Articles Posted in FINRA

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.

Financial Adviser Who Bilked Athletes, Including Mike Tyson, is Sentenced
Former SFX Financial Advisory Management Enterprises financial advisor Brian Ourand is sentenced to thirty years behind bars after he bilked a number of professional athletes, including former heavyweight champion Mike Tyson, ex-NBA basketball players Glen Rice and Dikembe Mutombo, and others. Ourand must also pay back $1M of what he stole.

Not only is he accused of forging the pro athletes’ signatures on checks that he cashed but also of taking credit cards out against these clients’ accounts to cover his own spending, including restaurants, clothing, and other bills. SFX fired him in 2011.

In 2015, Ourand was charged with wire fraud, federal mail fraud, and aggravated identity theft charges. He pleaded guilty to one criminal count of wire fraud.

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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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Aaron J. Johnson, a former registered investment adviser who ran Capital Advisors until state regulators took back his firm’s registration in 2013, is sentenced to five years behind bars for financial fraud. Johnson, 37, claimed that he stole over $600K from clients because he suffered a mental health breakdown.

According to prosecutors, Johnson took money from middle-class clients’ retirement accounts and charged them excessive fees to the point that he’d practically drained their funds. After Capital Advisors lost its registration, Johnson became affiliated with Trade PMR, a Florida-based firm that offers custody and brokerage services for investment advisers that are registered. Prosecutors contend that even then Johnson kept stealing from clients despite the fact that he was now under investigation. Prosecutors said that after Trade PMR began to question the fees that Johnson charged clients, including $3200 in client fees for an account that only held $13K in assets, the ex-adviser generated fraudulent documents as proof that his actions were warranted. He drained the account of the client, who was a single mom with three kids, until there was only $5 left.

Johnson has been ordered to pay back everyone that he defrauded.

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Two years after the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) barred former UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR) broker Jose Ramirez, nicknamed the Whopper, our UBS Puerto Rico fraud attorneys are continuing to provide representation to investors who sustained losses because they took his and other UBS-PR brokers’ advice to borrow from credit lines in order to invest in even more securities. If you are one of these investors and you would like to explore your legal options, please contact Shepherd Smith Edwards and Kantas, LTD LLP today.

It was in 2015 that the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) brought charges against Ramirez accusing him of fraud in the offer and sale of $50 million of UBS-PR affiliated, non-exchange traded closed-end mutual funds. The former UBS broker allegedly enriched himself by advising certain customers to use non-purpose credit lines that a firm affiliate, UBS Bank USA, was offering so that they could buy even more shares.

These customers were not, in fact, allowed to use credit lines to buy the securities and Ramirez allegedly knew this. He is accused of getting around restrictions by telling customers to move money to a bank that had no affiliation with UBS and then re-depositing the funds to their UBS Puerto Rico brokerage account in order to buy additional closed-end mutual funds or Puerto Rico bonds. Such a scheme was a violation of numerous rules and regulations and, if misrepresented to the investors as the SEC has alleged, would have been a major legal violation.

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After Pleading Guilty, Massachusetts Money Manager Must Repay Investors
Stephen Eubanks is sentenced to 30 months behind bars for bilking investors of $437K. He also must pay restitution in that amount to his more than 20 victims.

Eubanks presented himself as a hedge fund manager at Eubiquity Capital, which he founded. He raised over $700K from investors and claimed that he was running a hedge fund that had ties with UBS (UBS), TD Ameritrade (AMTD), Fidelity, and Goldman Sachs (GS).

While Eubanks invested some of the clients’ funds for them he also spent a healthy amount of their money on his own spending. Eubanks also is accused of on occasion operating his fund as if it were a Ponzi scam.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering Wells Fargo Securities (WFC) to pay a $3.25M fine for inaccuracies and mistakes in its reporting for over-the-counter trades that took place between January 2008 and March 2017. The self-regulatory organization also has censured the firm.

According to FINRA, in 2008, Wells Fargo (WFC) reviewed its OTC options trading reporting procedures. It went on to set up systems for reporting these types of trades. However, the firm’s reporting system was never fully established.

Wells Fargo Securities did not actually start reporting OTC options trades until after the firm achieved self-clearing status in 2014. Even then, claims the SRO, Wells Fargo either did not report or was inaccurate when reporting quite a number of these trades.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory has barred Lawrence M. Thomas, an ex-Woodbury Financial Services Inc. broker who was under investigation for unauthorized product sales. Thomas was previously registered with Essex Securities.

Last year, Thomas was fined $5K and suspended for three months after he consented to findings that he told an assistant to forge three customers’ signatures on about 10 documents. FINRA had been looking into whether Thomas recommended to Woodbury clients that they purchase an unauthorized product. The self-regulatory organization barred him after he failed to testify in FINRA’s investigation into the claims.

In an unrelated FINRA case, the SRO has filed charges against Kim Dee Isaacson, an ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, for allegedly misleading a client about the size of his account, engaging in unauthorized trading, and attempting to resolve these issues directly with the client instead of along with the firm. According to FINRA, Isaacson told the client that the account was valued at $3.1M even though that was false.

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In interviews with Reuters, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority admitted that even though investors are harmed when broker-dealers hire brokers with checkered histories, there is not much that the regulator can do to stop this practice because it is not illegal. This is undoubtedly causing even more investors to suffer losses as some of these high-risk brokers continue to engage in more misconduct or other violations at their new places of work.

For example, reports the news agency, since 2007 broker Mike McMahon and brokerage firms where he has worked, including National Securities Corporation, have shelled out $1.35M to resolve 10 client cases in which he was purportedly involved. McMahon is currently contending with another four broker fraud cases that were brought by other ex-clients.

One of the reasons the complaints keep coming is because he has been able to move from one firm to another even with the cases that have already been brought against him. Unfortunately, McMahon is not the only one.

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Former Stifel, Nicolaus Broker is Accused of Variable Annuity Violations
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has suspended an ex-Stifel, Nicolaus (SF) broker for four months over variable annuity transactions that he purportedly inappropriately recommended to certain investors. At the time of the alleged variable annuity fraud, James Keith Cox worked with Sterne, Agee & Leach. Stifel Financial later acquired that firm.

According to the regulator, Cox recommended a number of VA transactions even though there was no reasonable grounds for thinking they were appropriate for the investors. In addition to the suspension, Cox will disgorge the $25,460 he was paid in commissions.

FINRA Bars California Man From Industry Over $100M in Undisclosed EB-5 Investment Sales
A FINRA hearing panels has barred a California-based registered representative for taking part in private securities transactions involving $100M in EB-5 Investments that he failed to disclose to his employer financial firm. Jim Seol sold the EB-5 investments through his business Western Regional Center Incorporated.

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