Articles Posted in Broker Fraud

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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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.

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has secured a final judgment by default in its broker fraud case against Demitrios Hallas. The former broker was charged by the regulator in April for allegedly trading unsuitable investment products in five customers’ accounts. The customers were unsophisticated investors with not much, if any, experience in investing. Their net worth and income levels were modest enough that risky investments were not a good fit for their portfolios.

According to the regulator’s complaint, in a period of a little over a year, Hallas traded 179 daily leveraged exchange traded funds and exchange traded notes in these accounts. (Both ETFs and ETNs products are considered high-risk, volatile, and only suitable for sophisticated investors.)

The SEC said that Hallas had no reasonable grounds for recommending these investments to customers. Meantime, the latter were charged fees and commissions of about $128K. The net loss sustained over all the positions was about $170K.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed civil charges against former Alexander Capital brokers who are accused of making unsuitable recommendations that garnered them commissions while causing investors to sustain significant losses. All three men, Rocco Roveccio, William Gennity, and Laurence Torres, are based in New York.

Because there are costs associated with each transaction for the customer, the security’s price has to go up significantly during the short time it is in an account for even the smallest profit to be made. Instead, eleven customers lost $683K while the NY brokers made $280K and $206K, respectively, in fees and commissions. Some of the investors they bilked had little education and/or were inexperienced investors. In the SEC’s complaint against Gennity and Roveccio, the brokers are accused of recommending investments that required the “frequent buying and selling of securities” despite a lack of reasonable grounds to think that this would make money for their customers.

The two men allegedly engaged in churning in customers’ accounts, unauthorized trading, and hiding material information from them, including that the transaction expenses (markups, commissions, markdowns, fees, postage, and margin interest ) for the investment recommendations would most likely exceed any possible profits.

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SEC Charges SunTrust With Collecting Over $1.1M in Excess Mutual Fund Fees

The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges accusing SunTrust Investment Services of collecting over $1.1M in unwarranted fees from mutual fund clients. The SunTrust Banks subsidiary will pay an over $1.1M penalty to resolve the regulator’s civil charges.

According to the regulator’s order, SunTrust Investment Services improperly recommended costlier mutual fund share classes to clients when less expensive shares of these funds were available. The SEC says this was a breach of the investment services firm’s fiduciary duty to take actions in the client’s best interests.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is barring Jaime R. Rodriguez, an ex-HSBC Securities (HSBC) broker, in the wake of a charge accusing him of bilking an older customer, who is also legally blind, of $200K. HSBC fired Rodriguez in 2014.

Rodriguez is accused of using about $70K of the client’s money in 2012 to buy an apartment that was supposed to be for the customer. However, because the man couldn’t read or see the documents related to the purchase, he did not know that Rodriguez had named himself as the sole beneficial owner.

According to InvestmentNews, Rodriguez met the man in 2010 and began helping him with his errands. Also in 2012, Rodriguez purportedly recommended to the client that they set up a joint account together so that the then-HSBC broker could assist him in paying his bills. The account was opened using about $42K of the client’s money and at one point it held $153K.

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The US Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against four former brokers for allegedly persuading federal employees to roll over holdings from federal retirement accounts into variable annuity products that charged higher fees. Their targets were Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants. The plan is administered by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which is an independent government agency.

According to the regulator’s broker fraud case, then-brokers Jonathan Cooke, Christopher Laws, Brandon Long, and Danny Hoode promoted the VA products under the Federal Employee Benefits Counselors because they wanted the high commissions. Their alleged victims were federal employees who were 59 ½ years of age and older and with TSP account holdings that could be moved over into variable annuities, tax-free, in certain plans at annuity carriers.

Ex-Brokers Made High Commissions From the Alleged Elder Investor Fraud

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