Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is a Chicago-based securities and investor-protection law firm offering representation to defrauded investors nationwide on a contingency fee basis. We have been prosecuting claims against cellular phone providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon on behalf of victims of SIM-Swap attacks for the past few years now. We are also actively pursuing claims against Coinbase for its role in failing to secure their customer accounts in violation of the terms of their user agreement.

Recently, there has been a flood of SIM Swap attacks against T-Mobile customers. Although it is speculation, this summer, T-Mobile announced that its customer database had been compromised, leading to the unauthorized access to customer account information effecting over 40 million subscribers.  That attack, as time has gone by, has been revealed to have been far worse than originally reported.  T-Mobile updated its customers a few months ago, and suggested that the attack compromised critical security information about its customer accounts, including phone numbers, customer names and addresses, dates of birth, IMEIs and IMSIs.  T-Mobile said in a statement that it had no indication that hackers were able to access financial information such as credit card or debit card data.  By way of background, an IMSI is the unique “International Mobile Subscriber Identity” number which identifies every cellular network user. It is a unique 15-digit number assigned to every user and is part of your SIM profile. SIM is another acronym for “Subscriber Identity Module.” The IMSI identifies where you use your phone and which mobile network (i.e., T-Mobile) you access.  This is critical intelligence for anyone seeking to pull off a SIM Swap.

Although the hackers didn’t apparently gain access to sensitive financial data of customers, they did get a picnic basket of information that was surely sold to other hackers. If a hacker has your phone number, name/address, and IMSI, getting a SIM swap done is pretty simple unfortunately. These hackers identify people known to have crypto-currency accounts and then engineer hacks of their SIM so that they can gain access to a target’s Coinbase account and transfer the funds to another wallet on the blockchain and move on to the next victim. Because of the anonymous nature of crypto-currency transactions on the blockchain, the transactions are virtually untraceable and cannot be reversed.  This massive attack on T-Mobile, which compromised millions of customer accounts, is likely leading to a surge in SIM Swap-Crypto theft attacks. These massive data breaches by cellular providers are not  a new phenomenon and occur far too often. The good news for victims is, cellular providers like T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon can be held liable for a SIM Swap attack that leads to the loss of crypto currency or other financial accounts.

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is evaluating cases for Robinhood clients whose personal identifying information or other confidential information that was exposed to a hacker according to a November 8 notice sent out by the company. The notice sent to clients stated that, on November 3, 2021:

“The unauthorized party socially engineered a customer support employee by phone and obtained access to certain customer support systems. At this time, we understand that the unauthorized party obtained a list of email addresses for approximately five million people, and full names for a different group of approximately two million people. We also believe that for a more limited number of people – approximately 310 in total – additional personal information, including name, date of birth, and zip code, was exposed, with a subset of approximately 10 customers having more extensive account details revealed. We are in the process of making appropriate disclosures to affected people.”

Robinhood clients impacted by this data breach could have viable claims for recovery if the victim can establish actual damages. If your credit has been compromised, if you have paid for credit monitoring, if you are the victim of a subsequent data breach that cost you money, you could have a viable claim for recovery. Stoltmann Law Offices is exploring all options to help victims of this data breach.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (SPACs). All the rage on Wall Street, “SPACs” are companies created to acquire or fund other firms by sidestepping much of the due diligence paperwork of traditional initial public offerings. These “blank check” entities can present problems for investors, however.

Both FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) are probing SPACs. Earlier this year, the SEC began to focus on SPACs.  The agency “wanted information on SPAC deal fees, volumes, and what controls banks have in place to police the deals internally,” according to Reuters.

SPACs have surged globally to a more than $170 billion this year, outstripping last year’s total of $157 billion, Refinitiv data showed. Although SPACs have become popular with hedge funds and companies quickly raising capital, investors often have no idea what SPAC operators will buy.

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is a Chicago-based investor rights and securities law firm that has represented investors nationwide for almost 17 years. Investors who are defrauded by financial advisors have rights and can pursue arbitration against firms like Wells Fargo in an attempt to recover investment losses.  On November 2, 2021, FINRA, which is the federal regulator of broker/dealers like Wells Fargo Advisors and James Seijas, issued an “Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent” (AWC) in which James Seijas consented to a life-time ban from the securities industry. The reason for the ban was a result of Seijas consciously failing to respond to FINRA’s requests for information authorized by FINRA Rule 8210. If an advisor does not comply or cooperate with FINRA’s investigation, then the regulator will seek to bar the advisor for life. This is a stiff sentence for non-compliance but is not uncommon when brokers facing seriously allegations by customers or regulators are asked to comply with information requests or sit for an interview on the record.

The AWC was prompted by a filing made by Wells Fargo on Form U-5, which is a securities industry form filed with regulators when a broker’s registered ends with a firm like Wells Fargo.  The U-5 Wells Fargo filed identified the reason for him no longer being registered with the firm and was enough to trigger an investigation by FINRA. The AWC does not say what that Form says, and even more peculiarly, his FINRA BrokerCheck Report does not say anything about him being terminated for cause, which is a required disclosure. What his BrokeCheck Report does reveal, however, is the existence of two pending customer complaints. Both complaints have to do with the recommendation to invest in a fraudulent hedge fund or an investment which was part of a Ponzi scheme.

According to AdvisorHub, Seijas is a defendant in a pending claim which alleges he was involved in a $30 million-plus crypto-currency investment scheme. This claim is pending in Hillsborough County, Florida, against Seijas and several other defendants, including Wells Fargo. The prevalence and sudden popularity of cryptocurrency creates a perfect storm for scammers and unsuspecting victims. There is a lot of “FOMO” – fear of missing out – when it comes to crypto-currency. Investors are eager to dip their toes into the pool but many are reluctant to dive in by opening accounts with crypto-exchanges like Coinbase. Instead, investors get involved with purported “hedge” funds that allegedly invest in crypto, like those that invested with Seijas.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented investors who’ve suffered investment losses as a result of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and other violations by UBS Financial Services and its financial advisors.

Recently, FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator,  ordered UBS to pay more than $800,000 to two couples who had lost money in the company’s YES strategy, according to AdvisorHub.com.Investors Robert and Marcia Shinbrot recovered their full $269,337.09 loss plus prejudgment interest of $45,009.80 while Nicholas and Brigit Trentalange recovered their full $421,868.58 loss plus prejudgment interest of $70,499.93, according to the FINRA award.

Robert Shinbrot and Nicholas Trentalange were business partners in ForwardThink Group, a company acquired for $46 million by tech consulting firm Perficient in 2014. A separate FINRA panel awarded Houston investor Daniel Ferber the full $358,000 in damages he had sought, but denied his requests for interest and fees and costs.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating exchange-traded funds (ETFs) linked to digital currencies. For a few years now, digital currencies have been on the forefront of a new age of speculation. Representing bits of computer code, the vast majority of these virtual coins aren’t backed by tangible things like gold, silver, or the full faith and credit of the U.S. government. But these cryptocurrencies have gained a lot of prominence over the last few years because of rapid increases in valuation on an exponential scale.  Investors want in, but many are reluctant to buy directly through myriad coin-exchanges. Wall Street wants their piece of the action too.  So, they’ve engineered a product, which will likely be the first of many, that will expose investors to the price of various cryptocurrencies, without requiring ownership of the underlying asset.  These investments are Exchange-traded funds based on futures contracts linked to these currencies and will be available to investors. Since there are multiple unknown variables in how these coins will trade, they present a dangerous new wave of risk for unwary investors.

The ProShares Bitcoin Strategy ETF (BITO) is the first such investment that will be offered to retail investors. Like most derivatives, the ETF will not directly hold the underlying asset, in this case the digital currency Bitcoin.  ProShares states “the Fund seeks to provide capital appreciation primarily through managed exposure to bitcoin futures contracts.” A futures contract is a bet that an underlying asset will go up or down by a specific time. This is a derivatives strategy exposed to the price of Bitcoin which has historically been incredibly volatile.

According to Investment News, “the ETF employs a strategy like the Bitcoin Strategy ProFund Investor mutual fund (BTCFX) that ProShares’ affiliate company launched in July, which invests in Bitcoin futures contracts as opposed to the actual cryptocurrency, which is not yet allowed by U.S. regulators.”

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is representing investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who’ve sold bonds from Puerto Rico.

In the case of Eugenio Garcia Jimenez, Jr., the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Garcia, who is based in Orlando, Florida, with defrauding the Municipality of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico and misappropriating $7.1 million of taxpayer funds.

According to Investment News, Garcia opened an account at LPL in 2016 “to further his scheme to defraud his client, the Municipality of Mayagüez, Puerto Rico. LPL did not verify certain identification documents before opening the account, although it was required to do so by its own procedures,” according to the SEC. Jimenez, Jr., is not directly affiliated with LPL.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices is investigating allegations against Eric Hollifield that came to light as a result of a regulatory filing by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  According to FINRA, the regulator launched an investigation into Eric Hollifield who was a registered representative of LPL Financial and Hamilton Investment Counsel.  The investigation was in connection with a customer complaint filed in arbitration against Dacula, Georgia-based Hollifield that alleges he stole or misappropriated $1,240,000 from the account of an elderly client. This complaint was filed on August 25, 2021 and came on the heels of LPL terminating Hollifield for cause for “failing to disclose an outside business activity.”  On September 1, 2021 Hamilton Investment Counsel followed LPL’s lead and terminated Hollifield for cause or failing to disclose an outside business activity.

Since Hollifield failed to respond to FINRA’s request for information, pursuant to FINRA Rule 8210, Hollifield accepted a lifetime ban from the securities industry.  Brokers agree to these lifetime bans, instead of cooperating with an investigation, for any number of reasons.  Obviously, given the allegations made by the pending customer complaint and the terminations from LPL and Hamilton, a reasonable conclusion to draw is, Hollifield chose to accept a lifetime bad from FINRA as opposed to disclosing or admitting information to FINRA that could be used against him by criminal authorities. It is important to realize, the facts in the customer complaint and the information contained in the FINRA AWC are mere allegations and nothing has been proven.

LPL has a long history of failing to supervise its financial advisors, like Hollifield. We have blogged on these issues numerous times.  Pursuant to FINRA Rule 3110, brokerage firms like LPL have an iron-clad responsibility to supervise the conduct of their brokers, like Hollifield.  Similarly, brokers have an obligation to disclose “outside business activities” to their member-firm pursuant to FINRA Rule 3270.  LPL cannot get off the hook, however, just because Hollifield failed to disclose an outside business. There are a few reasons for this and they are important.  First, brokers do it all the time and LPL knows it. Therefore, as required by both FINRA regulations and LPL’s open internal policies the procedures, LPL’s compliance and supervision apparatus is geared towards detecting undisclosed outside business activities because it is commonly through these outside businesses, that financial advisors execute their worst schemes and frauds on their clients.  Further, to the extent red flags existed that Hollifield was running an undisclosed outside business or doing something else that violated securities regulations, then LPL can be held liable for negligent supervision, at a minimum. Case law supports the imposition of liability on LPL under these circumstances.  See McGraw v. Wachovia Securities, 756 F. Supp. 2d 1053 (N.D. Iowa 2010).

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. is a Chicago-based securities and investment fraud law firm that offers representation to victims on a contingency fee basis, nationwide. We are investigating claims for investor/victims of Ron Harrison’s alleged options trading scheme. On September 30, 2021, the SEC filed a civil complaint against Ron Harrison and his company Global Trading Institute, LLC seeking an injunction and to have a restraining order put in place to freeze his assets.  The SEC complaint alleges that Harrison ran a substantial options trading scheme where he charged clients a percentage of alleged gains in their brokerage accounts on a monthly basis. The problem is, as alleged by the SEC, there were no gains, only losses. According to the complaint, Harrison traded directly through access to his clients’ brokerage accounts.  Twenty-two investor victims suffered losses of over $2 million.  The SEC alleges that Harrison received at least $900,000 in ill-gotten fees from the scheme, a lot of which was transferred to his Russian fitness instructor girlfriend.

Harrison was not licensed to provide investment advice or trade securities with any regulator or state. In fact, he was barred from the securities industry way back in 1992 for misappropriating funds and excessively trading customer accounts. This trading scam dates back to 2016 and continued on well into 2021.  Records reviewed by Stoltmann Law Offices reveals that Harrison’s clients used TD Ameritrade as their broker/dealer. Part of Harrison’s scheme was to have investors provide him with their credentials to log into their brokerage accounts and trade options pursuant to his alleged strategy.  The options trading Harrison engaged in was highly speculative and aggressive, including writing naked put options and using hefty amounts of margin.  Because of the activity Harrison engaged in, and because of the highly regulated market options trading takes place in, TD Ameritrade could be liable to Harrison’s victims for aiding and abetting his scheme.

In order to trade options in any brokerage account, the brokerage firm must perform a high level and detailed know your customer analysis. To qualify for the level of margin Harrison used, referred to as portfolio margin, the account owner in many cases has to take a test to even qualify for that level of margin clearance.  Furthermore, technical metrics and electronic log-ins and tracing would have revealed that Harrison was logging into multiple client accounts from the same device and IP address. Since he was unlicensed, he could not do this and TD Ameritrade’s compliance system should have caught on to what he was doing, but failed to do so.  FINRA Rules, Anti-Money Laundering, and Bank Secrecy Act regulations mandate that TD Ameritrade have adequate compliance systems to detect and deter violations of this sort.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices represents investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with broker-advisors who’ve defrauded their clients. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has charged Michael F. Shillin with defrauding at least 100 investment advisory clients by “fabricating documents and making misrepresentations about their investments,” according to Thediwire.com.

According to the SEC, Shillin, a former Raymond James advisor, allegedly told certain clients, many of whom were elderly, that they had “subscribed for Initial Public Offering (IPO) or pre-IPO shares, or that he had bought stock on their behalf, in certain `coveted companies.’” In addition, Shillin 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.

For example, The SEC stated, “one of his clients reportedly decided to retire early when he was told that he was $450,000 richer after Shillin had purchased SpaceX stock for him. Another client was allegedly told that his life insurance policy contained a long-term care benefit, which the client learned was untrue after he was diagnosed with stage IV cancer.” According to the SEC, Shillin “went to great lengths to deceive his clients,” including setting up an online portal so they could monitor their portfolio of securities and profits – much of which were “pretend.”

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