Articles Posted in Morgan Stanley

According to the New York Times, even though Morgan Stanley (MS) executives have known for years about the domestic violence allegations against Douglas E. Greenberg, who was one of their leading brokers, the firm continued to allow him to stay employed in its wealth management division. However, after the NY Times tried to contact the firm about him, Greenberg was finally suspended, pending review. Now, the media is reporting that Greenberg has been fired. Still, a number of the former-Morgan Stanley broker’s exes have retained their own lawyers in light of the fact that he wasn’t let go until now.

Four women have come forward accusing him of domestic abuse. Court filings indicate that not only did Greenberg’s accusers go to the police seeking protection against the now former Morgan Stanley financial adviser, but also, according to one of the women’s attorneys, the firm was issued a federal subpoena notifying it about at least one of the allegations. Morgan Stanley was also aware that Greenberg was charged for allegedly violating a restraining order.

Still, no action was taken against Greenberg, who belonged Morgan Stanley’s exclusive Chairman’s Club as one of the firm’s highest earning brokers. Ironically, the members of this club are expected to maintain certain standards when it comes to “conduct and compliance.” Greenberg is considered one of the leading wealth managers in Oregon. Firmwide, he was among Morgan Stanley’s top 2% of brokers when it came to bringing in revenue.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred three brokers in separate, unrelated cases for alleged misconduct. They are ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) representative Thomas Alain Meier, ex-Fortune Financial broker Michael Giokas, and ex-Northwestern Mutual broker Michael Cochran.

Former Morgan Stanley broker Thomas Alan Meier is accused of making unauthorized trades in customer accounts. In the self-regulatory organization’s letter of acceptance, waiver, and consent, FINRA stated that from 7/2012 through 3/2016, Meier “effected” over 1000 transactions that were not authorized in six customers’ accounts. His allegedly unauthorized transactions involved discretion without written permission or the accounts garnering discretionary acceptance and impacted four clients.

Between 4/2016 and 10/2017, Morgan Stanley submitted 21 amended Forms U5 for Meier. The forms showed that 14 customer complaints were filed against Meier, including two arbitration cases. AdvisorHub reports that because of Meier’s alleged misconduct, customers sustained $818K in losses and over $2M in unrealized losses. To date, the brokerage firm has paid customers about $2.5M in settlements and resolved 13 of the claims.

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Gregory Walsh, a former Morgan Stanley (MS) Assistant Vice President, is sentenced to two years in prison and three years’ supervised release. Last year, Walsh pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud and wire fraud that involved defrauding a firm client of $4.8M.

Court documents state that in 2011 Walsh and his brother, ex-Bank of Oswego VP Geoffrey Walsh, convinced a Morgan Stanley client who was newly widowe, to lend Geoffrey over $1.1M to buy three condos in Palm Springs that would be put in her name and then sold. Instead, Geoffrey made his business the title owner of the properties and did not give the widow the documentation for the title or loan. He then sold two of the properties without her consent or knowledge and used the money for his own expenses instead of giving her the funds. When Gregory Walsh discovered what his brother had done, he did not tell his client.

In 2013, the brothers sought $2M from her for a real estate development project. Gregory did not tell the widow that his brother was involved when she asked. He then withdrew funds from her Morgan Stanley account without her consent or knowledge. In 2013, $1.7M of that money was used to pay off a credit line at Bank of Oswego for Geoffrey, who spent the rest of her funds that had been withdrawn.

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In the criminal case brought against them, two ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) investment advisers, James S. Polese and Cornelius Peterson, have pleaded guilty to the criminal charges against them. Polese was charged with conspiracy, aggravated identity theft, investment adviser fraud, and multiple counts of bank fraud. Peterson is charged with conspiracy, investment adviser fraud, and bank fraud.

In a parallel civil case, the US Securities and Exchange Commission claims that beginning in 2014, the two men defrauded three clients of almost half a million dollars. The allegations include:

*Stealing almost $450K from one client and using the funds to make their own investments and pay for Polese’s credit card bills and the college tuition of his children.
*Using a client’s assets to obtain loan financing for an entity in which they were investors.
*Investing client monies in a venture in which they both had a financial stake without telling the client.
*Getting a loan with unfavorable terms for a client.
*Charging one client advisory fees that were 50% more than what he told her they would be.

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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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According to InvestmentNews, there are six pending FINRA arbitration claims against Morgan Stanley (MS) and its former broker Angel Aquino-Velez (Aquino-Velez) concerning his selling Puerto Rico investments. The claimants are alleging misrepresentation and unsuitability regarding the sale of Puerto Rico closed-end funds and bonds they purchased through Aquino-Velez, who is based in Miami, and the brokerage firm.

InvestmentNews also reports that according to FINRA’s BrokerCheck database, Morgan Stanley has already resolved four FINRA arbitration claims valued at $2.4 million related to Aquino-Velez and Puerto Rico municipal bond investments. Aquino-Velez, who left Morgan Stanley a few months ago, was recently selling Puerto Rico COFINA bonds, which are securities backed by the U.S. territory’s sales tax revenue. Prior to working at Morgan Stanley, Aquino-Velez was with UBS Financial Services (UBS) and Merrill Lynch (BAC).

Puerto Rico Bond Fraud Losses
At Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP, our Puerto Rico bond fraud lawyers have been working hard these past four years to help investors who sustained serious losses when the island’s municipal bonds began to fall in value in 2013. For many of our clients, their portfolios should not have been so heavily concentrated in Puerto Rico bond funds and bonds, if at all, except that they were given bad investment advice. Many investors lost everything.
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Barclays (BARC) and Morgan Stanley (MS) were underwriters when the island sold $3.5 billion of bonds in 2014. According to Bloomberg, brokerage firm records submitted to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) indicate that the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission’s (“SEC”) staff is recommending that the SEC file an enforcement case against Barclays bankers James Henn and Luis Alfaro. The two men are under investigation for allegedly violating fair dealing in selling Puerto Rico bonds. They are also under investigation for alleged violations of securities rules and municipal bond rules as they pertain to misrepresentation, deception and fraud related to the securities.

Additionally, Bloomberg reports the SEC’s staff wants to issue a sanction against Morgan Stanley Managing Director Charles Visconsi and his ex-colleague Jorge Irizarry over disclosures that Puerto Rico made in documents that were sent to investors. The staff is interested in whether the broker-dealer adequately examined representations that were made by the island’s government. Visconsi and Irizarry reportedly have not been accused of any intentional misconduct.

In other Puerto Rico bond fraud news, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (“PREPA”) has joined the island in filing bankruptcy protection. PREPA is currently overburdened with $9 billion of debt.

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Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (MS) has consented to pay a penalty of $8M to resolve Securities and Exchange Commission charges accusing the firm of wrongdoing involving single inverse exchange-traded fund investments. Morgan Stanley admitted wrongdoing as part of the settlement.

According to the SEC’s order, Morgan Stanley failed to adequately put into place procedures an policies to make sure that clients comprehended the risks involved in buying inverse ETFs and did not procure signatures from several hundred clients on a client disclosure notice that stated that these ETFs are usually not suitable for investors intending to keep them longer than a trading session unless the securities are part of a hedging or trading strategy.

Morgan Stanley persuaded investors to buy single inverse ETFs in accounts, including retirement accounts. Securities were held-long term. As a result, many of these advisory clients suffered losses.

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The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed fraud charges against Sentinel Growth Fund Management and its owner Mark J. Varacchi. The regulator is accusing the Connecticut-based investment advisory firm of stealing at least $3.95M from investors. Over $1M was allegedly used to resolve private litigation in which Varacchi was the defendant.

According to the Commission, Sentinel Growth Management Fund and Varacchi misrepresented to investors that their money would go to hedge fund managers to be invested. Instead, the investment advisor firm allegedly commingled investor money and manipulated account balances, activities, and investment returns as part of a securities fraud.

Now, the SEC wants disgorgement and penalties brought against Varacchi and his firm in this investment advisor fraud case.

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The Puerto Rico government has defaulted on more debt payments that were due to bondholders. The U.S. Territory did not meet the February 1, 2017 due date on $312 million in principal plus interest. The default includes Puerto Rico General Obligation bonds that are supposed to be constitutionally protected.

The Puerto Rican Government Development Bank owes $279 million of the defaulted debt. A spokesperson for Puerto Rico’s Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, however, said that the Commonwealth paid $295 million of interest, which was due on some of the debt.

Puerto Rico owes $70 billion of debt and the island has been embroiled in financial troubles for over three years. The territory has struggled to pay back the debt it owes, defaulting more than once on payments that were due. Last weekend, Puerto Rico’s federal oversight board voted to extend the stay placed on litigation against the island for debt payments that have been missed. The stay was supposed to lift on February 15, 2017. Now that date is May 1, 2017.

The island’s new governor, Ricardo Rosselló, was also granted an extension for when he has to turn in a fiscal blueprint, mapping out how Puerto Rico plans to restore its fiscal health. He now has until February 28, 2017.

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