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Articles Tagged with LPL Financial

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Financial FraudAs recently reported by the Wall Street Journal (WSJ), investments in so-called private placements have experienced a substantial upswing in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.  In fact, according to a May 7, 2018 WSJ article entitled, A Private-Market Deal Gone Bad: Sketchy Brokers, Bilked Seniors and a Cosmetologist, “In 2017 alone, private placements using brokers totaled at least $710 billion … a nearly threefold increase rise from 2009.”  Of considerable concern, the article indicates that that financial advisors recommending private placements are “six times as likely as the average broker to report at least one regulatory action against them…” and, moreover, that 1 in 8 brokers recommending private placement investments have “three or more red flags on their records, such as investor complaint, regulatory action, criminal charge or firing… .”

In response to growing concerns about the many risks and pitfalls associated with private placements, some securities regulators have stepped up their efforts to combat the problem.  For example, on July 2, 2018, the Massachusetts Securities Division (the “Division”) announced its investigation into sales practices linked to private placement investments.  Pursuant to the Division’s investigation – which will be spearheaded by Mr. William Galvin, the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts – a total of 10 broker-dealers will be subjected to regulatory inquiry.  These brokerage firms, which have a demonstrated history of sales practice abuse surrounding private placement investments, include: LPL Financial, Arthur W. Wood Company, Santander Securities, U.S. Boston Capital, Bolton Global Capital, Advisory Group Equity Services, Moors & Cabot, Inc., Detwiler Fenton & Co., BTS Securities, and Winslow, Evans & Crocker.

In connection with its investigation, the Division is seeking to examine firms and advisors with disciplinary reports on file from 2 years ago, when the Division surveyed over 200 brokerage firms regarding their hiring and disciplinary practices.  According to Mr. Galvin: “Private placements are risky investments that reward the salesperson handsomely with high commissions.  Firms offering these to the public, especially seniors, have an obligation to see that they are sold to benefit the investor, not the broker.  Individuals with a history of disciplinary actions magnify the risk of unsuitable sales in connection with private placements.”

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broker misappropriating client moneyOn December 18, 2017, LPL Financial LLC (“LPL”) lost a FINRA arbitration concerning customer claims related to former LPL broker Charles Fackrell.  The three-member FINRA panel issued a $462,000 aggregate award to six of Mr. Fackrell’s former clients, an amount which must be satisfied by LPL within 30 days.  As we discussed in a previous blog post, Mr. Fackrell (CRD# 5369665) pled guilty last year to one count of securities fraud for operating a $1.4 million Ponzi scheme.  According to prosecutors handling the investigation, beginning around May 2012, Mr. Fackrell first engaged in the fraudulent scheme by misappropriating investor funds solicited from at least 20 victims, many from Wilkes County, North Carolina.

In addition to asserting claims of negligence and violations of the North Carolina Securities Act, Mr. Fackrell’s former clients brought claims against LPL for breach of contract, failure to supervise, principal/agent liability, and negligent retention of an agent.

As detailed in publicly available court documents, Mr. Fackrell abused his position of trust with his clients, steering them away from legitimate investments to purported investments with “Robin Hood, LLC,” “Robinhood LLC,” Robin Hood Holdings, LLC,” and “Robinhood Holdings, LLC,” as well as related entities (collectively, “Robin Hood”).  These entities were controlled by Mr. Fackrell and provided him with a conduit through which to cover his own personal expenses, including hotel expenses, groceries, purchases at various retail shops, and to make large cash withdrawals.

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Stealing MoneyOn April 12, 2016, former LPL Financial LLC (“LPL”) broker Charles C. Fackrell (CRD# 5369665) appeared before U.S. Magistrate Judge David Cayer in order to plead guilty to one count of securities fraud for operating a $1.4 million Ponzi scheme.  Based on documents filed with the federal court for the Western District of North Carolina, beginning around May 2012, Mr. Fackrell perpetrated a Ponzi scheme by misappropriating investor funds solicited from at least 20 victims in Wilke County, NC, and elsewhere.  According to court documents, Mr. Fackrell abused his position of trust with his clients, steering them away from legitimate investments to purported investments with “Robin Hood, LLC,” “Robinhood LLC,” Robin Hood Holdings, LLC,” and “Robinhood Holdings, LLC,” as well as related entities (collectively, “Robin Hood”).  These entities allegedly were controlled by Mr. Fackrell and provided him with a conduit through which to cover his own personal expenses, including hotel expenses, groceries, purchases at various retail shops, and to make large cash withdrawals.

Court records indicate that Mr. Fackrell successfully solicited victimized investors by making false and fraudulent representations, including that the investors’ money would be invested in, or secured by, gold and other precious metals.  Further, Mr. Fackrell allegedly told investors that Robin Hood was a safe investment, paying annualized guaranteed returns of 5-7%.  In actuality, however, Mr. Fackrell allegedly spent only a fraction of the investor money on such assets.  Contrary to the representations made to investors, Mr. Fackrell allegedly used a great deal of the money to cover personal expenses, in addition to diverting approximately $700,000 of his victims’ money, back to other investors in classic Ponzi-style payments designed to continue the fraudulent scheme.

Mr. Fackrell entered the securities industry in 2007, when he was under the employ of Morgan Stanley.  From 2010-2014, Mr. Fackrell was employed by LPL in Yadkinville, NC.  Currently, FINRA BrokerCheck indicates that Mr. Fackrell has been the subject of several customer complaints, including the following four pending complaints:

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Building Demolished On October 24, 2017, the New Jersey Bureau of Securities (the “Bureau”) entered into a Consent Order (“Order”) with Boston-based brokerage firm LPL Financial, LLC (CRD# 6413) (“LPL”), in connection with LPL’s sales of certain non-traded investment products to residents of New Jersey.  Specifically, the Order encapsulated findings of fact that LPL agents sold to New Jersey clients various non-traded financial products, including non-traded real estate investment trusts (“REITs”), as well as non-traded business development companies (“BDCs”) and other non-traded investments such as closed-end and interval funds, hedge funds, and managed futures.

In particular, the Bureau focused on LPL’s sales of non-traded REITs (some 7,823 transactions) and non-traded BDCs (some 2,120 transactions).   Non-traded REITs and BDCs carry considerable risks, chief among them their illiquid nature (often, investors are not fully aware at the time of purchase that exiting the investment could be problematic).  As stated in the Bureau’s Order: “Non-traded REITs and non-traded BDCs are generally illiquid as they have no public trading market and a liquidity event typically occurs within five to seven years of an offering’s inception.”

Aside from liquidity concerns, there are numerous additional risks associated with non-traded financial products, including but not limited to characteristically high up-front fees charged investors (commissions to brokers and their firm run as high as 10%, as well as certain due diligence and administrative fees that can range up to 3%), as well as the fact that many non-traded REITs and BDCs pay distributions from investor capital (return of capital).  This return of capital may confuse some investors who believe that the investment’s yield is based on positive earnings and cash flows.

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Securities fraud attorneys are investigating claims on behalf of customers who suffered significant losses in non-traded REITs as a result of doing business with Gary Chackman, an LPL Financial broker. In December, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority barred Chackman for violating securities industry rules related to the sales of non-traded real estate investment trusts.

LPL Broker Barred for Improper Non-traded REIT Sales Customers Could Recover Losses

The alleged misconduct relates to the time period from 2009 to 2012, but Chackman was registered with LPL between 2001 and 2012. In 2012, his registration was terminated by the firm for violating the firm’s policies and procedures regarding alternative investment sales.

According to the letter of acceptance waiver and consent, Chackman “recommended and effected unsuitable transactions in the accounts of at least eight LPL customers, by overconcentrating his customers’ assets in [REITs] and other illiquid securities.” The letter, dated December 12, 2012, also states that by submitting falsified documents, Chackman “was able to increase his customers’ accounts’ concentration in REITs and other alternative investments beyond the allocation limits established by [LPL].”

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On December 12, 2012, Massachusetts securities regulators announced that they are suing LPL Financial in connection with sales of risky investments known as non-traded REITs. LPL Financial has been charged with improper sales practices and inadequate supervision of registered representatives who sold non-traded REITs.

The Fight Against LPL Financial Nontraded REIT Fraud Continues

These charges are in connection with the sales of $28 million in non-traded REITs between 2006 and 2009, which were sold to nearly 600 clients in Massachusetts. According to the Massachusetts Securities Division, 569 of those transactions had regulatory violations, including violations of prospectus requirements, violations of Massachusetts concentration limits and violations of LPL’s compliance practices.

Inland American Real Estate Trust Inc. accounted for the largest amount of sales of all the REITs listed in the complaint. With real estate assets amounting to $11.2 billion, this REIT was the largest non-traded REIT in the industry. 

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Securities fraud attorneys are currently investigating claims on behalf of investors who suffered significant losses as a result of their financial investments with Jeffrey A. Cashmore and LPL Financial. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority allegations against him, Cashmore prepared and distributed sales literature to prospective and current customers that was misleading. Furthermore, he allegedly failed to retain copies of the misleading sales literature, a violation of NASD Conduct Rules. The alleged misconduct reportedly occurred between November 1994 and October 2012, while Cashmore was registered with LPL.

Clients of Jeffrey A. Cashmore and LPL Financial Could Recover Losses

According to FINRA’s findings, Cashmore distributed “Power Optimizer” packages during the relevant period, which is at least from January 2006 through December 2010. These packages consisted of documents that contained investment information and portfolio recommendations and typically included a Cash Flow Report, a Power Optimizer Report, a Portfolio Recommendations/Asset Allocation page, a Fee and Asset Summary Report and Morningstar Reports for each recommended mutual fund. These packages were distributed to at least 100 clients and potential clients. However, according to stock fraud lawyers and FINRA, these packages contained misleading information. Specifically, FINRA says the documents provided incomplete and oversimplified information which did not provide a sound basis for investors to be able to evaluate facts about the information provided by the package.

Reportedly, the Cash Flow Report’s cash flow summary was based on only one projected rated of return, rather than including alternate cash flow scenarios, and did not include any possible cash flows that would illustrate a negative rate of return. Furthermore, the Morningstar Reports allegedly included in the package all addressed Class A investments while Cashmore recommended and sold Class C investments almost exclusively. Securities fraud attorneys say that Class A and C investments have differing rates of return, surrender charges and fees, despite being similar investments when in the same mutual fund.

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Earlier in October, another claim was filed in an effort to help investors recover REIT losses. This claim was against LPL Financial and its goal is to recover losses sustained in Retail Properties of America, formerly known as Inland Western Real Estate Investment Trust. This claim, which was filed with FINRA, also involves eight other alternative, illiquid investments, and is seeking $1,000,000 in damages.

Recovery of Inland Western REIT Losses

Typically, REITs carry a high commission which motivates brokers to make the recommendation to investors despite the investment’s unsuitability. The commission on a non-traded REIT is often as high as 15 percent. Non-traded REITs carry a relatively high dividend or high interest, making them attractive to retired investors. However, non-traded REITs are inherently risky and illiquid, which limits access of funds to investors. In addition, frequent updates of the investment’s current price are not required of broker-dealers, causing misunderstandings about the financial condition of the investment. Because frequent updates are not required, investors may believe the REIT is doing much better than it actually is.

Reportedly, LPL Financial and its advisor, used an over-concentration of illiquid investments in the client’s portfolio. Furthermore, these investments carried a high level of risk because the securities recommended to the claimant didn’t trade freely. In addition to the Inland Western REIT, the portfolio also consisted of KBS REIT, Inland American REIT, LEAF Fund, Hines REIT, Atlas, ATEL Fund X, PDC 2005A, and ATEL Fund XI

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