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

November 29, 2014

SEC Commissioner Wants Elder Fraud at Top of 2015 Agenda

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commissioner Michael S. Piwowar says that he wants investigations into elder fraud to stay one of the agency’s top priorities in 2015. Financial fraud targeting seniors is costing this demographic big time. According to a 2011 study by MetLife and the Center for Gerontology at Virginia Tech senior financial fraud victims sustain around $2.9 billion in losses yearly.

One of the reasons for this is that older Americans tend to make more vulnerable targets for fraudsters. They are easier to deceive with bogus sales pitches and some of them may suffer from debilitating mental or cognitive illnesses that can make it hard for them to know they are being bilked.

Also, scammers like to go after elder investors because many of them have accumulated enough retirement money that they have significant funds that fraudsters can steal. Unfortunately, a senior that is the victim of elder financial fraud may no longer have the time or be at an age when he/she can earn back whatever is lost, which can make his/her retirement years a struggle.

Just recently, an ex-insurance agent was accused of numerous felony counts of grand theft, identify theft, and embezzlement. His alleged victims included over 50 elderly clients.

Also this month, a North Carolina woman recently entered a plea related to elder exploitation accusations involving a man over whom she possessed power of attorney. Jessica Lynn Isley is accused of making personal charges to Harold Rudd’s bank account over a more than two-year period. Isley reportedly agreed to a plea that did not require that she admit guilt. She will pay over $30,000 in restitution.

In Oregon, police recently arrested Angela Chisholm for numerous felonies involving financial transactions that impacted the accounts of a 71-year-old. A few months before that, four people were charged in an NFL-related financial scam that also went after senior citizen victims. The fraudsters allegedly raised about $2.4 million by claiming they had technology that the NFL was going to use.

These are just a few of the many incidents of elder financial fraud that happen every year. In August, the North American Securities Administrators Association announced the establishment of the Committee on Senior Issues and Diminished Capacity, a board-level committee that would deal with challenges faced by senior investors. NASAA noted that in the last six years, 34% of enforcement actions initiated by state regulators involved senior victims. 3,548 actions between ’08 and ’13 involved elderly targets no younger than age 62.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, our senior financial fraud lawyers represent elderly clients (or their families) that sustained significant financial losses because they were bilked. We are here to help senior investors recoup what was taken from them.

SEC Commissioner Pushes For Elder Fraud To Top 2015 Agenda, InsuranceNewNet.com, November 7, 2014

The MetLife Study (PDF)

Woman pleads in elder exploitation case, The Times News, November 26, 2014

Hanover woman charged for embezzling thousands from family member
, NBC12.com, November 26, 2014

Four Charged in NFL-Related Securities Fraud Scheme Targeting Senior Citizens, FBI, July 25, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Securities Fraud Headlines: ConvergEx Group Subsidiary Gets Criminal Sentence for Fraud, Ohio Man Gets Prison Term for Scam, Two Men Face Charges Over Predictive Software, and Fund Manager Admits to $17M Ponzi Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 28, 2014

Citigroup, Bank of America Are Selling Soured Home Loans, Sources Tell Bloomberg, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 13, 2014

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

November 28, 2014

Securities Fraud Headlines: ConvergEx Group Subsidiary Gets Criminal Sentence for Fraud, Ohio Man Gets Prison Term for Scam, Two Men Face Charges Over Predictive Software, and Fund Manager Admits to $17M Ponzi Scam

CGM Limited Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud
CGM Limited, a subsidiary of ConvergEx, must pay a criminal penalty and restitution of $26 million for conspiracy to commit both securities fraud and wire fraud, as well as for wire fraud. The U.S. Department of Justice says that CGM limited charged clients millions of dollars in hidden and unwarranted fees. CovergEx is a global trading and brokerage firm. CGM Limited pleaded guilty to the criminal charges.

The government says that CGM Limited and certain traders and executives bilked clients by lying to them and taking the money in the form of fees. CGM Limited admitted that there were ConvergEx Group broker-dealers that regularly sent over securities trade orders so a mark-up could be taken when the orders were executed.

To hide the fees, traders issued false transaction reports to clients that included inaccurate details about how many many shares were part of a trade, how long it took to execute a trade, and the price at which shares were sold or bought. In total, about $12.8 million in trading profits were taken from the clients who were sent the false statements.

CGM Limited and ConvergeEx Group are paying about $43.8 million in restitution and criminal penalties.

Ohio Man to Go to Prison for $1.8M Securities Fraud
Anthony Davian was sentenced to almost five years behind bars for running a fraudulent investment scam that bilked investors of close to $1.8 million. Davian, who is from Ohio, pleaded guilty earlier this year to wire fraud, mail fraud, securities fraud, and money laundering. He also must pay nearly $1.8 million in restitution.

Between 2008 and 2013, Davian used Davian Capital Advisers LLC to sell securities to at least 20 investors in several states. But rather than investing customer’s funds, he paid back earlier investors and bought himself expensive items. He persuaded them to place money in his hedge fund by pretending that he oversaw millions of dollars.

Direction Labs Executives Charged with Soliciting Investments In Predictive Software
Direction Labs Chairman Chisan Cong and COO Steve Linnenkamp are facing multiple counts of felony securities fraud and theft. The two men were arrested and charged with soliciting investments in predictive software that they claimed could let investors know whether to go into or leave positions. The product was supposed to eliminate any guesswork in making trades on domestic and foreign exchanges. One investor was purportedly bilked out of $848,000.

Investment Fund Manager Enters Guilty Plea, Admits to $17M Ponzi Scam
James M. Peister has pled guilty to securities fraud involving a $17.9 million Ponzi scam. In addition to forfeiting that amount, Peister has consented to pay over $9.6 million in restitution to investors that were defrauded. He also faces up to 20 years behind bars and a $5 million fine.

Peister fooled 74 investors about how well their investments were doing in funds that he managed so they wouldn’t try to get their money back. The scam went on for nearly 10 years, during which time he used investors’ money to pay for his expensive lifestyle and pay earlier investors. He also deceived investors by generating false financial statements to make it appear as if their investments were doing well and so they would keep investing.

Peister’s Ponzi scheme was discovered when the investor pool ran out of funds during the 2008 financial crisis.

Investment Fund Manager Pleads Guilty to Securities Fraud for Operating a $17 Million Ponzi Scheme, Federal Bureau of Investigation, November 12, 2014

2 Greenwood Village executives arrested, charged with bilking Englewood couple out of $848,000, The Denver Channel, November 28, 2014

Securities Fraud Nets Ohio Man Prison Sentence, FA-Mag, November 26, 2014

ConvergEx Group Subsidiary Sentenced for Securities Fraud Scheme, FBI, November 19, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Unregistered Florida-Based Broker Charged with Securities Fraud, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 26, 2014

Citigroup, Bank of America Are Selling Soured Home Loans, Sources Tell Bloomberg, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 13, 2014

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

November 26, 2014

Unregistered Florida-Based Broker Charged with Securities Fraud

The SEC has charged Albert Scipione with securities fraud allegedly involving stealing investor money in a day trading scam. Scipione, who is an unregistered broker, has already pleaded guilty to criminal charges in a parallel case.

According to the SEC, Scipione and Matthew P. Ionno pursued investors to set up accounts at their Traders Café for day trading. This involved the swift selling and buying of stocks during the day to see if stock values will rise or fall while the stock is owned so a quick profit can be made. Traders Café, which belonged to two men, was never registered with the Commission as a brokerage firm.

Scipione purportedly pushed the company’s trading platform while making bogus misrepresentations to investors about high trading leverage, fees, commissions, and their assets’ safety. The regulator says that Scipione and Ionno raised over $500,000. Investors were told that their money would be only used for day trading or certain other specified uses. Instead, a lot of customers found that they couldn’t trade at all.

Scipione and Ionno took almost all of the investors’ funds for their own spending. They are accused of trying to conceal their day trading scam by making up delays and excuses for why they couldn’t get their money refunded. The SEC wants disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, penalties, and other relief.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP our broker fraud lawyers are here to help investors get back their losses.

Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
FINRA Orders Houston-Based USCA Capital Advisors LLC to Pay $3.8M to 19 ExxonMobil Retirees, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 24, 2014

Citigroup, Bank of America Are Selling Soured Home Loans, Sources Tell Bloomberg, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 13, 2014

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

November 17, 2014

SEC Wants $602M Fund Set Up for Victims of SAC Capital’s Insider Trading

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission is asking a district judge to authorize a fair fund to pay back people shareholders who didn't participate in an insider trading scam involving shares of Wyeth LLC and Elan Corp. PLC. The regulator is seeking to reimburse people who traded the stocks over a seven-day period in July 2008, which is the week when SAC Capital Advisors LP liquidated a $700 million position in both companies because of illicit tips obtained by former fund manager Mathew Martoma. The SEC is suggesting that the $602 million it collected from SAC Capital over the matter should be used to repay the shareholders.


SAC Capital, now known as Asset Management LP, had agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle a criminal indictment for the insider trading allegations. Of that money, $616 million was a penalty to the SEC over related charges. However, not all SEC commissioners are on board with the regulator’s fair fund recommendation. Commissioners Michael Piwowar and Daniel Gallagher have expressed their dissent.

Meantime, Martoma has just lost a bid to stay out of jail while he appeals his conviction. Martoma was sentenced to nine years behind bars after he was found guilty of three counts of conspiracy and securities fraud.

He is accused of getting the confidential data from doctors involved in a clinic trial of an Alzheimer’s drug that both Wyeth and Elan were developing. Estimated ill-gotten gains in the insider trading scheme is about $275 million.

The illegal trades occurred between 2006 and 2008. SAC took most of the gains. Several other SAC capital employees also were convicted for insider trading.

At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, our securities fraud lawyers are here to help investors. Over the years, we have helped thousands of clients, including institutional investors and individual investors, recoup their fraud losses.

SEC Has SAC Capital Idea: Give Insider Fines to Victims, Bloomberg, November 15, 2014

Casting Doubt on Appeal, Court Rejects Bail for Ex-SAC Capital Trader, The New York Times, November 12, 2014


More Blog Posts:
Citigroup, Bank of America Are Selling Soured Home Loans, Sources tell Bloomberg, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 13, 2014

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

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

November 15, 2014

NASAA Identifies Investments Most Likely to Cause Harm in 2015

The North American Securities Administrators Association has named what it believes are the financial products that pose the greatest threat to investors. The group said that a lot of these dangers involve new products employed in classic financial scamshttp://www.stockbroker-fraud.com, some propelled by the Internet. Many involve unlicensed agents seeking to sell unregistered products.

The Investments That NASAA Says Pose the Greatest Emergent Threats:

Binary Options: These are securities as options contracts with a payout that is dependent on whether the underlying asset goes up or down in value. These typically have an all-or-nothing payout structure that either gives an investor a pre-determined amount of money if the asset’s value goes up or nothing at all if it goes down. The latter option can place an investor at risk of losing the entire investment. Related risks may include illegal distributions, promotional scams, identity theft, purposely created losing trades, and the use of online trading platforms that do not comply with regulatory requirements.


Marijuana Industry Investments: Marijuana, now legal in the District of Columbia and 23 states for medicinal purposes, has become a favorite investment for scammers in pump and dump scams. A lot of promoters are trying to capitalize on this new market. They are marketing and selling investments in companies that sells services and products to the marijuana industry. However, many of the companies micro-cap companies selling securities at low prices even thought the investments are extremely speculative and come with a lot of risks.

Stream-of-Income Investments: This involves investors purchasing monthly pension or disabilities payments belonging to individuals. However, because the seller typically keeps the legal right to redirect the payment, an investor could end up with an unenforceable contract right. Also, benefits are dependent upon the seller’s life. If a life insurance policy is cancelled, the investor has no protections.


Digital Currencies: There is the danger of promoters trying to illegally offer securities linked to digital currencies. Legitimate offerings linked to these currencies also come with considerable risk, including volatility and the threat of hackers.

NASAA also identified a number of ongoing threats to investors, including including Ponzi scams, Pyramid schemes, Regulation D offerings, affinity fraud, Internet fraud, real estate scams, and promissory note fraud.

NASAA also recently put out a report on enforcement statistics for last year. Per the report, state regulators took on 2,184 enforcement actions, imposed $75 million In penalties and fines, ordered $616 million in restitution for investors, and doled out 1,816 years of time behind bars. There was also an increase in enforcement actions against both registered broker-dealers and licensed investment adviser representatives. One reason for the latter is the move of advisers with $100 million in assets under management from the Securities and Exchange Commission to state oversight.

Please contact our securities fraud lawyers today. Your initial case consultation to find out whether you have grounds for a claim is free.

Top Investor Threats, NASAA


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

$13B JPMorgan Chase Mortgage Settlement Was Not Sufficient, Says Whistleblower, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, November 15, 2014

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

November 7, 2014

SEC Files Charges in Massachusetts Pump-And-Dump Scam, International Microcap Fraud, and Issues Investor Alert

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against California Attorney Richard Weed, Coleman Flaherty, and Thomas Brazil. The regulator contends that Weed facilitated a pump and dump scam involving CitySide Tickets Inc. stock that allowed Flaherty and Brazil to get millions of supposedly unrestricted shares.

Investors were barraged with a misleading and false promotional campaign presenting CitySide Tickets as a company in the verge of expansion and success. As the stock price went up, Flaherty and Brazil sold their shares to investors, causing the two of them to make about $3 million in illicit proceeds. Weed purportedly was well compensated for the role that he played.

The Commission charges the three men with violating federal securities laws’ antifraud provisions and related rules. The agency wants disgorgement of ill-gotten gains, interest, penalties, permanent injunctions against further violations, and penny stock bars. Meantime, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts has filed a parallel criminal case against Flaherty, Brazil, and Weed.

Also this week, the SEC charged two people with running an international microcap fraud scheme involving shares in a coal mining company. Bruce D. Strebinger and Brent Howard Chapman are accused of setting up multi-million dollar campaign to promote the stock, getting rid of their shares, and moving the money they made via accounts that were offshore. The Commission says that it was after Strebinger helped to make a merger between Americas Energy Company-AECo and another company that he and Chapman obtained over 5% of the common stock. They did not, however, publicly disclose that they had an ownership stake.

Their pump-and-dump scam purportedly involved offshore corporations, foreign financial institutions, and foreign accounts. Strebinger and Chapman reportedly made over $17 million.

It was just last week that the SEC and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued an alert warning investors that certain penny stocks that are being promoted as ventures with great potential are actually dormant shell companies. The agencies said that to avoid such scams, they recommend that investors:


· Look into whether a company was previously dormant and then revived. You can do this by checking the SEC’s EDGAR database to see when the last periodic report was filed.

· Watch out for the letter “Q” at the end of a stock symbol, which is an indicator that the company had previously filed for bankruptcy.

· Find out where the company’s stock trades. If it doesn’t trade on a registered national securities exchange then consider this a red flag.

· Look out for frequent changes to the name of a company or its business focus.

· Look out for huge reverse splits.

Read the SEC Complaint Against Weed, Brazil, and Flaherty (PDF)

Investor Alert: Dormant Shell Companies – How to Protect Your Portfolio from Fraud, Investor.gov

SEC Charges Two Canadian Citizens With Penny Stock Fraud Involving Tennessee Coal Mining Company, SEC, November 3, 2014


More Blog Posts:

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

BlackRock Buys Part of UBS Puerto Rico’s Mutual Fund Operations, Say Sources, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, November 4, 2014

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

October 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


More Blog Posts:

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

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

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

October 22, 2014

During Fiscal Year 2014, SEC Files Record Number of Enforcement Actions

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, the agency filed a record number of enforcement actions in 2014. Concluding the fiscal year on September 30, the regulator announced that it filed 755 SEC enforcement actions and obtained orders of $4.16 billion in disgorgement and penalties. Last year, the agency filed 686 actions and brought in $3.4 billion in fines.

The SEC credited new investigative strategies and innovations with analytical tools and data as playing a part in contributing to what it considers a solid year for enforcement. There were also first-ever cases, including actions over market access rules, “pay-to-play” for investment advisers, whistleblower retaliation, and stopping a municipal bond offering.

During fiscal year 2014, the SEC said that it charged over 135 parties with reporting and disclosure-related actions, focused resources on fighting microcap fraud and market manipulation—including penny stock scams—fought international fraud schemes, pursued firms for not setting up adequate risk controls, obtained the biggest penalty yet against an alternative trading system, enhanced oversight of dark pools, and imposed penalties for net capital rule violations.

Other actions by the SEC this year include:

• Filing charges for Regulation SHO violations over securities lending practices
• Pursuing the NYSE and others for not complying with exchange rules
• Filing cases over hidden customer fees and failure to protect client’s material nonpublic data.
• Filing claims against investment advisory firms for not maintaining adequate controls on custody of customer accounts
• Pursuing asset managers for wrongdoing
• Issuing $35 million in awards to whistleblowers
• Bringing charges against a hedge fund advisory firm for retaliating against a whistleblower
• Holding auditors, accountants, and lawyers accountable for deficiencies or wrongdoings
• Charging 80 people with insider trading
• Holding local and state governments accountable for maintaining standards of disclosure in securities issuances
• Filing enforcement actions over misconduct related to collateralized debt obligations and mortgage-backed securities
• Filing actions under the Foreign Corrupt Practice Act
• Obtaining successful securities fraud verdicts, including a court decision ordering the Wyly brothers of Texas ordering them to pay $187 million and prejudgment interest

Among the SEC’s successful actions were cases against Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fennel and Smith Inc., RBS Securities Inc. (RBS), three Morgan Stanley (MS) entities, Wells Fargo (WFC, Bank of America Corp. (BAC), and others.

SEC Chairperson Mary Jo White also credited the Municipalities Continuing Disclosure Cooperation (MCDC) Initiative. Among the settlements reached because of it were with a California school district accused of misleading bond investors.

If you are investors that has sustained losses because of securities fraud or some other form of wrongdoing committed by a securities industry professional or entity, you may have reason to pursue a claim to recover your funds. Please contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

SEC’s FY 2014 Enforcement Actions Span Securities Industry and Include First-Ever Cases, SEC, October 16, 2014


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

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

Pension Fund Securities Lawsuits: JPMorgan to Face MBS Case, PERSM Files Class Action Case, & Institutional Clients Can Sue BP
, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 17, 2014

October 17, 2014

SEC Wants to Bar Ex-Broker for Allegedly Misappropriating $2M

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has taken action to bar Paul Marshall, an ex-investment adviser and broker from the industry. Marshall is accused of misappropriating $2M in client assets.

Last year, the SEC charged him and his related investment advisers, Bridge Securities and Bridge Equity Inc., with fraud. The regulator contends that Marshall took client assets to cover his own spending, including child support, alimony, expensive vacations, and tuition for his kids. He purportedly diverted the money into accounts under his control, set up misleading account statements, and raised cash for FOGFuels Inc., a private placement he controlled.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. has already barred Marshall from associating with all brokerage member firms. Last month, the SEC ordered him to pay $15 million in disgorgement because of the money he made from the alleged securities scam.

Marshall has to pay $1.35 million in penalties. The two investment advisers must pay $5.8 million. FOGFuels’s penalty is $725,000.

Marshall previously worked for eight brokerage firms. In 2008, he was let go from Oppenheimer & Co. (OPY) after a customer accused him of taking a loan from that client and taking part in private securities transactions.

Please reach out to our stockbroker fraud lawyers if you suspect that you were the victim of financial fraud. We represent investors with securities claims and financial fraud lawsuits and help them recover their investments losses.

Read the Administrative Proceeding Against Paul Marshall (PDF)

SEC: Cobb adviser used clients’ funds for trips, alimony
, AJC.com, September 16, 2013


More Blog Posts:
UBS is Fined $3.6M, Plus Must Pay $1.7M in Restitution Over Closed-End Mutual Fund Sales, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 14, 2014

DOJ Charges Another Two Ex-Rabobank Traders Over Libor Manipulation, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, October 16, 2014

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

October 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Penny Stocks Trading Suspension Order, SEC (PDF)


More Blog Posts:

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

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

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

September 30, 2014

Former Axa Advisors Broker Faces SEC Charges Over Alleged $1.5M Ponzi Scam

The SEC is charging Dennis Wright, an ex-Axa Advisors broker, with operating a Ponzi scam for 14 years and bilking customers of $1.5 million. According to the regulator, from 1998 and into 2012, Wright allegedly persuaded at least 28 customers to take money out of Axa variable annuity accounts under the guise that he would move the money to mutual fund accounts that had higher returns and also were run by the brokerage firm.

The Commission claims that rather than invest clients’ money, what ended up happening is that Wright put the money into a bank account under his control and used the funds to pay other investors. The SEC says that Wright purposely manipulated Axa Advisor clients so he could steal their savings. Alleged victims included members of Wright’s community, including childhood friends, and unsophisticated investors.

Axa Advisors let Wright go in 2012 after the firm found out about the alleged fraud. Axa has since paid back the customers whose funds were misappropriated.

In other Ponzi scam news, the SEC has filed charges against eAdGear Holdings Limited, which is based in Hong Kong, eAdGear, Inc., which is in California, Qian Cathy Zhang, Charles S. Wang, and Francis Y. Yuen of running an international Ponzi and pyramid scam that raised over $129 million. Investors are from the U.S., Taiwan, and China.

The regulator claims that the companies and its operators claimed to be running a profitable Internet marketing company when really it was a scam targeting Chinese communities. Investors’ money was allegedly used to pay off earlier investors and to buy million-dollar homes for Zhang, Wang, and Yuen.

Bogus websites were purportedly created on eAdGear’s site to make it look as if there were real paying customers and investors were getting revenue distributions, when, in fact, the “revenue” was, in actuality, investor money. The companies were not making money from their products and services.

Also facing SEC Ponzi scam charges is Joseph Laurer, the former president of the AARP’s South Dade Chapter in Florida. The regulator is accusing him of raising $4.6 million from primarily local investors.

The SEC says that Laurer told investors he was going to place their money into AAA-rated corporate and government bonds that had a guaranteed fixed income and would bring no risk to their principal balance. However, he hardly invested any money into the securities. Instead, he purportedly used their funds to pay for his own personal spending and pay earlier investors their returns.

Laurer allegedly ran the Florida Ponzi scam from 2004 until his death earlier this year. His widow is the relief defendant. The Comission wants to get back the money and pay back investors.

Former AARP leader in Miami-Dade ran offshore Ponzi scheme, SEC charges, South Florida Business Journal, September 16, 2014

NJ couple accused of operating $129 million pyramid scheme, NJ.com, September 27, 2014

SEC charges ex-Axa broker with running $1.5 million Ponzi, InvestmentNews, October 1, 2014


More Blog Posts:
SEC to Dismiss Lawsuit Against SIPC Over Payments to Stanford Ponzi Scam Victims, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 11, 2014

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

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

September 29, 2014

SEC Approves FINRA Arbitration Fees, SRO Proposes Rule For CARDS

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has approved a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. proposal to up the pay for arbitrators. The rule change will increase how much it will cost to file securities arbitration claims, as well as processing fees, surcharge, and hearing session fees for bigger cases.

The changes would only impact claims involving over $250,000, with fees per hearing session going up by $100 to $300 depending on how big the claim. Filing fees would go up 10% to 25%, again depending on the claim’s size.

FINRA has not upped its fees since 1999. Under the proposed rule, arbitrators of these larger cases would get paid $300 for every hearing session, while the chairman would get another $125 a day. With the proposal, the self-regulatory organization would be bringing in $4 million to $5.6 million annually.

For the most part, the securities industry has supported the proposal, which should hopefully improve the quality of the arbitration process at FINRA. The regulator said arbitrators have regularly complained about how much they were paid, even skipping or postponing their duties when other opportunities that paid more arose. The SRO is hoping the new fees will enhance its arbitration recruiting efforts.

Also, FINRA has just issued new guidelines for a proposed computerized method to keep track of transactions and balances in brokerage accounts. The system, known as CARDS, for the Comprehensive Automated Risk Data System, is supposed to allow the regulator to identify and quickly deal with suspect activity and high-risk areas that it can’t easily detect under its current programs for examination and surveillance.

CARDS would go into effect via two stages. The first one would mandate that clearing and carrying firms periodically turn in automated, standardized data about their records and books related to securities accounts, including those that they clear. Stage two would require fully disclosed introducing firms to turn in specific data elements that are account profile-related to FINRA. Customers’ personally identifiable information would not be included among this information.

CARDS will ultimately speed up the detection process via automation. With this system, the regulator hopes to be able to run computerized analytic checks at the over 4,000 broker-dealers it oversees. Some have expressed worry that CARDS and similar systems could make it easy for data thieves to access information about what investors are holding.

Commentators have until December 1 to chime in. The CARDS proposal is an update of an initial proposal that FINRA put out last year.

The regulator says that CARDS will cost between $8 million to $12 million over three years to develop its systems and technology. Costs to certain brokers to develop the system could run from $390K to $8.33 million. Brokers had expressed worry that the new system could be too expensive for them.

SEC signs off on Finra arbitration fee increases, Investment News, September 30, 2014

FINRA Solicits Comment on Proposed Rule to Implement CARDS, FINRA, September 30, 2014


MORE BLOG POSTS:
SEC News: Regulator to Review Rule Change on New Hire Background Checks, Prepares Mutual Fund Regulations, and is Defendant of Oxfam America Lawsuit, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 20, 2014

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

FINRA Fines Minneapolis Broker-Dealer $1M for Inadequate Supervision of Penny Stocks, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 13, 2014

September 23, 2014

SEC News: Regulator Grants $30M Whistleblower Award and Charges Washington Investment Advisory Firm $600K for Undisclosed Principal Transaction, False Advertising

Whistleblower to Get Over $30M Award in SEC Case
In its largest whistleblower award yet, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission will pay a bounty of over $30 million to an informant. Seeing that a whistleblower may be entitled to 10-30% of the amount recovered under the Dodd-Frank program, if the quality, unique information the person provided led to an enforcement action resulting in sanctions of over $1 million, a huge sum was obviously recovered.

In this particular case, the whistleblower resides abroad. Andrew Ceresney, SEC Enforcement Division Director, said that the individual brought the agency information about a fraud that otherwise would have been very hard to detect. He stated that whistleblowers anywhere in the world should see this latest award as incentive to report possible violations involving U.S. securities fraud.

The largest whistleblower award prior to this one was $14 million. That case targeted foreigners that invested in a real estate scam in the U.S without their knowledge. The investors were hoping to qualify for a program that gives residency green cards for investment efforts that create jobs domestically.

Strategic Capital Group LLC Settles SEC Charges for $600K
The SEC is charging a Tacoma-Washington area investment advisory firm with involvement in hundreds of principal transactions via an affiliated brokerage firm and not telling clients or getting their required consent. Strategic Capital Group is paying nearly $600,000 to resolve the charges. N. Gary Price, its CEO, is accused of causing the violations. He will pay $50,000 to settle the regulator’s charges against him.

According to Commission, Strategic Capital took part in over 1,100 principal transactions via affiliate RP Capital LLC, without the requisite customer consent. It also did not try to obtain best execution for these transactions. Meantime, Price put his signature on regulatory filings that falsely stated that the firm did not take part in principal transactions.

Principal transactions can create potential conflicts between the interests of the client and the adviser. Because of this advisors must disclose in writing any conflicted role or financial interest when giving a client advise on the trade’s other side, as well as get the latter’s consent.

The SEC also accused Strategic Capital of giving prospective investors misleading and false advertisements and not implementing the correct compliance procedures. Without admitting or denying the agency’s findings, the investment advisory firm and Price consented to cease and desist from causing or committing future violations of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940’s provisions involving principal transactions, antifraud, compliance, advertising, and reporting.

Contact our SEC fraud lawyers if you suspect that your financial losses are due to securities fraud , or some other form of financial misconduct, or if you need to speak with a securities whistleblower lawyer.

The SEC Order Regarding Whistleblower Award (PDF)

The SEC Order in the Strategic Capital Group Case (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
SEC Charges Immigration Attorneys with Securities Fraud Involving EB-5 Immigration investor Program, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, September 4, 2014

T.J. Malone’s Lincolnshire Management Settles with SEC for $2.3M Over Purportedly Improper Allocations That Cost Its Funds, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 23, 2014

Pennsylvania Private Equity Firm Settles SEC Charges Over “Pay to Play” Violations Related to Political Campaign Contributions, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, June 23, 2014

September 20, 2014

Man to Pay $40.4M for Texas Securities Fraud Involving Bitcoin Ponzi Scam

Trendon T. Shavers, who is accused of operating a Texas Ponzi scam involving a Bitcoin scheme he operated from his residence must pay more than $40.4 million. The SEC filed a securities fraud case against him and his company Bitcoin Savings & Trust last year and sought disgorgement.

According to the regulator, Shavers, a Texas resident, raised more than 700,000 bitcoins while promising investors interest as high as 7% weekly. The allegedly fraudulent activities lasted from November 2011 through August 2012 when the Ponzi scam collapsed.

In a promo that he posted on online, Shavers solicited lenders, offering 1% interest daily for loans involving at least 50 bitcoins. He also published posts touting nearly zero risk, claiming that the business was doing exceptionally well. When his Texas securities scam failed, Shavers showed preference to longtime investors and friends when giving out redemptions.

Shavers admitted to using a “reserve fund” as part of his Ponzi operation to honor investor withdrawals when he couldn’t make enough returns from the supposed investments. He also allegedly pocketed some of the bitcoins and spent part of investors’ money on his own expenses, including casino visits.

The judge overruled his argument that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction because bitcoins are not actual cash but virtual currency. He said that because Bitcoin can be used as money and exchanged for conventional currencies, it is a type of money.

The judge found that investors lost more than 365,000 bitcoins, valued at around $149 million. He granted the Commission’s motion for summary judgment was granted.

Please contact our Texas securities law firm if you believe that you were the victim of a Ponzi scam or any other kind of financial fraud.

Texas Man Must Pony Up $40.7M for Bitcoin Scam, Courthouse News, September 19, 2014

Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)


More Blog Posts:
Investment Advisory Firm Based in Houston, Texas Charged with Securities Fraud Involving Conflicts of Interest, Stockbroker Fraud Law Firm, September 2, 2014

Texas-Based Halliburton Settles Oil Spill Lawsuit for $1.1B, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 2, 2014

SEC Files Charges in $4.5M Houston-Based Pump-and-Dump Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 18, 2014

September 13, 2014

FINRA Fines Minneapolis Broker-Dealer $1M for Inadequate Supervision of Penny Stocks

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has issued an enforcement action charging Feltl & Company for not notifying certain customers of the suitability and risks involving certain penny-stock transactions, as well as for failing to issue customer account statements showing each penny stock’s market value. The brokerage firm is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

FINRA claims that the firm failed to properly document transactions for securities that temporarily may not have fulfilled the definition of a penny stock and did not properly track penny-stock transactions involving securities that didn’t make a market.

Feltl made a market in nearly twenty penny stocks. The brokerage firm made $2.1 million from at least 2,450 customer transactions that were solicited in 15 penny stocks between 2008 and 2012. The SRO says it isn’t clear how much the firm made from selling penny stocks that it didn’t keep track of but that revenue from this would have been substantial.

Felt is settling the securities charges without denying or admitting to the claims. It said that after February 2012 it stopped recommending penny stocks and now doesn’t make a market in any penny stock. Customers, however, can trade in penny stocks if they are the ones that initiate the transaction.

Penny Stocks
These securities trade under $5 a share. Small companies that have low revenue are the ones that usually put them out. Penny stocks may be high risk because it can be hard to track the companies’ future value and business potential and these stocks don’t trade as often as liquid stocks that are traded on exchanges. Penny stocks are not a suitable investment for everyone.

Our penny stock fraud lawyers represent investors wanting to recoup their losses. Contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

Finra Fines Brokerage $1M Over Penny-Stock Deals, WSJ, September 3, 2014

Penny Stock Rules, SEC.gov


More Blog Posts:
SEC Files Charges in Penny Stock Scams, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, May 27, 2014

SEC Files Charges in $4.5M Houston-Based Pump-and-Dump Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 18, 2014

Securities Lawsuit Accuses Deutsche Bank, JPMorgan Chase, Credit Suisse, and Other Banks of Manipulating ISDAfix, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 4, 2014

September 4, 2014

SEC Charges Immigration Attorneys with Securities Fraud Involving EB-5 Immigration investor Program

The SEC is charging a Los Angeles-based immigration lawyer, his wife, and his law firm partner with securities fraud that targeted investors who wanted to gain U.S. residency through the EB-5 Immigration investor program. The program lets immigrants apply for U.S. residency if they invest in a project that helps create jobs for workers in this country.

According to the Commission, Justin, his spouse Rebecca Lee, and Thomas Kent raised close to $11.5 million from more than twenty investors that wanted to join the program. They told investors that they would qualify to join if they invested in an ethanol plant that was going to be constructed in Kansas.

The three of them are accused of taking the money and misappropriating it for other uses. Meantime, the plant was never constructed and no jobs were created. Yet Justin, Rebecca, and Thomas allegedly continued to deceive investors so that they kept believing that the construction project was in the works.

In 2006, Thomas and Justin applied to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services seeking designation as a center under the EB-5 program. But by 2008, states the SEC complaint, it became clear that building an ethanol plant at the site they had designated in Kansas was not economically possible. Still, the Lees and Thomas concealed from the USCIS that the jobs the project was supposed to generate were never created.

The SEC says that when Justin was having financial problems, he misappropriated investor funds. He and his wife allegedly ended up misusing millions of dollars to pay for purposes that were not disclosed, including paying back other investors in unrelated offerings. The majority of those who were defrauded in the securities scam were of Korean and Chinese descent.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California has filed a parallel action against Attorney Justin Moongyu Lee.

EB-5 Program Securities Scams
Unfortunately, there are investment scams out there seeking to exploit the EB-5 Program. Last year, regulators filed charges against a couple in a Texas-based securities scheme that raised at least $5 million from customers who thought their money was going into the EB-5 program. Investors from Nigeria, Mexico, and Egypt were targeted. None of these investors even received conditional visas.

In another fraud, investors were bilked of $150 million after they agreed to invest in the construction of a hotel and a conference center. They too had hoped to become U.S. residents.

The SEC has put out an alert notifying investors that it is working to stop fraudulent securities offerings made through the immigration program. The regulator wants investors who are thinking about getting involved in an EB-5 program to do their due diligence to make sure the venture is a legitimate one and they are not being scammed.

SEC Charges L.A.-Based Immigration Attorneys With Defrauding Investors Seeking U.S. Residency, SEC, September 3, 2014

Read the SEC Complaint (PDF)

Investor Alert: Investment Scams Exploit Immigrant Investor Program, SEC

EB-5 Immigrant Investor, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services


More Blog Posts:
$5M Texas-Based Securities Fraud Scam Pursued Foreign Investors Wanting US Residency Via EB-5 Program, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, October 1, 2013

SEC Files Securities Charges Against Massachusetts Company Over Pyramid Scam that Primarily Targeted Immigrants, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, April 17, 2014

Texas-Based Halliburton Settles Oil Spill Lawsuit for $1.1B, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, September 2, 2014

August 19, 2014

FINRA Investor Alert Warns About Scams Touting Ebola Cure and Other Viral Disease Stock Schemes

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has put out an investor alert warning against buying stocks in companies claiming to combat viral diseases. The self-regulatory organization says it knows of several possible schemes involving stock promotions employing tactics such as pump-and-dump scams to inflate share prices. The scammers will then sell their shares at a profit while leaving investors with shares that have lost their value.

Intensified news coverage of the recent Ebola and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome outbreak will likely have attracted the attention of stock scammers wanting to take advantage of people’s fears. To avoid falling victim to a viral disease stock scam, FINRA is offering several tips, including:

• Be wary of promotional materials, correspondence, and press releases from senders you don’t know. Watch out for communications that say little about the risks involved while only touting the positives. Getting a barrage of information about the same stock opportunities can also be a red flag.

• Make sure to know who is behind a company you are thinking of investing in. Do your research. Think twice if company officials have past criminal records or you hear anything negative in the news. Be on the look out for fake business addresses and phone numbers.

• A lot of stock pump-and-dump scams don’t trade on the NYSE or other registered national securities exchanges. Instead, you can find them on OTC quotations platforms or alternative trading systems.

• Find out whether the company submitted an SEC filing. Compare the information there with what’s provided in promotional materials and other communications you’ve received. Watch out for solicitations to get you to invest in products that are still being developed or if there are losses on balance sheets.

• Watch out if a company keeps changing its name or business focus.

• Make sure you read the fine print and be wary when name-dropping is used to gain investor confidence or boost legitimacy.

Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP is a securities fraud law firm. Contact our fraud lawyers today to request your free case consultation.

Viral Disease Stock Scams: Don’t Let Them Infect Your Portfolio, FINRA

Investment scammers busy pumping Ebola stocks amid panic, NY Post, August 14, 2014


More Blog Posts:
SEC Files Charges in $4.5M Houston-Based Pump-and-Dump Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 18, 2014

SEC Charges Linkbrokers Derivatives in $18M Securities Fraud, Institutional Investor Securities Blog, August 18, 2014

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

August 14, 2014

Former MIT Professor and His Son Plead Guilty to $140M Hedge Fund Fraud

Gabriel Bitran, an ex- Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor, and his son Marco Bitran have pled guilty to securities fraud charges accusing them of bilking investors of $140 million. Through their company, GMP Capital Management, the father and son placed investor money in hedge funds linked to Bernard Madoff, who ran the Ponzi scam that defrauded clients of billions of dollars.

According to prosecutors, from 2005 to 2011 Bitran and Marco collected $500 million from investors by promising to invest their funds using an original complex mathematical trading model. The money was supposed to go into exchange-traded funds and other securities but were instead placed in hedge funds.

When the financial crisis of 2008 happened, a number of the hedge funds got into trouble. Some of their investors lost up to 75% of their principal.

The Bitrans allegedly took out around $12 million of their own money from the hedge funds but made customers wait to redeem their funds from GMP Capital Management. (In 2011, the firm name was changed to Clearstream Investments LLC.) The two of them paid themselves millions of dollars in management fees.

The father and son are accused of lying to investors by telling them that they had delivered average yearly returns of 16-23% over eight years. The U.S. Attorney said that e-mails between the Britans show evidence of this. They also purportedly made false statements to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission during its related investigation.

In that civil probe, the Bitrans consented to settle the hedge fund fraud charges by paying $4.8 million. The two did not deny or admit wrongdoing. They did, however, agree to an industry bar.

If the judge accepts their plea deal in the criminal securities case, the Britans are facing up to five years behind bars and then supervised release. They would have to pay back $10 million in profits.

Ex-MIT official and son plead guilty to securities fraud, Boston.com, August 12, 2014

Ex-MIT dean, son plead guilty to hedge fund scam, CNN, August 12, 2014


More Blog Posts:

LPL Financial to Pay Illinois $2 Million Fine Related to Variable Annuity Exchanges, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 13, 2014

SEC Tells J.S. Oliver Capital to Pay $15M for Alleged Cherry-Picking Scam, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 11, 2014

Kansas Settles SEC Charges Over Allegations it Misled Investors about Risks in Muni Bond Offerings Totaling $273 Million, Stockbroker Fraud Blog, August 11, 2014