Archive for the ‘Fiduciary Duty Breach’ Category

Investment Suitability (And How It Protects You)

August 8th, 2013
Logo

Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daniel Carlson is a San Diego-based securities lawyer with a focus on litigation, specialized in recovering investment losses for his clients.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) helps regulate member firms that are part of the finance industry.  Most large brokerage firms are members of FINRA, and clients of those firms are required to arbitrate any dispute they have with the member brokerage firm in the FINRA forum rather than in a court of law.  Among other goals, FINRA tries through regulation to prevent securities fraud and cases of other types of customer abuse by member firms, financial advisors and other professionals within the industry.

Under FINRA Rule 2111(a) it is the responsibility of the member firms of the financial services industry, and associated advisors within the industry, to determine whether or not a transaction or investment strategy that they are recommending to a customer is “suitable” for that customer. In determining the suitability of an investment, the advisor and firm are to determine whether or not it is an appropriate investment for that particular customer given his or her goals (what he or she hopes to receive from the investment), how long the customer is willing to go before receiving money back from the money that is invested, and whether or not the customer is willing to tolerate the level of risk that accompanies that type of investment.

Regardless of whether or not the financial advisor personally feels that a particular course of action would be advisable for that customer, they will be held to an objective standard to avoid instances of securities fraud, a standard that requires the advisor to be diligent in ascertaining and updating the customer’s investment profile. This profile includes such things as the customer’s age (particularly in cases of elder abuse in the realm of securities fraud), other investments made by the customer, the customer’s personal financial situation and needs, his or her tax status, and his or her investment objectives and experience.

In California, most financial consultants and advisors owe a fiduciary duty to their customers under the law.  A fiduciary duty extends from a relationship premised on trust between two or more parties. It is essentially one party’s commitment to act in the best interest of the other party involved in the transaction. Therefore, in the realm of personal finance, this means that a financial advisor has a legal duty to protect your best interest as the customer when managing your money and making financial decisions on your behalf. In short, this fiduciary duty is breached whenever a member of the financial industry fails to act in the best interest of the customer.

For investment advisors, the Investment Advisors Act, from 1940, binds them to a standard that creates a fiduciary duty. These investment advisors may face regulation by either the SEC or by securities regulators on a state level, and each of these bodies holds advisors to their fiduciary duty, requiring them to place the interests of their client above the interests that they themselves possess. The act specifies what it means to be a fiduciary, stipulating that advisors must put their own interests below those of their client. Further, the fiduciary duty includes both care and loyalty, explaining that the advisor must simply act in the client’s best interest. For instance, before buying securities for a client, an advisor cannot purchase them for his or her own account; advisors are also forbidden from engaging in trades that could result in larger commissions for either the advisor or the advisor’s investment company.

These rules were enacted for the protection of financial customers and members of the financial industry are therefore required to abide by these regulations so that customers do not experience financial loss or fraud.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud in regards to being recommended to undertake an investment strategy or engage in investment transactions that were not suitable for you as a customer, contact Daniel Carlson at the Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300.

Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach | Comments (0)

Linsco Private Ledger Found Liable for Failure to Supervise in Stockbroker Malpractice

May 10th, 2012

Oregon’s Division of Financial and Corporate Securities (DFCS) found LPL Financial liable for failure to supervise. Specifically, the firm failed to adequately oversee one of its financial analysts, an unscrupulous broker who committed financial elder abuse, pushing high-risk investments to elderly clients (and those mentally incompetent to make investment choices).

WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 02: Mickey Rooney testi...

WASHINGTON, DC – MARCH 02: Mickey Rooney testifies during the Justice For All: Ending Elder Abuse, Neglect & Financial Exploitation hearing at the Senate Dirksen Building on March 2, 2011 in Washington, DC. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Elder Financial Abuse

Jack Kleck, formerly a branch manager for LPL Financial’s La Grande, Oregon office, was found guilty of selling risky gas and oil partnerships to 30+ clients, the majority of them over 70 and in poor health. The investments were inappropriate to the clients’ financial goals—definitely not the safe investments Kleck characterized them as.

Charges & Penalties

For not adequately overseeing the actions of Kleck, for failing to implement its own oversight procedures and company policies, and for other violations of securities laws, LPL was fined $100,000 by the Oregon DFCS.

The penalty for Kleck? A fine of $30,000—and he can no longer practice as a stockbroker in Oregon.

LPL & Stockbroker Malpractice

Since the investigation, LPL Financial claims it has beefed up its oversight policies and procedures, is increasing the number of employees who review sales transactions, has administered tougher exams at their branch offices, and is implementing other practices to  improve compliance with the law.

Help for Victims of Elder Financial Abuse 

Elderly investors are often the victims of financial elder abuse similar to what happened at LPL.  Specific laws exist to protect the elderly from this type of abuse, and those laws provide for treble or multiple damages as well as attorney fees.  States throughout the nation are examining financial firms and their brokers to ensure that they are dealing with elderly clients in an appropriate manner.  Meanwhile, it is imperative that elderly investors be extremely careful when they do business with financial advisors, brokers and brokerage firms.

If you think that you’ve been the victim of financial elder abuse, contact a securities fraud lawyer at Carlson Law immediately for a free consultation 619-544-9300.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach | Comments (0)

Goldman Exec’s Op-Ed NY Times Article Airs Investment Banking Firms Self Interest at its Clients’ Expense

April 9th, 2012

In a recent New York Times editorial, Goldman Sachs exec Greg Smith voiced his opinion on the real impetus behind stockbroker malpractice: the avarice of brokerage firms.  According to Smith, the greed of investment banking firms is so great that it impels them to put extreme pressure on stockbrokers to sell with the best interest of the firm in mind — without regard for the financial wellbeing of clients.  As stated by Mr. Smith:”My clients have a total asset base of more than a trillion dollars. I have always taken a lot of pride in advising my clients to do what I believe is right for them, even if it means less money for the firm. This view is becoming increasingly

Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Category...

Logo of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. Category:Goldman Sachs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

unpopular at Goldman Sachs. Another sign that it was time to leave.”

 

Smith is not alone in his opinion, which is seconded by others in the world of finance, including Rall Capital Management’s Bob Rall, a fee-only advisor, and Russell G. Thornton, a VP at Wealthcare Capital.  According to Rall, wirehouse firms do not focus on yield to the client (YTC). Instead, they focus on selling their proprietary investment products. And when a broker focuses on his or her own interests and the interests of brokerage firms rather than on client interests, the result is often a breach of fiduciary duty and stockbroker malpractice.     

 What Is a Wirehouse Broker?

A wirehouse broker works for a wirehouse brokerage firm (a national firm that has numerous branches). Ordinarily, wirehouse brokers are full-service stockbrokers who offer clients an array of services, from researching investment opportunities to buying and selling products.  They are supposed to function as fiduciaries, not as sales reps for their firms.

 

Because wirehouse brokers have access to the numerous resources of the major brokerage house for which they work, including the house’s own investment products, they have long been considered superior to independent brokers—that is, until the financial debacle of 2007-08, which was precipitated by stockbroker fraud and the unethical practices of firms in pushing their proprietary investment products above more suitable client options.

Does Your Broker Put Your Financial Wellbeing First?

Today more than ever, investors must carefully examine the performance of their financial advisors in order to avoid investment loss.

Is your broker behaving more like a sales rep for a brokerage house than a fiduciary who is committed to your financial wellbeing? Is your broker aggressively pushing a firm’s proprietary products? Or is he or she offering sound investment advice based upon research and your unique needs and financial situation?

If you believe you have suffered investment loss due to a breach of fiduciary duty on the part of your broker, contact a stockbroker fraud lawyer today at Carlson Law, (619) 544-9300.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (0)

Boogie Investment Group to Call It Quits

March 15th, 2012

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently received a withdrawal request from Boogie Investment Group, a small brokerage house that sold failed Provident Royalties private placements to its investors. Of the 52 brokerage houses that sold Provident private placements, Boogie Investment is the eleventh to call it quits this year.

Logo

Image via Wikipedia

Private placements amounting to roughly $410K were sold by Boogie, whose revenues dropped from 1.2M three years ago to $422K this last fiscal year. But reduced earnings aren’t the only reason Boogie is exiting the brokerage business. The company has been hard hit by securities litigation. The firm is not only fighting a class action suit comprised of investors to whom they sold Provident private placements, but it’s also contending with a suit filed by those who bought Provident Shale Royalties products. Moreover, Boogie is combating other lawsuits that are unrelated to its sale of Provident Royalties private placements.

FINRA has forcefully dealt with brokerage firms as well individual brokers who sold private placements, alleging that they failed in their due diligence, both in investigating the placements and in assessing their suitability for their clients.

Other defunct brokers who sold Provident Royalties private placements include Workman Securities, Investlinc Securities/Meadowbrook, WFP Securities, Okoboji Financial, Matheson Securities, United Equity, CapWest, Private Asset Group Inc., Community Banker Securities LLC, E-Planning Securities Inc., Empire Financial, GunnAllen Financial and Barron Moore.

Have you incurred investment loss due to broker misconduct? Contact a stockbroker fraud lawyer in San Diego. It may be possible for you to recoup some or all of your losses. For a free consultation, contact Daniel Carlson, Esq. at Carlson Law 619-544-9300.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law | Comments (0)

Variable Annuity Contract Thief Gets 10-Year Sentence – Hartford and Nationwide Life Insurance Companies

January 25th, 2012

In October 2011, a former Agent for Hartford and Nationwide Life Insurance companies pled guilty to charges of theft and received a 10-year prison sentence. By Matthew J. Ryan’s own admission, he exploited weaknesses in the insurance companies’ practices and procedures in order to steal from the variable annuity contracts Hartford and Nationwide issued to his clients.

Ryan created fake companies and bogus “transfer forms” which he had his clients sign. The bogus forms gave Ryan the ability to divert funds from his customers’ variable annuities and, ultimately, into his own accounts. Hartford and Nationwide honored thousands of Ryan’s transfer requests, despite the fact that the fraudulent documents were obviously illegitimate. The fraudulent documentation was not detected until 2010. By that time, however,  the former
agent had diverted an excess of $3M over a period of five years.

Two additional insurance companies have settled claims made by Ryan’s fixed variable annuity customers. Currently, combined suits of more than $3M against Nationwide and Hartford are pending.

Are you a former client of Mathew J. Ryan? Do you believe that your variable annuity contract assets have been or are being illegally diverted or invested unsuitably? If the answer to any of
these questions is yes, contact investment fraud lawyer Daniel Carlson at Carlson Law in San Diego for a free consultation. As an experienced investment recovery attorney, Mr. Carlson may be able to help you recoup all or part of financial loss.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Litigation, Stock Loss | Comments (1)

Will the SEC File Investment Fraud Charges Against Credit-Rating Companies?

July 5th, 2011
Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...
Image via Wikipedia

According to the Wall Street Journal, in May 2011 the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) acknowledged that credit-rating agencies, desirous of pleasing the companies they rate, are sometimes less than objective in their evaluations. To mitigate this problem, the SEC has proposed that credit-rating firms operate under stricter guidelines.
This month, the Journal reports that the SEC is currently contemplating civil fraud charges against some of these credit-reporting firms for their part in the development of mortgage-bond deals that precipitated the recent financial crisis.
During its investigation, the SEC is examining the research done by Standard & Poor, Moody’s Investors Services, and other ratings agencies into the subprime mortgages (and additional loans) that underpinned recent ill-fated mortgage-bond deals. Was the research adequate? Or was it so slipshod as to constitute negligence or fraud?
Although a Standard & Poor spokesperson declined knowledge of any SEC investigation, she maintained that the ratings firm would cooperate with any request made by the SEC.
The SEC’s inquiry into ratings firms is part of its larger investigation into Wall Street’s culpability in the recent financial crisis. The investigation may or may not result in investment fraud charges being brought against the companies under scrutiny.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Loss | Comments (0)

Ambac & Others Agree to Pay $33M to Settle Fraud Allegations Surrounding Bond/Insurance Litigation

June 20th, 2011

Ambac Financial Group Inc., as well as several of its banking underwriters and insurers, has agreed to pay a total of $33M in order to settle claims of investment fraud. According to investors who experienced significant financial loss, the parties involved hid risks from investors about the mortgage debt it guaranteed.

The primary claimants in the case are the Arkansas Teachers Retirement System, the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Mississippi and the Public School Teachers’ Pension and Retirement Fund of Chicago. These claimants allege securities fraud in regard to Ambac bonds and stocks purchased from October 25, 2006 to April 22, 2008.

According to the suit, Ambac gave out misleading information regarding the safety of the bonds it insured in order to inflate the value of the securities. Claimants further allege that Ambac, which insured instruments related to high-risk mortgages, hid its involvement in the subprime loan disaster, an involvement that became clear when the housing market collapsed in 2008. According to the suit, Ambac falsely claimed that it insured the “safest” transactions, when in reality it guaranteed billions of high-risk residential mortgage debt and collateralized debt obligations that were high risk in pursuit of big profit.

Once a federal court has approved the settlement proposal, Ambac will pay claimants 2.5M. Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, HSBC Holding and Wachovia (now a part of Wells Fargo) will pay a combined total of $5.9 million. The four insurance companies involved will pay a total of $24.5M.

If you believe that you’ve been a victim of securities fraud, contact an investment recovery lawyer. Like the claimants in the Ambac case, you could recoup some or all of your financial loss through securities arbitration or litigation. Contact Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation | Comments (1)

Principal Protected Notes, Lehman Brothers and UBS Financial Services Arbitrations

June 14th, 2011
Head office of Lehman Brothers in Frankfurt, G...

Image via Wikipedia

A recent class action suit against Lehman Brothers as well as an enforcement proceeding against UBS Financial Services by New Hampshire has encouraged investors to hire investment recovery litigators and pursue claims against firms selling Lehman Brothers principal protected notes in an attempt to recoup their financial losses. According to New Hampshire’s claim, UBS engaged in broker malpractice by failing to disclose the risky nature of principal protected notes (PPNs). As a result, New Hampshire investors lost 2.5 million.
Principal Protected Notes
Principal protected notes (PPNs) are structured investments that have been around for years. Like all structured investments, PPNs connect CDs and fixed income notes to the performance of currencies, commodities, equities and/or other assets. Structures investment products are legitimate investments, and principal protected notes are a legitimate form of them.
Structured investments may have partial or full principal protection. Some pay a variable sum at their maturity. Others pay by coupons that are connected to a particular index or security. Given their risk and return reports, structured investments in general are appropriate for the portfolios of many investors.
In short, they are unsecured promissory notes connect to referenced securities, and as such they are not without risks. Unfortunately, according to claimants, investment firms committed broker malpractice by marketing these products to customers as safe investment alternatives.
Marketing of PPNs to Retail Investors
Beginning in 2005, PPNs became a particularly popular type of structured investment for retail customers. Noting their increased sales to non-institutional customers, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) expressed concern that brokers were committing a breach of fiduciary duty by marketing principal protected notes to retail customers as “conservative” investments with “predictable current income.” In fact, the agency issued a notice to brokerage firms in September of 2005 that clear guidance regarding the risks involved in these financial products should be given to retail customers.
PPNs, Lehman Brothers & Bankruptcy
When PPNs mature, investors typically receive a return on the principal from the borrower. In this case, the borrower was Lehman Brothers. Unfortunately for investors, when Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, even the principal on these notes became unprotected. Lehman’s PPN obligations on the notes were unsecured–and behind secured notes in the creditor bankruptcy line up.
The Case Against Lehman Brothers
Unsurprisingly, investors are now seeking to recover their financial losses. Although the specific allegations of claimants vary, all assert that Lehman Brothers, selling brokerages like UBS Financial Services and others, committed broker malpractice by falsely marketing PPNs as conservative investment product alternatives.
Specifically, claimants allege, these PPN products were depicted as 100 percent principal protected if investors held them to maturity.
Brokers also presented the PPNs as principal protected if the indices underlying them held their value. Furthermore, firms and brokers did not warn customers of the risks involved in investing in PPNs, nor did they warn them about what would happen if the underlying backer of the notes, Lehman Brothers, defaulted. Customers were also not made aware of the Lehman Brothers’ decline and that its fall could affect their investment’s value, making it in effect worthless.
It’s also been alleged that firms continued to push PPNs after Bear Stearns collapse, a failure which should have been a clear indicator or “red flag” of the risks involved in investing in banks that hold large numbers of subprime mortgages. It’s also been alleged that firms pushed PPNs on retail customers at a time when they themselves were reducing their PPN holdings. The accuracy or falsity of these claims has yet to be determined. But if firms did indeed recommend PPNs while reducing their own holdings, litigators are likely to claim broker fraud rather than simply failure to disclose.
Did your financial advisor mislead you into investing in PPNs, causing you to suffer financial loss as a result? If so, you need the advice of an investment recovery counsel. Contact Carlson Law in San Diego at 619-544-9300 today for a free consultation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Broker Fraud, Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (2)

Performance Fee Thresholds for Investors to be Raised by the SEC

June 9th, 2011
Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...

Image via Wikipedia

High net-worth investors will enjoy lower fees—that is, if the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) proposed changes to performance based fees proceed as planned.

The SEC intends to increase the dollar thresholds investors must meet before financial professional can charge them performance based fees. Currently, the thresholds are determined under two provisos of Rule 205-3 of the Investment Advisers Act: (1) brokers must have a reasonable belief that the client has a net worth of more than $1.5M, or (2) they must manage a minimum of $750,000 worth of investments for the client.

According to investment recovery lawyer Daniel Carlson of Carlson Law Firm, APC the current Act contains inherent risks for the average investor because it could encourage brokers to take big risks in order to make bigger fees: “If a high-risk investment fails, brokers don’t experience the financial consequences personally, but investors, particularly retirees, can end up losing everything.”

The SEC says it will issue an order revising the test for allowing performance fees to (1) a reasonable belief that the investor has $2 million in net worth or (2) $1 million of assets under management. In addition, the SEC order will exclude an investors primary residence from consideration in the 2 million dollars net worth evaluation, add a method for factoring inflation into the dollar amount tests.

If you are a high net-worth investor and have been exposed to unsuitable risk, you may have a claim for recovery of your losses.  Contact Carlson Law at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Securities Law, Uncategorized | Comments (1)

Halliburton Class Action for Securities Fraud, Case Reinstated – a Victory for Claimants

June 9th, 2011
Supreme Court of the United States Seal

Image by DonkeyHotey via Flickr

According to a June 6, 2011 article by James Vicini for Reuters (“Halliburton securities fraud lawsuit reinstated”) the U.S. Supreme Court has reinstated a securities fraud class-action lawsuit filed against Halliburton in 2001 by pension and mutual fund investors on behalf of all buyers of Halliburton stock between June 1999 and December 2001.
Claimants in the case charge that Halliburton fraudulently overstated its engineering and construction revenues as well as the positive impact its merger with Dresser Industries would have on the company. At the same time, claimants allege, Halliburton misled investors regarding the company’s liabilities due to asbestos.
Because of these misrepresentations, claimants argue, Halliburton stock was artificially inflated and, when the company revealed the true state of its affairs, its stock fell dramatically, causing financial loss to investors.
The lawsuit had formerly been thrown out of court by a Texas federal judge who ruled that evidence of loss causation, a link between the claimants’ losses and the company’s actions, was insufficient. And an appeals court upheld that decision.
Their rulings created confusion among appeals courts regarding the necessity of claimants to prove loss causation early in the litigation process.
The Supreme Court disagreed with the judge and the appeals court, ruling that stock fraud plaintiffs do not have to prove loss causation simply in order to pursue a class-action lawsuit. That’s good news not only for claimants in the Erica P. John Fund v. Halliburton case, but also for injured investors throughout the nation who’ve had their suits quickly dismissed due to insufficient initial proof of loss causation.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Loss | Comments (1)