" »

March 29, 2016

Unregistered Investment Adviser Accused of $53M Ponzi Scam Involving Pre-IPO Companies

New Jersey adviser John Bivona is facing U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing him of raising over $53M from investors in a Ponzi-like scam that involved the selling of investments in pre-IPO tech companies. However, contends the SEC, instead of investing the funds as intended, he used investor money to pay taxes, legal fees, a car loan, a vacation house mortgages, and cover his nephew’s credit card bills.

The regulator, in its complaint, said Bivona funneled millions of dollars into earlier funds that he and his company managed, while at least $5.7M went to family members, including nephew Frank Mazzola, who also is dealing with SEC charges for a previous investment scam.

The Commission alleges that Bivona raised the money through Saddle River Advisors, which has not registered with the regulator since 2013, and SRA Management. Because he purportedly took the money for his own spending, to pay family bills, and keep different funds running, his firms often never had enough money to buy the shares investors had been promised.

The SEC believes that Bivona was able to keep his Ponzi scam going because he kept transferring funds between over a dozen bank accounts associated with a number of entities. Meantime, investors never received financial statements they were promised.

In its press release announcing the charges, the SEC linked to one of its bulletins that identifies the possible warnings signs that the unregistered offering you are thinking of investing in may be a scam. The Commission noted that unregistered securities are

Continue reading "Unregistered Investment Adviser Accused of $53M Ponzi Scam Involving Pre-IPO Companies" »

March 4, 2016

SEC Bars Former Investment Adviser Over Alleged Misuse of Exchange-Traded Funds

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is barring Nicholas Rowe, the former owner of registered investment advisor Focus Capital Wealth Management, from the industry. The charges come in the wake of parallel proceedings in New Hampshire where state regulators barred him from being licensed as an investment adviser. The New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation also said he had to pay $20K.

Rowe and his RIA are accused of using inverse and leveraged exchange-traded funds in a way that was not suitable for clients. They also purportedly made misrepresentations regarding the fees that the clients would be charged.

Focus Capital had been registered with the SEC until 2012 when it registered with New Hampshire instead. The state launched a probe into the RIA’s investment practices, which allegedly included placing the assets of older investors into unsuitable strategies without notifying them that was what was happening. A number of elderly clients, including three widows, allegedly lost close to $1.M.

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March 1, 2016

Study Accuses Nearly 20% of Oppenheimer Advisers, 15% of Wells Fargo and UBS Advisers, Others of Misconduct

InvestmentNews reports that according to a new working paper by business school professors at the University of Minnesota and the University of Chicago, 7% of financial advisers have been subject to discipline for misconduct. The study noted that at certain large firms, the trend of misconduct exceeds that average. For example, found the paper, at Oppenheimer & Co., almost 20% of its advisors' records indicate misconduct.

Other advisor firms noted for their high misconduct rates included First Allied Securities at 17.7%, Wells Fargo Advisors (WFC) at 15.3%, UBS Financial Services (UBS) at 15.14%, Cetera Advisors at 14.39%, Securities America at 14.3%, National Planning Corp. at 14%, Raymond James Financial Inc. (RJF) at 13.74%, Stifel Nicolaus & Co. at 13.27%, (SF) and Janney Montgomery Scott at 13.27%. Firms with the lowest misconduct rates among its advisers included Morgan Stanley & Co. (MS), Goldman Sachs & Co. (GS), BlackRock Investment (BLK), UBS Securities, Jefferies, Prudential Investment Management, and Wells Fargo Securities, among others.

University of Chicago finance professor Amit Seru, who co-authored the working paper, titled “The Market for Financial Adviser Misconduct” called this misconduct problem “pervasive.” He also said that he believes the study did a conservative job of measuring misconduct, which ranges from behavior such as placing clients in unsuitable investments to the more extreme type, such as using client accounts to trade without their permission. Insurance products were reportedly factor in many misconduct cases.

The study noted that firms often do take action when misconduct by its advisers is discovered. About half of those caught are fired, although 44% of these individuals will typically end up going to another firm. Often these places will have higher misconduct rates, making it possible for the advisers to continue engaging in wrongful behavior. The study said that prior offenders are five times more likely to taking part in new actions of misconduct than the average adviser.

Continue reading "Study Accuses Nearly 20% of Oppenheimer Advisers, 15% of Wells Fargo and UBS Advisers, Others of Misconduct" »

December 18, 2015

Securities Fraud Cases: Investment Adviser Faces SEC Charges, Woman Pleads Guilty to $1.1M Financial Scam, and NJ Man is Accused of $13M Pump-and-Dump Scam

Connecticut Firm Accused of Conflict of Interest Involving $43M Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing fraud charges against Atlantic Asset Management LLC (AAM). The regulator says that the Connecticut-based investment advisory firm got clients involved in certain bonds that resulted in an undisclosed financial benefit to a brokerage firm whose parent company is part owner of AAM.

The firm is accused of investing over $43M of investor money in illiquid bonds that were issued by a Native American tribal corporation. The sales provided the brokerage-firm with a private placement fee.

The SEC says that investors should have been notified of the financial gain that resulted and the firm violated its obligation to them when it placed its own financial interests before client’s interests.

In its complaint the SEC says that it was a representative from BFG Socially Responsible Investing Ltd., which partially owns AAM, who suggested that the investment advisory firm buy the illiquid bonds for clients. AAM purportedly knew that the bond sale proceeds would to go toward an annuity that the parent company provided.

The Commission says that after finding out that their money had been placed in the bonds, several AAM clients demanded that the investments be unwound but their requests were unsuccessful.


Ex-Investment Adviser Pleads Guilty to Securities and Annuities Scam
Janet Fooshee has pleaded guilty to 31 charges related to a $1.178M financial scam involving securities and annuities. The 63-year-old former New Jersey investment adviser admitted to fraudulently servicing over 100 financial account statements that increased 14 client accounts by about $818K collectively. She also admitted to stealing about $151K from clients, keeping over $190K in unlawful fees, defrauding another investor of almost $81K, and stealing the identities of about eight corporations. Fooshee said that she illegally took funds from over two dozen retirees and others over a period spanning a decade.

Fooshee also used the names Janet Katz and Janet Gurley. As part of the plea deal she must pay $415K in restitution. A seven-year prison term is recommended for her.


Continue reading "Securities Fraud Cases: Investment Adviser Faces SEC Charges, Woman Pleads Guilty to $1.1M Financial Scam, and NJ Man is Accused of $13M Pump-and-Dump Scam" »

November 21, 2015

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

November 14, 2015

SEC Headlines: Regulator Warns Investment Advisors About Outsourcing Compliance, Chairwoman White Talks About Private Placement Fundraising, Criticizes Bill Seeking to Place Limits on BDCs

The Securities and Exchange Commission is reminding advisory firms to stay aware of their own compliance functions. After about 20 examinations of advisers that utilized compliance firms, the regulator found that external compliance officers sometimes were not aware of a firm’s business access, did not communicate regularly with firm principals, nor did they have access to company documents.

Issuing a risk alert, the SEC said that whether a chief compliance officer is a direct employee of a registrant, a consultant, or a contractor, this employee should be given adequate information and authority to be able to do the job. The Commission said that it is the job of the registrant to put into place and execute a compliance program that works. It also warned that firms that do outsource their compliance function might be at risk of not comprehending their own possible shortcomings in this matter. The SEC said that outsourced CCOs should be careful about using “standardized checklists” to get information from advisory firms.

In other SEC news, Commission chairwoman Mary Jo White said that even though private placement issuers, private equity managers, and hedge funds are raising more funds from investors now more than before, the incidents of related fraud is not rising. Some people worried that when the 2012 Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act got rid of the ban on the general solicitation of certain kinds of private placements, there would be those that would use this as an opportunity to take advantage of less sophisticated investors. However, even with the new regulations, not that many private equity managers, hedge funds, and private placement issuers are taking advantage of the opportunity to advertise directly to investors.

Continue reading "SEC Headlines: Regulator Warns Investment Advisors About Outsourcing Compliance, Chairwoman White Talks About Private Placement Fundraising, Criticizes Bill Seeking to Place Limits on BDCs" »

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" »

October 31, 2015

SEC Probes Advisers With Access to Client Retirement Accounts, Approves Crowdfunding Rules Connecting Investors with Small Businesses

According to InvestmentNews, the Securities and Exchange Commission is looking at instances in which advisers have access to their clients’ financial accounts that they don’t manage. The SEC wants to make sure that these advisors are unable to take distributions from these accounts if they don’t have custody over them.

The SEC has been taking a closer look at custody since the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scam that bilked investors billions of dollars. Madoff was in control of most of his clients’ money.

In 2013, the regulator, seeking to stave off the next big investor scheme, noted that red flags were raised for 140 firms that were examined in 2012 because of they way they had access to or held the assets of clients. “Significant deficiencies" were found.

Continue reading "SEC Probes Advisers With Access to Client Retirement Accounts, Approves Crowdfunding Rules Connecting Investors with Small Businesses" »

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 5, 2015

Florida Investment Adviser is Charged With Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging investment adviser Arthur F. Jacob and his Innovative Business Solutions LLC with fraud. The regulator claims that the two of them deceived clients from 2009 into 2014 and violated the federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions along with an SEC antifraud rule.

In its order instituting administrative proceedings regarding the purported investment adviser fraud, the SEC Enforcement Division contended that IBS and Jacob misrepresented the profitability and risks of investments he had bought for clients. Rather than disclosing the risks involved in certain exchange-traded funds, Jacob purportedly told clients that his investment approach was safe, presented no or little risk, and would garner predictable earnings. He also is accused of making misstatements to clients regarding their investments’ profitability.

Jacob and his Florida-based firm are not registered as an investment adviser with the regulator or any state. He is accused of telling clients that registration was not mandatory and of hiding his disciplinary history. For example, Jacob was disbarred from being an attorney because he misappropriated client moneys and engaged in other misconduct, including make false statements while under oath and to the Bar Counsel, submitting false tax returns for a client, charging unreasonable fees, and violating a court order.

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September 10, 2015

Another RIA/Financial Radio Show Host Charged with Securities Fraud

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging Bennett Group Financial Services founder and host of the radio show “Financial Myth Busting” with allegedly inflating her investment adviser firm’s assets under management, as well as its investment returns, to try to gain more clients.

Dawn J. Bennett is accused of claiming that the Washington-based firm had over $2 billion in assets even though it never oversaw more than $407 million. She made the inflated claim multiple times on her radio show. She also purportedly said that the Bennett Group’s investment returns were among the top 1% globally. The SEC said that these bragged about returns came from a model portfolio and did not represent any real customer returns.

At one point Bennett was number five on Barron’s “Top 100 Women Financial Advisors” list and number two on the DC “2011 Top Advisors” because of her alleged misstatements. She touted these rankings to potential customers.

In the regulator’s complaint, the Commission said that from at least 2009 to early 2011 Bennett and her investment adviser firm made material misstatements and omissions to try to bring in more clients. They also allegedly made other misstatements to attempt to conceal their fraud.

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July 17, 2015

Massachusetts Regulator Probes Alternative Mutual Funds Sold by JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, BlackRock, and Other Financial Advisers

William Galvin, the Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, is investigating the sale of 25 alternative mutual funds, including those created by Wells Fargo (WFC), JPMorgan (JPM), Eaton Vance (EV), and BlackRock (BLK). The state’s securities division sent subpoenas to registered investment advisers that deal with the funds. It noted, however, that receiving a subpoena is “not an indication of wrongdoing at this time.”

A full list of the funds under investigation can be found here. Galvin’s office wants to see documents related to the recommendations the firms made make to retail investors. The Massachusetts regulator’s spokesperson, Brian McNiff, said that the funds were selected because of their size, investment strategies, and sales volumes.

Alternative funds, also called liquid alts, are often marketed as tools that involve hedge-fund-style investment strategies to mitigate risks found in bonds, stocks, and other traditional investments. Alternative funds are not like typical mutual funds. Liquid alts usually hold more investments that are non-traditional. They typically employ trading strategies that are more complex.

Alt funds may invest in global real estate, leveraged loans, commodities, unlisted securities, and start-up companies. Strategies used may include short selling, hedging and leveraging via derivatives, opportunistic tactics that change with market conditions, or even single strategy tactics. There are risks involved.

Continue reading "Massachusetts Regulator Probes Alternative Mutual Funds Sold by JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, BlackRock, and Other Financial Advisers" »

June 18, 2015

San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan Addresses $20M-Plus Texas Securities Case Against His Former Financial Adviser

Earlier this year, our securities law firm published a blog post reporting that San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan had filed a Texas securities case against financial representative Charles Banks. Duncan contends that due to unsuitable recommendations made to him by Banks, he allegedly lost some $25 million.

Banks, a private-equity investor, was Duncan’s adviser for nearly two decades, since the beginning of his professional sports career. The NBA All-Star says that Banks persuaded him to get involved in investments that were bad for Duncan but good for the financial adviser. He also claims that Banks forged his signature and withheld his return on a loan. The San Antonio Spurs star says that over the years, he’s invested millions of dollars in products and businesses that Banks either owned or had a financial stake in.

Meantime, Banks claims that Duncan’s losses are because of the player’s own impatience or due to misunderstandings. He argued that Duncan is using the Texas securities case to exit certain limited partnership investments.

Continue reading "San Antonio Spurs’ Tim Duncan Addresses $20M-Plus Texas Securities Case Against His Former Financial Adviser" »

June 4, 2015

SEC Warns About Fake Investment Advisers Who Inflate or Fake Their Credentials

The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued an alert cautioning investors to double check the credentials of financial professionals before working with them. This week, the regulator’s Enforcement Division announced two securities fraud cases against investment advisers accused of making false claims about their background and experience.

In one case, Michael G. Thomas purportedly told investors that Fortune Magazine had named him one of the “Top 25 Rising Business Stars.” The distinction does not exist. He also allegedly inflated his past investment performance, pumped up a fund’s projected performance, and made misrepresentations about who would be advising and co-managing a fund.

Thomas has consented to pay a $25,000 penalty. He agreed to not take part in the offer, issuance, or sale of certain securities for five years. Thomas is barred from associating with investment advisers, dealers, and brokers during that time.

In the other SEC case, the regulator said that Todd M. Schoenberger, who was a frequent contributor and guest on national TV business shows, misrepresented his educational credentials. For the Delaware radio show he was recently hired to host, he was touted as a retired hedge fund manager and “accomplished veteran” of Wall Street.

The SEC said that Schoenberger falsely told prospective investors that his unregistered investment advisory firm LandCold Capital LP would pay back promissory notes they were solicited for purchase with fees made through the management of a private fund. The fund was never launched. The SEC also contends that Schoenberger never paid investors the returns he guaranteed them.

He is resolving the SEC charge by consenting to pay $65K in disgorgement of ill-gotten gains in addition to interest. He also agreed to an order that prevents him from serving as a director or officer of a public company. He cannot associate with any dealer, broker, or investment adviser.

In its Investor Alert, the SEC’s Office of Investor Education and Advocacy said that fraudsters have been known to misrepresent their education, lie about awards, claim to hold certain professional titles, create fake online profiles, and even appear as a guest on financial TV programs. The agency said that investors shouldn’t invest solely because of assertions someone has made about their experience and credentials.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, our investment adviser fraud lawyers are here to help investors get their losses back. Contact us today.

Investor Alert: Beware of False or Exaggerated Credentials, Investor.org, June 3, 2015

Read the Order Against Thomas (PDF)

Read the Order Against Schoenberger (PDF)

June 3, 2015

SEC, Prosecutor Charge Miami Investment Adviser With Defrauding Retired Teachers and Law Enforcement Officers with Ponzi Scam

The SEC is charging Miami investment adviser Phil Donnahue Williamson with running a Ponzi scam and bilking at least seventeen investors. The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida has filed a parallel criminal action against him.

According to the SEC, Williamson raised over $2 million over the course of seven years—from ’07 to ’14—while making misrepresentations about the way investors’ money would be used, as well as regarding the investments’ valuations and returns. He also allegedly misused or misappropriated at least $748,000 of client money to pay for personal expenses, other businesses, and unrelated investment activities. Among his investors were several retired local law enforcement officers and teachers who were looking to put their savings in safe investments.

Williamson allegedly used the money he solicited for the Sterling Investment Fund, which supposedly invested in properties and mortgages in Georgia and Florida, to run his Ponzi scheme. He advised investors to buy an LLC interest in the fund.

The Sterling Fund’s subscription agreement stated that the minimum agreement was $25,000 and that the funds would go toward buying mortgage loans or institutional third-party financing, which was to be used to also buy mortgage loans and otherwise support the business of the company.

Continue reading "SEC, Prosecutor Charge Miami Investment Adviser With Defrauding Retired Teachers and Law Enforcement Officers with Ponzi Scam" »

March 23, 2015

SEC Rejects Broker’s Efforts to Start RIA While Behind Bars

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has barred David Scott Cacchione from the securities industry once again. Cacchione was banned in 2009 for helping to mastermind a $100 million financial scam. This time, his bar is for attempting to start a registered investment adviser firm while in jail for the previous crime.

Cacchione, who was released from prison in June, had been sentenced to five years in jail and three years supervised release for pleading guilty to securities fraud. The charge involved pledging clients’ securities without their knowledge to obtain over $45 million in personal loans for a friend. Among those whose money he used was an elderly widow and a children’s charity.

According to the SFGate, in 2007 and 2008 Cacchione, while managing director of Merriman, Curhan, Ford & Co. in San Francisco, gave client brokerage statements to William Del Biaggio III, who doctored them to make it appears as if the securities belonged to him. He did this to secure or renew some $100 million in loans. He used the funds to pay off debt and purchase an ownership stake in the Nashville Predators hockey team.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation said that some $47 million was lost. Cacchione was ordered to pay almost $50 million in restitution. The SEC, however, said that as of August 2014, he had paid just $502. (Del Biaggio, who was sentenced to eight years behind bars, after also pleading guilty to securities fraud, was ordered to pay $67.5 million in restitution.)

In April, while still in prison, Cacchione registered Montara Capital Management, of which he was chief compliance officer, a managing member, and owner of over 50% of the firm. After his release, he submitted an application with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission seeking approval of Montara, which he said was an RIA in California.

In September, the SEC filed an administrative proceeding to determine if sanctions against Cacchione were warranted for the application. Earlier this year, the regulator issued an order barring him again. This month, California’s department of securities regulation also barred Cacchione from registering as an investment adviser in the state.

The 2009 securities fraud and this latest incident are not Cacchione’s only run-ins with regulators. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s broker check database, he was allowed to resign from Smith Barney Shearson in 1994 because the firm was “unhappy” with trading practices in some of his principal accounts. In 2003, he agreed to a 30-day suspension and a $35,000 fine—without denying or admitting culpability—to resolve claims alleging that he sold unregistered securities to customers without providing the proper disclosures while at First Security Van Kasper.

Our investment adviser fraud law firm is here to help investors recoup their losses.


SEC shuts down ex-broker's attempt to start RIA from jail
, InvestmentNews, March 19, 2015

The SEC's Administrative Proceeding, SEC.gov (PDF)

Securities felon who tried to start investment firm barred, SFGate, March 18, 2015


More Blog Posts:
Over $44M Lost in Alleged Investment Adviser Scam Involving Total Wealth Management, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 19, 2015

Brookeville Capital Partners Ordered by FINRA to Pay $1.5M for Private Placement Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 12, 2015

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Settles Currency Fraud Lawsuits Involving Pension Funds for $714M, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 19, 2015

March 19, 2015

Over $44M Lost in Alleged Investment Adviser Scam Involving Total Wealth Management

According to a court-appointed receiver, investors who were the victim of a financial scam allegedly run by Total Wealth Management founder Jacob Cooper lost more than $44 million of assets. The investors are suing Cooper and other principals of the investment adviser.

Cooper pursued investors using “Uncommon Wealth,” his weekly radio show in which he’d discuss retirement planning. According to InvestmentNews, He capitalized on his past history as an Eagle Scout, as well as he was a Mormon and his dad had been in the U.S. Marine Corps, to grow a more than $100 million business with over 600 clients.

Cooper and other firm principals allegedly pooled about 6% of the $100 million and placed them in the Altus Funds, which are proprietary investment funds. These funds then invested in unsuccessful ventures, as well as in Private Placement Capital Notes—the latter did pay interest until two years ago.

After investors filed securities fraud case to get their money back, Total Wealth Management allegedly blocked fund access and Cooper told clients that if they wanted to speak with him they would need to sign a waver that indemnified him. He then upped his clients’ fees, charging over $300,000—money he is accused of using to pay for the lawyer defending him against both the complaints and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. He also purportedly used $150,000 of client funds to cover a settlement he owed the SEC.

Now, the receiver is saying that most of that money appears to have been put into funds and private placements that were insolvent or losing money but offered revenue sharing agreements to Total Wealth Management. Cooper also is accused of taking money for his personal spending. To date, only $2 million has been recovered.

Contact our securities fraud law firm today to request your free case assessment.

Client losses total $44 million in 'Madoff of Main Street' case, InvestmentNews, March 19, 2015

Read the SEC Order (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

Brookeville Capital Partners Ordered by FINRA to Pay $1.5M for Private Placement Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 12, 2015

Bank of New York Mellon Corp. Settles Currency Fraud Lawsuits Involving Pension Funds for $714M, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 19, 2015

CNL Lifestyle Properties REIT Dips in Value, May Sell Ski Resorts, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 16, 2015

March 13, 2015

Consumer Groups Accuse SEC of Not Protecting Retail Investors and Poorly Regulating Investment Advisers

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.

The Dodd-Frank Act Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act authorized the SEC to put into effect one fiduciary standard that would be applicable for both investment and retail advice, obligating every financial adviser to make sure their actions take clients’ best interests into account. This is a mandate that the agency has yet to act upon, even as the U.S. Labor Department is preparing to re-propose a fiduciary duty rule involving advice for retirement accounts.

However, the regulator has had a lot to deal with in regards to rulemaking ever since Dodd-Frank went to effect, making certain mandates that the agency has been required to execute. Now, the consumer groups want the Commission to focus once more on retail investors to make sure they are properly protected.

The reason for a push for a fiduciary rule for brokers is that there is concern that because these representatives get compensation from mutual funds and other companies for pushing their products, investors’ best interests may not be getting served. According to White House economists, reports Bloomberg, investors may be losing up to $17 billion annually because they invested in products that their brokers recommended.

A lot of Republicans and business groups claim that the SEC, not the DOL, should be the one to come up with the regulations first. They believe that rules by the Labor Department would only make the situation confusing while limiting a brokers’ ability to work with smaller investor clients.

Please contact our broker fraud lawyers today. Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas is here to help investors and their families recoup their securities fraud losses.

Read the Letter (PDF)

A Split Over Protecting Investors, Bloomberg, March 12, 2015

February 10, 2015

SEC Claims Investment Adviser Paid for Fraud Settlement With Client Monies

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is accusing investment adviser Jacob Cooper and his Total Wealth Management firm of using client funds to pay for a settlement in a fraud case. Now, in the wake of the allegations, the RIA is facing new securities charges.

According to the regulator, Total Wealth Management found clients via a weekly radio show, of which Cooper was the host, and also through free lunches.The SEC contends that Cooper and his firm misused investor money and bilked clients via “administrative” fees that went unexplained. The fees ranged from $3,500 to $7,500/per account. The regulator says that to resolve an SEC administrative action from last year, the investment adviser allegedly borrowed $150K in client funds.

The action accused Cooper of pooling about 75% of clients’ $100 million in assets, placing them in a private fund, and then investing that in unaffiliated funds, which gave clients an undisclosed revenue-sharing fee. In its most recent complaint, the SEC said that Cooper also used investor money to cover the legal fees on a class action that clients brought. These clients were unable to end their relationship with the RIA or take out their money. Following the class action securities case, Cooper sent out an email notifying clients that because of this litigation, all of them would now have to contend with fee increases.

The SEC said that using client money to defend oneself in a case brought by one’s own customer investors is a conflict of interest. It wants to freeze Total Wealth Management’s assets and appoint a receiver. The regulator also wants to assess civil penalties against Cooper and his firm.

Our investment adviser fraud lawyers represent investors in getting their losses back.

SEC says RIA used client money to pay settlement, Investment News, February 5, 2015


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Sun Antonio Spurs Star Tim Duncan Files Texas Investment Adviser Fraud Case, Stockbroker Fraud Case, January 31, 2015

Investment Adviser Fraud Cases Lead to Civil Charges, Criminal Convictions, and Investor Losses, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 21, 2015

Hanson McClain Sues Investment Adviser, Ameriprise Financial Services Over Client Information, Institutional Investor Fraud Blog, January 12, 2015