Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices offers representation on a contingency fee basis to investors nationwide that have suffered investment losses as a result of unscrupulous financial advisors who’ve misrepresented the risks of investments or traded their accounts without express permission.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has obtained a partial judgement against Michael F. Shillin, a former Raymond James financial advisor, “accused of defrauding at least 100 investment advisory clients, many of whom were elderly, by fabricating documents and making misrepresentations about their investments,” according to thediwire.com.

Shillin, according to the SEC, “allegedly told certain clients that they had subscribed for Initial Public Offering or pre-IPO shares, or that he had bought stocks on their behalf, in certain `coveted companies.’ He also is accused of misrepresenting the purchase of life insurance policies with long-term care benefits, with several clients rolling over their existing policies into new ones, which were either non-existent or had far fewer benefits than he claimed.”

Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors whose brokers or financial advisors sold them GWG Holdings, Inc. L Bonds. Brokerage firms, including but not limited to Aegis Capital, recommended this speculative private placement to clients, collecting up to 5% of the Bond’s market price as their commission. The L Bonds are high-yield life insurance bonds used to finance the purchase of life insurance on the secondary market. Any type of investment in the secondary life insurance market is an extremely risky investment, and these bonds certainly were not suitable for many, if any, clients. Given recent events, default on the L Bonds seems to be imminent, and may leave investors with a total loss of their investments. These investment losses may be recoverable from the financial advisors who sold the L Bonds as a result of their due diligence failures, and for making unsuitable recommendations.

According to their filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), GWG has halted the sale of the L Bonds and failed to issue $10.35 million of interest payments and $3.25 million of principal payments to L Bond investors by the January 15, 2022 due date. If these payments are not made by the end of the 30-day grace period on February 14, 2022, GWG will be in default. Pursuant to GWG’s Amended and Restated Indenture, when in default, noteholders or trustees holding at least 25% of the aggregate outstanding principal amount of the L Bonds may elect to accelerate liquidation of the Bonds.

By halting the sale of the L Bonds, GWG has also cut-off a main source of its liquidity. If the “interest” payments that GWG was making on the L Bonds was actually paid from incoming principal from new investors, rather than revenue, then GWG will not be able to make interest payments any time soon. GWG is underwater based on its balance sheets.  While it has close to $1 billion in tangible assets, GWG has over $1.5 billion in outstanding L Bonds, plus $327.7 million in senior credit facilities. Based on these numbers, if liquidation of the L Bonds is accelerated, GWG will not have enough in assets to cover the liquidation.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating financial advisors who switch clients into more expensive mutual funds that trigger unnecessary fees. Brokers often like to switch clients’ assets from one mutual fund class into another. Although they pitch these “trades” as more profitable for investors, they are making more money in fees and commissions.

FINRA, the federal securities industry regulator, has settled charges with two broker-dealers “for years of poor supervision of short-term mutual fund trades.” According to Investment News, on Dec. 22, FINRA “penalized Emerson Equity $1.7 million. A week later, FINRA hit an Advisor Group broker-dealer, Triad Advisors, with $705,000 in penalties, also for poor supervision of sales of the LJM Preservation & Growth Fund, an alternative mutual fund that closed in 2018.”

Emerson ran into problems from 2015 to 2020, Investment News notes, “when the firm and its CEO and founder, Dominic Baldini, failed to put into place a variety of systems to monitor short-terms trades of mutual fund Class A and Class B shares. Such systems would have enabled the firm to comply with FINRA’s suitability rule.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices represents investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who’ve placed clients in unsuitable investments.

FINRA, the federal securities regulator, has ordered JP Morgan to pay an investor $4 million for “unsuitable securities — including high-risk equities and junk bonds –without authorization,” according to Advisorhub.com. The JPM client also alleged a JP Morgan broker had “used leverage to increase the bets in her portfolio, including high-risk foreign currency positions.”

The broker on the accounts appears to be Edward L. Turley, Advisorhub reported. Morgan fired Turley, a “star” broker who reportedly generated as much as $30 million in revenue on $1.6 billion in assets, in August. He has $57 million in pending damage claims from four customer complaints on his record tied to losses sustained in last year’s pandemic-triggered market crash, excluding the award in the most recent case.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating financial advisors who switch clients into more expensive alternative investments that trigger unnecessary fees and investment losses.

FINRA, the federal securities industry regulator, has settled charges with McNally Financial Services Corporation that the broker-dealer failed “to develop appropriate oversight procedures for sales of non-traditional exchange traded products (ETFs).” The regulator found that the firm “failed to supervise a representative offering complex options trading to customers and determined that a firm representative recommended trades with, in some cases, a maximum potential loss nine times higher than maximum potential gain, and in other cases, with an assured loss.”

Brokers often recommend and trade “non-traditional” vehicles such as options contracts and Exchange-Traded Products (ETPs) with the promise of offering higher returns. These products, however, carry higher risk and generate exorbitant fees and commissions for brokers. These investments, Finra notes, “typically are not suitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for more than one trading session.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who’ve executed unsuitable short-term trading strategies. When a broker takes your money in and out of investment products intended to be held long term, like Unit Investment Trusts or mutual funds, the brokerage firm can be liable for any losses sustained.

FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator, recently concluded a sweep of Unit Investment Trust (UIT) sales that resulted in a combined $16.8 million in restitution payments and $6.6 million in fines against six firms, according to Advisorhub.com. UITs are mutual-fund-like vehicles sold by brokers that carry high up-front fees or “loads”.

The regulator reached a settlement with two Wells Fargo Advisors broker-dealers “that agreed to pay $3.1 million in fines and restitution over failure to supervise improper short-term trading of UITs. The sanctions, which were levied against the firm’s core Wells Fargo Clearing Services broker-dealer and Wells’ independent Financial Network unit, included almost $2.5 million in restitution and $650,000 in fines.” The FINRA sweep previously “also hit Merrill Lynch, which paid the lion’s share of the penalties with $11.65 million in fines and restitution, as well as Stifel Nicolaus & Co., Cambridge Investment Research, and Oppenheimer & Co.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who’ve robbed their accounts. There’s no shortage of incidents where brokers have taken advantage of older Americans to “churn” or over-trade their accounts to generate commissions. In many cases, their clients may be unaware of the abuses or unknowingly granted power of attorney to facilitate broker theft of customer funds. Other times, brokers go rogue and flat out steal from their clients.  That is the unfortunate reality for Totowa, New Jersey-based PFS Investments financial advisor Jeffrey Dampf.

FINRA, the federal securities regulator, has barred ex-Primerica/PFS broker Jeffrey Dampf, who had joined the firm in 2009, according to Thinkadvisor.com. “On Oct. 30, 2020, Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer announced that Dampf, then 69, of Brick Township, New Jersey, was charged with attempted theft and conspiracy to commit theft. Meanwhile, Robert Tindall, then 46, and Leanna Guido, then 47, both of Toms River, New Jersey, were charged with theft for their roles in the same scheme.” An investigation by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office “revealed that Dampf, in his capacity as the power of attorney and accountant for two senior siblings, was misappropriating funds entrusted to him while caring for the two older clients,” according to Billhimer.

Dampf “allegedly attempted to electronically transfer $500,000 to an investment account from the victims’ bank account for his own benefit. The transfer was ‘flagged,’ however, and the money was not transferred from the victims’ account,” according to Billhimer. “Tindall and Guido received funds they were not entitled to in an amount exceeding $1.5 million” from the victims, Billhimer said. “The funds were allegedly misappropriated through check or electronic transfer executed by Dampf and drafted to appear as though they were legitimate reimbursements for money spent on the care and for the benefit of the clients.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating claims by investors in connection with financial advisors who switch clients into more expensive investments that trigger unnecessary fees. Overtrading in a brokerage account or “churning” has long been an industry abuse. But some brokers take churning to new limits.

FINRA, the US securities industry regulator, has suspended a former Edward Jones broker for six months and fined him $7,500 for allegedly making more than 800 transactions in four of his clients’ accounts without their authorization or consent, according to thinkadvisor.com.

From December 2017 to November 2018, Albert L. DeGaetano “executed 470 securities transactions in the accounts of a fundraising organization for a charitable hospital without its authorization or consent,” according to the FINRA letter. The 823 securities transactions in all, which included 389 purchases of exchange-traded fund (ETF) bonds, had a total principal value of about $7.2 million and generated approximately $113,000 in total trading costs, according to FINRA.

Stoltmann Law Offices is a Chicago-based investor rights and securities fraud law firm with offices throughout the Chicago-Land area, offering representation to clients nationwide, including Texas, on a contingency fee basis. We are currently investigating allegations involving solicitations by Eric Willer to clients to invest money in private placements bonds.  These allegations were made in a regulatory filing specific to Eric Willer, who accepted a nine-month suspension from the securities industry, as a result of the regulatory investigation. If you were sold bonds in a private offering by Eric Willer, you may have legal claims to pursue in FINRA arbitration against the brokerage firm he worked for at the time, Fusion Analytics out of Dallas, Texas.

According to an investigation by FINRA, which is the primary regulator over brokers and brokerage firms in the United States, while registered with Fusion Analytics, Eric Willer recommended that 13 investors purchase bonds in two private placements offerings without a having a reasonable basis to believe the bonds were suitable for any investor, in violation of FINRA Rule 2111 and 2010. FINRA also alleged that Willer negligently misrepresented and omitted material facts when distributing offering documents to investors that contained misrepresentations and omissions, in violation of FINRA Rule 2010. FINRA does not identify the offerings, but provided some details in the regulatory filing against Eric Willer. FINRA alleges that the company at issue claimed to have developed some new clean energy engine and raised $80 million from investors between 2004 and 2011. The SEC nailed this company in 2013 imposing sanctions for violating registration requirements.  In 2017, this same company engaged Willer to sell bonds for another offering, through Fusion Analytics. This offering was intended to raise $6 million to build a clean energy-tech power plant, despite no one involved in the company having any experience in building or operating a power plant. FINRA alleges that Willer knew this and sold the bonds to investors anyways.

Willer failed to have a reasonable basis to recommend these bonds to any investor, according to FINRA. What this means is, in order for a financial advisor to recommend an investment, regardless of its risk profile, he/she and the brokerage firm must have performed a reasonable investigation into the security before offering it. Even if an investigation is performed, and red flags about the company are ignored and the offering is sold anyways, that too can be grounds for a claim against the firm. The claims take the form of negligence or, if the facts were material and known by the advisor or firm and were not adequately disclosed to the investors, that can lead to securities act and fraud claims.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing financial advisors and brokers who’ve churned their accounts. FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator, suspended and fined broker Sebastian Wyczawski, while he was registered with Joseph Stone Capital of Manorville, New York, between June 2016 and January 2017. The broker allegedly engaged in “excessive and unsuitable trading” in the account of an unidentified customer, according to Financialadvisoriq.com.

In addition, between September 2016 and September 2017, Wyczawski also allegedly engaged in excessive and unsuitable trading in the account of another customer FINRA identifies as “Customer 2,” placing 45 trades. FINRA and other regulators consider turnover rates of six or more and cost equity ratios of 20% (an industry metric measuring overtrading) or more as conclusory evidence of excessive trading. Wyczawski consented to a five-month suspension and to pay a $5,000 fine as well as restitution of $21,644 plus interest, all without admitting or denying the findings, FINRA stated.

Two months ago, Wyczawski left Joseph Stone for VCS Venture Securities, in Mineola, New York, according to BrokerCheck, which also notes Wyczawski has two customer disputes on his record, both settled. One, from 2004, sought $75,000 for allegations of unauthorized transactions and was settled for half that amount. The second, from 2018, sought $250,000 over allegations of negligence, unsuitability and overconcentration, among other violations, and was settled for $17,500, according to BrokerCheck.

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