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Ex-Wells Fargo Brokers Barred Over Unsuitable Energy Securities Sales
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred brokers Charles Lynch and Charles Frieda for making unsuitable recommendations to investors, resulting in substantial financial losses to the latter. Lynch and Frieda are former Wells Fargo (WFC) representatives who were based in Southern California. Both Lynch and Frida were fired from the firm. Previous to working at Wells Fargo, both men worked at Citigroup (C) and Morgan Stanley (MS).

According to the self-regulatory organization, between 11/12 and 10/15, the former brokers recommended an investment strategy revolving around certain speculative energy stocks to over 50 customers. These securities were volatile. Because investors became very concentrated in these energy securities, they were placed at risk of substantial losses.

FINRA contends that the two brokers did not do a proper job of making sure these investments were suitable for the customers to whom they were recommending these securities.

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The SEC has filed civil charges against Westport Capital Markets LLC and principal Christopher E. McClure. The Connecticut-based, dually registered brokerage firm and investment adviser and its principal are accused of defrauding clients, costing them over $1M in losses.

According to the regulator’s securities fraud complaint, the investment advisory firm and McClure invested clients’ money in risky securities on numerous occasions, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in undisclosed mark-ups that went to Westport even as the clients lost more than $1M. The broker-dealer would allegedly buy securities from underwriters at a reduced rate and later re-sell them to its own clients at the full public offering price while keeping the difference.

Westport and McClure are accused of making false and misleading representations to clients about the compensation that the financial firm received from their accounts. Also, the brokerage firm is accused of receiving 12b-1 fees, which are mutual fund distribution fees, when clients’ money was placed in certain mutual fund share classes and again not telling clients about these fees. The SEC said that the fees created a conflict. McClure and Westport allegedly invested clients in mutual fund shares that charged these fees even when less expensive shares that didn’t carry the fees could have been purchased instead.

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James C. Tao, an ex-financial adviser, has settled civil charges accusing him of bilking investors in a private equity fund. It was the US Securities and Exchange Commission that brought the Texas investment fraud charges against him.

Among the allegations was that Tao misappropriated investor money and made material misstatements in offering documents for the Presidio Venture Capital fund. Donna Boyd, Tao’s ex-partner, also settled SEC charges in this case.

The regulator’s complaint contends that the two of them set up the fund four years ago to invest in Houston-based technology startups. They raised about $860K.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against two brokers for allegedly making unsuitable trades that made them money while costing investors. According to the regulator’s complaint, Zachary Berkey and Daniel Fischer engaged in in-and-out trading—a strategy that was “almost certain” to cause customers losses.

As a result, contends the SEC, 10 Four Points Capital Partners LLC customers collectively lost almost $574K while Fischer earned $175K in commissions and Berkey earned $106K. Four Points is a Texas LLC headquartered in NYC.

The Commission accused the two brokers of churning customer accounts while hiding material information from clients, including facts about commissions, fees, and other costs. Because the securities were only held for a brief time and the costs for these transactions were “significant,” the investments’ share prices would have had to go up substantially for even a “minimal profit” to be made.

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Already under investigation by the US Securities and Exchange Commission for financial fraud, the Woodbridge Group of Companies has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. According to InvestmentNews, this move comes a week after the luxury real estate developer missed payments due to investors on the notes they had purchased.

The company has raised over $1B from investors, including senior investors. InvestmentNews reports that many investors were told that their investments would be safe in real estate. Now, however, Woodbridge is saying that it has $750M of debt. Court documents submitted in US Bankruptcy Court state that this is how much nearly 9000 noteholders are owed.

Woodbridge Wealth sells the following investments: first positions in commercial mortgages, secondary market annuities, and a commercial bridge loan. However, reports InvestmentNews, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s BrokerCheck doesn’t show any registered brokerage firm by that name.

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The United Development Funding, a beleaguered Texas real estate investment trust accused of running a $1B Ponzi-like scam, is suing a hedge fund manager for the allegedly “false and disparaging” statements that led to the fraud allegations. The REIT came under fire two years ago after an investor website issued a report accusing UDF IV of being run like a Ponzi scam. For the last two years, our Texas securities fraud lawyers at Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas LTD, LLP has been fielding calls from investors who suspect they may have suffered financial losses from investing in UDF Funds.

According to UDF’s complaint, filed in Dallas County, hedge fund manager Kyle Bass and his Hayman Capital Management are the ones that anonymously published the Ponzi allegations online and then later on a proprietary site. They allegedly did this to damage the UDF Funds.

In its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission about the complaint, the REIT accused the defendants of engaging in “false and disparaging statements,” including that: the UDF Funds were part of a Ponzi fraud, they were unable to run their own business, had insolvency problems that made their shares “worthless,” their real estate developments that were “not genuine,” and they “misappropriated” investors’ funds. The filing countered that the UDF Funds were “successful” and had actual real estate developments. The REIT claims that because Bass had set up a “large short position” in the Texas REIT before publishing the false allegations, he and his company “profited” from the damages wreaked by their claims.

Bass had a short position in the REIT. Once he disclosed this news, United Development Funding shares plunged in price. In response to this lawsuit, the hedge fund manager claims it is meritless.

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In US district court, the Securities and Exchange Commission has filed a complaint accusing two people of senior financial fraud. According to the regulator, Angela Beckcom Rubbo Monaco and Joseph A. Rubbo of Florida bilked investors through offerings involving three of their companies.

The SEC’s complaint said that the two of them raised at least $5.4M from 11 mostly older investors. The money was supposed to go toward growing their entertainment businesses and help them develop the Spongebuddy, which was a “sponge-like” glove. Instead, claims the agency, Monacco and Rubbo misappropriated over $2.6M in investor money to pay themselves and family members, as well as to buy a car and cover other unrelated expenses. They also allegedly used the funds to pay “undisclosed sales commissions” to Steven J. Dykes, who solicited investors through cold calls.

The Commission stated that during the alleged elder investor fraud, all three defendants were not registered with the regulator. The companies owned by Rubbo and Monaco that are said to have been involved are VIP Television Inc., VIP TV LLC, and The Spongebuddy LLC.

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DOJ Begins Distributing Payments to Bernie Madoff’s Victims

Nearly nine years after Bernie Madoff was arrested for running a multi-billion dollar Ponzi scam, the US Department Justice has begun to pay out distributions owed to his victims. The money comes from the Madoff Victim Fund, a $4B fund set up for settlements paid by JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), which was the bank that the Ponzi mastermind used, and the estate of Jeffry Picower, who was one of Madoff’s longtime customers.

This fund will pay back over 24,000 victims some $772M during the first round of distributions. Another fund, which is supervised by bankruptcy court, has already paid out over $10B to investors. Investors who will be paid by from Madoff Victim Fund are those that did not qualify for recovery under the bankruptcy proceedings.

NY Woman Pleads Guilty to Running An Investment Scam

Alisa Adler has pleaded guilty to two counts of wire fraud. Adler is the ex-head of ASG Real Estate Services Group.

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Reuters reports that Senator Investment Group, Monarch Alternative Capital, and Stone Lion LP—all hedge funds—have gotten rid of hundreds of millions of dollars of Puerto Rico general obligation bonds in the wake of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria. Similarly, another hedge fund, Varde Partners, no longer has $136M of its COFINA debt. Investors have been hoping that the island’s bonds would rebound after the territory filed for bankruptcy earlier this year. Now, however, recovery for Puerto Rico is expected to take longer after the storm. Debt prices have dropped to drastic lows, while Maria has caused tens of billions of dollars in damages.

Meantime, in the U.S. mainland and on the island, investors continue to fight to recoup their losses sustained when Puerto Rico’s bonds and closed-end bond funds plunged in value more than four years ago. Our securities fraud lawyers have been working with investors to get their funds back. Many investors were not properly apprised of the risks involved in investing in these bonds. Quite a number of them should never have invested in these securities at all.

Still, brokers from Banco Popular, UBS Puerto Rico, Santander Securities, and other brokerage firms continued to tout these investments as low risk and profitable. Some financial representatives even encouraged investors to borrow funds so that they could invest more, resulting in further devastating consequences.

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Daniel Glick, a Chicago investment adviser, is charged with wire fraud over allegations that he stole about $5.2M from elderly clients, including the parents of his wife. Glick was the owner of Glick & Associates Ltd., Glick Accounting Services, and Financial Management Strategies Inc.

He allegedly began bilking investors in 2011 through last April. The criminal information in his senior investor fraud case accuses Glick of promising clients that he would invest their funds and pay their bills but he instead created account statements that inflated investment balances while he used their money to buy a Mercedes, pay his mortgage, and pay back business loans. Glick is accused of making Ponzi-like payments to clients.

Among those whom he allegedly defrauded were his in-laws, whose signatures he is accused of forging to transfer their money to his own business account. They lost hundreds of thousands of dollars. Another family purportedly paid Glick $700K in fees even while he allegedly misappropriated hundreds of thousands of their dollars.

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