April 7, 2015

LPL Financial Should Pay $3.6M in Fines, Repayments for REIT Sales to Older Investors, Says NH Regulator

The New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation wants LPL Financial (LPLA) to pay clients $2.4 million in buybacks and restitution for 48 sales of nontraded real estate investment trusts that were purportedly unsuitable for elderly investors. The regulator, which says the firm did not properly supervise its agents, is also fining LPL $1 million plus $200,000 in investigative expenses.

The securities case springs from transactions involving an 81-year-old state resident that purchased a nontraded REIT from the firm in 2008. The investor, whose liquid net worth was $2.5 million and invested $253,000 in the financial instrument, would go on to lose a significant amount of money. A probe ensued.

The state regulator contends that the 48 REIT sales, totaling $2.4 million lead to concentration that went beyond LPL guidelines and that the firm sold hundreds of nontraded REITs to clients in New Hampshire on the basis of “clearly erroneous “client financial data, while frequently violating its own policies. LPL has reportedly admitted that 10 of the 48 transactions deemed unlawful by the state were unsuitable according to its own guidelines. The Securities Bureau wants to take away the firm’s license to sell securities in New Hampshire.

Meantime, a former LPL Financial broker has been permanently barred from the securities industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Raymond Daniel Schmidt, previously affiliated with LPL Financial Holdings Inc. in Southern California, violated industry rules when he borrowed funds from seven clients between ’09 and ’12. He settled with the self-regulatory organization without denying or admitting to FINRA’s findings.

Schmidt borrowed close to $2.3 million to build the Pakalana Sanctuary, a vacation rental property on Hawaii’s big island. He admitted his involvement in the retreat center/vacation center in a public regulatory filing in 2013. However, said FINRA, Schmidt actually purchased the property in 2009, opening it for business as its owner and operator three years later.

Brokers are not allowed to borrow money from clients. They also can’t take part in business activities outside the firm without telling the company and typically require the latter’s approval.

FINRA says that Schmidt failed to tell LPL about the property or the loans from customers even when he filled out yearly questionnaires required by the firm. Even when he eventually told the firm about the real estate, he denied that he owned interest in the property.

Earlier this year, Schmidt told the regulator's enforcement unit that he wouldn’t give over documents or cooperate with its probe. He is currently the subject of an elder abuse and negligence case related to the Hawaiian real estate investment that the plaintiff made.

Contact our REIT losses lawyers to explore your legal options.

NH regulators seek $3.6m judgment against LPL Financial over risky real estate, Union Leader, April 7, 2015

Watchdog bars ex-LPL broker who tapped client funds for Hawaii retreat, Reuters, March 26, 2015

New Hampshire Bureau of Securities Regulation


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

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

Broker and Adviser News: Morgan Stanley Sues Ameriprise Broker, Former UBS Broker Alleges Investor Risk Levels Were Mischaracterized, and Ex-Bank of America Merrill Lynch Trainees Seek Overtime, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, March 5, 2015

March 31, 2015

Investor Fraud News: NFL Free Agent Sues Bank of America For $20M, FINRA Arbitration Panel Awards $1.3M to Investor in Case Involving Ex-Stifel Broker, and Tony Thompson and His Brokerage Firm are Barred from Industry

Former Colts Football Player Sues Bank of America for $20M
Dwight Freeney, formerly with the Indianapolis Colts and currently an NFL free agent, is suing Bank of America (BAC) for securities fraud. He and his Roof Group LLC say they were bilked of over $20 million.

In his securities fraud case, Freeney contends that the bank’s wealth management division is to blame for taking part, aiding, and abetting in the scam that cost him money. He noted that Bank of America went after him in 2010 to become one of its high net worth and affluent clients.

Aside from losing money, Freeney said that he was forced to close his restaurant venture. He wants compensation and punitive damages.

However, the bank disagrees with the claims, noting that the people accountable for fraud—an ex-bank adviser and a business associate—already were arrested for wiring $2.2M from the pro football player’s account. A spokesperson noted that the ex-employee committed the fraud after she was no longer with Merrill Lynch and Freeney had retained her services personally.

Ex-Daughter-in-Law of Ex-Stifel Broker Gets $1.3M FINRA Arbitration Award
A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Panel has awarded Tracy Noble Gilbert $1.3M in damages for the way that her former father-in-law, ex-Stifel Nicolaus & Co. (SF) broker Lanis Dale Noble handled her finances. Gilbert claims that while still with Stifel, Noble engaged in churning and breach of fiduciary duty related to the use of margin in her account, ManuLife and SunLife variable annuities, and a Friedman Billings Ramsey real estate investment trust (REIT). Stifel denied the allegations.

The three-person panel awarded Gilbert $1.29 million in compensatory damages and $250,000 in legal fees. However, it denied her request for punitive damages.

Tony Thompson, TNP Securities Barred by FINRA
Tony Thompson and his brokerage firm TNP Securities have been barred from the industry. FINRA said that Thompson and his broker-dealer misled investors about tenant-in-common deals. Because of this, contends the self-regulatory organization, every investor that bought Guaranteed Notes LLC notes after January 1, 2009 was misled and at the very least unjustly experienced loss of the principal on their investment.

Thompson raised some $50 million through private placement securities sales from 2008 into 2012. Thompson purportedly was responsible for marketing P Notes, 12% Notes, and PPP Notes. However, material misrepresentations and omissions were made to investors during the sales.

Thompson has said that the misrepresentations and omissions were because he depended in good faith on the advice and information that others gave him.

FINRA panel initially sought to have Thompson pay restitution. However, it didn't find sufficient basis that investor losses in the private placements were because of the misstatements and omissions that he made. He will, however, have to pay $6 million for administrative proceedings.

FINRA Bars and Fines Rep, Broker-Dealer $39.6M, ThinkAdvisor, April 2, 2015

Ex-Colt Dwight Freeney sues for $20 million in fraud case, IndyStar, March 31, 2015

Finra arbitration panel awards investor $1.3 million from ex-Stifel broker, Investment News, April 1, 2015


More Blog Posts:
Oppenheimer Must Pay $2.5 Million Fine, $1.25 Million in Restitution for Not Supervising Ex-Broker, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 29, 2015

Ex-F-Squared CEO Still Battling SEC, Firm Dealing With Fallout from Securities Fraud Charges, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 27, 2015

March 27, 2015

Ex-F-Squared CEO Still Battling SEC, Firm Dealing With Fallout from Securities Fraud Charges

F-Squared Investments Inc. has laid off 40 workers—that’s one-fourth of its staff—as it continues to deal with the ongoing asset losses in the wake of the securities fraud charges filed against it by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission last year. During a routine examination, the regulator discovered that the asset management company allegedly had deceived investors by claiming its performance history was based on a real trading record going as far back as 2001 when F-Squared had just back-tested its algorithm. F-Squared is the biggest marketer of index products using ETFs (exchange-traded funds).

The SEC accused the firm of falsely promoting its AlphaSector investment strategy and its supposed excellent track record as based on its investment performance for real clients instead of the backtesting. Due to a calculation error, the results were inflated by 350%.

F-Squared settled the SEC charges for $35 million and the firm’s new CEO, Laura P. Dagan, said that F-squared has been putting more effort into compliance and its main product line. However, in the last several months, investors have withdrawn billions of dollars from F-squared strategies while several brokerage firms refuse to let advisers put more funds into the strategies.

Meantime, Howard B. Present, F-Squared’s ex-chief executive, is still dealing with civil charges filed by the Commission. Both the SEC and Present will battle it out in Boston federal court soon. His lawyers have made court filing statements arguing that their client behaved in “good faith” while at the helm of F-Squared and any alleged misrepresentations or statements that were purportedly misleading or false, as well omissions, were not done on purpose. The regulator wants to clawback millions of dollars of Present’s earnings.

Our ETF fraud lawyers are here to help investors recoup their losses. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.


Ex-F-Squared CEO's conduct 'did not cause loss or harm to anyone': lawyers
, Investment News, March 24, 2015

Read the SEC Order (PDF)


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

Exchange-Traded Fund Strategist F-Squared to Pay $35M to Settle Charges that It Misled Investors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 24, 2014

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

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 17, 2015

Financial Fraud Victims’ Suffering is More Than Just Monetary, Affirms FINRA Report

According to “Non-Traditional Costs of Financial Fraud,” which is a new research report by the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, almost two-thirds of financial fraud victims who reported that they’d been bilked experienced at least one non-financial consequence to a serious degree. The findings show other ways in which this type of crime takes a toll on its targets.

Some 600 fraud victims took the survey online. Respondents were at least 25 years of age. Among the findings:

• The most commonly named non-financial fraud costs included serious stress, anxiety, sleeping problems, and depression.

• Other negative emotional reactions included anger, regret, betrayal, feeling like a victim, embarrassment, sadness, shame, helplessness, guilt, and confusion.

• There may have been fees, interest rates, legal fees, bounced checks and resulting fees from losing money because of the fraud.

• 9% of respondents reported bankruptcy.

• Almost half of respondents experienced self-blame. Many felt that they shouldn’t have been too trusting.

• The larger the amount of money stolen, the more non-financial costs were experienced.

• Victims who were confused about the fraud’s details were more likely to suffer from non-financial consequences.

• Just 15% of respondents had a significant amount of interaction with the fraudster.

• The smaller the financial loss, the less interaction there was with the alleged perpetrator.

• Respondents with higher incomes (at least $75K) were more likely to lose more money than those with lower incomes.

• The age of the respondent wasn’t a factor in terms of how much someone might lose from financial fraud.

• An introduction from a family friend or relative was the most common way cited for how the victim became acquainted with the fraudster.

• 68% of respondents told family or friends about the fraud.

• Just 35% of respondents told authorities.

• 48% of those that did not report the fraud said that doing so would not have changed the outcome.

Other reasons for not reporting fraud: embarrassment, not sure what to do, lack of time, and other reasons.

Some of the financial fraud incidents involved:

• Email solicitation from a stranger outside the US asking for a fee or deposit.
• A notification that the target had won a lottery or prize but needed to pay a fee to claim it.
• Learning about an investment through a free lunch seminar.
• Notification of grant eligibility but that a fee was required.
• A commission offered for referring people an investment.
• Phone solicitation.
• Notice of an unclaimed inheritance.


At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, we understand that the toll of financial fraud is more than just monetary. We are here to help investors get their losses back. Your initial case consultation with our investment fraud lawyers is free. We can help you explore your legal options.

Non-Traditional Costs of Financial Fraud,

FINRA Foundation Research Reveals Fraud Victims Vulnerable to Severe Stress
, Anxiety and Depression, FINRA March 9, 2015


More Blog Posts:

Ex-Green Bay Packers’ Bruce Wilkerson Awarded $2M Against Resource Horizons Group Over Ponzi Scam Involving Rogue Broker, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, March 16, 2015

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

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

February 27, 2015

Bill Seeks to Eliminate Mandatory Arbitration Clause From Brokerage Contracts, While SEC Approves New Public Arbitrator Limits

The Investor Choice Act in Congress, A U.S. House bill written by Keith Ellison, D-Minn., is looking to stop investment advisers and brokers from obligating investors to pursue their claims in arbitration instead of going to court. The proposed legislation would bar pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses in contracts between clients and their representatives.

As of now, almost all brokerage agreements, and an increasing number of investment adviser ones, come with provisions mandating that investors take their disputes to the arbitration system, which is run by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. There are those that believe that the forum favors brokers and advisers. Meantime, others say that the arbitration system is much more efficient for investors than going to court.

This is not the first time that Ellison has pushed for ending mandatory arbitration. He unveiled a similar bill in 2013 but it did not become law. The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association has put out a statement voicing its support for Ellison’s latest bill, which it says gives investors back their right to choose whether they want to take their dispute to court or arbitration.

The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act granted the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission the power to put a stop to mandatory arbitration. However, the SEC has yet to tackle the issue.

Our FINRA arbitration lawyers are here to help investors recoup their losses in claims against a broker or investment adviser. Contact our securities fraud law firm today.


FINRA Arbitration and Arbitrators
Nearly all customer claims against broker-dealers are resolved in FINRA arbitration. Each case is heard by a three-arbitrator panel. The parties decide who can be on the panel by eliminating candidates until there are three left. Parties are allowed to choose all-public panels.

The SEC has just approved a proposal by FINRA that would put limits on who can become a public arbitrator to be able to preside over such disputes. The rule categorizes anyone who has ever worked in the financial industry as an industry (or nonpublic) arbitrator.

Also, anyone who spent at least 20% of their time over the previous five years representing investors with securities claims would go from being a public arbitrator to a nonpublic one. They could go back into the public arbitrator category after a cooling off period of five years.

Anyone who has been a plaintiff’s lawyer for over 15 years is permanently barred from serving as a public arbitrator. Also disqualified as public arbitrator are accountants, lawyers, and others who worked for financial firms for over 20 years. If they worked for firms for less time, they could go back under the public arbitrator category five years after they stop working for them. In its regulatory order, the SEC said that it believes the proposed rule change would tackle any perceived bias toward Wall Street on the part of public arbitrators by moving certain individuals that fit the specific criteria into the nonpublic arbitrator category.

Bill would end mandatory arbitration in brokerage contracts, Investment News, February 26, 2015

Order Approving a Proposed Rule Change Relating to Revisions to the Definitions of Non-Public Arbitrator and Public Arbitrator, FINRA, February 26, 2015


More Blog Posts:
Investors Name Icon Investments in Securities Arbitration Claims, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 19, 2014

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

Judge Temporarily Blocks Meredith Whitney Fund From Making Investor Payouts in the Wake of BlueCrest Capital Opportunities Lawsuit, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 27, 2015

February 20, 2015

SEC Cases: Brothers-In-Law Charged in Louisiana Insider Trading Scam, NY-Based Broker-Dealer Accused of CDO Liquidation-Related Fraud, & Colorado Ponzi Scam is Halted

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging former VP of The Shaw Group’s construction operations Scott Zeringue and his brother-in-law Jesse Roberts III with insider trading. Zeringue has already agreed to settle the regulator’s charges by consenting to pay disgorgement of ill-gotten gains plus a penalty.

The SEC says that the insider trading took place in 2012 when Zeringue, while working at The Shaw Group, became privy to confidential data about the company’s upcoming acquisition by Chicago Bridge & Iron Company. Prior to the announcement of the deal, he bought 125 shares of Shaw stock and asked Roberts to buy for him, too. Roberts went on to tip others and they collectively made close to $1 million in illicit profits.

Meantime, parallel criminal charges have been filed against Roberts. Zeringue has already pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against him.

In another SEC case, the regulator is charging VCAP Securities and its CEO Brett Thomas Graham with improperly arranging for a third party brokerage firm to secretly bid at certain auctions that they conducted for their affiliated investment adviser. The auctions were for liquidating collateralized debt obligations. The brokerage firm was supposed to help them acquire bonds to benefit certain funds.

However, engagement deals with CDO trustees did not allow VCAP and its affiliates to bid while also acting as auction liquidation agent. Because the brokerage firm had access to confidential data regarding bidding, Graham was able to make sure that the third-party firm won the bonds at prices just a little higher than what other bidders made. The affiliate investment adviser would then buy the bonds from the bidder right away.

The Commission said that Graham and the firm made material misrepresentations to the different CDO trustees. They also falsely represented that they would not bid in auctions or wrongly use confidential bidding data. Trustees were given documents that failed to disclose that the affiliate investment adviser was the winning bidder. As a result, the investment adviser was able to get 23 bonds. VCAP and Graham will pay close to $1.5 million to settle SEC charges.

In federal court, the SEC announced an emergency asset freeze and fraud charges against a Colorado-based Ponzi and pyramid scam that promised 700% returns. The scheme purportedly raised $3.8 milion from investors in less than a year.

According to the Commission, Kristine L. Johnson and Troy A. Barnes touted what they called a “3-D matrix “and “triple algorithm.” They got investors to purchase positions in Work With Troy Barnes Incorporated. Web promotions and internet videos were used to solicit participants.

The two reportedly claimed their program wasn’t a pyramid scam, yet the company did not have legitimate business operations. Instead, earlier investors were paid “returns,” which was really money from newer investors. Barnes and Johnson would take money out for their own spending.

SEC Order in the Colorado Ponzi Scam (PDF)

The SEC Order Alleging CDO-Liquidation-Related Fraud (PDF)

The SEC Complaint in the Louisiana Insider Trading Case (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

U.S. Bank National Association Must Pay $18M to Peregrine Customers, Says Court, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 18, 2015

DOJ Investigating UBS Over Losses Related To Firm’s V10 Enhanced FX Carry Strategy, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 17, 2015

US Probing Whether Morgan Stanley Data Breach Was Linked to Fired Financial Adviser, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 18, 2015

February 18, 2015

U.S. Bank National Association Must Pay $18M to Peregrine Customers, Says Court

A district court issued a Consent Order placing a permanent injunction against the U.S. Bank National Association and mandating that the bank return $18 million to customers of Peregrine Financial Group, Inc. customers.

US Bank has offices in Iowa where Peregrine, a non-bank, nonclearing FCM (Futures Commission Merchant), and its owner Russell Wasendorf were based. Peregrine was also The bank was the depository for the non-bank and it held an account for customer-segregated funds that Wasendorf accessed when bilking over 24,000 clients. Some $215M was misappropriated.

In July 2012, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission put out a civil action against Peregrine and Wasendorf. The latter has pled guilty to criminal charges and received a 50-year sentence. He also has to pay over $215M in restitution.

The CFTC’s action is related to the period of 6/08 through 7/12 when Wasendorf took out and moved about $36M from the US Bank account to entities and persons that were not customers of Peregrine. The U.S. bank received fees from the account.

Per the order, US banks cannot commit future violations of the Commodity Exchange Act and CFTC Regulations. They don’t let depository institutions hold, get rid of, or use money that belong to futures commission merchant customers as if the funds belonged to anyone else.

The $18 million will go to Peregrine’s trustee, who can then give the money back to the customers who were affected.

CFTC Enforcement Director Aitan Goelman noted that while it was Wasendorf who stole the money from customers of Peregrine, this does not exempt the bank from its own duty to keep the money of Peregrine customers safe.

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

Federal Court Orders U.S. Bank National Association to Pay $18 Million to Peregrine Customers, CFTC, February 4, 2015


More Blog Posts:
CFTC, FINRA, and SEC Fight Investor Fraud Together, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 5, 2014

Money Manager Paul Greenwood Gets 10 Years in Prison for $1.3B Investment Fraud, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 4, 2014

John Carris Investments Expelled by FINRA
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 9, 2015

February 14, 2015

SEC Cases: Insider Trading Charges Filed Against Georgia Resident, Mutual Fund Adviser Accused of Improper Asset Handling, & Two-Ex CFOs Agree to Give Back Bonuses Because of Accounting Fraud

Atlanta, GA Man Accused of Making $740,000 for Insider Trading
The Securities and Exchange Commission is filing charges against a Georgia man who is accused of insider trading and making about $740,000 in illicit profits. Charles L. Hill allegedly traded in Radiant Systems stock based on the confidential insider data a friend gave him about an upcoming tender offer to purchase the company. The friend was a friend of a Radiant Systems executive.

In 2011, Hill bought about 100,000 shares valued at close to $2.2 million on the final day of trading prior to the public announcement of the acquisition. That was his first time buying stock of Radiant Systems, and before that it had been years since he’d purchased equity securities.

Mutual Fund Adviser Settles SEC Case with $50K Penalty
In another SEC case, Walter Island Capital LLC will pay $50,000 as a penalty to resolve charges accusing the firm of improperly handling fund assets. The mutual fund adviser, which works with several alternative mutual funds, purportedly maintained millions of dollars of the funds’ cash collateral at brokerage firm counterparties instead of at a custodial bank.

The Commission said that an investment company that maintains securities in a qualified bank’s custody has to do the same with other cash assets. The SEC said that Walter Island Company failed to make sure that about $247 million in cash collateral was maintained at such a bank. The mutual fund adviser is settling without denying or admitting to the charges.

Two-Ex CFOs Return Stock Sale Profits, Bonuses In the Wake of Accounting Fraud
On Tuesday, the SEC announced that two ex-Saba Software CFOs have agreed to return close to $500K in stock sale profits and bonuses that they were given while the company was committing accounting fraud.

The William Slater and Peter E. Williams III are not charged with the company’s misconduct. However, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act requires that they reimburse the company for both the stock sale profits and bonuses.

From December 2008 to January 2012, Slater was CFO until October 2011, when Williams was in the position until January. During that time Saba Software overstated pre-tax earnings and issued material misstatements about revenue recognition practices. In 2014, the software company and two ex-executives were charged with accounting fraud involving falsified timesheets so that quarterly financial targets were hit. Slater made over $333K in stock sale profits and bonuses, while Williams made close to $142K.

Our securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd, Smith, Edwards, and Kantas, LTD LLP are here to help investors get their money back.

The Insider Trading Case against Hill (PDF)

The SEC Order Against Walter Island Capital
(PDF)

The SEC Order Against Slater, Williams (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
SEC Claims Investment Adviser Paid for Fraud Settlement With Client Monies, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, February 10, 2015

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

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

February 13, 2015

Securities Fraud Cases: NY Hedge Fund Manager Bilks Investors of Over $800K, Maize Fund Scam Leads to Restitution, Madoff Ponzi Scheme Victims Get $355M, and Kentucky Scheme Ends with Probation, Compensation

SEC Says New York Hedge Fund Manager Stole From Investors
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission says that Moazzam Malik, a purported hedge fund manager in NYC, stole money from investors. Malik allegedly falsely claimed to be running a hedge fund holding about $100 million in assets under management. He is accused of touting high returns.

Malik raised over $840,000, but his fund, which didn’t make actual investments, never held over $90,177 in assets. Instead, he kept taking out money and spending the funds. He refused to give investors back their money, even pretending to be a fund employee and sending out an e-mail saying that he had passed away. Mailk purportedly kept soliciting investors even as he received redemption requests.


Maize Fund Investment Scam Leads to $6.7M Restitution
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission has gotten a federal court order demanding that Scott M. Ross and his Maze Asset Management LLC, Maize Capital Management, LLC and his Maize Capital Management LLC pay $5.4 million in restitution and a $1.3 million civil penalty for his Maize Fund investment scam. Ross is serving time behind bars for his involvement in two other financial scams.

Ross and his companies are accused of making false statements to prospective customers, putting out bogus account statements reflecting trading profits when there were none, mishandling client funds, and not properly registering as a Commodity Pool Operator with the CFTC. The regulator’s complaint charged Ross and the companies with violating core anti-fraud Commodity Exchange Act provisions related to their solicitation and managing of the Maize Fund, which is a pooled foreign exchange account.


Madoff Ponzi Scam Victims Get Back Another $355M
According to the Securities Investor Protection Corporation, about $355 million will be returned to the victims of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scam. Along with a $497 million settlement reached with federal funds Primeo Fund and Herald Fund, some $10.5 billion has been recovered in the liquidation proceedings for the scheme that bilked inventors of billions of dollars.

This is Madoff trustee Irving Picard’s fifth distribution of recovered moneys to Madoff customers. He is in charge of the Securities Investor Protection Act liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Securities LLC.

$1.3M Restitution in Kentucky Securities Fraud Case
The Department of Financial Institutions says that Pamela Jean Williams and Richard Dow Williams must pay over $1.3 million in securities fraud restitution to five victims. If they don't pay, then their sentences of one year and three years, respectively, would go from probation to time behind bars.

The Williamses were charged on multiple counts of selling unregistered securities, fraudulent securities practices, and omitting or misrepresenting material facts about a gas well investment. Each pleaded guilty to one consolidated fraud charge and has agreed to pay restitution.

Fraudulent Hedge Fund Manager Moazzam Malik Fakes Own Death, ValueWalk, February 16, 2015

Federal Court Orders Scott M. Ross and his Companies to Pay More than $6.7 Million in Restitution and a Civil Monetary Penalty for Defrauding Investors in His Commodity Pools, Mishandling Customer Funds, and Failing to Properly Register as a Commodity Pool Operator, CFTC, February 13, 2015

Madoff's Victims Are Repaid Another $355 Million, Trustee Says, NPR, February 9, 2015


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

Standard & Poor’s Settles Inflated Ratings Case for $1.5 Billion, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, February 3, 2015

SEC Subjects Credit Rating Agencies, Asset-Backed Securities Issuers to Tighter Rules, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 28, 2014

Magoffin man, woman ordered to pay more than $1.3 Million in securities fraud case, Floydcountytimes, February 12, 2015

January 28, 2015

Oppenheimer to Pay $20M Settlement to the SEC and FinCEN Over Penny Stock Violations

Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) has consented to pay $20 million to resolve settlements with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. The firm is accused of not properly identifying and reporting suspect trades in penny stocks. The low priced, highly speculative securities are easy to manipulate and involve in pump-and-dump scams.

At least 16 Oppenheimer customers in several U.S. states were reportedly identified as having engaged in “suspicious activity.” Admitting guilt, the broker-dealer acknowledged that it did not set up and implement a proper anti-money laundering program nor did it perform sufficient due diligence on a foreign correspondent account. Oppenheimer also said that it failed to comply with the USA PATRIOT Act’s Section 311, which allows FinCEN’s director to decide whether a foreign financial firm is a money laundering risk.

The government agency said that because Oppenheimer did not notify its foreign correspondent financial institutions of the special measures under Section 311, the firm ended up conducting business without setting up the necessary procedures, policies, and internal controls that allow it to reasonably report and detect suspect fraud activity from ’08 to ’14.

FinCEN noted that this is the second time it has penalized the Oppenheimer for similar violations. It fined Oppenheimer $2.8 million in 2015. In 2013, it was the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority that fined the broker-dealer $1.4 million for anti-money laundering failures and securities laws violations.

Meantime, in the SEC’s parallel action, the regulator noted two times between ’08 and ’10 when the firm took part in unregistered penny stock sales. One incident involved a financial adviser and his branch manger purposely engaging in the unregistered sales of 2.5 billion penny stock shares for one customer even though the shares were not registration exempt. The trades made $12 million and the firm got $588,400 in commissions. Oppenheimer is accused of not reacting to red flags or looking into whether sales were exempt from registration.

The other incident is over Oppenheimer’s possible involvement in purportedly illegal activities involving Gibraltar Global Securities, which is a broke-dealer in the Bahamas that is not registered to do business in the United States. The firm purportedly executed billions of shares of penny stocks in Gibraltar’s account and either knew or was negligent if it didn’t know that that firm was making transactions and providing brokerage services for customers, many of whom were based in the U.S.

The Commission said that Oppenheimer did not report possible misconduct by Gibraltar and its clients and, also, did not properly deal with over $3 million in backup withholding taxes in that brokerage’s account. The filing of Suspicious Activity Reports is a Bank Secrecy Act requirement.

As part of the SEC settlement, Oppenheimer is admitting wrongdoing and will pay $10 million. The other $10 million resolves the FinCEN claims.

Read the SEC Order (PDF)

FBI raids Florida firm with 'Wolf of Wall Street' link: witnesses, Reuters, January 14, 2014


More Blog Posts:

SEC Sanctions UBS, Charles Swab, Oppenheimer, & 10 Other Firms For Improper Sales of Puerto Rico Junk Bonds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 3, 2014

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


Oppenheimer Told by FINRA to Pay $675,000 Fine, $246,000 Restitution over Municipal Securities Transaction Pricing, Supervisory Violations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 12, 2013


January 23, 2015

Insider Trading News: SEC Sues Ex-Capital One Data Analysts, U.S. Attorney Bharara Wants Rehearing in Case Involving Overturned Convictions, and Judge Vacates Four Men’s Guilty Pleas

Ex-Capital Data One Analysts Are Defendants in SEC Insider Trading Lawsuit
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is suing Nan Huang and Bonan Huang, two former Capital One data analysts, for insider trading. The regulator contends that the two of them used nonpublic data to trade in consumer retail companies’ shares before earnings and sales reports were issued. They allegedly used sales information that the credit card company had collected from millions of customers.

According to the SEC lawsuit, from 11/13 to 1/15 the two analysts made hundreds, perhaps thousands of keyword searches for sales information on at least 170 companies that are publicly traded. They had access to this data because part of their job was to serve as fraud investigators.

The Commission says that the two men knew how to examine the information to figure out whether a company’s sales were going up or down. From 1/12 to 1/15 Huang and Huang purportedly made $2.83 million via share trades, in some instances using call options and put options to make the trades. Stocks that they traded included those belonging to Apple. Capital One fired the two men earlier this month.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara Seeks Rehearing Regarding Ruling Overturning Hedge Fund Fraud Convictions
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara will ask for a rehearing of an insider trading case in which convictions were overturned. In the case, United States v. Newman, A United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit panel overturned the convictions of Level Global Investors hedge fund portfolio manager Anthony Chiasson and Diamondback Capital hedge fund portfolio manager Todd Newman. The panel cited a 1983 Supreme Court precedent that said remote tippees could only be held liable if they knew the original tipper and received “personal benefit” from said tippee. This could not be proven against the two men so the court dismissed the cases against them.

“Remote tippees” in insider trading cases are people that find out about material nonpublic data via an intermediary and not straight from the insider that was the original source of the information.

Judge Vacates Insider Trading Guilty Pleas
Just this week, a federal judge vacated guilty pleadings by Thomas Conradt, Daryl Payton, Trent Martin, and David Weishaus. The four men pleaded guilty to trading on non-public data ahead of IBM’s agreement to purchase SPSS for $1.2 billion in 2009. A lawyer working on the deal gave them the information. He passed on the data to Martin but did not think that he would share the information with anyone else or use it for trading.

The men requested that their guilty pleas be withdrawn after the Second Circuit panel overturned the convictions of Chiasson and Newman. U.S. District Judge Andrew L. Carter Jr. granted their request.

Now, ex-Galleon Group trader Zvi Goffer is also saying that he will try to get his insider trading conviction, which came with a ten-year prison term, dismissed. Nicknamed the “Octopussy” while at that firm, Goffer is accused of having direct knowledge that tippers were benefiting and personally directing cash payments to them for giving over the material, non-public data.

U.S. regulators sue former Capital One employees for insider trading, Reuters, January 22, 2015

Insider trading convictions vacated, USA Today, January 22, 2015

Insider-Trading Defendants Allowed to Retract Guilty Pleas, The Wall Street Journal, January 22, 2015


More Blog Posts:
SEC Wants $602M Fund Set Up for Victims of SAC Capital’s Insider Trading, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 17, 2014

Ex-Ameriprise Manager Who Helped with SAC Capital Insider Trading Case Settles Charges Against Her, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 9, 2014

Texas State Securities Board Was Special Prosecutor in $1M Securities Fraud Case
, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 22, 2015

January 22, 2015

Texas State Securities Board Was Special Prosecutor in $1M Securities Fraud Case

Alberto Alba Villareal was sentenced to five years behind bars for defrauding investors in a $1 million Texas securities fraud. Villareal was convicted of theft of property for stealing money. The funds he procured were supposed to go toward funding a new insurance company. The Texas State Securities Board was a special prosecutor in the case. Villareal is from South Texas.

As part of his sentence, Villarreal must pay complete restitution to the investor who purchased a $1 million investment contract in Nafta Holdings LLC, which was the new insurer’s controlling company. Villareal must also serve ten years probation.

According to court testimony and his indictment, Villareal took part in a number of financial deceptions to raise funds for the controlling company, even telling the investor that the Texas Insurance Code mandated that there be $4 million in capital and additional cash to open a new insurance company—even though the amount he quoted was about twice what the law actually stipulated.

Villareal allegedly made it seem as if he had raised half of the money and that investors' funds would go into escrow until the threshold was established. Instead, he used some of their money for his personal expenses, including yacht payments and mortgage payments, which were past due. Investor funds also went toward insurance claims to policyholders with other insurers that he controlled.

The state’s Department of Insurance also gave evidence in the Texas securities case.

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

South Texas man sentenced to five years for $1 million securities fraud, theft, inForney, January 20, 2015


More Blog Posts:
Orders Dallas Man to Pay Over $1.4M in Restitution, Penalty Over Texas Securities Scam Involving Forex Commodity Pool, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 12, 2015

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

Standard & Poor’s to Pay Almost $80 Million to Resolve SEC Charges Over Ratings Fraud Involving CMBSs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 21, 2015

January 21, 2015

Investment Adviser Fraud Cases Lead to Civil Charges, Criminal Convictions, and Investor Losses

SEC Accuses Elm Tree Investment Advisors, its Founder, of $17M Securities Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Elm Tree Investment Advisors LLC and its founder Frederic Elm for running a Florida-based securities scam that raised over $17 million in a little over a year. The regulator contends that Elm, his firm, and the funds Elm Tree Motion Opportunity LP, Elm Tree “e”Conomy Fund LP, and Elm Tree Investment Fund LP misled investors and used the bulk of the funds to issue Ponzi-like payments. Elm also is accused of using the money to purchase expensive homes, jewelry, and autos, as well as cover his daily living expenses.

According to the SEC, Elm, his unregistered advisory firm, and the three funds violated the regulator’s anti-fraud rules as well as federal securities laws. The Commission wants relief for investors as well as the restoration of the purportedly ill-gotten gains and financial penalties.

A judge granted the regulator’s request for a temporary asset freeze and issued restraining orders against all those named. Elm’s wife, Amanda Elm, is a relief defendant.

District Court Issues 40 Month Sentence for Cherry Picking Scam
In other investment adviser fraud news, a district court has sentenced Noah Myers to 40 months behind bars for running a cherry picking securities scheme. Myers pleaded guilty last year to one count of securities fraud, which the government says cost investors around $470,000. Myers owns MiddleCove Capital LLC.

Between 4/09 and 11/10, Myers bought a number of securities, including the leveraged exchange-traded fund (ETF) ProShares UltraShort Financials. He then disproportionately allocated the trades that went up in value to his own accounts. In 2013, the SEC took back MiddleCove’s investment adviser license. Myers is now barred from the securities industry.

Ohio Man Accused of $5.5M Ponzi Scam
In an unrelated Ponzi scam, an Ohio man has been charged with running a $5.5 million scheme that bilked at least 19 investors. Geoffrey Nehrenz is accused of promoting and selling investments contracts to clients via Keystone Capital Management. The investment adviser firm is not registered with the SEC.

Nehrenz allegedly falsely represented to prospective clients that their money would be pooled, invested in mid- and large-capitalization, publicly traded U.S. securities by day, and changed into cash at night. He is accused of instead using the funds to cover his personal and business spending and, without client permission, make side pocket investments involving speculative, high-risk trades in overseas and domestic private placement vehicles.

SEC ALJ Finds Harding Advisory Firm Liable for CDO Fraud
An SEC Administrative Law Judge has found Wing Chau and his Harding Advisory LLC liable for fraud. The regulator accused Chau of letting a hedge fund control which assets would back a collateralized debt obligation, the Octans I CDO Ltd., without notifying investors.

The firm must pay $1.7 million as a penalty. Chau has to pay $340,000. They also must disgorge $1 million in profits plus interest.

Uniontown man accused of defrauding investors $5.5M, WKYC, January 16, 2015

Connecticut investment adviser sentenced to 40 months in prison for fraud, Reuters, January 12, 2015

An Investment Adviser Who Sued Michael Lewis For Defamation Has Been Found Liable For Fraud, Business Insider, January 13, 2015

SEC Charges Investment Adviser and Manager in South Florida-Based Fraud, SEC, January 21, 2015


More Blog Posts:
Investment Adviser News: Barred Representative is Now a Finance Coach, Bellingham Man Gets Prison Term for Bilking Seniors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 13, 2015

Standard & Poor’s to Pay Almost $80 Million to Resolve SEC Charges Over Ratings Fraud Involving CMBSs, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 21, 2015

UBS Settles SEC Dark Pool Case for $14M, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 16, 2015

January 15, 2015

SEC Accuses Canadian Man of Fraudulent Trading Scam, Use of “Layering” Strategy

The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging a Canadian citizen with running a market manipulation scam that involved making orders to trick others into selling or purchasing U.S. publicly traded stocks at prices that were depressed or artificially inflated. The strategy is known as “layering.” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey has filed criminal charges against Aleksandr Milrud in a parallel action.

According to the SEC’s complaint, submitted in a federal court, Milrud started recruiting online traders primarily in Korea and China beginning at least as early 2013 and giving them the cut of the profits made from the scheme. He purportedly gave traders access to trading accounts and told them how to avoid coming under the regulatory scrutiny when layering.

To avoid detection, Milrud would wire funds to an offshore account and have the money delivered to him in a suitcase, as well as use middlemen. He also allegedly had traders use multiple user names, addresses, computers, and Internet protocols (IP).

Traders were instructed to use two accounts. In one account they would employ layering, in the other they would engage in “clean” trades that would be impacted by the layering done in the other account. Layering was to be performed on different kinds of stocks while limiting the amount of price changes and trades.

The commission is charging Milrud with aiding, violating, and abetting federal securities laws’ anti-fraud provisions, as well as violations of the SEC’s antifraud rule. The regulator is also holding Milrud liable for the traders’ conduct.

Securities fraud costs investors every year. At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP we are here to help our clients get back their investment fraud losses.

Read the Complaint (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
Investment Adviser News: Barred Representative is Now a Finance Coach, Bellingham Man Gets Prison Term for Bilking Seniors, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 13, 2015

JPMorgan Suspends Forex Trader for Alleged Disclosures Involving Royal Bank of Scotland-Related Activities, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, January 14, 2015

Beneficiaries of Puerto Rico Trust File Securities Fraud Lawsuit Seeking Over $4.5M From UBS Financial Services, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 5, 2015

January 13, 2015

Investment Adviser News: Barred Representative is Now a Finance Coach, Bellingham Man Gets Prison Term for Bilking Seniors

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, ex-investment adviser Sherwin Brown is continuing to offer financial advice even though the regulator barred him from the industry and ordered him to pay $1.3 million for allegedly diverting client monies. Brown now calls himself a “money coach” and has kept his Jamerica Financial Inc. in operation, receiving compensation for his services. At a certain point, the firm, which has since been ordered inactive, had nearly $30 million in assets under management.

The regulator contends that between 6/11 and 5/14, a Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) account in Jamerica Financial’s name received over 120 deposits totaling $330,000. The deposits were payable to Brown and his company. Notes in check memo lines indicated that the money was for investment advisory services.

Brown, who was barred from the industry in 2011, operates TheOfficialMoneyCoach.com, which includes a blog on investing. The site also promotes his investment books.

Another barred financial adviser who kept on working after he was caught embezzling money from a client has now been sentenced to 51 months behind bars. Jeffrey Knutsen, a Bellingham financial and tax adviser, was convicted of bilking 26 senior investors, stealing $255,000. Knutsen, who owns Bellweather Wealth Management, has not been allowed to work in the securities industry since 2005.

However, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office, he kept setting up accounts for clients, who gave him access to their money. Knutsen allegedly told them they would have to pay him a fee for managing their accounts. He is accused of writing over 200 checks without their knowledge and using the $250,000 for his own purposes.

Unfortunately, even when someone has been barred from the securities industry for wrongdoing there are those that manage to keep working and defrauding more clients. In such instances, it is the investors who suffer.

Last week a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority hearing panel expelled the firm John Thomas Financial while barring its CEO Anastasios “Tommy” Belesis from the securities industry. The panel said that the two of them committed violations related to the sale and common stock of America West Resources Inc. (AWSRQ), including trading before the customers’ order, giving false testimony, as well violations of principals of trade and recordkeeping. Belesis and JTF were ordered to pay more than $1 million plus interest to customers.

FINRA says that the two of them made a profit after they traded ahead of 14 JTF customers that were attempting to sell their positions in AWSR. Belesis and JTW profited while the customers did not. The panel noted that while JTF did not purposely hold the customer orders its attempts to make the trades failed.

Under FINRA rules, a firm must execute the orders at the same or at a greater price than what the firm got. JTF a, Belesis, and JTF’s Chief Compliance Officer Joseph Castellano are also accused of harassing and intimidating registered representatives.

If you are an investor, it is important that you do your due diligence to make sure that the person who is advising you does not have a history of wrongdoing. Financial fraud and other negligence may lead to serious investor losses.

If you think your financial losses are because you got bad advice or because you were bilked by an investment advise, a broker, or another industry representative, you should contact our investment adviser fraud lawyers today.

Sherwin Brown, former investment adviser turned coach, charged by SEC, Investment News, January 9, 2015

FINRA Hearing Panel Expels John Thomas Financial and Bars CEO Tommy Belesis for Trading Ahead of Customer Orders, Providing False Testimony and Other Violations; Ordered To Pay $1,047,288 to Customers, FINRA, January 9, 2015

Financial adviser sentenced for stealing from elderly, Seattle Times/AP, January 5, 2015


More Blog Posts:
SEC Judge Orders Two Investment Advisers to Pay Over $6.3M Related to Bernard Madoff-Linked Hedge Funds, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, January 9, 2015

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

Some Advisers Choose Alternative Investments Using Poorly Suited Benchmarks, Says Morningstar, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, July 8, 2009

December 31, 2014

Securities Fraud News: SEC Charges NY Firm With Stealing Investor Funds, Stock Promoter Accused of Bilking Clients Over Twitter, Facebook Pre-IPO Shares, and NY Lawyer Under Fire for Alleged Ponzi Scam

SEC Charges NY Firm, Fund Managers With Securities Fraud
The Securities and Exchange Commission is charging VERO Capital Management, its CFO Steven Downey, President Robert Geiger, and General Counsel George Barbaresi with secretly taking investor money to support a side business. The three men ran funds with offering documents that touted their objective as making good returns via mortgage-backed securities investments. Instead, after winding down the funds, the officers allegedly diverted around $4.4 million to undocumented bridge loans to an affiliate company that was supposedly in risk management. Investors and the funds’ directors were purportedly not notified that these unauthorized loans were taking place.

The SEC Enforcement Division also claims that VERO Capital and the three men compelled the funds to buy three notes totaling $7 million from an affiliate, which is a principal transaction that requires written notice and consent of a client before the transaction can be finished. The division claims that no attempt was made to get this mandatory notice. The regulator is alleging multiple violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 and other rules.

California-Based Stock Promoter Accused of Bilking Clients In Supposed Sales of Pre-IPO Twitter, Facebook Shares
The SEC is charging Efstratios “Elias” Argyropoulos and his firm Prima Capital Group with securities fraud. According to the regulator, the two parties fraudulently raised close to $3.5 million from investors for the supposed purchase of Facebook and Twitter shares before their initial public offerings.

However, the Commission claims that instead of buying the shares as promised, Prima Capital and Argyropoulos used the money mainly for day trading and to pay back certain investors who spoke out about not receiving the shares promised to them. As part of settling the civil charges, Argyropoulos consented to be barred from working for a brokerage firm or investment adviser and he will pay financial penalties. He and his firm settled without denying or admitting to them.

Also charged in a separate administrative proceeding for his involvement in the securities scam is Khaled A. Eldaher, who lives in Texas. While working with a registered firm, Eldaher allegedly reached a side deal with Argyropoulos to solicit investors and get 50% of the mark-up on shares of Facebook that he sold. He received over $15,400 for selling more than $360K worth of the shares. His brokerage firm fired him when it found out he was selling the securities for another party.

New York Lawyer Charged in Ponzi Scam Involving European Real Estate MBSs
Charles Bennett, an attorney based in Manhattan, faces SEC charges accusing him of running a Ponzi scam that bilked friends, relatives, and legal clients. The Commission says that he raised about $5 million by selling purported investments in a pool of funds that were invested in certain joint ventures. Investors were told that the cash would be used primarily to fund investments in real eastate mortgage-backed securities in Europe. The securities supposedly were expected to yield lucrative return rates of 6-25% in a short period of time.

The regulator, however, contends that Bennett was running a scheme. The fund does exist but he is not connected to it or the joint ventures and didn’t invest anything in any of them at all. Instead, he allegedly misappropriated clients’ money to pay off earlier investors and support his lavish lifestyle. His Ponzi scam failed earlier this year.

SEC Charges California-Based Stock Promoter With Defrauding Investors Seeking Pre-IPO Facebook and Twitter Shares, SEC, December 23, 2014

Read More About Bennet's Ponzi Scam (PDF)

The SEC Order Against Vero Capital Management and Its Executives (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
FINRA Orders Pershing to Pay $3M Fine for Customer Protection Rule Violations, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 30, 2014

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

Standard & Poor’s on the Verge of Civil Settlement Over Real-Estate Bond Ratings, Reports WSJ, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December 29, 2014

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 15, 2014

Reliance Financial Advisors, Owners Face SEC Fraud Charges Involving Hedge Fund

The SEC is charging Reliance Financial Advisors and its co-owners Walter F. Grenda Jr. and Timothy S. Dembski with securities fraud. The agency says that the Buffalo, NY-based investment advisory firm and the two men misled clients when recommending that they get involved in a hedge fund managed by portfolio manager Scott M. Stephan.

Grenda and Dembski guided senior investors toward making highly speculative investments in the Prestige Wealth Management Fund, which Stephan managed, even though they allegedly knew he was inexperienced in this type of investing. The clients, who were either close to retirement, retired, or living on fixed incomes, collectively invested around $12 million.

Stephan was supposedly going to employ a trading strategy that involved a specific computer “algorithm,” which actually only day traded. Instead, he started making trades manually, his approach eventually playing a part in the hedge fund’s failure. The SEC has said that Stephan’s investing experience was greatly exaggerated in offering materials. (The majority of his career involved collecting car loans that were overdue.)

In late 2012, when the fund did not make the positive returns that were anticipated, Grenda pulled out his clients. When the fund failed, losing around 80% of its value, Dembski’s clients lost most of what they invested.

The SEC’s Enforcement Division also alleges that in 2009, Grenda borrowed $175,000 from two clients, claiming it was a business loan when he used the funds for personal spending. The agency is accusing Grenda, Dembski, and Reliance Financial Advisors of violating provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, the Investment Advisers Act of 1940, and the Securities Act of 1933.

In another order, Stephan consented to settle findings accusing him of violating the antifraud provisions of the three acts, as well as abetting, aiding and causing violations of these provisions by Prestige Wealth Management Fund’s general partner. He consented to a permanent bar from the securities industry. However, he is not denying or admitting to the allegations.

Contact our investment adviser fraud law firm today.


SEC Announces Fraud Charges Against Buffalo-Based Firm and Co-Owners Accused of Misleading Investors in Hedge Fund
, SEC, December 10, 2014

More Blog Posts:
SEC Headlines: Regulator Probes Oppenheimer Executive, Prepares Insider Trading Case Against Policy Research Firm, & Wants to Suspend Standard & Poor’s From Rating CMBSs, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, December 10, 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 10, 2014

SEC Headlines: Regulator Probes Oppenheimer Executive, Prepares Insider Trading Case Against Policy Research Firm, & Wants to Suspend Standard & Poor’s From Rating CMBSs

SEC Investigating Ex-Oppenheimer Executive for Securities Law Violations
According to Bloomberg.com, Robert Okin, Oppenheimer & Co.’s (OPY) former retail brokerage head, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. In October, the agency’s enforcement division notified Okin that, based on a preliminary determination, it intended to file charges against him for securities law violations, including failure to supervise.

Okin is no longer with Oppenheimer. He resigned earlier this month to pursue “other interests.” Okin denies violating the Securities Exchange Act.


Marwood Group LLC May Be Subject to Insider Trading Charges
Earlier this month, the SEC notified Marwood Group LLC that it is looking to bring an enforcement action against the Washington policy-research firm for insider trading.

The Commission is looking at whether Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services officials gave the firm inside information about funding for Provenge, a prostate cancer drug. The product’s manufacturer, Dendreon Corp. (DNDNQ), saw its shares drop before the CMS decided to cut coverage on the medication in 2010, as opposed to after.

According to the regulator, a year before the CMS cut coverage, a CMS employee allegedly gave a Marwood employee insider information about the reduction. A week after the reduction was officially announced, the political intelligence put out a research report that included details about the change in coverage

A Marwood spokesperson maintains that the firm did nothing wrong, noting that no one benefited financially from the information. However, SEC officials have said that such a conversation is the equivalent of insider trading.

Under the 2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act, public officials are obligated to keep government-related non-public data hat could shift share prices confidential.


SEC Looks to Suspend S & P from Rating Commercial Mortgage-Backed Securities
The Commission wants to suspend Standard & Poor’s from rating CMBSs. The regulator has been probing whether the credit rating agency modified criteria in 2011 to win business.

In July, the regulator sent S & P a Wells notice notifying it that the agency was pursuing an action linked to six commercial mortgage-backed securities ratings from a few years ago. The purported violations involve the public disclosure and rankings that the credit rating agency made about the securities.

It was in 2011 that the S& P withdrew the grades it issued for a CMBS offering that came from Citigroup (C) and Goldman Sachs Group (GS). This caused both institutions to drop the deal after its placement with investors.

Standard & Poor had withdrawn the rankings to assess whether there were conflicts in the way it used its methodology. It also stopped rating new CMBSs. In August of that year, however, S & P said that it would resume grading deals, noting that the conflict was not a big deal. It modified its criteria the following year and went back into the market.

SEC investigating top Oppenheimer executive
, Investment News, December 10, 2014

Marwood Grp Gets Wells Notice in Insider Trading Crackdown on 'Political Intelligence'
, Fox Business, December 9, 2014

SEC Seeking S&P’s Suspension From Rating Commercial Mortgage Bonds, Bloomberg, December 8, 2014

2012 Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
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

SEC Claims Fraud Involving a REIT and Bogus Senior Resident Occupants, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, December