Articles Posted in Morgan Stanley

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who have run Ponzi schemes right under their big-bank firm’s nose. Unscrupulous financial advisors have been known to steal clients’ money to pay for their lifestyle. As they are pocketing investors’ funds, they are often pitching  investments like Ponzi schemes, which are fake and fraudulent investment schemes fueled by money flowing in from new investors.

Shawn E. Good, 55, from Wilmington, North Carolina, a former Morgan Stanley advisor, had “clients send funds to his personal bank account to supposedly make low-risk investments in real-estate development projects,” according to a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) complaint filed in federal court. “Good defrauded investors — including retirees — out of at least $4.8 million, resulting in more than $2 million of losses,”  the SEC said.

A spokesperson for Morgan Stanley told Advisorhub.com the bank “is reviewing the matter and that the alleged conduct is plainly unacceptable. Good is no longer employed by the bank.” The Morgan spokesman added “We are currently reviewing the matter, which affects a small number of clients, and are cooperating with the SEC and other government authorities.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who have violated securities laws. When brokerage houses or investment advisers make big “block” stock trades, there are numerous rules they must follow to ensure that other investors don’t get burned. They are not allowed to “front run,” an illegal brokerage practice of a stockbroker placing an order for their own account ahead of the client’s, knowing when the client’s order is placed it will move the market and create a profit for the broker.

Disruptive Technology Solutions LLC, a software services company, and affiliated funds, have filed a demand for arbitration against Morgan Stanley with FINRA, the federal securities industry regulator, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“Disruptive alleges that Morgan Stanley and a senior executive there leaked information ahead of the fund’s sale of more than $300 million of Palantir in February 2021, resulting in tens of millions of dollars in damages,” the Journal reports. Disruptive is seeking compensatory and punitive damages. Palantir is a software firm that provides a wide range of platforms from artificial intelligence to supply chain products.

Stoltmann Law Offices, a Chicago-based investor rights law firm, represents investors across the country in suits against brokerage firms, investment advisors, investment banks, and insurance companies. Typically, we offer our services on a contingency-fee basis which means we do not get paid until you do.  We understand most of our prospective clients come to us having already been financially burned and rarely have the wherewithal to pay out of pocket for legal services.

Our attorneys are currently investigating claims by investors against Morgan Stanley involving fired Morgan Stanley broker Robert David, Jr., of Farmington Hills, Michigan. According to a regulatory filing, Robert David Jr. played fast and loose with client information on Morgan Stanley documents used by compliance to approve investments by clients in high risk junk bonds.  The information David manufactured included client net-worth, liquid net-worth, and changing the risk tolerance on client documents. Morgan Stanley has limitations in place for soliciting investments in high risk junk bonds to protect against over-concentration risk. David altered these documents to avoid these compliance protocols and restrictions. It was also alleged by FINRA that David made 538 unauthorized trades in eight client accounts.

Investing in junk-bonds can be a high risk investment plan. These sorts of corporate bonds offer considerably higher coupon payments, usually 7% per year or higher, but carry with them a substantially higher risk of default. If a company goes out of business, runs into cash shortfalls, and then seeks some sort of restructuring, like through a Chapter 11 Bankruptcy filing, the bond holders can be wiped out completely. Most public companies that issue bonds to investors publicly are rated by the three primary ratings agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s, and Fitch.  Although each is slightly unique, generally, all three rate bonds using a AAA to D structure. AAA is reserved for the absolute highest credit reliability, like that of United Kingdom. According to published reports, only two United States companies have earned a AAA rating, Microsoft and Johnson & Johnson. In order for a bond to be rated junk, its ratings typically need to fall below BBB- on the Standard and Poor’s scale, and are considered to be “high risk” by definition. Investing in junk bonds may be suitable for investors seeking high income so long as they are comfortable with the high risk inherent in such a strategy. In a rising interest rate environment, this strategy could spell doom for investors.

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is a Chicago-based investor-rights and consumer protection law firm offering representation nationwide on a contingency fee basis to defrauded investors and consumers alike. If you are a victim of the alleged Ponzi scheme perpetrated by former Morgan Stanley financial advisor Shawn Good, you likely have sustainable legal claims against Morgan Stanley.  It is critical to your chances to recover what was taken from you to consider all legal options and to not depend on the Securities and Exchange Commission or criminal prosecutors to make you whole.

The attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices have over fifty years of combined experience representing victims of Ponzi schemes. According to published reports, Shawn Good is alleged to have stolen millions of dollars from victims of a scam he ran while he was a financial advisor at Morgan Stanley.  The SEC has filed a civil complaint against Good, and Morgan Stanely fired him in February for failing to cooperate with an internal investigation in connection with his scheme.

Morgan Stanley can be held liable for Shawn Good’s scheme for two primary reasons.  First, as an agent of Morgan Stanley, the company is responsible for Good’s conduct in the course and scope of that employment. Sure, running a criminal scheme is not necessarily what his employment with Morgan Stanley was about, but offering investment advice and financial services was.  You are not seeking to hold Morgan Stanley liable because Good broke into a jewelry store, the agency liability stems from Good’s solicitation to invest in securities and products in furtherance of providing investment advice. That falls squarely inside the agency relationship with Morgan Stanley.

Stoltmann Law Offices is a Chicago-based securities and investor rights law firm dedicated to a nationwide practice to recover money lost by investors as a result of the misconduct of financial advisors and their brokerage and investment firms. We have prosecuted at least one hundred cases over the years against Morgan Stanley and were not surprised to learn about David Todd Levine and his being barred by FINRA, the State of Colorado, and the Securities and Exchange Commission. These bars were “by consent” meaning none of the allegations made against Mr. Levine were proven. It just means instead of fighting them, Mr. Levine will instead never be able to legally provide investment advice to anyone for the rest of his life.

According to an Order Instituting Administrative Proceedings (OIP) filed by the SEC, which parroted claims made by the Colorado Securities Commissioner, Mr. Levine recommended that clients invest in a Bitcoin investment being run by his brother. In so doing, Mr. Levine allegedly failed to disclose that his brother was a fugitive from the law in the United States, living abroad. The Commission further alleged that Mr. Levine failed to disclose this criminal history to any of his clients and further failed to verify the legitimacy and ownership of the Bitcoin that was apparently part of this investment scheme. The SEC also alleged that Mr. Levine failed to develop a method for ensuring the transfer of funds and Bitcoin, which allowed his brother to steal $1.5 million. Levine also allegedly failed to disclose the high risk nature of this investment scheme.  If you are a victim of Mr. Levine’s alleged Bitcoin scam, and you were a client of his and Morgan Stanley, you could have a viable claim to pursue against Morgan Stanley.

Although it is alleged that Levine failed to disclose this investment and his involvement in it to Morgan Stanley, that does not automatically release Morgan Stanley from potential liability.  Whether Morgan Stanley can be found liable by FINRA arbitrators depends on two issues regardless of disclosure by Levine.  1) Were there sufficient red flags that Levine was soliciting his clients to invest in this Bitcoin investment so has to put Morgan Stanley on constructive notice of it? 2) Were clients reasonable to believe that Levine was acting within the course and scope of his employment with Morgan Stanley in recommending an investment in a Bitcoin related deal? Typically, advisors leave enough of a paper trail behind them that reasonable supervision and compliance should discovery this sort of outside activity. Levine was offering it to Morgan Stanley clients after all, so a few phone calls by Morgan Stanley and they would have uncovered what was happening. Moreover, investors would certainly be reasonable in assuming what Levine was doing was legitimate and was through or at least tacitly approved by Morgan Stanley.  This “apparent agency” issue could make Morgan Stanley liable for your losses. Courts agree. See McGraw v. Wachovia Securities, 856 F. Supp. 2d 1053 (N.D. Iowa 2010).

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented Morgan Stanley clients who’ve suffered losses as a result of fraudulent or negligent misconduct by Morgan Stanley and the firm’s financial advisors.

Here is a simple question too many investors do not know the answer to: Can brokers decide on their own when to buy or sell an investment in your account? Answer: Not unless you give them written permission to do so. If brokers ignore your instructions, you can file an arbitration claim and be awarded damages.  Joan A. Rudnick and an entity owned by her, Oak Trail Associates, filed a claim against her broker, Morgan Stanley, in October 2020. The claim charged the broker with “unauthorized trading, breach of contract and duty of loyalty, unjust enrichment and conversion,” according to Investment News.

Rudnick’s claim was filed when her broker sold Apple stock in her portfolio against her wishes. A retiree in her late 70s, Rudnick “had held the Apple stock for a long time and did not intend to sell it,” her attorney told Investment News. “She had put a no-trade restriction on the stock, but it was sold around March 2019. Morgan Stanley acknowledged the shares were sold without Rudnick’s authorization.”  Rudnick was awarded “$482,000 in compensatory damages, $83,372 in federal and state taxes, $45,000 in attorneys’ fees, $25,000 in brokerage fees, $5,000 in expert fees, $1,863 in costs and $375 for a non-refundable filing fee.” A Morgan Stanley spokesperson declined to comment to Investment News. “The arbitration award states the firm denied the allegations in the FINRA statement of claim and asked that it be dismissed in its entirety.” FINRA is the federal securities regulator that handles arbitration claims for investors.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices in investigating cases where brokers have been treated unfairly by their firms.  A growing issue for financial advisors is when they are pushed out of their firms or treated unfairly simply for getting older. When this happens, brokers can file age discrimination lawsuits against their former employers.

Judith Bovitz, a 70-year-old financial advisor with Wells Fargo, sued her employer last year for age and gender discrimination. She claimed Wells retaliated against her by transferring her to a smaller branch office when she complained that younger, male advisors were being assigned more lucrative accounts, according to Reuters. She had a $100 million book of business at the time of the lawsuit. Bovitz spent her 34-year career at Wells and its Prudential Securities predecessor. “I’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars a year because other advisors were given accounts,” Bovitz told Advisorhub.com. “I’m sick and tired of being passed over.” The company said it is “reviewing” Bovitz’s allegations.

In 2011, Wells Fargo Advisors, the wealth management unit of Wells Fargo & Co. agreed to pay $32 million to settle a gender bias class-action suit with about 3,000 women advisors. The women claimed that compared with their male advisor counterparts, female advisors were “provided fewer business opportunities by the company. The women also claimed that female advisors were impaired by limited career advancement, work assignments and distribution of accounts,” one of the ways firms chose to shift customers to younger, male advisors.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices continues to represent investors who’ve suffered losses in connection with financial advisors who have oversold energy stocks and other energy-related investments. With the COVID-19 pandemic depressing demand for everything from gasoline to jet fuel, it’s been a mostly rotten year for energy stocks. In fact, when news first hit the markets in early March, stocks in many oil & gas companies and funds that invested in them crashed. At one time, the Energy Select SPDR (XLE), an exchange-traded fund that invests in energy companies, was down as much as 58%.

The net effect of tens of millions of Americans sheltering in place, avoiding travel and not commuting slashed demand for fuels. Only a handful of people were getting on jets, buses, ships, trains, or driving to work. That resulted in energy companies eliminating dividends and losing money.  While the economy has recovered somewhat as more states have re-opened in recent months, energy demand is nowhere near where it was at the beginning of 2020. The U.S. economy is now in a recession, which may continue into 2021.

What is important to realize about oil/gas prices is, the decline in energy demand actually began a few years ago – primary energy consumption dropped by half in 2019 alone — hasn’t stopped brokers from selling investments in oil & gas companies. They have sold stocks, limited partnerships, and mutual funds that concentrate in fossil fuels, which are volatile commodities and have a long history or volatility.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented hundreds of investors who have been victims of one of the most egregious investment frauds: Ponzi schemes. These swindles promise quick riches and rely upon an increasing number of “investors” to keep the operation going, sometimes over a period of years. The schemes eventually blow up when new investors can’t be found to perpetuate it or promoters are outed by investors or associates for faking returns.

The most famous Ponzi scheme – and perhaps one of the largest – involved broker-money manager Bernie Madoff. Over a period of 17 years, Madoff defrauded thousands of investors, lying about profitable trades. In 2009, he was sentenced to 150 years in prison, after pleading guilty to a $65 billion swindle of some 65,000 victims around the world. Many of Madoff’s victims, which ranged from non-profit organizations to celebrities, were financially ruined. A court-appointed “Madoff Victims Fund” has distributed nearly $3 billion to investors. His sons, who worked for their father’s firm, turned Madoff into authorities when they learned of the scam.

Despite the notoriety of the Madoff swindle, Ponzi schemes are still ensnaring innocent investors. As one of the oldest investment fraud vehicles around, the Ponzi scheme has two selling points: Promoters promise outrageous returns in a short period of time and rely upon continuing stream of new victims to “pay off” early investors in fake profits. This perennial false promise of easy riches makes it one of the most durable schemes for dishonest brokers, who continue to sell them — until the frauds collapse.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with unscrupulous investment brokers selling exchange-traded products. Many of these high-risk products are unsuitable for retail investors.

With the COVID-19 crisis roiling financial markets, many investors have been sold products that rise when market indexes or individual securities fall. Many “exchange-linked products” (ETPs) often use borrowed money, or leverage, to magnify gains when the market drops, but they can also increase losses. They are generally only suitable for sophisticated investors and are linked to complex underlying futures contracts.

When the coronavirus crisis first made major headlines in the U.S. in early March, the stock, bond and commodities markets crashed. Since markets over-react to widespread greed and fear, traders went into mass selling mode over (later justified) expectations that demand for nearly everything from luxury goods to commodities would drop dramatically.

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