Articles Posted in IRAs

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Securities attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of the customers of Christopher B. Birli and Patrick W. Chapin, who suffered significant losses as a result of misrepresentations and unsuitable recommendations of variable annuities. Reportedly, Birli and Chapin received significant sales commissions for allegedly unsuitable recommendations to their customers.

Customers Could Recover Losses for Unsuitable MetLife Variable Annuity Recommendations

On March 27, a complaint was filed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Office of Hearing Officers against Birli and Chapin regarding the State University of New York retirement program. According to the complaint, Birli and Chapin recommended their customers switch MetLife variable Annuities with new ones held outside the retirement plan in MetLife IRA accounts.

Allegedly, Birli and Chapin circumvented their firm’s general prohibition of direct annuities exchange by recommending to their customers that they surrender their annuities to purchase another product available within the retirement program, wait 90 days, and then sell the second product in order to purchase the MetLife IRA annuity.

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Securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of the customers of William T. Johnson. A resident of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., Johnson is accused of stealing around $500,000 from 13 clients. Johnson allegedly informed his clients that he would invest their money in Certificates of Deposit (CDs), Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs), short-term commercial paper and various other products. However, according to the allegations against him, Johnson actually used the money he received from clients to benefit his family and himself. The fraud allegedly took place between July 2003 and September 2011.

Fraud Victims of William T. Johnson Could Recover Losses

Johnson’s attorney reportedly said that Johnson would likely plead guilty. Securities regulators in Maine and Florida have apparently scrutinized Johnson in the past and, in addition, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has already barred him from association with FINRA-registered firms. Securities arbitration lawyers say Johnson previously was associated with Kovack Securities and Next Financial Group Inc.

If Johnson defrauded clients through his company while also registered with Kovack Securities or Next Financial group, he may have been “selling away.” From 2002 until 2009, Johnson was registered with Kovack Securities, and was registered with Next Financial Group from May 2010 to June 2010. According to securities fraud attorneys, “selling away” occurs when a FINRA-registered broker-dealer executes transactions outside his or her registered firm. Investment firms can still be held liable for a broker that is “selling away” if their supervision of that broker is deemed to have been negligent. As a result, it is possible for investors to recover their losses through securities arbitration.

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Securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of former clients of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services LLC, MML Investors Services LLC, Wealth By Design Inc. and Clinton D. Fraley. In August, an emergency law enforcement action was filed by the Colorado Securities Commissioner to enjoin Wealth by Design and Clinton Fraley from violating the Colorado Securities Act. According to the allegations, Fraley violated the Colorado Securities Act by accessing investors’ mutual fund accounts without authorization, converting their securities into cash illegally and forging checks in order to access funds for personal use.

Victims of Clinton D. Fraley Could Recover Losses

“Fraley, who was a licensed securities professional employed with licensed broker-dealers until he was terminated in 2011, solicited hundreds of thousands of dollars from Colorado investors, promising the investors that their money would be invested in ‘a well-balanced portfolio of investments’ consisting of Roth IRAs, traditional investments such as stocks and bonds, mutual funds and non-qualified investments,” says the statement from Colorado enforcement officials. However, “Fraley gained unauthorized access to the investors’ accounts, forged the investors’ signatures on checks, deposited the money in a Wealth bank account and converted the money for his own personal benefit, including the purchase of a house.”

Stock fraud lawyers say Fraley was registered from March 2007 to May 2011 with Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, a FINRA-registered broker-dealer. Fraley was registered with another FINRA-registered broker-dealer, MML Investors Services, from May 2011 to October 2011. All FINRA-registered broker dealers are, according to securities fraud attorneys, required to properly supervise the activities of their brokers during the time in which they are registered with the firm. As a result, these firms may be held liable for failing to adequately supervise Fraley.

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On June 15, coinciding with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced that it would be launching a public inquiry regarding the financial exploitation of elder Americans. The CFPB is a new agency that will be policing consumer financial products, and investment fraud lawyers applaud its choice to focus its attention on elder financial abuse.

Elder Financial Abuse Targeted by CFPB

It is clear to securities fraud attorneys, who regularly file claims on behalf of elderly individuals, that financial abuse against the elderly is a common problem. This sentiment was reflected in the June 15 announcement by the CFPB.

“Older Americans have lost billions of dollars to the silent crime of financial exploitation,” says Richard Cordray, CFPB director. “Our older adult population is growing every year, which makes it even more critical that we study this issue. Today, the Bureau will launch a public inquiry to learn more about financial fraud of older Americans and the credentials of financial advisors who counsel them.”

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Investment fraud lawyers are currently investigating potential claims on behalf of investors who suffered losses as a result of a breach of fiduciary duty related to their retirement accounts.

Investors Beware Retirement Account Fraud

Cofounder and director of Results One Financial LLC, Steven Salutric, was recently ordered to restore $1,211,902.25 to clients who held pension plans with him. The money was allegedly withdrawn from four pension plans between 2005 and 2009. This action violated the Employee Retirement Income Security Act. Allegations against Salutric stated that he misdirected client assets to entities such as a restaurant, a film distribution company, a real estate partnership and the church at which he served as treasurer. Salutric had a personal interest in all these entities, according to stock fraud lawyers.

“It is particularly egregious when those entrusted with protecting workers’ retirement assets jeopardize them by committing illegal acts for personal gain,” Hilda L.Solis, secretary of the U.S. Department of Labor, said.

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Stock fraud lawyers are seeking clients that have been the victim of stock broker fraud through the use of self-directed IRAs. Self-directed IRAs are held by a custodian or trustee and allow for investment in a broader set of assets than traditional IRAs. The custodial processes associated with self-directed IRAs gives investors a sense of security and protection. However, this is often not the case. Because self-directed IRAs’ owners are able to hold unregistered securities, due diligence is often neglected by custodians. As a result, these investments are often a vehicle of stock broker fraud.

Investment Attorneys Seeking Victims of Self-Directed IRA Fraud

The most common IRA custodians are broker-dealers and banks. In traditional IRAs, holdings are limited to mutual funds, CDs, firm-approved stocks and bonds. However, custodians for self-directed IRAs may invest in promissory notes, tax lien certificates, real estate and private placement securities. Investments that tie up retirement funds for a time period that is too long, fail to diversify in order to reduce possible loss or contain a risk for loss that is too high are in breach of advisers’ fiduciary duty and brokers’ suitability standard. In addition, early withdrawals come with a penalty that encourages money remains tied up in them longer.

Another significant danger of self-directed IRAs, and a reason they become a target for fraud promoters, is that they often do not require the custodian or trustee of the IRA to perform audits or keep accurate records.

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The North American Securities Administrators Association Inc. and the Securities and Exchange Commission issued an investor alert on September 23, which warned of the risks of self-directed IRAs. According to InvestmentNews.com, this scrutiny by regulators will likely influence the implementation of tougher restrictions on self-directed IRAs by small- to mid-sized broker-dealers.

THE RISKS OF SELF-DIRECTED IRAs

According to Brad Borncamp, a certified public accountant, “IRAs have a specific purpose: long-term investment for retirement. It’s really easy to mess up these transactions, and there’s more than meets the eye.” Self-directed individual retirement accounts allow their owners to invest in more unusual investment vehicles such as raw real estate, limited partnerships, private placements and life settlements. This is in contrast to traditional IRAs, which are usually limited to mutual funds, stocks and bonds. According to NASAA, about 2 percent of the total IRAs, or $94 billion, is estimated to be self-directed.

Because self-directed IRAs’ owners are able to hold unregistered securities, due diligence is often neglected by custodians. In addition, early withdrawals come with a penalty that encourages money to remain tied up in them longer, making these investments a frequent vehicle for stock broker fraud. Although up until now, smaller broker-dealer firms have resisted giving up the higher profit margins associated with self-directed IRAs, they will soon be following in the footsteps of their larger counterparts because of recent developments.

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This July, a jury found Sky Capital founder Ross Mandell and ex-broker Adam Harrington guilty of securities fraud and conspiracy. Allegedly topping $140 million, the stock broker fraud occurred between 1998 and 2006, according to prosecutors. Preet Bharara, Manhattan U.S. attorney, stated that Mandell and Harrington are, “masters of deception who had no qualms about lying to investors, manipulating stock prices, and using dubious trading practices to enrich themselves at the expense of their victims.”

Sky Capital Founder, Mandell, and Broker, Harrington, Found Guilty

In 2005, Forbes Magazine nicknamed Mandell Wall Street’s “bad boy broker” and it’s no wonder, with the bad publicity Sky Capital has received. A Forbes article released in July of 2011 by Walter Pavlo describes “the low bar of becoming a stockbroker” at Sky Capital. McKyle Clyburn, a witness at Mandell’s trial, described how he lied about his name, age and “pretty much everything” when first becoming a stock broker and then found himself a home at Sky Capital — despite his aversion to reading and writing and his drug abuse — making sometimes as much as $750,000 a year. He also stated that using margin trades to burn through a client’s money to earn himself commissions was common at Sky Capital. Clyburn is one of four former Sky Capital employees to plead guilty to criminal charges and then testify to their broker misconduct at Mandell and Harrington’s trial.

The trial lasted five weeks and testimonies like Clyburn’s exhibited the kind of lifestyle that Sky Capital brokers enjoyed at the expense of their clients. According to the Wall Street Journal, evidence introduced by prosecutors also showed that over $162,000 of Sky Capital investors’ money went to “adult entertainment expenses.” Attorneys for both Mandell and Harrington say they will appeal.

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Shane Selewach, a former Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. broker, has been convicted of stealing nearly $335,000 from clients and sentenced to 8-12 years in prison for broker misconduct. Selewach’s misconduct includes six counts of larceny, six counts of securities fraud and conducting business as an unregistered broker dealer.

SELEWACH SENTENCED TO 8-12 YEARS IN PRISON

Selewach was employed with Ameriprise from September 1997 until he was fired in April 2006. In February of 2008, he was permanently barred from acting as a securities broker by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. His broker misconduct took place between July 2005 and November 2008, during which time he stole nearly $350,000 from six victims. For the last nine months of this time period, he was barred from being a broker but continued to operate as one regardless. Selewach led investors to believe that he was investing their money in hedge funds, commodities and real estate, but in reality he was using it for personal benefit including travel, mortgage payments and sporting event tickets.

During the trial, Selewach’s defense argued that the monies he received were loans rather than “high-interest-rate investments,” according to the Cape Cod Times. Selewach himself testified to this effect. However, victims of his crimes testified otherwise. One of his victims, Patricia Conti, lost more than $150,000 to Selewach. Conti testified that Selewach did not disclose that his departure from Ameriprise was a result of termination, that he continually pressured her and that he asked her to sign documents which she was unable to read fully because they were largely concealed from view.

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$1 million is being distributed to victims of an investment scam by federal authorities. Bryan Keith Noel and Alexander Klosek of North Carolina were charged in 2009 with multiple crimes, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and conspiracy to commit mail fraud. All crimes were connected to Noel’s fraudulent investment business. In March 2010, Noel was found guilty and ordered to pay $11 million in restitution plus serve 25 years in prison. Klosek entered a guilty plea and was ultimately sentenced to pay $10.5 million in restitution and to serve 87 months in prison.

Victims of Noel and Klosek Investment Fraud Finally Receiving Partial Restitution

Official court documents stated that Noel and Klosek’s fraud took place from about January 2003 to around July 2006 and involved over 100 clients, the majority of which were local NC retirees. In this atrocious broker fraud, clients were persuaded to invest large sums with Noel’s business, which were then diverted to another company belonging to Noel, significantly decreasing clients’ investment values. The diversion occurred without his clients’ knowledge or approval. The decrease in investment value was then hidden from clients with falsified quarterly statements and in July 2006, investors were told that their investment had actually grown. Victims of Noel and Klosek’s fraud now believed their assets to be around $16 million when, in fact, they had dwindled to only around $1 million.

According to the NC Securities Division Newsletter, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Charlotte Division of the FBI, Joseph S. Campbell, said this of the case: “Retirees are often victims of fraud, and to steal their financial security is unconscionable. These men stole millions of dollars from people who don’t have the opportunity to restore the savings they’ve spent their lives building.” Though the $1 million that is now being distributed is only a small portion of the total restitution ordered by the court, it is a start.

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