Articles Tagged with FINRA

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices represents investors who’ve suffered losses from alternative investments. Some brokers like to pitch investors on the idea of making a lot of money by investing in alternative investments, mostly because brokers get paid handsome commissions for selling them.  GPB Capital and more recently, GWG Holdings are examples of alternative investments that were pushed hard by brokerage firms, with terrible results. There is a sub-category of these investments called “liquid alternative”, which are complex and costly for clients.

FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator, recently issued a warning about liquid “alts,” which invest in assets “other than stocks and bonds — such as real estate, commodities and derivatives — to give retail investors exposure to alternative investments in a vehicle that can be traded daily. They are touted as a way to beat market returns but also can be risky and expensive.”

“While these funds may be appropriate for some investors,” the regulator’s warning stated, “FINRA has consistently emphasized the importance of member firms’ sales practice obligations for these and other products, especially when such products may carry additional risks for customers.” These products are inappropriate for investors unless their objective is speculation – plain and simple.

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.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices represents investors who’ve suffered losses as a result of their broker excessively trading and churning their accounts. Brokers have been known to take advantage of clients who have margin accounts and give them permission to trade at will. Although investors place a great deal of trust in their broker-advisors, sometimes this confidence is abused.

FINRA, the federal securities regulator, found in a recent report that brokers don’t always pay attention to customers’ risk tolerance and violate FINRA rules on risk monitoring. To say this is no surprise to the attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices, who have fifty years of combined experience representing investors in claims against brokerage firms, is an understatement. According to FINRA, “Firms are required to monitor the risk of the positions held in these accounts during a specified range of possible market movements according to a comprehensive written risk methodology,” which has a stack of rules governing the conduct of brokers and the firms that supervise them.

FINRA’s guidelines on informing clients on portfolio risk include the following:

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices represents investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with brokerage firms who’ve placed clients in unsuitable investments and made recommendations mired in conflicts of interest. FINRA, the federal securities regulator, stated it has fined Credit Suisse Securities $9 million for failing to comply with securities laws and rules designed to protect investors, including the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) Customer Protection Rule and FINRA rules requiring firms to disclose potential conflicts of interest when issuing research reports.

Credit Suisse “failed to maintain possession or control of billions of dollars of fully paid and excess margin securities it carried for customers, as required. Second, on numerous occasions, the firm failed to accurately calculate its required customer reserve—that is, the amount of cash or securities the firm was required to maintain in a special reserve bank account,” FINRA found.

In addition, from 2006 through 2017, FINRA found “Credit Suisse issued more than 20,000 research reports that contained inaccurate disclosures about potential conflicts of interest. FINRA also found that the firm issued more than 6,000 research reports that omitted required disclosures. Credit Suisse’s disclosures omitted that the company that was the subject of the research report had been a client of the firm during the prior 12 months; or that the firm expected to receive investment banking compensation from the subject company within the next three months.”

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.”

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 investigating financial advisors and brokers who trade excessively in client accounts.  “Churning,” or trading excessively to generate broker commissions, is one of the perennial abuses in the securities industry. Investors have been losing millions due to these practices.

FINRA, the U.S. securities industry regulator, said it has ordered New York City-based Aegis Capital Corp. to “pay approximately $2.8 million, including $1.7 million in restitution to 68 customers whose accounts were potentially excessively and unsuitably traded by the firm’s representatives.” FINRA also imposed a $1.1 million fine for Aegis’s supervisory violations, according to fa-mag.com.

“Aegis supervisors failed to detect or act on information that eight Aegis reps excessively and unsuitably traded customer accounts over a period of more than four years, generating $2.9 million in trading costs that would have required the investments to generate more than 71% returns to offset costs,” FINRA stated. FINRA found that “from July 2014 to December 2018, Aegis failed to implement a supervisory system reasonably designed to comply with FINRA’s suitability rule. As a result, Aegis failed to identify and address its representatives’ potentially excessive and unsuitable trading in customer accounts, including trading by eight Aegis representatives who excessively traded 31 customers’ accounts,” the regulator said.

Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C., a Chicago-based investors rights and securities law firm offering nationwide representation on a contingency-fee basis, has represented hundreds of investors over the years who have suffered losses in non-Traded Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  These investments are sold, not bought, meaning financial advisors push these products on investors because of the high commission rates they pay out. These investments are illiquid, meaning an investor cannot just sell out and get their money out, and they are on the speculative side of the risk scale.  Although they are sold by financial advisors as providing stable value and high income in a low interest rate environment, REITs are anything but stable and are certainly high risk.

Recently, the SmartStop Strategic Student & Senior Housing Trust sent a letter to shareholders, on behalf of the board of trustees, warning of the REITs financial problems.  The letter, as reported by TheDIWire, paints a dire picture about the REIT’s financials, including blaming Covid twice for its underperforming properties. The REIT only owns two student housing properties and four senior housing properties. The REIT came to market in 2017 through a private placement and then opened to the public market in May 2018, raising about $110 million from investors.  According to the letter sent to investors, the Strategic Student & Senior Housing Trust is mired in debt and does not have sufficient cash to make necessary payments on certain bridge loans, absent a restructuring of that debt. These are certainly dire times for this REIT and the investors could be left holding the empty bag if the REIT liquidates.

Non-Traded REITs are by nature illiquid and high risk. Although pitched by financial advisors as being “non-correlated” to the stock market, the only reason this is the case is because the non-traded characteristic means the price doesn’t reset every day, like publicly-traded funds, for example. These non-traded REITs are mired in conflicts of interest, are very complicated structurally, and are designed to do one thing: save the owner of the real estate on taxes.  That’s the entire purpose of the REIT structure – its a tax savings vehicle for SmartStop.

Chicago-based Stoltmann Law Offices has represented investors who’ve suffered losses from dealing with financial advisors who’ve stolen their money. Can a financial adviser ask you to pay him personally to buy investments? If he does, it may be considered theft. Former NY Life Securities broker Jeffrey Scott Anderson was barred by FINRA, the federal securities industry regulator, after he was accused of stealing approximately $26,600 from an elderly client.

According to FINRA, “Anderson convinced an elderly NYLife customer to write five checks totaling $26,600 from October through December 2019 to him personally to purchase investments and insurance. Rather than using the funds for those purposes, FINRA claims that he deposited the money into his bank account and paid personal expenses.” Anderson resigned in March 2020 after “an internal review raised a number of concerns regarding the quality of his business, including repeat replacement and suitability concerns and undisclosed customer complaints.”

Later that year, NY Life disclosed two other customer complaints against him, including one from a customer who provided NYLife with “copies of three personal checks…which were made payable to and endorsed by [Anderson] totaling $16,500.” After he left NY Life, Anderson’s BrokerCheck profile showed other customer theft issues: “Anderson became registered with Pruco Securities but was fired less than three months later for misappropriating funds from a customer while associated with another FINRA member and submitting altered documentation to company investigators during its internal investigation.”

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