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Articles Posted in Stock Manipulation

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7-waysAs recently reported, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) barred broker John Phillip Correnti (CRD# 5319471) in light of his failure to provide testimony and documents in connection with an investigation into potential violations of applicable securities industry rules.  Publicly available information through FINRA indicates that, in a career spanning 2007 – 2016, Mr. Correnti was previously affiliated with four different brokerage firms.  Most recently, Mr. Correnti was associated with AXA Advisors, LLC (“AXA”) (CRD# 6627) (2015-2016).

FINRA records also indicate that Mr. Correnti was the subject of a customer dispute in 2011, which concerned allegations of mismanagement, misrepresentations, breach of fiduciary duty, as well as claims grounded in negligence / negligent misrepresentation.  Furthermore, FINRA records indicate that Mr. Correnti was discharged from his employment with AXA in July 2016, following allegations concerning “[h]is apparent involvement in the possible manipulation of a low-price security.”

In August 2017, Mr. Correnti, who worked as a registered representative for AXA in Cleveland, Ohio, was barred from the securities industry by FINRA.  Specifically, FINRA sanctioned Mr. Correnti with an industry bar following his failure to completely respond to FINRA’s request for documents, as well as his incomplete testimony.  In addition, FINRA records suggest that the investigation was aimed, at least in part, on whether Mr. Correnti “[e]ngaged in undisclosed business activities….”

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Investment fraud lawyers are currently investigating claims on behalf of investors who suffered significant losses as a result of a securities fraud related to scalping. Scalping occurs when a broker or financial advisor recommends a security and immediately sells the security to turn a profit. According to securities arbitration lawyers, when many investors purchase the security, the price rises, allowing the fraudster to gain financially.

Have You Been the Victim of Investment Scalping?

In one recent scalping scheme, securities fraud charges were filed by the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) against John Babikian, the promoter behind and Both websites are affiliated microcap stock promotion websites and are known collectively as “ABS.” The SEC charges allege that Babikian engaged in scalping through the websites.

According to the SEC, on February 23, 2012, the websites sent emails to around 700,000 people, recommending investing in a particular penny stock, America West Resources Inc. (AWSRQ). However, the fact that Babikian held over 1.4 million shares of America West was not disclosed in the email, nor was the fact that he had positioned the shares for immediate sale via a Swiss bank.

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Investment fraud lawyers are currently investigating claims on behalf of investors who mya have been defrauded through microcap shell company pump-and-dump schemes in light of one of the largest trading suspensions in Securities and Exchange Commission history. In June, the SEC announced that it would suspend trading in 61 companies in the over-the-counter market on the basis that they are ripe for fraud .135963527SEC_Suspends_61_Companies_as_Possible_Too_ls_for_Fraud “The SEC suspended trading in the securities of 61 empty shell companies that are delinquent in their public filings and seemingly no longer in business based on an analysis by the SEC’s Microcap Fraud Working Group,” SEC officials stated in a statement. “Since microcap companies are thinly traded, once they become dormant they have a great potential to be hijacked by fraudsters who falsely hype the stock to portray it as a thriving company and coerce investors into ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes.” Reportedly, these companies were identified in 17 states and one foreign country. Following this suspension, these companies are required to prove they are still operational with updated financial information. However, securities arbitration lawyers say that while these companies became useless to fraudsters once they were suspended, it is difficult for them to identify every shell company that is a possible tool for fraud in time to prevent fraud from occurring. According to investment fraud lawyers, in a pump-and-dump scheme, fraudsters will use false and misleading statements to sell investments in the company, purchasing the stock at a low price, “pumping” the price of the stock higher and then selling the stock at a profit. Previously, the SEC suspended 379 such companies in one day, making this the second-largest suspension in history. A complete list of the 61 companies can be found on the SEC’s website. If you were persuaded to invest in any of these companies by your broker or financial adviser, you may be able to recover your losses through securities arbitration. To find out more about your legal rights and options, contact a securities arbitration lawyer at Law Office of Christopher J. Gray, P.C. at (866) 966-9598 for a no-cost, confidential consultation.

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Investment fraud lawyers are currently investigating claims on behalf of investors who suffered significant losses as a result of conducting business with Anastasios “Tommy” Belesis and other representatives of John Thomas Financial Inc. Specifically, investors in Liberty Silver Corp. and America West Resources Inc. may be eligible to recover their losses. In January of 2013, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued a Wells Notice to Belesis, the CEO of John Thomas Financial. Allegedly, Belesis was part of a pump-and-dump scheme involving Liberty Silver Corp.

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A FINRA statement alleged that Mr. Belesis “(1) willfully or recklessly sold a substantial portion of a firm proprietary position while failing to execute customer orders to sell shares of the same stock, at prices that would have satisfied the unexecuted customer orders; (2) failed to follow instructions by the customers to sell the shares; (3) used manipulative, deceptive and/or fraudulent means to artificially inflate the price of the stock; (4) made material misrepresentations, to customers, registered representatives and FINRA, about the reasons why the customer orders had not been executed; (5) falsified or failed to preserve the orders in question and other pertinent records; and (6) failed to reasonably supervise the receipt, documentation and execution of the customer orders.” Securities arbitration lawyers are conducting their own investigation into the sales practices of John Thomas Financial, based on FINRA’s claims.

Bloomberg reported that Belesis has also been accused of fraud related to America West Resources Inc. According to FINRA, John Thomas Financial raised $20 million for America West from 2008 to 2011. Investment fraud lawyers say that when America West stock rose significantly in February 2012, Belesis allegedly prevented customers from selling their shares while he instructed an employee to sell the firm’s stock, gaining the firm over $1 million in proceeds. John Thomas Financial allegedly attempted to disguise the alleged fraud by “losing” the customer order tickets. Currently, no decision has been made in this case.

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On November 8, 2012, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority issued a news release stating that it has barred Mark Gillis, Chief Executive Officer for Hudson Valley Capital Management, and expelled the firm itself for defrauding its customers. The fraud occurred when funds and securities were used to cover losses incurred by manipulative day trading executed by Gillis. Securities fraud attorneys are following this and other unauthorized trading cases for potential arbitration claims to recover losses for investors.

FINRA Bars CEO: Victims of Unauthorized Trading Could Recover Losses

According to FINRA’s findings, in 2012, Hudson Valley, through Gillis, improperly day traded stock worth millions using the firm’s Average Price Account. Following the improper trades, Gillis manipulated the stocks’ share prices and withdrew his day trading proceeds using accounts under his control. Following significant losses caused by this fraudulent trading, Gillis made unauthorized trades in customer accounts in order to cover the losses. Thousands of shares in securities were purchased by Gillis and then allocated to customers at excessive markups from 177 percent to 280 percent. In addition, he paid for an unauthorized purchase of stock by converting customer funds. One customer suffered losses of around $400,000 because of Gillis’ fraudulent activity.

When two customers became aware of unauthorized trading in their accounts, they confronted Gillis, who attempted to hide his misconduct by lying to them. He later lied during sworn testimony to FINRA staff. Investment fraud lawyers stress to investors the importance of diligently monitoring their accounts and statements for fraudulent activity. If investors suspect unauthorized trading or any other type of securities fraud has occurred in their accounts, they should contact a securities fraud attorney immediately.

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According to stock fraud lawyers, four brokers were recently charged by the Securities and Exchange Commission with securities fraud. The SEC’s allegations state that the four brokers illegally overcharged their customers $18.7 million. Reportedly they perpetuated their fraud by keeping a portion of profitable trades executed in customer accounts and using hidden markups and markdowns. The brokers named in the charges are Henry Condron, Benjamin Chouchane, Marek Leszczynski and Gregory Reyftmann.

Investors Allegedly Overcharged Customers $18.7 Million; Four Brokers Facing Charges

The clients of these brokers may have thought they were getting a great deal as, according to the SEC’s complaint, the brokers purported incredibly low commissions, often fractions of pennies or pennies per transaction. However, in actuality, when executing customers’ purchase and sell orders, they were reporting false prices. Reportedly, the hidden markups and markdowns were intentionally charged at times when the market was volatile. Investment fraud lawyers say this made the fraud particularly difficult to detect. The markups and markdowns occurred over a period of four years, involved over 36,000 transactions and ranged from only a few dollars up to $228,000. This resulted in fees that were sometimes altered from what had been reported to customers by over 1,000 percent.

In another part of the scheme, a customer sought to buy shares and specified a limited price. The brokers allegedly filled the order at the maximum price, but sold part of the order in order to obtain a profit for their firm. Next, they informed the customer that they were unable to complete the order at the maximum price set. During this time, millions of dollars were being made by these brokers through performance bonuses based on fraudulent earnings. In total, the brokers received over $15.6 million in performance bonuses, part of which resulted from earnings related to fraud.

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Over the years, computers have somewhat reduced the necessity of brokers. But until recently, dealers maintained their status as the rulers of the market world. However, with quant trading, broker status is being threatened, as well — and its effect on the market has earned a closer look. Mathematicians, who have long been key players in financial risk management, have now expanded the use of their skills to making money in addition to avoiding losing it.


The new role of mathematicians in the stock market includes tracking patterns in trading, predicting market movements with formulae and finally using algorithms that trade automatically according to triggers derived from that information. HFT, or High Frequency Trading, is a term becoming common and refers to these quantitative trading programs.

Quant trading can be fully automated or overseen by an individual. In addition, while some quant trading occurs in seconds, it can also take the traditional days, weeks or months. One of the most impressive characteristics of quant trading is its ability to switch strategies in less than a second.

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High-frequency trading — a process in which computer algorithms are used to trade shares, foreign exchange and derivatives at superfast speeds — earns profits by extricating tiny price differences thousands of times a day, across trading platforms. The algorithms being used are treated by their owners as top secret; in fact, many have taken legal action against ex-employees who have allegedly stolen them. But this high-frequency trading may be a threat to market security.

Banks and other members of exchanges, along with broker-dealers, are being asked by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) to hand over their high-frequency trading strategies and/or the software code so that the agency might watch for unusual trading patterns. Proponents of high-frequency trading claim that these strategies tighten the spread of market prices, but FINRA is concerned that they could hide potential market abuse.

FINRA, along with other securities authorities, has been trying to evaluate how high-frequency trading affects capital markets, and this request for strategy details and software code is just one more step toward that end. It would be possible for this technology to manipulate share prices, and so it is necessary for authorities to evaluate potential threats to prevent market abuse.

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Securities arbitration for Frankfort, Ill., trader Robert T. Bunda ended with a sixteen-month suspension and a total penalty of $346,740. The payment order includes $171,740 in restitution and a $175,000 fine. The restitution total is equal to his total personal gain that resulted from his misconduct. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) found that Bunda engaged in manipulative trading and attempted to conceal that trading by using one of his undisclosed outside brokerage accounts. Bunda’s manipulative trading included “spoofing that artificially impacted the market price of a NASDAQ security,” according to FINRA’s August 18th announcement.

Finra ruling: bunda to pay fines and restitution

While Bunda neither admitted nor denied the allegations against him, he did consent to FINRA’s ruling.

“This case underscores FINRA’s commitment to aggressively pursue disciplinary actions for manipulative trading schemes that undermine legitimate trading activity,” says FINRA Executive Vice President of Market Regulation Thomas Gira. “Bunda’s conduct was designed to artificially move the market for his own personal gain and demonstrates an unsuccessful attempt to conceal improper trading activity through non-disclosure of outside brokerage accounts.”

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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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