Articles Posted in Texas Securities Fraud

Halliburton Co. (HAL.N) has agreed to settle a securities fraud class action case for $100M. The case, brought in Dallas, accuses the oil field services providers of misrepresenting its possible liability in asbestos lawsuits and the benefits it expected from certain construction contracts, as well as a merger from nearly twenty years ago.

Lead plaintiff Erica P. John Fund Inc. filed the complaint in 2002 after the US Securities and Exchange Commission began investigating Halliburton’s accounting for revenue made from certain construction projects. The securities case accused the company of misleading investors when it purportedly understated its liabilities in the asbestos cases, overstated revenue from construction, and inflated the benefits of the Halliburton-Dresser Industries merger.

Former US Vice President Dick Cheney, who was chief executive of the company during the period at issue, settled the regulator’s charges against him for $7.5M in 2004. However, the lawsuit against the company has gone on for years.

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Texas First Financial CEO is Arrested For Fraud

Authorities have arrested Bobby Eugene Guess, an ex-Texas-based registered representative and the CEO and founder of Texas First Financial, for financial fraud. Guess promoted himself as a financial expert through financial seminars and radio promotions in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

He is accused of running a Ponzi scam online involving two companies—StaMedia Inc., which is a Dallas company, and TenList Inc. According to the Texas State Securities Board, Guess was indicted for money laundering, securities fraud, theft, and taking part in organized criminal activity involving the multi-million-dollar sales of investments in an internet ad company.

Prosecutors contend that Guess and others sold $6M in investment contracts, stock certificates, and notes in Stamedia Inc. Also, he allegedly raised millions of dollars from Stamedia investors from ’14 to ’16 but did not disclose that the company’s net income and revenue were negligible. Investor funds were allegedly used to pay earlier investors the returns they were promised.

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Ex-Financial Adviser Who Worked for Texas-Based Firm is Barred by SEC After Defrauding Pro Athletes 
Ash Narayan, an ex-California financial adviser, has been barred by the US Securities and Exchange Commission. Narayan, who is accused of secretly receiving almost $2M from companies that he invested in on behalf of his professional athlete clients, agreed to no longer associate with advisory or brokerage firms to resolve the regulator’s allegations.

Narayan worked for Dallas firm RGT Wealth Advisors, but he was based in California as the managing director of its Irvine office. He also is accused of misrepresenting himself as a CPA and placing clients in unsuitable private investments. In October, the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards issued a temporary suspension against him while an investigation was conducted into the allegations. RGT Wealth Advisers fired Narayan early this year.

According to the SEC, Narayan’s alleged fraud occurred between 2010 and 2016, during which time he directed $33M to a company that he was involved in and was in poor financial health. By settling, Narayan is not denying or admitting to the SEC charges.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering VALIC Financial Advisors Inc. to pay a $1.75M fine for purported conflicts of interest that impacted the way that the firm compensated brokers for selling annuities. According to the self-regulatory organization, from 10/2011 through 10/2014, the Houston-Based financial firm established a conflict of interest when it said registered representatives would receive financial incentives for recommending that clients transfer their money from VALIC variable annuities into a Valic fixed index annuity or onto its fee-based platform. FINRA said that the firm created even more conflict when it told representatives they would not get compensation from moving customer money to a non-Valic product from a Valic variable annuity.

FINRA said that because of these conflicts, a significant amount of assets were moved to the firm’s advisory platform and sales of  VALIC ’s proprietary fixed index annuity increased by over 610% after it was included in the firm’s compensation policy.

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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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Texas Man and His Energy Company Must Pay Arizona Restitution, Penalties for Oil Well-Related Misrepresentations

Texas resident Kenneth White and his Marchant International Resources Inc. must pay almost $1.4M plus $150K in penalties for misrepresenting its participation in two oil well projects that was backed by 12 Arizona investors. The fine was issued by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC), which accused White of failing to disclose the complete facts about his business, the company’s experience with well-drilling, and Merchant’s efforts with two wells. The $150K penalty is because White did not disclose that he was previously convicted for a $4.3M felony theft crime when he was marketing himself and his experience in energy extraction.

 

More than 700 Investors to Get $11.2M in Restitution Over Inadequate Disclosures 

White and his company are not the only ones facing fines brought by the ACC in an energy case. Brian C. Hageman and his Hydrotherm Power Corp. and Deluge Inc. now have to pay $11.2M in resittion to over 700 investors. According to the state, while  marketing a thermal hydraulic engine project, Hageman did not tell investors that the two companies were no longer in valid operation. He also must pay a $55K administrative penalty for bilking shareholders.

 

SEC Accuses Minnesota-Based Energy Company Co-Founder of Stock Price Manipulation

The Securities and Exchange Commission has filed charges against the co-founder of a Minnesota-based energy company. Ryan Gilbertson is accused of rigging Dakota Plains Holdings’ stock price while hiding his control of the company in order make a lot of money.  The SEC claims that Gilbertson enriched himself by over $16M as he and others allegedly bilked shareholders through price rigging. Meantime, his co-founder, Michael Reger, will pay almost $8M to settle the charges brought against him.

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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has banned Stuart G. Dickinson, a Dallas broker, from the securities industry for recommending that customers back a Ponzi scam. At the time, Dickinson was with  WFG Investments. The firm fired him in 2013.

In addition to the bar, Dickinson must pay seven customers $924K in restitution over the Texas securities fraud. According to FINRA’s default decision notice, Dickinson failed to perform the reasonable due diligence on ATM Financial services (ATMF) and did not detect the red flags indicating that it was a sham. As a result, said the self-regulatory organization, investors lost $1.02M.

It was in 2007 that Dickinson sold over $1M in limited partnership interests in ATM Alliance. He had formed contracts with the company to service and manage ATM machines in a number of locations. Dickinson established a general partnership to raise funds for the ATM investments and he became a 90% owner while his supervisor Trent W. Schneiter became a 5% owner. As part of the agreement, they would earn 20% off what the banking machines made.

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United Development Funding IV, a Texas real estate investment trust,  said that it has received a Wells Notice from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. This is a sign that the regulator’s staff will likely recommend an enforcement action against the mortgage and development REIT.  There are individuals connected to the company and its adviser that also received SEC Wells notices.

The UDF REITs have been in trouble for months now, ever since Harvest Exchange, a hedge fund that had a short position in UDV IV shares, published a report  about how it believes the company has been run like a Ponzi scam for years. Harvest Exchange claimed that the REIT utilized new capital to pay current investors their distributions, while providing earlier UDF companies hefty liquidity in order to pay earlier investors. The hedge fund noted the earlier companies do not appear to be able to stand on their own without this liquidity from the latest UDF REITs.

UDF IV not only denied the hedge fund’s claims, but also it filed a complaint with the SEC claiming it had been the victim of a securities trading scam in which an investor was building a short stock position to illegally manipulate its shares.

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Jens Pinkernell, a Dallas, Texas-based investment adviser, has been suspended for five years. According to the disciplinary action entered by Texas Securities Commissioner John Morgan, Pinkernell and J. Pinkernell Global Wealth LLC charged two clients excessive and unauthorized fees. Both have since been repaid the $46,915 they were collectively overcharged.

The order also suspends the firm’s investment adviser registration. According to the state, J. Pinkernell Global Wealth overcharged the clients for advisory services.

One client agreed to pay the firm 1.35% of the assets it managed. The client also had a separate fee deal with Pinkernell and a third-party custodian. This arrangement allowed Pinkernell to take out $3K/monthly from the client’s account.

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Texas-Based Brokerage Firm Accused of Inadequate Supervision Involving VA Exchanges
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is ordering IMS Securities Inc. to pay a $100K fine. The Texas-based brokerage firm is accused of failures related to its monitoring of variable annuity exchanges. By settling, however, it is not denying or admitting to the allegations. 
 
According to the self-regulatory authority, the firm exhibited inadequate supervisory procedures for “problematic rates of exchange” in transactions involving variable annuities. FINRA claims that from 7/ 15/13 through 7/8/14, IMS Securities depended on its CFO to review annuity exchanges but did not provide tools or guidance to help look for “problematic rates of exchange.”  The broker-dealer is accused of not probing possibly “problematic patterns” of VA exchanges and not enforcing written supervisory procedures related to consolidated reports. 
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