Articles Posted in Senior Investors

FINRA Bars Registered Rep For $15M In Unauthorized Trades
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred Craig David Dima, a former registered representative with KC Ward Financial, for making about $15M in unsuitable and unauthorized trades in the account of a 73-year-old retiree. According to the self-regulatory organization, there were 11 times when Dima sold nearly all of the customer’s stock in Colgate-Palmolive that she’d accrued from working with the company for nearly thirty years and he did that without permission.

After the elderly client told Dima not to sell the stock, he proceeded to sell them anyways. When the customer confronted Dima, he purportedly misrepresented that a computer or technical mistake had caused the sale. Meantime, the client was “deprived” of the “substantial dividends” from the Colgate shares she used to own. Dima charged the customer over $375K in fees, mark-downs, and mark-ups.

By settling, Dima is not denying or admitting to FINRA’s charges.

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According to the AARP Investment Fraud Vulnerability Study, published by the AARP Fraud Watch Network, active, older investors who get involved in unregulated investments may be more vulnerable to investment fraud. 214 fraud victims were interviewed, along with 814 members of the public who are considered general investors.

The study said that there are appear to be certain traits that may identify why some people are more likely to become fraud victims, including:

· Usually men, age 70 or older.

· These men are often risk-takers.

· They’re more likely to value wealth accumulation as a sign of financial success.

· They’re typically open to sales pitches and to answering remote sales pitches.

Doug Shadel, the lead researcher for the AARP Fraud Network, noted that if an older investor is able to identify whether/not she has a predisposition toward risky conduct, this could make the person more mindful of that tendency and he/she might potentially avoid becoming vulnerable to fraud.

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Source Capital Group Inc. must pay three elderly investors their full investment of $810K plus $147K in interest, as well as $250K in legal fees, in a securities arbitration case accusing one of the investment bank’s brokers of selling them unsuitable investments. William Lashlee and Joyce and Keith McCrea filed their elder financial fraud claim with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

According to the retirees, the broker sold them stock in a health care tech start-up in 2012. Lashlee invested $220K while the McCreas invested $590K. Unfortunately, the start-up, iPractice Group, shuttered its business in 2013.

The claimants claim that Source Capital was negligent in supervising the broker who sold them the securities. Although the broker was assigned to the firm’s Bowling Green, Kentucky branch, the manager there was purportedly never notified that this particular financial representative was under his supervision.

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An investor who is retired and suffering from health issues is seeking $1M from Morgan Stanley (MS). The investor, a former inventor, claims that the broker-dealer did not properly supervise the financial adviser who handled his multi-million dollar account.  He filed a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority claim and is accusing the firm of breach of fiduciary, negligence, unauthorized trading, excessive trading, fraudulent inducement, and significant tax liability.

The investor believes that over-concentation in risky sectors and over trading in too many individual stocks occurred, causing significant damage to his retirement funds. Among the investments that were involved were oil and gas investments, including Master Limited Partnerships. The claimant claims that Morgan Stanley hid the risks involved, even as the financial adviser engaged in a purportedly deceptive investment strategy. The result was that the investor’s account became heavily concentrated in risky investments.

The alleged broker negligence also purportedly caused tax consequences for the investor while benefiting Morgan Stanley with transactions costs of over $1M. The unsuitable taxable gains that were created by  led to investment losses for the investor, even as the broker claimed that the investor’s account was profiting.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has barred ex-JP Turner & Co. broker Anthony Mastroianni Jr. for allegedly churning an account belonging to an older customer. Mastroianni has not denied or admitted to the regulator’s findings and he did not appear in front of FINRA to provide testimony in this case.

According to the regulator, from ’11 to ’13, Mastroianni took part in churning or excessive trading in the account of this customer, which was maintained at JP Turner and later at Alexander Capital when the broker was affiliated with the brokerage firms. He also allegedly borrowed $90K from the same customer and made another four transactions without letting either JP Turner or Alexander Capital know and/or getting their approval.

Mastroianni’s BrokerCheck reports notes that there are seven disclosure events in which he has been named, including two customer disputes that are still pending.

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Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts William Galvin has filed charges against LPL Financial (LPLA) for its alleged failure to supervise one of its brokers. Roger Zullo is accused of bilking clients for years by selling variable annuities to retirees even though the investments were not suitable for them.

In his complaint, Galvin contends that Zullo lied to supervisors and generated false client financial suitability profiles so he could sell scores of high-commission, illiquid VAs to make money for himself and the firm. Because of these investments, said the state regulator, many older clients were unable to access their funds for years.

The complaint notes that for three years, Zullo and LPL received over $1.8M in VA commissions from sales. The Polarius Platinum III (B Shares) VA appeared to be the source of a large chunk of the commissions. Galvin said that of the more than $1.8M in VA annuity commissions that Zullo was able to generate, over $1.7M of it came from this particular variable annuity, which paid a 7% commission. 90% of this went to Zullo, while his firm received the rest. Also, clients whom Zullo could convince to move to the Polaris Platinum variable annuity usually had to pay surrender charges.

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Minnesota-Based Investment Adviser Gets Six-Year Jail Term
According to the Minnesota Department of Commerce, Levi David Lindemann was ordered to serve a 74-month prison sentence—that’s six years—for bilking clients in a Ponzi scam.  Lindemann owned Gershwin Financial, which did business using the name Alternative Wealth Solutions. He pleaded guilty to money laundering and federal mail fraud charges.

Minnesota Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman said that Lindemann abused his position as a financial adviser when he defrauded clients, including older investors. He did this by promising to invest their funds in safe investments but instead used their money to make Ponzi-type payments to clients and pay for his own expenses.

Lindemann’s guilty plea states that he solicited money from about 50 investors. He attempted to hide the securities fraud by generating fake secured notes as supposed evidence of the clients’ investments. The SEC permanently barred him from the securities industry earlier this year.


SEC Accuses Barred Broker of Selling Securities to Older Investors 

According to the SEC, ex-Morgan Stanley (MS) broker Rafael Calleja solicited $2.7M from 10 retiree and elderly investors after he had already been barred from the securities industry. The regulator claims that Calleja told investors their principal was insured and they would get a fixed return rate in a year. Meantime, he allegedly used at least $12K of their funds to pay for cruises, golf outings, and other personal expenses. He also purportedly failed to tell investors that his broker license had been revoked.

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Secretary of State William Galvin is accusing Texas-based brokerage firm Investment Professionals of selling investment products to elderly customers even though the investments were not suitable for them. The San Antonio broker-dealer allegedly ran high-pressure sales contests at several partner community banks in the New England state between 2013 and 2016. Galvin said that the purported “sales gimmicks” were  “unacceptable” and that his office would not tolerate them.

The Texas-based brokerage firm allegedly prioritized sales volume over whether or not the investments they were selling were suitable for the older customers. The customers had accounts at the local Massachusetts banks. For example, one bank customer, who was suffering from terminal cancer, saw so many of her assets placed in a variable annuity that she could not access her savings.

Galvin charged that these sales contests were not in alignment with Investment Professionals’ own procedures and policies and his office accused the firm of inadequate supervision, in particular of the Texas broker-dealer’s representatives who worked out of the Massachusetts banks. He noted that sales contests are “contrary to investor protections.”

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Once again, financial adviser Dawn Bennett is in the news. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has reportedly filed a securities case against Bennett, who is the owner of Bennett Group Financial Services, for not appearing four times to testify in the regulator’s probe into her retail clothing business, DJBennett.com. FiNRA said that her failure to appear to testify violates its rules. Bennett was recently investigated for fraud while she was an independent broker at Western International Securities.

She stepped down from that firm last year after FINRA found that she may have committed securities fraud, as well as been involved in private securities transactions, undisclosed external business activities, and the misappropriation of investor funds.

It was in 2015 that she allegedly solicited Western clients in a debt deal that her retail clothing company was supposed to guarantee. Bennett sold $6M of convertible and promissory notes to about 30 investors.

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FINRA has issued a complaint against Stanley Clayton Niekras accusing the broker of elder financial abuse. According to the regulator, Niekras allegedly cheated a couple, who are in their nineties and in failing mental and physical health, out of over $70K in financial panning services fees.

Even though Niekras didn’t have an investment advisory or financial planning agreement with the elderly couple, he allegedly billed them for hundreds of hours of time that he purportedly spent working on their “financial future” –work that he claimed to have done over four years. The purported elder fraud would have taken place while he worked for MML Investors Services. FINRA said that Niekras charged the couple  $250/hr in retroactive compensation. The couple received their bill for these supposed services in 2013.

FINRA contends that Niekras knew that he had no right to the “financial planning fees or the “estate planning” fees he was charging the couple. The self-regulatory organization said that the broker, who had been contending with tax liens, had told MML Investors Services that he could cover the liens because of commissions he was expecting. Niekras purportedly thought that he could sell variable annuities to the children of the older couple, who had gifted them with about $500K in securities and cash each.
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