Posts Tagged ‘Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’

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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FINRA Fines Firms for Failing to Deliver Prospectuses

January 21st, 2013
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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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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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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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Attention Facebook IPO Stock Fraud Victims: Private Arbitration May Be an Option

June 18th, 2012

In the Initial Public Offering (IPO) class action suits of the 1990s, individual shareholders claimed that underwriters pushed them to buy tech stocks, driving up prices for the benefit of institutional clients who then dumped their holdings when prices were high, netting huge profits which they shared with investment banks and leaving lone investors with deflated stocks and hefty financial losses.

It took until 2009 for the IPO class action suit to be settled for $586 million.

 

Have Individual Investors Been Screwed Over Once Again? Probably.

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Fr...

Facebook logo Español: Logotipo de Facebook Français : Logo de Facebook Tiếng Việt: Logo Facebook (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What did Wall Street learn from the IPO debacle of the ‘90s? Not much, apparently.

Instead of maintaining an even playing field for all investors, class action suits recently filed allege that Defendants involved in the Facebook IPO favored certain institutional players and “preferred investors,” with underwriters privately providing them with information regarding the earnings stream for Facebook —information that differed from that published in Facebook’s prospectus and available to the general investor.

Unsurprisingly, a steadily increasing number of lawsuits are being filed against Facebook and the banks that underwrote its IPO, with claims likely to top $100 million.

 

Should Individual Investors Pursue Separate Suits? It Depends.

If you’re an investor who has suffered financial loss due to the alleged Facebook IPO stock fraud, you may want to join a class action, or you may be able to pursue an individual claim depending on the facts on your case.  If you bought the Facebook IPO from Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Bank of America or one of the “preferred investors” allegedly tipped about Facebook lower revenue streams, a FINRA arbitration may be your best bet to recover your losses.

 

Contact Carlson Law to evaluate your claim.

Carlson Law is reviewing claims for investors and closely following the SEC, Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and congressional panels reviewing what happened in the IPO.

If you lost money due to Facebook IPO alleged stock fraud, contact Carlson Law today at 619-544-9300 to review your claim and advise you about your best opportunities for recovery.

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Merrill Lynch Defrauded Stockbroker Employees out of Deferred Compensation – Over 10 Million Awarded

June 1st, 2012

$10.2 awarded to former ML brokers; More lawsuits to follow

Two former Merrill Lynch (ML) stockbrokers have been awarded a total of $10.2 million by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel in their suit against the firm for deferred compensation fraud.

Rubbish Art - Bank of America Merrill Lynch London

In a written report, the panel found ML guilty of breach of contract, negligence, fraud, and “intentional misconduct” in its handling of deferred compensation settlements.

The FINRA panel awarded Tamara Smolchek $4.3 million in compensatory damages plus $3.5 million in punitive damages. Meri Ramazio was awarded $875,000 in compensation for her losses and an additional $1.5 million in damages.

ML is appealing the decision.

More lawsuits in the offing

Approximately 3,000 stockbrokers left ML after the company was acquired by Bank of America in November 2008.  Not a single broker received vesting rights—despite ML’s deferred-compensation policy, which states that employees who leave the company for “good reason” are eligible for rights to the money in their tax-deferred accounts.

Needless to say, many more former ML brokers are now seeking compensation through the court system.

If you are a broker who was denied deferred compensation by Bank of America/ Merrill Lynch, contact the securities fraud attorney Daniel Carlson at Carlson Law today for a free consultation 619-544-9300.

Carlson Law Firm Website http://www.securities-fraud-attorney-san-diego.com/

 

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FINRA REACTS TO SEC CHARGES THAT IT MISHANDLED DOCUMENTS

December 7th, 2011
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According to the October 11 issue of Investment News, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has filed a complaint against the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), alleging that requested staff meeting minutes were altered by a FINRA director before they were delivered to the SEC in August 2008. The alterations, according to the SEC, rendered the meeting notes incorrect and incomplete.

Although FINRA currently serves as a self-regulatory organization (SRO) for stockbrokers, it has recently aspired to assuming that role for financial advisors, too. Given the SEC’s complaint, however, those aspirations are in jeopardy.

Ironically, it was FINRA, not the SEC, that first brought the problem of the tampered documents to light. After reporting the problem to the SEC, FINRA appointed a new director in its Kansas office where the tampering occurred. The SRO has also updated its protocols for the handling of documents and instituted extensive ethics training for its employees.

But for the SEC, these measures aren’t enough. The commission has ordered that FINRA hire an independent consultant to review the SRO’s training and in-house procedures, and to make recommendations for improvement. The goal? Ensuring that in future the SEC consistently receives reliable and accurate paperwork from FINRA.

Within 30 days of receiving the consultant’s findings and recommendations, FINRA’s board must either implement the suggestions for improvement or protest them. Alternatives to any recommendations that FINRA finds impractical or cumbersome must then be determined and agreed upon by both the board and the consulting agent.

In settling the charges made against it by the SEC, FINRA is neither denying nor admitting them. As an SRO that ensures the compliance of brokers with SEC regulations, however, FINRA recognizes that its own employees must comply with any and all requests made by the SEC.

At Carlson Law, our securities fraud attorneys represent those who have suffered financial loss due to stockbroker misconduct. To learn more about issues in finance today that may affect your wellbeing, check out other blogs at Carlson Law.

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Principal Protected Notes, Lehman Brothers and UBS Financial Services Arbitrations

June 14th, 2011
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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.

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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 (2)

FINRA CEO Says Brokers Must “Push and Pull” for Private Placement Information

June 6th, 2011

Often, investment advisors, stockbrokers and brokerages who unsuitably push Reg. D Private Placements on investors claim that any financial losses investors subsequently experience occur despite their due diligence. However, these private investments pay high fees that can induce some financial professionals to look the other way, focusing on the fifteen percent fee rather than the best interests of their clients in recommending these high-risk investments without the required due diligence having been performed. With the smell of large commissions and enormous fees in the air, it’s probably easy for brokers to rationalize away all of the drawbacks, risks, and any lack of appropriate due diligence for private placement investments.

Luckily for investors the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has decided to come down hard on the sales of Reg. D Private Placements. At a yearly meeting of the agency, FINRA CEO and Chair Richard Ketchum explained that in the future brokers who promote and sell private placements must “push and pull” for the necessary due diligence information in order to avoid liability and assure that they’re making sound investment recommendations for their clients. That means doing a lot more than reading basic investment documents and attending “canned” meetings if questions needed to be asked.

At Carlson Law we pursue brokerage firms and financial professionals who recommend inappropriate, high-risk private placements to clients. For elderly investors, conservative investors, and those with a net worth of less than $1 million or a yearly income of less than $200,000, private placements may be per se inappropriate investments. If you’ve suffered financial loss due to stockbroker malpractice, contact Carlson Law in San Diego today at 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 (2)

Justice for Morgan Keegan Investors an Ongoing Struggle

May 23rd, 2011
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Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc., a financial services division of Regions Financial Corporation, has been the subject of numerous regulatory investigations in the last few years.

Originally founded by Allen B. Morgan, Jr., James Keegan and two other businessmen in 1969, Morgan Keegan didn’t grow on a large scale until the 1980s when it began acquiring other brokerage houses, beginning with the Mississippi-based Geary & Patterson. By 1990, it had purchased a total of four investment houses, and it was hungry for more. From 1992 to 1997, it bought seven additional firms as well as a sports agency, Athletic Resource Management.

Morgan Keegan itself was purchased in 2001 by Regions Financial. Regions incorporated its brokerage unit into the firm, creating a division specializing in asset management, investment banking and securities brokerage.

In April 2011, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) as well as various state regulatory agencies and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed civil suits against Morgan Keegan.
According to many investor complaints filed with FINRA, State and SEC suits and investigations, from 2004 to 2007, the company marketed Select Intermediate Bond Funds and Select High Income Funds as low-risk securities to investors who had requested safe, short-term corporate commercial paper investments. Furthermore, Morgan Keegan did not inform clients that most of their assets (over 50 percent) were invested in sub-prime, illiquid, untested investment structures, such as mortgage-backed securities and collateralized debt obligations (CDOs).

When the mortgage market collapsed in 2007, investors lost big. According to the SEC, the company and two of its top execs, Thomas Weller and James Kelsoe, purposely hid the plummeting value of their risky investments through 262 so-called “price adjustments.”

The result of Morgan Keegan’s blatantly behavior was predictably catastrophic for their clients. Thousands of investors, hoping to recoup their financial loss, have filed or will file arbitration claims against Morgan Keegan with FINRA.

Unfortunately, although regulators unanimously agree that Morgan Keegan committed acts of egregious fraud that financially harmed clients, investor claimants in FINRA proceedings, generally individual or family trust investors, have thus far experienced very mixed success in recovering their losses. Why? They’ve consistently been denied access to documents necessary to their cases by FINRA arbitration panels.

Despite the fact that Morgan Keegan has publically admitted it’s been the subject of multiple regulatory investigations, the thousands and thousands of documents relating to these investigations have been denied to claimants and their counsel because many arbitrators have refused to order that Morgan Keegan produce this potentially damning paperwork. Consequently, time and time again, arbitration panels have rendered decisions on claims without having all the relevant facts.

Clearly, this must change if investors are to receive just compensation for their financial loss. And with persistent, long-term petitioning by defrauded investors and their lawyers, no doubt it will change.

If you feel you have been a victim of investment fraud or negligence, contact Carlson Law in San Diego. Carlson Law specializes in investment recovery litigation and arbitration. Call 619-544-9300 now for a free consultation.

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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 (2)

Citigroup Must Pay Claimants $54M in Damages in MAT/ASTA Investment Fund FINRA Arbitration

May 17th, 2011

In April 2011, Citigroup Global Markets, Inc. was ordered by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) panel to pay damages of more than $54M for its misconduct in managing and promoting a wide range of investment products, including MAT/ASTA municipal bond hedge funds.

The three claimants will receive 100 percent of the compensatory damages they sought, which total $34,058,948, as well as 8 percent interest and $17,000,000 in punitive damages. Furthermore, Citigroup must pay claimants’ attorney fees, expert witness fees, hearing session fees and the nonrefundable portion of the claimants’ filing fee.

The settlement process focused on the company’s poor handling of MAT/ASTA municipal arbitrage funds, including MAT Two, MAT Three and MAT Five; MAT Finance; ASTA Three and ASTA Five; and ASTA Finance. Without regard to their high-risk nature, the funds were promoted as alternatives to municipal bond portfolios. Furthermore, Citibank falsely characterized them as having strong risk-control features. FINRA found that Citibank not only falsely marketed MAT/ASTA funds, but that it also seriously mismanaged them.

If you believe that Citigroup Global Markets mishandled your investments but have yet to file a claim, don’t delay. Contact an experienced investment recovery lawyer in San Diego at Carlson Law today. It may not be too late to recoup your financial loss and stand up for your rights as an investor.

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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 (4)