Posts Tagged ‘Investor’

FINRA System Open to Investment Adviser Disputes

November 16th, 2012

English: Wall Street sign on Wall Street

On Thursday, November 1st, 2012, FINRA Dispute Resolution issued guidance to attorneys who represent investors and those who represent non-FINRA investment advisers as to the availability of the arbitration and mediation services of the FINRA forum to resolve their disputes.

FINRA, The Wall Street funded watchdog, has long acted as the arbitration system in which investors and securities brokerages could, and were often forced by contract, to settle their legal disputes.  However, until now, whether that system was open to registered investment advisers and individual investors was dubious and unclear.

Despite the fact that using FINRA arbitration might be more cost effective than going to court, most investment advisers are opposed to the changes.   David Tittsworth, executive director of the Investment Adviser Association questioned the ruling, noting that there are few registered investment adviser account agreements requiring clients to forgo court and instead arbitrate any disputes.

Those favoring the changes say that using FINRA will be more cost effective than going through the expensive process of court and that for those investment adviser contracts which currently require arbitration, FINRA offers a much better financial deal than other arbitration services.

While the guidance provides some clarity as to how lawyers and investors can proceed, one thing to note is that FINRA does not regulate investment advisers.  Therefore, FINRA can only do so much.  Even with a ruling that goes against an investment adviser, unlike rulings against brokers, FINRA lacks the authority to suspend the adviser for failure to pay.

Carlson Law Firm is reviewing potential claims against investment advisers.  To speak with an attorney regarding your, please call Carlson Law Firm 619-544-9300 for a free consultation.

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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)

Performance Fee Thresholds for Investors to be Raised by the SEC

June 9th, 2011
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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.

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

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)

Costs Associated with Investing in Mutual Funds

June 2nd, 2011

If you’ve invested in mutual funds, you should know that taxes can affect your investment, sometimes significantly reducing your net returns. To completely avoid federal taxes, consider investments such as tax free municipal bonds. Also be aware that some mutual fund investments are more tax efficient than others. Below is some basic information regarding mutual fund fees, expenses and income taxation, check with your professional tax preparer regarding your specific tax situation.

What other costs are associated with mutual funds?

In addition to taxes, mutual fund fees and ongoing fund expenses related to holding mutual funds affect your net returns. For instance, when you sell, buy, and exchange shares, you will likely pay sales loads and transaction fees. Additionally, as a mutual fund holder you must pay ongoing expenses, i.e. management fees and 12b-1 fees.

When you’re considering purchasing a mutual fund, be sure to consult the fee table located at the front of its prospectus. This table compares the costs of different funds. And be aware that just because high fees are associated with a fund doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a high-performing investment product.

Nontaxable capital returns
You can receive a return on a mutual fund without having to pay taxes on it. Usually, this happens when the return recovers some or all of your cost basis in the fund. Because they’re not strictly earnings, these returns are tax-free. You must, however, report them on your tax return.

Taxable dividend income
Many mutual funds pay dividends on a yearly, monthly, or quarterly basis to shareholders on a pro-rata basis. These dividends must be reported on your tax return for the year they were distributed.

Mutual fund dividends earned by individual shareholders often, but not always, qualify for taxation at capital gains rates. For instance, corporate stock dividends that a mutual fund receives and passes to shareholders usually qualifies for taxation at capital gains rates. If, however, mutual fund dividends are the result of other some other type of earning, such as interest, they’re taxed like ordinary income. Furthermore, special holding period requirements often must be met in order for dividends to qualify for long-term capital gain tax treatment.

Short-term capital gains
For tax purposes, short-term capital gain distributions are usually treated like dividends.

Long-term capital gains
Fund shareholders receive long-term capital gain distributions on a pro-rata basis. They must report these earning on their tax returns as long-term capital gains no matter how long they have held them.

Selling shares
When you sell shares in a mutual fund, usually you must pay tax on any capital gains earned. The taxable amount is ordinarily equal to the difference between the sale price and the original share purchase price. The tax owed on a gain depends on the rate at which the gain is taxed, which depends on how long you held the shares before selling them. In general, if you hold shares over a year before you sell them, any gain realized is considered long-term capital gain. On the other hand, if you sell after less than a year, any gains you earn will be considered short-term gain and taxed accordingly.

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Is It Really Too Late? Fraud, Statutes of Limitations & Recovering Investment Losses

May 26th, 2011
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Although it’s been three years since financial misconduct on Wall Street rocked the nation, investors still have opportunity to recoup some or all of their financial loss.

If you suffered financial loss during the recent crisis, your broker, brokerage or financial advisor may be legally responsible for that loss. A variety of legal actions can be brought against financial professioals for malpractice, such as negligent investment misrepresentation for making inappropriate investment product recommendations, intentinal securities fraud and inapropriate account turnover/excessive trading or “churning” to name only a few examples.

“Each state has different statutes of limitations for different kinds of claims,” explains Daniel Carlson of Carlson Law, a securities litigation firm in San Diego. “Your ability to file for damages depends on where you live and the kind of claims you have. While one state may have a three-year statute of limitations for all claims, others may have deadlines as long as 10 years for claims like breach of fiduciary duty. And in some states, the ‘discovery rule’ applies to fraud. That means the statute of limitations’ clock doesn’t start ticking until an investor ‘discovers’ he or she has been defrauded.”

Defrauded investors may also be able to file claims in more than one state. “It depends upon where you live, where you transacted business with your broker and whether the account agreement has a ‘choice of law’ provision indicating the state law that applies in the event of any claims,” Carlson says.

“And of course there’s more than one way to file a claim,” he adds. “If there are several options available, a good litigator will choose the state and the claims that give their clients the best chance of success.”

Did you experience financial loss due to your financial advisor’s misconduct? Did your broker lie to you about an investment? Did he or she give you advice inappropriate to your financial goals? Don’t wait any longer to fight for the compensation you deserve. Remember, legal deadlines do exist, and your time could be running out.

To discuss your options, contact Carlson Law at 619-544-9300 for a free consultation with an experienced investment recovery lawyer.

“Even if claims seem to have exceeded the applicable statute of limitations, defrauded investors should still contact an attorney,” Carlson advises. “By using all the legal means at their disposal, securities fraud attorneys can sometimes still recover client losses through arbitration even after a statute of limitations has expired.”

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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)

Before you Invest in a Mutual Fund, Learn the Basics. Fees, Costs and Undisclosed Risk Can Make Mutual Funds Unsuitable for Investors.

May 13th, 2011

Mutual Funds 101
Mutual funds are sold by companies that pool money (capital) from many investors. This capital is then invested in bonds, stocks and/or other securities. Investors in the fund all have shares, and these shares represent a part of the fund’s holdings.

If you’re interested in making an investment, a mutual fund may or may not be the right choice for you. Like all investments, they come with many different levels of risk. They aren’t insured or guaranteed by financial institutions or government agencies, even those sold by banks. However, because mutual funds are often a mix of various bonds and/or stocks, the risk is some mutual funds is “spread out” or diversified. That said, some mutual funds are not diversified, and it is important to understand that a mutual fund investment can be very high risk, or very low risk, depending upon the holdings and the goals of the fund. Each fund must be looked at individually to determine if it is appropriate for the investor, in the same manner as any individual stock or other investment.

Mutual funds are managed by professional fund managers. These managers invest the money investors contribute into individual stocks, bonds and other securities. And because mutual funds buy and sell securities in large amounts at one time, they usually incur fewer fees, thus operating in a cost-efficient manner. However, it is very important to carefully examine prior to purchase all of the fees and costs associated with the fund you are purchasing as they can vary greatly and take a significant bite out of your return.

If you feel your financial advisor placed you in inappropriate mutual fund investments and/or failed to disclose the fees and costs associated with investment or that the underlying holdings of the fund were beyond your tolerance for risk, you may have a case. Call Carlson Law at 858-544-9300 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 (0)

Variable Annuity Exchanges & Replacements: Annuity Loss – Annuity Fraud – Did You Get Shafted by Your Broker?

May 11th, 2011

There is a continuing problem for investors relating to the improper sale or switching by investment advisors of variable annuities that can be annuity fraud and result is annuity losses. Many older investors have been counseled by their brokers to replace their old variable annuity contracts with new ones. In many cases it may be unsuitable and result in the creation of fees and commissions for the advisor, surrender charges for the investor and new long term non-liquid investment. Furthermore, adding insult to injury, in some cases advisors have neglected to exercise due diligence by assuring that the exchange of those annuities was tax free under Internal Revenue Code (Section 1035).

If done properly, exchanging variable annuities should be tax free.
In a tax-free 1035 exchange, the owner of a variable annuity replaces the current contract with a new contract. No tax is paid on the investment gains or income from the old variable annuity. If, however, an investor gives up his or her old annuity for cash and then uses that money to buy a new annuity, he or she will have to pay taxes on the old annuity.

Variable annuities can be fraught with hidden costs.
An additional problem with variable annuities is that exchanging and replacing them often results in surrender charges. Customers must pay these charges when annuities are surrendered before the end of their given surrender period. Usually, that’s six to eight years from the purchase date. Because surrender charges reduce the amount of money available for reinvestment in a new annuity, they also lower an investor’s potential return. And if that weren’t bad enough, the new replacement annuity has a new surrender period, so funds are ordinarily locked into place for another six to eight years.

In general, seniors shouldn’t invest in them.
Because of the risks, high fees and surrender charges associated with variable annuities, they’re poor financial choices for most investors over 65. In fact, California law requires that selling agents prove that an annuity replacement is of “substantial benefit” to their senior clients.

FINRA oversight of variable annuities is increasing.
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has recently implemented new rules regarding broker recommendations to purchase and exchange variable annuities, making variable annuities one of the few securities products with its own suitability requirements. These new rules require that brokerage firms put supervisory procedures into practice for the detection and prevention of “inappropriate exchanges.”

Should you contact a securities attorney?
If you’re an older investor whose financial advisor has advised to exchange or replace variable annuities, resulting in a loss in your annuity either fraom annuity fraud or simple negligence, call Carlson Law for a free consultation at 619-544-9300. Furthermore, if your broker failed to facilitate a tax-free 1035 exchange of variable annuities, contact our firm. Your broker may be liable for any or all fees, taxes and financial loss you incurred as a result.

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Posted in Fiduciary Duty Breach, Investment Fraud, Negligent Misrepresentation, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud, Stock Loss | Comments (4)

MEDICAL CAPITAL INVESTOR AWARDED $400,000 BY FINRA ARBITRATOR

April 29th, 2011
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In 2010 Peak Securities, a brokerage house that promoted and sold Medical Capital securities, was found guilty of fraud, negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty by a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) mediator. In this award against brokers selling fraudulent Medical Capital investments, an investor who experienced financial loss due to Medical Capital securities received a $400,000.00 award.

 

Hundreds of investors who bought fraudulent Medical Capital notes through brokerage firms have filed arbitration claims against those firms.  And in our opinion, this judgment for a Medical Capital investor will be the first of many.

The SEC exposes Medical Capital fraud.

The heart of a 2010 Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) complaint concerning investment fraud focused on Medical Capital.

Medical Capital professed to supply financial backing to providers of healthcare. According to company execs, they bought the accounts receivables of these providers and made loans to them. The accounts receivables were supposedly sold as notes to investors via private placements, also known as Regulation D offerings.

But it appears to have been a Ponzi scheme.

Medical Capital spent millions of investor dollars on administrative costs. Executives also spent millions on a Hollywood film, a yacht, and other extravagant items. And they failed to make interest and principal payments in a timely manner. They even pretended that no previous notes had been defaulted on.

But that’s not all.

According to the SEC receiver, hundreds of millions in medical receivables that had been packaged as Regulation D offerings were either overvalued or fictional. That’s right! Some had never even existed.

It’s been estimated that 20,000 investors bought $2.2 billion worth of Medical Capital notes, approximately $1 billion of which are in default. And that means massive losses for investors.

Comparable cases are pending.

In early 2010, another brokerage firm dealing in Medical Capital notes was sued, this time by the Massachusetts Securities Division of the Office of the Secretary of the Commonwealth. According to the lawsuit, Securities America, Inc. committed wide scale fraud–hundreds of millions of dollars worth of it—by marketing Medical Capital notes. The state alleges that the firm not only failed to perform with due diligence, but it also failed to disclose obvious risks to its investors, despite the urgings of its own president and a third party.

At Carlson Law, we believe that the arbitration award against Peak Securities foreshadows future arbitration awards against Securities America and the other brokerage firms that sold Medical Capital as well as other fraudulent and/or high-risk private placements such as Provident and DBSI.  For further questions and information, contact our securities fraud attorney in San Diego today.

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Posted in Broker Fraud, Investment Fraud, Securities Arbitration, Securities Fraud, Securities Law, Securities Litigation, Stock Fraud | Comments (15)