Articles Posted in FINRA

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is evaluating investor claims in connection with recently disbarred financial advisor Philip Nalesnik from Pottsville, Pennsylvania.  According to a document signed by Mr. Nalesnik on April 15, 2019, he voluntarily consented to a permanent bar from FINRA. This is a professional death sentence for anyone who wants to provide financial services or financial advice to clients. The Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) states that Mr. Nalesnik refused to provide on-the-record testimony to FINRA in connection with its investigation into his outside business activities.  Prior to signing the AWC, according to his FINRA BrokerCheck Report, Mr. Nalesnik was terminated for cause by LPL Financial on July 8, 2018 as a result of LPL’s internal investigation into his outside businesses, including not cooperating with LPL’s investigation.

Mr. Nalesnik’s FINRA BrokerCheck Report reveals a few other troubling red flags.  He has been named in five customer complaints, with one of them resulting in an adverse arbitration award in November 2010.  He filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection in January 2012 and more recently, was hit with two tax liens.  Financial troubles like these can be red flags or indications that a financial advisor could slip into various forms of misconduct, including selling away, where an advisor has investor-clients invest money in an outside entity without the formal authorization of his firm.

Mr. Nalesnik did prominently disclose several outside businesses on his CRD Report.  These include Ridgeview Wealth Management which was disclosed as a company through which Mr. Nelsnik sold non-variable insurance products.  He also disclosed Integrated Insurance Management, LLC which looks to be an insurance agency. Mr. Nalesnik also reports an affiliation with Private Advisor Group, LLC, which is a registered investment advisory firm headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey. Doing business with any of these entities would be required to be supervised by LPL Financial.

It is time for GPB Fund investors to seriously consider their legal options. Over the last year, the GPB Capital Funds have been beset by serious issues raising red flags for investors:

  • On April 30, 2018, GPB missed a mandatory filing date with the SEC
  • In August 2018, GPB announced that is was “overhauling” and restating its 2015 and 2016 financials

The securities fraud attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. continue to investigate investor claims against brokerage firms that sold their clients investments in various GPB Capital Holdings offerings.  On March 22, 2019, attorney Joe Wojciechowski announced the filing of a Statement of Claim with FINRA Dispute Resolution for an investor who was sold units in GPB Automotive Fund, L.P. The claim was filed against NewBridge Securities and also includes allegations in connection with various non-traded REITs issued by American Realty Capital (ARC). The claim is for a retail investor whose financial advisor recommended she invest nearly 100% of her accounts in alternative investments offered by GPB Capital and ARC.  The claim alleges misrepresentations and omissions of material facts in violation of the Securities Act of Washington, consumer fraud in violation of the Washington Consumer Protection Act, negligence for violating numerous regulatory rules including FINRA Rules 2111 (suitability) and 3110  (supervision), and breach of fiduciary duty. Our client seeks rescission of her GPB Automotive Fund investment and compensatory damages for her realized losses in the ARC REITs, plus attorneys fees, costs, interest, and punitive damages.

Investors who were solicited by financial advisors and brokers to invest in GPB Capital funds should consider their legal options to seek rescission of those investments.  Under the state securities laws (frequently referred to as the Blue Sky Laws), the primary remedy for investors is called rescission, which means the investor sues to force the brokerage firm to buy the investment back.  The rescission remedy seeks to put the investor back in the same place she was prior to purchasing the investment. This is important for investors who own alternative investments like GPB Capital Funds.  These are not liquid or tradable investments, meaning an investor cannot call their advisor and sell it and realize a gain or a loss. Essentially, the investor is stuck. Given the troubling news about GPB Capital over the last several months, something Stoltmann Law Offices has written about extensively, investors are correct to be wary and should consider an exit strategy. Unfortunately, because there is no way out of the GPB Funds, the only option for investors may be to pursue arbitration claims against the brokerage firm responsible for soliciting the investments in the first place.

In the last several years, as interest rates remained very low, it has been difficult for investors to find fixed income investments, like corporate and municipal bonds, that offered higher yields without exposing them to speculative risk. Likewise, due to the long term low interest rate environment, the principal value of the bonds begin to drop as interests rates have risen. The solution to these problems for brokerage firms has been to sell “alternative investments” that offer relatively high yields, but because they are non-traded and do not report any real market value, they have the appearance of a stable value for investors. The bonus for brokerage firms is that these alternative investments offer the advisors commissions they could never achieve by selling standard fixed income securities like corporate bonds or municipal bonds. Advisors sell the sizzle of a high yield and fixed prices and either gloss over or completely misrepresent the speculative risk being taken by investors who entrust their money to private entities like GPB Capital.

AdobeStock_198259345-300x200Our firm is investigating allegations made against Stephen C. Carver, who was a registered representative for Cetera Advisors in Peoria, Illinois. According to his FINRA BrokerCheck Report, an investor sued Cetera and Mr. Carver in FINRA Arbitration for upwards of $3 million. The complaint makes allegations of elder abuse, conversion, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of both Illinois and Federal statutory and consumer protection statutes. The claim was filed in October 2018 and involves direct-participation programs, limited partnerships or also known as Private Placements.

Mr. Carver has several disclosures on his BrokerCheck Report in addition to this recent complaint. He was terminated by LPL Financial in 2009 for failing to disclose his involvement in an outside business, which is major red flag to brokerage compliance departments. He also discloses several tax liens on his record. He was then terminated by Cetera for failing to disclose a gift he received from a client, who he stated was his uncle.

Mr. Carver was also named in a Regulatory Complaint filed by FINRA for failing to disclose tax liens on his Form U-4.  FINRA’s By-Laws, specifically Article V, Section 2(c) require all financial advisors update their U-4 with information required to be disclosed within thirty days of learning of the event requiring the disclosure.  Tax liens are specifically disclosable events that financial advisors like Mr. Carver are obligated to report within thirty days or they are violating FINRA By-Laws along with FINRA Rule 1122 and FINRA Rule 2010.

The smoke emanating from the GPB Funds continues to build. As detailed in our post from November, the 1.8 billion-dollar GPB Capital Funds have been raising eyebrows for a few months now. Back in September, Massachusetts Secretary of State William Galvin announced an investigation into 63 brokerage firms that sold investments in GPB to its clients. According to a recent Investment News report, both FINRA and the SEC have now also inquired into brokerage firm sales practices connected to the GPB Capital Funds.

According to published reports, GPB paid brokerage firms a 12% commission to sell its speculative, high-risk private placements to retail investors.  This sort of commission is the driving force behind brokerage firms selling private placements. By comparison, a brokerage firm will generate a commission of about 1% on a stock trade and perhaps as high as 5% on a Class A mutual fund.  With the increasing popularity of cheap alternatives like Index Funds which only generate commissions of less than 0.5% in most instances, it is clear why brokerage firms peddle speculative investments like those issued by GPB Capital. A financial advisor would have to sell a lot of stocks and bonds to generate the same amount of commissions.

For example, if a financial advisor sells an investor a $100,000 unit of one of the GPB Capital private placements, the advisor and his firm would be paid $10,000-$12,000 for making this sale. If on the other hand, the advisor instead sold the investor a basket of Dow 30 stocks for $100,000, the take would be only $1,000-$2,000.  This advisor would have to sell over a million dollars of stocks to this client to make the same commissions.  Plus, selling a basket of stocks and bonds requires ongoing professional service and advice from the financial advisor.  Issues related to rebalancing and market volatility require ongoing financial advice.  Financial Advisors love selling private placements like those offered by GPB Capital because they feel like they can sell it and forget it. These private placements do not price to a market daily, creating the illusion that they are stable and that an investor’s principal is safe. It is really a no brainer for your trusted financial advisor.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) records indicate that Kenneth Savino, a former LPL broker, was suspended from the industry for 15 days and fined $5,000. He allegedly purchased shares of a security for $100,000 without providing prior notice to his member firm and inaccurately indicated on an annual compliance questionnaire that he had not participated in any private securities transactions. He was discharged from LPL in October 2015 for allegedly entering into a loan transaction with another company, receiving shares of the company in return, with no pre-approval by the firm. He also allegedly made private securities transactions that he did not have pre-approved by the firm and introduced a client to a potential outside investment opportunity that was not approved by the firm. These are all against securities laws and internal firm rules. Selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in promissory notes or companies that are not pre-approved by his member firm. He does this in order to not have to share the commissions he earns from the sale with his member firm. The firm can be held liable for losses in this case.

According to FINRA records, Mr. Savino was previously registered with Manequity Inc. from May 1983 until December 1988, Lincoln Financial Securities Corp in Windsor Locks, Connecticut from December 1988 until July 2010 and LPL Financial in West Hartford, Connecticut from July 2010 until November 2015. He is currently registered with FSC Securities in East Hartford, Connecticut, and has been since December 2015.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) brought enforcement claims against ACN Securities. The disciplinary actions were issued because of the failure of a CEO to terminate an employee that asked to be terminated, improper withdrawal of almost $100,000 from a bank account, operating without required capital and accepting a loan from a customer. FINRA named Simon Taylor in a complaint because of his failure to file notice of an employee termination after one of its registered employees asked to leave.

Taylor is the CEO and COO of ACN. He is also the firm’s majority owner for the past five years. The employee who requested to leave did so for the first time in May 2014, and continued to request it many times after that. Simon failed to disclose the requests to FINRA in a timely manner. If you made investments with ACN Securities, you could be entitled to recover them through the FINRA arbitration process. Please call our securities law firm at 312-332-4200 to speak to an attorney about your options. We are based in Chicago, Illinois.

 

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