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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against a former broker and investment adviser. According to the regulator’s investment adviser fraud complaint, Jay Costa Kelter defrauded three retirees of over $1.856M. Meantime, prosecutors in Tennessee have filed a criminal case against him related to one of the clients. A federal grand jury indicted him on multiple counts of wire fraud, mail fraud, and security fraud.

The SEC contends that from 9/2013 through last year, Kelter, who owns insurance and investment firm BEK Consulting Partners LLC (known in the past as Kelter & Company LLC), made misrepresentations to the older investors, whom he’d persuaded in 2013 to transfer their accounts to TD Ameritrade (AMTD) after he left his former employer. The former broker had access to their new accounts and was authorized to keep giving them investment advice and make trades on their behalf while, meantime, he allegedly used the funds for himself.

For example, Kelter is accused of misappropriating $1.467M from a 75-year-old widow who was nearly totally financial dependent on her investments by engaging in fraud and forgery. The SEC’s complaint said that the client had told him she was only interested in making conservative investments.

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Lawrence Allen DeShetler will serve 60 months in federal prison for Texas investor fraud. The Houston man pleaded guilty to mail fraud earlier this year after he fraudulently solicited $1.9M from five clients.

Starting in 2014, the former investment advisor, certified planner, and head of DeShetler & Company started persuading clients that if they let him invest their funds they would make higher returns. These clients took money from their investment accounts and gave them to him. Unfortunately, DeShetler used the money on himself.

He has since admitted to using some of investors’ funds to build a house abroad. DeShetler also admitted that he persuaded one widow who was an octogenarian to liquidate a trust and transfer nearly $190K to him. He even stayed in her home while she went away. Upon her return DeShetler was gone and so were her investment documents.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority hearing panel has barred New York broker Hank Mark Werner for excessive trading and churning in the accounts of an elderly, blind widow. Now, Werner must pay over $155K in restitution to his former client, disgorge more than $10K for commissions from recommending that she buy a variable annuity (VA) that was not suitable for her, and pay an $80K fine.

Werner is accused of employing an “active trading strategy” that allowed him to charge high commissions while making it “impossible” for her to “make money.” He was the broker of the widow and her blind husband, who died in 2012, for two decades.

According to the panel, the widow was in poor health and 77 years of age when he started churning her accounts after her husband passed away. FINRA, in its 2016 complaint, said that only was the client blind, but also she required in-home care. She relied on Werner to keep her abreast of her accounts.
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In a subpoena enforcement action, the US Securities and Exchange Commission is ordering 235 LLCs in Colorado and Delaware to provide documents related to its probe into whether Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC, a California-based real estate and investment company owned and run by its president Robert Shapiro, engaged in a $1B financial fraud. All of the entities, plus another LLC, are affiliated with Woodbridge. The regulator had subpoenaed the 236 of them for the documents in August. Only one LLC responded by the deadline.

Now, the Commission wants a federal district court to make the rest of the LLCs comply with the subpoenas. Meantime, Shapiro has invoked his Fifth Amendment right. However, he maintains that his company did not commit fraud.

SEC Has Been Probing Woodbridge Since 2016
For the past year, the regulator has been looking into looking into possible securities fraud by Woodbridge and others involving more than $1B that was provided by thousands of investors throughout the US. The alleged fraud may include unregistered securities sales, including securities sales by brokers who were not registered, and other fraud.

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Wedbush Securities Accused of Failing to Oversee Owner, Who May Have Cherry Picked Investments
The NYSE Regulation has filed a disciplinary case against Wedbush Securities Inc. accusing the firm of not properly overseeing the trading activities of firm owner and principal Edward Wedbush. According to the complaint, Mr. Wedbush, “actively” managed and traded in over 70 accounts and he had limited power over attorney over the accounts of relatives, friends, and some staff members. NYSE contends that he was never properly overseen, which increased the possibility of conflicts and manipulation, including cherry picking. For example, the regulator believes that the inadequate supervision of Mr. Wedbush gave him the “unchecked ability” to give the best trades to family members and himself because there was no system in place to make sure trades were fairly allocated.

Wedbush Securities has previously been subject to at least $4.1M over supervisory deficiencies. Last year, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ordered Mr. Wedbush to pay $50K for supervisory deficiencies involving regulatory filings. He also was suspended for 31 days from serving as a principal.

Wedbush Securities has been named in investor fraud complaints over the handling of their money.

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According to The Wall Street Journal, Franklin Resources Inc. (BEN), has sold hundreds of millions of dollars of Puerto Rico bonds in the wake of the devastation of Hurricane Maria. This includes Franklin Mutual Advisers LLC’s decision to sell its $294 million stake in the U.S. territory’s general obligation bonds.

Franklin, also known as Franklin Templeton, is the second largest holder of Puerto Rico bonds among mutual funds. OppenheimerFunds (OPY) is the largest.

The Wall Street Journal said that Franklin is not the only one trying to get rid of its Puerto Rico bonds. According to sources, a “swath of mutual funds and hedge funds” have finally given up on the island’s securities, too. For example, Merced Capital and Varde Funds sold their $172 million in Puerto Rico municipal bonds to other bondholders.

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Former Ameriprise (AMP) Jack McBride has been ordered by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority to pay a $12,500 fine and serve a 40-day suspension over alleged violations involving margin trades. He was registered with Ameriprise from 1994 to 2014.

FINRA contends that it was during this period that he committed a number of violations, including settling a customer complaint without telling Ameriprise, sending emails that had inflated account values to two clients, and mismarking order tickets as unsolicited when they had been solicited.

Regarding the margin trade violations, the regulator notes in the Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent that McBride settled with one couple by sending them almost $12,845 from his personal account rather than reporting their complaint to Ameriprise. The couple was charged margin interest after incurring a margin balance because McBride mistakenly bought $320K in securities for them using their Ameriprise account that did not have the balance to cover the cost. They had multiple accounts with the brokerage firm.

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California Treasurer John Chiang announced this week that the state has decided to extend the sanctions it imposed against Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC) for one more year. The bank is barred from doing business with California in the wake of the sales practice scandal involving the set up of at least two million unauthorized credit card and bank accounts. Wells Fargo agreed to pay $185M to regulators to resolve related charges.

As the country’s largest municipal debt issuer, California oversees a $75B investment portfolio. Its sanctions include suspending the state’s investments in Wells Fargo Securities, barring the bank from being used as a brokerage firm to buy investments, and prohibiting it from serving as bond underwriter whenever Chiang is authorized to appoint said underwriter.

When explaining why he sought to extend the state’s sanctions, Chiang pointed to recent disclosures, including that Wells Fargo overcharged veterans in a federal mortgage-refinancing program and, in another program, made loan borrowers pay for unnecessary insurance. The state treasurer sent a letter to Wells Fargo’s board and its Chief Executive Tim Sloan noting that a number of demands have to be fulfilled before he will lift the sanctions.

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Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin has filed civil fraud charges against Moser Capital Management and investment adviser Nicklaus J. Moser. Galvin’s office is accusing Moser and his firm of fraud involving two venture capital funds: the Moser Capital Fund, LLC and the Moser Capital Fund II, LLC.

The state regulator claims that the respondents engaged in fraudulent conduct and breached their fiduciary duties. The breaches alleged include making misrepresentations and omissions to investors and prospective investors by providing misleading information, not getting “valid investor signatures” when receiving more capital contributions, and charging a performance fee to the non-qualified account of an advisory client.

According to Galvin’s office, Moser set up the funds to raise cash for start-up companies. The investment adviser was allegedly a sales representative at a company that sold products to startup ventures, but he did not tell investors that he had financial reasons for making sure that the start-ups in operation.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has suspended broker Cecil Ernest Nivens for two years for allegedly causing harm variable annuity (VA) investors who were his customers. According to the self-regulatory organization’s filing, Nivens failed to abide by his firm’s written supervisory procedures when he didn’t properly process certain variable universal life purchase transactions as replacement trades even though he was the one who recommended that each purchase be paid for from an existing variable annuity fund.

Nivens earned over $185K in commissions for the variable annuity life purchase transactions, in addition to commissions he was already paid for the variable annuities when they were sold to the same customers. Now, Nivens must disgorge those commissions.

FINRA accused Nivens of causing “considerable” harm to customers. In addition to the excessive commissions, eight of his customers paid over $4K in unnecessary surrender charges. His former firm has paid over $55K to settle VUL fraud customer complaints involving him.

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