Posts Tagged ‘breach of fiduciary duty’

Reverse Convertible Note Investments

July 18th, 2013
Stock Market

Stock Market (Photo credit: Ahmad Nawawi)

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

A reverse exchangeable security (also known as a “reverse convertible”) is a type of structured investment product. These are complex investments that involve features, terms, and risks that are very difficult for investors to understand.

Firms that offer reverse convertible investments have been put on notice by FINRA of the high risk in these products in order to ensure that the promotional materials and public communications employed regarding these products are both fair and balanced. It is important that these materials do not understate the reality of the risks associated with reverse convertible investments. Moreover, member firms must also remember to make sure that their registered financial representatives comprehend the terms, costs, and risks associated with reverse convertible investments. With this understanding, these representatives should perform adequate analyses on each customer’s suitability prior to a recommendation and explain thoroughly all risks and returns involved.

Prior to a recommendation involving either the purchase or sale of a given security, financial firms must form a reasonable basis upon which to determine that the products not only suitable for at least some investors, but also suitable for each specific customer to whom the adviser recommends that particular product. The suitability of a reverse convertible investment must be reviewed carefully. This requires firms to comprehend and explain the risks, terms, costs, and conditions of these structured products. Firms must grasp a reverse convertible’s terms and features in a comprehensive manner. These include the reverse convertible’s payout structure, the volatility of the reference asset, the product’s credit, market and other risks, call features, and the conditions under which the investor would or would not receive a full return of principal.

Given that each reverse convertible is unique, firms have to perform this suitability analysis for each reverse convertible investment that they recommend.

A firm’s consideration of product benefits to a specific customer (like the promise of a certain coupon rate, for example) must consider the risk to the investor. Investment firms and advisors are required to deal fairly with customers when recommending investments or accepting orders for new financial products. Firms must make every effort to communicate clearly to customers any pertinent information regarding these products.

If you think that you have been the victim of investment fraud, related to reverse convertible investments or another form of securities 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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“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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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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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.

Logo

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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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.

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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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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)

McClellan Offers $1 M Settlement in Deloitte Insider Trading Case

February 7th, 2012

Annabel McClellan, the wife of Arnold McClellan, who was formerly the head of Deloitte Tax LP’s Mergers and Acquisitions, has settled a lawsuit

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

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alleging that she provided confidential information regarding mergers to family members.  If the judge accepts Annabel’s $1M settlement, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has agreed to drop comparable charges against her husband.

According to the Commission, Annabel gave confidential insider information to her sister, Miranda Sanders, and Miranda’s husband James, on at least seven occasions. The Sanders used the information to make trades that earned them millions of dollars. The SEC claims that James Sanders, who is the proprietor of a financial firm, not only used the tips for his own advantage but also to the benefit of his partners and customers, who also made millions. The SEC further alleges that James took positions with companies in the U.S. that Annabel told him were targeted for acquisition. According to Annabel, her husband was unaware that she was providing confidential information to her sister and brother-in-law.

By settling the lawsuit, Annabel is neither admitting nor denying the charges against her. However, she has pled guilty to lying to the SEC during their investigation of the insider trading scam.

Annabel and Arnold McClellan were first charged by the SEC in 2010 after investigations were conducted simultaneously by the SEC, the Department of Justice (DOJ), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Financial Services Authority (FSA).

Insider trading is breach of fiduciary duty on the part of a financial officer.
As such, it negatively affects the stock market in various ways. Most obviously, it hurts investor confidence. When a company’s confidential information is used for the benefit of a few, it may also harm the company, ultimately causing financial loss. When insider trader occurs, who is held responsible for this breach of trust? All of the parties involved. That includes the individual who passes the tip along and the person who receives it, as well as anyone who trades based upon illegally obtained insider information.

Are you are aware of an insider trading situation that has been detrimental to your financial welfare? If you feel that you are, contact a securities litigation attorney immediately. For a free consultation, contact security lawyer Dan Carlson of Carlson Law in San Diego today.

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FHFA Files Lawsuits Against 17 Financial Institutions to Recoup Investor Losses

November 9th, 2011
Seal of the United States Federal Housing Fina...

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In its roles as conservator for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, the
Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) filed securities lawsuits against 17
financial entities in federal court as well as in the state courts of
Connecticut and New York in early September 2011. In the lawsuits the FHFA
alleges that the financial institutions, which range from Bank of America and
Citigroup to Deutsche  Bank and Credit
Suisse, violated numerous federal securities and common laws in their sales of
mortgage-backed securities. Citing the Securities Act of 1933, the FHFA seeks
both civil penalties and damages.

According to an FHFA press release, Bank of America and its
fellow financial institutions committed a breach of fiduciary duty when they provided
Fanny May and Freddie Mac with misleading loan descriptions. These
descriptions, which were part of sales and marketing materials, failed to
reveal the true character of the loans, particularly their risk factors. In
other words, they constituted banking fraud.

The current FHFA lawsuit is part of a continuing effort on
the part of Congress and regulators to deal with institutions that engaged in
practices that precipitated the financial crisis of 2008, a crisis in which
risky mortgage-backed securities played an important role. The Washington Post estimates that almost
$200 billion in risky securities were sold to Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae.

Regardless of possible negative effects on the financial
sector and on the recovery process of the housing market, the government appears
to be stepping up its efforts to recover the financial losses investors
incurred during the 2008 crisis. These recent FHFA lawsuits are comparable to
an earlier lawsuit in 2011 which the FHFA filed against  UBS Americas, Inc.

If you believe that you have
experienced investment loss due to the misleading marketing practices of a
banking institution, contact an investment recovery lawyer in San Diego today
at Carlson Law.

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