Articles Posted in Broker Fraud

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel has awarded over $4.3M to investors in their elder financial fraud case against former First Allied Securities broker Anthony Diaz. The plaintiffs contend that he invested their retirement funds in high risk private placement investments that were unsuitable for them. They are alleging inadequate supervision, misrepresentation and omissions, unsuitability, fraud, and other violations.

Diaz is considered to be a rogue broker by the regulator, who barred him in 2015. He not only worked at 11 firms win 14 years, but also he appeared to have no problem getting another job whenever he was let go from a previous. Diaz’s BrokerCheck profile shows that he is named in 53 customer dispute and regulatory disclosures.

The arbitration award to the investors is over $1M in compensatory damages, more than $413K in legal fees, and $2.9M in punitive damages. They settled with First Allied Securities last year.

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Two Brokers Barred After Not Appearing at FINRA Hearings
Guillermo Valladolid, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, has been barred by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. According to the regulator, Valladolid did not show up at a hearing into whether, according to InvestmentNews, he “sold investments away from his employer” and neglected to disclose certain outside business activities.

Morgan Stanley terminated Vallodolid’s employment. Previous to that he worked with Merrill Lynch.

In a different FINRA case, the regulator barred another broker, Bradley C. Mascho, also after he did not appear at his hearing. Some of Mascho’s activities while at Western International Securities had come under question. The firm fired him last month, which is also when the US Securities and Exchange Commission filed fraud charges against Mascho and Dawn Bennett of the Bennett Group Financial and DJP Holdings. Mascho was CFO of the latter.

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The SEC has filed a case accusing broker Brian Hirsch of illegally receiving over $1M in secret kickbacks in return for giving some customers favored access to “lucrative” initial public offerings. The regulators said that these customers made money because of the special treatment. Meantime, prosecutors in New Jersey have filed a parallel criminal case against Hirsch.

According to the SEC, Hirsch, who worked at two broker-dealers, disregarded policies and procedures and made “long-running” deals with specific customers, granted them bigger allocations of some of the public offerings that the firms were marketing. Advisor Hub reports that these two brokerage firms were Barclays Capital (BARC) and Stifel (SF).

As part of the deal, contends the regulator, a customer named Joseph Spera and another customer paid Hirsch cash kickbacks that were equivalent to a percentage of the trading profits they made for the offering stock allocated to them. Hirsch is accused of giving the two customers “preferential access to hundreds of IPOS and secondary public offerings.” These customers purportedly would usually sell their stock quickly so that they could make a “substantial profit.” This was at the expense of the firms’ other customers and the interests of issuers in raising funds from long-term investors.

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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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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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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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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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Ameritas Investment Corp. Must Pay $180K for Inadequate Supervision Involving VA Sales
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Ameritas to pay $180K for an inadequate supervisory system that oversaw its multi-share class variable annuity sales. The self-regulatory organization claims that between 9/2013 and 7/2015, the brokerage firm failed in its supervision of the VA sales and did not have adequate written supervisory procedures in place.

It was during this period that the firm sold almost 4,100 variable annuity contracts, making more than $58M in the process. 697 of the sales were L-share contracts, rendering approximately $11M. These types of contracts usually come with a shorter surrender period than the more common B-share contracts. FINRA believes that the broker-dealer failed to provide its registered representatives proper guidance on the different share classes that were for sale or on how to discern which ones would be best for each customer.

Fired Broker Will be Paid $3M by UBS
A FINRA arbitration panel is ordering UBS Financial Services (UBS) to pay $3M in compensatory damages to a broker that it fired. The Claimant, James L. Springer, had made numerous claims, including wrongful termination, emotional distress, negligence, unfair competition, breach of fiduciary duty, unpaid wages, and others.

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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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