Archive for the ‘Investment Fraud’ Category

“Buckets of Money” Claims Lead To Hefty Fines

July 11th, 2013
English: Certified Financial Planner, author, ...

Certified Financial Planner, author, radio and television personality, and inventor of the Buckets of Money strategy Ray Lucia at Sean Hannity’s Freedom Concert in San Diego, California, August 28, 2010. Photo by Andi Hazelwood. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mr. Raymond Lucia Sr., a financial advice author and syndicated radio personality, has been fined $50,000 related to SEC allegations.  The SEC alleged Mr. Lucia provided investors with misleading information regarding his wealth-management strategy, Buckets of Money (BOM).

Mr. Lucia currently hosts the weekday “Ray Lucia Show” which promotes investment strategies that focus on retirees. The SEC alleged that slideshows and other media used by Mr. Lucia to demonstrate the BOM strategy used misleading data to illustrate how a series of fictional portfolios would have performed during various markets over time.

According to an initial decision issued on Monday of this week by an administrative judge, Mr. Lucia made false claims that this “time-tested” investment strategy—geared towards providing retirees with inflation-adjusted income—had been “backtested” empirically during bear markets. The administrative judge further barred Mr. Lucia from any association with any investment broker or adviser and ordered Mr. Lucia’s San Diego-based law firm, Raymond J. Lucia Companies Inc., to pay $250,000. The firm’s investment adviser registration was also revoked.

Mr. Lucia was initially accused by the SEC last September of promoting the misleading “Buckets of Money” strategy at a series of investment seminars. These seminars were hosted by Mr. Lucia and his company and were put on for potential clients. According to the SEC’s September order instituting administrative and cease-and-desist proceedings, the backtesting on the “Buckets of Money” strategy evidenced by Mr. Lucia was insufficient.  Further, the SEC alleged that Mr. Lucia made misrepresentations and omissions related to investment-adviser fees, returns on real estate investment trusts, and inflation rates.

Presently, Mr. Lucia is reviewing the opinion within the SEC’s case and is considering an appeal according to Wrenn Chais, Mr. Lucia’s attorney with Locke Lorde LLP in Los Angeles. “While we respect the commission and its regulatory processes,” said Wrenn, “we respectfully disagree with the majority of the findings of the opinion and the penalties assessed.”

The Carlson Law Firm is investigating potential claims related to this decision. Please feel free to contact our office if you feel you may have a claim at 619-544-9300.

Daniel Carlson is a lawyer in San Diego focused on securities litigation who specializes in recovering investment losses for his clients.

 

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SEC Brings Investment Fraud Action Against Former LPL Employee

July 9th, 2013
Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daniel Carlson is a San Diego-based attorney focused on securities litigation who specializes in recovering investment losses for his clients.

Recently, accusations have been brought against a financial advisor affiliated with the LPL for committing investment fraud through the misuse of both his position and the trust of his clients in defrauding them.

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has alleged that Blake Richards, previously registered as a representative with LPL Financial and based in Georgia, misappropriated potentially more than $2 million sourced from no fewer than seven investors over the past five years.

Over the course of the past several years, while employed at LPL, Richards “had little to no commission production and few clients of his own.” Nonetheless, some of the clients that Richards did have were registered under a co-worker’s accounts because Richards himself lacked both insurance and the other licenses required for the legal assistance of his clients’ brokerage and business needs.

The SEC explains in its complaint that Mr. Richards engaged in investment fraud by telling investors that he was going to place their investment into assets with fixed income and variable annuities, in addition to other kinds of investment products. Allegedly, Mr. Richards’ clients had been told that they should write checks payable to either one of two different companies that he controlled: “BMO Investments” or “Blake Richards Investments.” Then instead of using the money to invest as he had promised, he then misappropriated the funds for himself according to the SEC complaint.

With at least two elderly investors involved, the largest portion of the funds comprised savings for retirement and/or proceeds from life insurance collected on spouses who were deceased. Moreover, it is alleged that Mr. Richards utilized account statements that were fictitious and prepared using letterhead from LPL Financial in order to cover up the scheme. Allegedly, Mr. Richards also misrepresented his title to investors as “Accredited Asset Management Specialist”, a College for Financial Planning professional designation.

In addition to the SEC’s preliminary injunction request, a permanent injunction is also being sought, along with the disgorgement of Richards’ wrongful gains—with interest prior to the judgment—and civil penalties.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud, contact Daniel Carlson at the Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300. Also, be sure to follow my firm on LinkedIn and Twitter.

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Crowdfunding: The Good, The Bad, And The Fraudulent

July 2nd, 2013
Official photographic portrait of US President...

Official photographic portrait of US President Barack Obama (born 4 August 1961; assumed office 20 January 2009) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Daniel Carlson is a lawyer in San Diego focused on securities litigation who specializes in recovering investment losses for his clients.

Signed in April 2012 by President Barack Obama, the JOBS Act creates crowd-sourced funding (“crowdfunding”) as an industry.  The act enables small businesses the opportunity to increase their ability to raise venture funds and sell small amounts of stock to many investors on a national level.  Oversimplified, “crowdfunding” allows the sale of small amounts of shares to many investors through many different platforms and social media.  The regulatory framework for this new investment vehicle is in development, and may not provide the same protection the public has been used to receiving.

This new investment sourcing vehicle is designed to help small businesses and startups and effectively removes many SEC rules and regulations in soliciting invest dollars.  In the past many small businesses have felt they were unfairly subjected to SEC rules and regulations that were not applicable to charities and non-profit organizations.  In a nutshell, previous SEC rules for private investing provided 1) strict rules regarding advertising for investors, 2) limited shareholder numbers, and 3) those looking to become potential investors in many non-publically traded businesses were required to have either an annual income larger than $200,000 or liquid net wealth totaling over $1 million.  Since the JOBS Act, small businesses will be allowed to use crowdfunding, selling small amounts of shares to many investors through many different platforms and media with a murky regulatory framework.

The relatively new investment vehicle of crowdfunding allows potential fraudsters the opportunity to take relatively small amounts of money from a large number of people.  Most investments that are crowdfunded do not require a minimum investment.  In addition, the majority of legal requirements to become an investor in such high risk investments have also been removed and the regulatory framework for this investment device going forward is still unclear.

Back in the 1920’s, business ventures would engage the public by offering to sell stakes in new and upcoming ventures, such as transportation infrastructure or newly invented consumer goods. Eventually, the stock crash of 1929 led to new regulations and standards that changed the way business were funded, including the sale of stock. Through his support of this crowdfunding innovation, President Obama has essentially laid the groundwork for anyone and everyone to invest money in startups and small businesses.  This also opens the door to many types of potential investor fraud and abuse.  The SEC will provide details to regulate the debt and equity crowdfunding provisions of the bill, however at this point they are still unclear.  Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) is also planning to provide rules for member firms engaged in crowdfunding.  But as usual, the investor needs to beware of deals that sound too good to be true, and be aware of new ways their investment dollars are being sought.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud, via crowdfunding or otherwise, contact Daniel Carlson at the Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300.

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LPL Ordered to Pay $2.5 Million for Non-Traded REIT Sales

February 28th, 2013

Daniel Carlson is a securities litigation attorney in San Diego who specializes in recovering investment losses for his clients.

English: Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

English: Seal of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In late December of last year, securities regulators for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts filed an administrative lawsuit accusing LPL Financial, LLC of violating securities laws in regards to their sale of non-traded REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts). After an investigation of 587 transactions valued at $28 million dollars, agents found that LPL violated prospectus requirements in 569 of those transactions. The lawsuit demanded that LPL make full restitution to all Massachusetts investors who invested in the non-traded REITs.
On February 6th, 2013, the lawsuit settled when Massachusetts’ regulators ordered LPL Financial to pay up to $2 million dollars to investors and another $500,000 in fines. Massachusetts residents will be allowed to surrender their non-traded REIT’s back to LPL at the investors’ original purchase price, which was around $10 dollars a share.
REITs investments vary, many invest in commercial real estate such as strip malls and hotels. They are often promoted to investors with the sales pitch that the properties will increase in value. Of course, this may or may not happen. Many REITs are publicly traded, meaning that an investor can easily sell the interest if the investor needs to for any reason. A large problem for many investors with non-traded REIT’s, which do not trade on securities exchanges, is that they can be very difficult to sell and get out of. In addition, investors can continue being forced to contribute to the non-traded REIT for things like maintenance and repairs, depending on the language of the individual investment agreement. There are many non-traded REITs who stopped distributions long ago and left investors holding an interest that has little value as malls and hotels closed.
Not surprisingly, non-traded REIT’s generate higher fees and commissions for brokers. This can act as an incentive to unscrupulous agents to sell them to unsuspecting investors, especially seniors.
TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE
While the above action only applies to residents of Massachusetts, LPL sold the non-traded REITs nationwide. Residents of other states, including California, would be well advised to seek legal consultation on their non-traded REITs sold by LPL and other advisors. Since many of the LPL REITs were sold beginning in 2006, it is important to pursue your claim as soon as possible. .
If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud in regards to non-traded REITs sold by LPL or other companies, contact Daniel Carlson at the Carlson Law Firm today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300.

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FINRA Fines Firms for Failing to Deliver Prospectuses

January 21st, 2013
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Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On January 2, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced fines totaling over $700,000  against five companies for failure in delivering prospectuses for mutual funds to clients.  The FINRA fines were implemented against LPL Financial, State Farm Management Corp., Scottrade Inc., T. Rowe Price Investment Services, Inc., and Deutsche Bank Securities, Inc.

By law, securities companies are required to deliver prospectuses to their clients so that the clients have an opportunity to review the investment portfolios and past performances of the funds.

The sanctions are the result of a FINRA review period from January 2009 through June 2011. LPL, who over that time period was required to deliver 3.4 million prospectuses to clients, blamed the problem on its brokers but admitted that there were no procedures in place to make sure the documents had been delivered.

FINRA alleged that State Farm, who was responsible for delivering 154,129 prospectuses, also failed due to inadequate supervision of its brokers.

As is the norm in these types of settlements, none of the firms involved admitted guilt in any of FINRA findings.  Of the five firms involved, only LPL released a statement.  Spokesman Betsy Weinberger said that LPL has instituted an automatic prospectus delivery program which she claims would assure that prospectuses are delivered in a timely manner.  None of the other firms released a statement.

At the Carlson Law Firm, we have experienced investment recovery lawyers to help investors when they have been harmed by the deceptive practices of the securities industry.  If you believe you have suffered financial losses through negligence or willful misconduct, contact us online or call (619) 544-9300.

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Ray Lucia San Diego Investment Advisor charged by SEC – Buckets of Money?

September 14th, 2012

The Securities and Exchange Commission today accused local San Diego radio talk show host and bestselling author Ray Lucia of misleading potential investors in regards to his investment strategy called “Buckets of Money.”

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commi...

Seal of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The SEC alleges that Lucia misled potential investors when he told them that his method had been “back-checked” using historical data from past bear markets and that the investors money would be safe and grow.  According to the SEC, the investment program failed to account for fees and included artificially lowered inflation rates.   When historically accurate rates of inflation were used, a 1973 investor would have run out of money by 1989, the SEC said, a far cry from the return claimed by Lucia.

The SEC said Lucia and his company “have admitted during the SEC’s investigation that the only testing that actually performed were some calculations that Lucia made in the 1990’s – copies of which no longer exist – and two two-page spreadsheets.”  Lucia was aware that using the undervalued inflation rate would “make the results look more favorable for the Buckets of Money Strategy,” according to the SEC.

In addition to barring Lucia from making misleading claims, the SEC’s Order instituting Administrative and Cease-and-Desist Proceedings seeks financial penalties and “other remedial actions.”

Lucia quickly posted a passionate defense to the SEC allegations on his website on Wednesday afternoon, stressing that the investigation was a civil matter and not a criminal case and that it involved something he had not used in over two years.  “I want to assure you that I intend to vigorously defend this absolutely meritless lawsuit and will seek an early trial,” said Lucia.

Despite the allegations, Lucia’s website is promoting a seminar to be held at The Hilton San Diego Resort & Spa on September 22nd, which will be co-hosted by actor and financial columnist Ben Stein, and former San Diego Mayor and current talk show host Roger Hedgecock.

Carlson Law Firm is reviewing potential claims against Ray Lucia and his affiliates.  To speak with an attorney regarding your, please call Carlson Law Firm 619-544-9300  for a free consultation.

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Investment Scams: How Vulnerable Are You?

September 5th, 2012

Although anyone can fall victim to financial fraud, some investors are more likely than others to be targeted by scam artists.

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Logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to a survey conducted by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Foundation, victims of investment fraud differ from non-victims in their financial behavior. Below are five of the top high-risk behaviors that they share. If you’re engaging in one or more of these behaviors, you’re placing a bull’s eye on your financial security and making yourself a potential target for fraudsters.

Five Behaviors That Make You a Target for Scam Artists

1.      Failing to Research Your Financial Advisor

Victims of investment fraud often know very little about their financial advisors. Failing to check your stockbroker’s licensing/registration credentials puts you at great risk of investment fraud. (And don’t forget to run a criminal background check on your broker, too!)

2.      Buying High-Risk Products

Investors who buy high-risk financial products such as futures, penny stocks, promissory notes and private foreign investments are more likely to be victims of investment fraud.

3.      Getting Financial Advice from Nonprofessionals

Taking investment advice from nonprofessionals (family members, friends, coworkers, etc.) is another high-risk behavior that victims of investment scams share.

4.      Falling for High-Pressure Sales Techniques

Victims of financial scam artists are more susceptible to high-pressure sales strategies than non-victims.  Pitches such as “You must act now!” are often taken at face value, rather than recognized as the aggressive sales tactics that they are.

5.      Attending Free Investment Seminars

Actively seeking out new investments also puts investors at risk. In fact, victims of investment fraud are much more likely than non-victims to attend free investment seminars, thus opening themselves up to potentially fraudulent investments.

If you believe that you have been the victim of investment fraud, contact the investment fraud attorney at Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

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Signs of Investment Fraud

May 30th, 2012

Investment fraud can happen to anyone. To protect against financial loss, it’s imperative that investors become active participants in their financial wellbeing, learning as much as they can about their investments, monitoring their portfolios diligently, and being alert for signs of investment fraud.  A few signs to watch for:

Sure Things
Financial advisors who guarantee that an investment will perform in a certain way, i.e. often provide high returns in a short time, should immediately be suspect. No investment is a sure thing; all of them carry risks. Any broker who tells an investor otherwise is being less than honest.

Undue Sales Pressure
Trustworthy brokers do not pressure clients into investments. Even if no fraud is involved, such behavior is inappropriate. Investors should avoid stockbrokers who urge them to make snap decisions, tell them that they must “act now,” or apply other heavy-handed sales techniques.

Inexplicable Complexity
Investors should not sink their money into investments they cannot comprehend. All aspects of any investment, including how it works and what its risks are, should be understandable. Investments that a broker claims are successful because of their intricacy—a complexity the financial analyst cannot explain—should be considered suspect investments.

Consistent Pay Outs
All investments, even those that are low risk, go up and down in value. That’s their nature. When returns remain unnaturally consistent or increase in value despite negative economic conditions, that’s a red flag that an investor may have

The unsustainable geometric progression of a c...

The unsustainable geometric progression of a classic pyramid scheme, from Securities and Exchange commission report on pyramid schemes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

invested in a pyramid scheme, a ponzi scheme or some other investment fraud scheme.

Account Discrepancies
Unauthorized activity, missing money and other problems with a client’s account statement may simply be mistakes. However, they could also be signs that the broker is churning the account or engaging in some other type of investment fraud. To lessen this possibility, investors should monitor their account statements.

Unlicensed Brokers
Investors who do business with unlicensed brokers run a high risk of fraud. Investment scams are often perpetrated by unlicensed brokers who sell financial products that have not been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or issued by a legitimate agency. Unregistered products may include stocks, bonds, notes and hedge funds, among others.

Missing Documentation
Just as investors should avoid doing business with unlicensed brokers, they should also avoid making investments that have little or no documentation. Lack of documentation is a sign that an investment may be unregistered. For instance, if a mutual fund or a stock has no prospectus, or a bond has no offering circular, it might be an unregistered security. Likewise, stocks that do not have stock symbols may be unregistered.

Investor should also keep in mind, however, that not all legitimate investment products are registered with the SEC. Regulation D products, for example, are exempt from registration, as are those issued by the federal government or a state or municipal government.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud, contact Carlson Law today for a free consultation at 619-544-9300. A securities fraud attorney may be able to help you recover some or all of your financial losses.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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