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Articles Tagged with stock fraud lawyer

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If you invested in what are commonly referred to as future income payments (FIPs, or structured cash flows), through Future Income Payments, LLC (“FIP LLC”), you may be able to recover your losses through securities arbitration before FINRA, or in litigation, based on your particular circumstances.  FIPs, or structured cash flows, are a type of investment product that are primarily sold as a growth and income product by insurance agents, as well as through independent marketing organizations.

Formed in April 2011, FIP LLC is structured as a Delaware limited liability company, with its principal place of business in Irvine, CA.  Formerly, FIP LLC conducted business as Pensions, Annuities & Settlements, LLC.  Additionally, FIP LLC has business relationships with the following marketing affiliates: Cash Flow Investment Partners, LLC, BuySellAnnuity, Inc. and Pension Advance, LLC.

FIP LLC’s business model is predicated on soliciting pensioners through the websites of its marketing affiliates to enter into certain contracts, pursuant to which the pensioner receives a lump sum of money in exchange for some or all of the respective pensioner’s monthly pension payments, for a fixed period of time (typically, 5-10 years).  In addition, FIP LLC enters into contracts with investors (primarily retail investors), through which the investors provide money for the lump sum cash payments and subsequently receive some or all of the pensioner’s monthly payments.

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Money in WastebasketOn July 27, 2018, two affiliated small business lenders — 1 Global Capital (a/k/a 1st Global Capital, and 1 West Capital (collectively, “1GC”) — filed for Chapter 11 protection in Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of Florida.  Based in Hallandale Beach, FL, the two affiliated lenders are under the same common ownership and are in the business of purportedly providing small business loans known as “direct merchant cash advances,” to various clientele.  In connection with the bankruptcy filing, 1GC’s two primary executives, Messrs. Carl Ruderman and Steven A. Schwartz, relinquished their control over the company and tendered their resignations.

As reported, 1GC had around 1,000 individual unsecured creditors prior to filing for bankruptcy.  These creditors had loaned 1GC money with the understanding that these funds would then be invested in direct merchant cash advances.  Creditors received monthly statements which demonstrated how their investments had supposedly been allocated, in addition to being provided with an online portal to track their investments.

In total, 1GC has reported more than $283 million in unsecured lender claims.  Of the 20 largest creditors, all of them are individuals or retirement accounts.  Prior to the bankruptcy filing, the SEC had opened an investigation into whether 1GC was engaging in “[p]ossible securities laws violations, including the alleged offer and sale of unregistered securities by unregistered brokers, and by the alleged commission of fraud in connection with the offer, purchase and sale of securities.”  At this stage, both the SEC and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida, which recently commenced a parallel criminal investigation, are investigating allegations of possible wrongdoing or malfeasance at 1GC.

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Wastebasket Filled with Crumpled Dollar BillsAccording to publicly available records via FINRA BrokerCheck, former Securities America, Inc. (CRD# 10205, hereinafter “Securities America”) financial advisor Hector A. May (CRD# 323779, hereinafter “Hector May”) is currently under investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Attorney for the Southern District of New York concerning allegations of investment fraud.  Specifically, certain former customers of Hector May have recently come forward, alleging that Mr. May solicited investments in purported “tax-free” corporate bonds.

A long-time resident of Rockland County, New York, Hector May maintained an office in New City, New York, from which he conducted business through his registered investment advisory (RIA) firm: Executive Compensation Planners, Inc. (CRD# 116375) (“ECPI”).  Upon information and belief, Hector May’s ECPI clientele included investors in the following states: New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and Florida.  Publicly available information indicates that ECPI was formed as a New York corporation in December 1982.  SEC records reflect that Mr. May’s registration with the securities regulator was terminated on May 1, 2018.

Hector May was affiliated with the independent broker-dealer Securities America from 1994 until March 2018.  On or about March 9, 2018, Securities America reportedly discharged Mr. May due to allegations concerning “misappropriation of client assets.”  Subsequently, on June 6, 2018, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York implemented an asset freeze pursuant to a Restraining Order against Mr. May and his wife, Sonia May, with their consent.  Through the government’s restraining order, numerous assets have been frozen, including ECPI assets, as well as various bank and brokerage accounts, pension and social security benefits, as well as real assets including the May’s Orangeburg residence.

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Money in WastebasketOn July 18, 2018, the SEC filed a lawsuit in the District of Connecticut naming Temenos Advisory, Inc. (“Temenos”) and George L. Taylor (“Taylor”) as Defendants and essentially alleging that Defendants made improper recommendations of certain private placement investments to their investment advisory clients.  A copy of the SEC Complaint is accessible here: SEC v Temenos & Taylor 

Temenos, founded by Taylor, is a Connecticut corporation headquartered in Litchfield, CT, with additional offices located in St. Simons Island, GA and Scottsdale, AZ.  Temenos has been registered with the SEC as a registered investment advisor (RIA) since 1999, and is owned by Mr. Taylor and a trust that was purportedly established for purposes of benefiting Taylor’s former business partner.

As alleged by the SEC, prior to 2014, Temenos’ business was largely focused on the sale of traditional financial products to its clientele, including “[m]utual funds, exchange traded funds, variable annuities, and publicly traded stocks.”  Like many RIAs, Temenos charged an advisory fee to its customers based upon a percentage of assets under management.  However, as alleged in the Complaint, beginning in 2014 Temenos began recommending private placement investments to its clients: “Between 2014 and 2017, Defendants placed more than $19 million in investments by their clients and others in [the securities of] four private issuers … And they did so without ever sufficiently examining the marketing claims, financial statements, or business activities of those companies.”

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Money in WastebasketOn June 19, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a Complaint against various individuals and entities — including former financial advisor John Charles Piccarreto, Jr. (CRD# 6276418) of San Antonio, TX — in furtherance of the SEC’s efforts to “stop an ongoing fraudulent scheme in which the Defendants have raised more than $102 million from at least 637 investors across the United States since 2011.”  As alleged by the SEC, Defendants Perry Santillo and Christopher Parris of Rochester, NY purportedly orchestrated a fraudulent Ponzi-like scheme predicated upon first buying or taking over books of business from retiring investment professionals from around the country.

According to the Complaint, after acquiring new investors and assets, Messrs. Santillo and Parris (each formerly registered with FINRA) would coordinate their sales efforts with Defendants, including John Piccarreto, Jr., in order to allegedly persuade victims into withdrawing savings from traditional investments, in order to transfer the capital into issuers controlled by Messrs. Santillo, Parris, or certain of their associates.  The SEC has alleged that the Defendants would “falsely claim that their investors’ money [would] be used to operate businesses in fields such as financial services, insurance, real estate development, and medical laboratories.”  In actuality, however, the SEC has alleged that Defendants would transfer funds received into “multiple accounts held in the names of different entities” controlled by Defendants.  While some of the funds were purportedly used to repay investors in typical Ponzi-fashion, the SEC has alleged that the bulk of the monies were misappropriated by the Defendants.

With regard to Mr. Piccarreto, the SEC has alleged that, in one instance, he met with an elderly investor from Austin, TX in February 2015.  As alleged, Mr. Piccarreto convinced the 80 year old investor, who suffered from dementia, into putting $250,000 into an entity controlled by Defendants: Percipience.  Mr. Piccarreto later emailed the investor’s daughter, in response to her concerns with the Percipience investment, that “I know this is scary for you and you are just looking out for dad but I promise you I will not let anything happen to any of the money.”  In total, the SEC has alleged that Mr. Piccarreto misappropriated approximately $1.3 million in investor money.

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woodbridge mortgage fundsInvestors in Woodbridge Units or Notes, as further defined below, who purchased a Woodbridge investment based upon a recommendation by former financial advisor Alan Harold New (CRD# 2892508) may be able to recover losses through securities arbitration.  Publicly available information through FINRA BrokerCheck indicates that Alan New was formerly affiliated with broker-dealer NYLife Securities LLC (“NYLife”) (CRD# 5167) in their Fort Wayne, IN office, from June 2004 – August 2016.

As recently reported, the Woodbridge Group of Companies, LLC (“Woodbridge”) and certain of its affiliated entities filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware (Case No. 17-12560-KJC) on December 4, 2017.  Beginning as early as 2012, Woodbridge and its affiliates offered securities nationwide to numerous retail investors through a network of in-house promoters, unlicensed advisors, as well as various licensed financial advisors, including Mr. New.  Woodbridge investments essentially came in two forms: (1) so-called “Units” that consisted of subscriptions agreements for the purchase of an equity interest in one of Woodbridge’s Delaware limited liability companies, and (2) “Notes” or what have commonly been referred to as “First Position Commercial Mortgages” or “FPCMs” that consisted of lending agreements underlying purported hard money loans on real estate deals.

As alleged by the SEC, Woodbridge and its owner and former CEO, Mr. Robert Shapiro, purportedly “used his web of more than 275 Limited Liability Companies to conduct a massive Ponzi scheme raising more than $1.22 billion from over 8,400 unsuspecting investors nationwide through fraudulent unregistered securities offerings.”  According to Steven Peiken, Co-Director of the SEC’s Enforcement Division, the Woodbridge “[b]usiness model was a sham.  The only way that Woodbridge was able to pay investors their dividends and interest payments was through the constant infusion of new investor money.”

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Piggy Bank in a CageInvestors in Phillips Edison Grocery Center REIT II (“Phillips Edison II”) were recently solicited by third-party real estate investment management firm MacKenzie Realty Capital, Inc. (“MacKenzie”) in relation to a mini tender offer to purchase Phillips Edison II shares at $14.89 per share.  Investors who purchased Phillips Edison II shares through the initial offering acquired their shares at $25 per share (and at $23.75 per share for shares subsequently acquired through the dividend reinvestment program).  Accordingly, investors seeking immediate liquidity who elect to participate in the MacKenzie tender offer will incur substantial losses of approximately 40% on their initial investment (excluding commissions and fees, as well any dividend income received to date).

Phillips Edison II was incorporated in June 2013 and is a publicly registered, non-traded REIT.  As set forth in its prospectus, Phillips Edison II was “formed to leverage the expertise of our sponsors… and capitalize on the market opportunity to acquire and manage grocery-anchored neighborhood and community shopping centers located in strong demographic markets throughout the United States.”  As a publicly registered non-traded REIT, Phillips Edison II was permitted to sell securities to the investing public at large, and as such, the non-traded REIT was marketed nationwide to numerous unsophisticated retail investors.  In certain instances, some investors were not fully informed by their financial advisor as to the complex nature and risks associated with non-traded REITs.

Non-traded REITs pose many risks that are often not readily apparent to retail investors, or adequately explained by the financial advisors and stockbrokers who recommend these complex investments.  To begin, one significant risk associated with non-traded REITs has to do with their high up-front commissions, typically between 7-10%; in the case of Phillips Edison II, its prospectus indicates that investors were charged a “selling commission” of 7%.  In addition to high commissions, non-traded REITs like Phillips Edison II generally charge investors for certain due diligence and administrative fees, ranging anywhere from 1-3%; as set forth in its prospectus, Phillips Edison II charged investors a 3% dealer manager fee of up to 3% of gross offering proceeds.  Such high commission and fees act as an immediate “drag” on an investment.

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financial charts and stockbrokerOn May 1, 2018, FINRA Department of Enforcement entered into a settlement via Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) with Respondent Laidlaw & Company (UK) LTD. (“Laidlaw”) (BD# 119037).  Without admitting or denying any wrongdoing — Laidlaw consented to a public censure by FINRA, the imposition of a $25,000 fine, as well as agreeing to furnish FINRA with a written certification that Laidlaw’s “[s]ystems, policies and procedures with respect to each of the areas and activities cited in this AWC are reasonably designed to achieve compliance with applicable securities laws, regulations and rules.”

In connection with its investigation surrounding the matter, FINRA Enforcement alleged that “From April 2013 through December 2015… Laidlaw failed to establish and maintain a supervisory system and written supervisory procedures (“WSPs”) reasonably designed to ensure that” Laidlaw registered “representatives’ recommendations of leveraged and inverse exchange traded funds (“Non-Traditional ETFs”) complied with applicable securities laws and NASD and FINRA Rules.”

Non-Traditional ETFs are extremely complicated and risky financial products.  Non-Traditional ETFs are designed to return a multiple of an underlying benchmark or index (or both) over the course of one trading session (typically, a single day).  Therefore, because of their design, Non-Traditional ETFs are not intended to be held for more than a single trading session, as enunciated by FINRA through previous regulatory guidance:

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money whirlpoolFinancial advisor Mark Kaplan (CRD# 1978048), who was most recently affiliated with Vanderbilt Securities, LLC (CRD# 5953, hereinafter “Vanderbilt”), has voluntarily consented to a bar from the securities industry pursuant to a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver & Consent (“AWC”) signed off on by FINRA Enforcement on March 7, 2018.  Without admitting or denying any wrongdoing, Mr. Kaplan consented to the industry bar following FINRA’s investigation and findings concerning allegations of unsuitable and excessive trading in an elderly retail investor’s brokerage account.

According to FINRA records, beginning in 1989, Mr. Kaplan began working as a registered representative for Lehman Brothers.  Subsequently, he worked at CIBC Oppenheimer Corp., Morgan Stanley DW Inc., Citigroup, and Morgan Stanley.  During the course of his nearly thirty-year career, he has been involved in seven customer disputes, each of which concluded with a settlement.

With regard to the AWC, FINRA Enforcement alleged that “Between March 2011 and March 2015 [Mr. Kaplan] engaged in churning and unsuitable excessive trading in the brokerage account of a senior investor” and thus “[v]iolated FINRA Rules 2020, and 2111, NASD Rule 2310… and FINRA Rule 2010.”  FINRA’s findings centered on Mr. Kaplan’s customer, identified in the AWC by the initials ‘BP’, as “[a] 93-year-old retired clothing salesman” who opened several accounts at Vanderbilt with Mr. Kaplan during March 2011.

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Securities fraud attorneys continue to investigate claims on behalf of investors who suffered significant losses in UBS Willow Fund investments. Despite the fact that many customers were allegedly told the fund was safe and low-risk, it suffered a decline of around 80 percent. In addition, the fund may have deviated from the investment strategy it originally disclosed to investors, and this alleged deviation may have played a significant role in the decline of the fund.

UBS Willow Fund Allegedly Deviated from Strategy, Declined 80 Percent Investors Could Recover Losses

Created as a private hedge fund in 2000, the UBS Willow Fund was sold by UBS Financial Services. Reportedly, an announcement in October 2012 stated that the UBS Willow Fund would be liquidated. On September 6, 2013, the fund’s shareholder report stated, “The fund does not hold investments as of June 30, 2013.”

It’s possible that UBS did not adequately disclose the risks of the fund when making recommendations. Furthermore, many of the investors who received recommendations to invest in the fund reportedly had low risk tolerances and were seeking stable income. According to stock fraud lawyers, firms have an obligation to fully disclose all the risks of a given investment when making recommendations, and those recommendations must be suitable for the individual investor receiving the recommendation given their age, investment objectives and risk tolerance.

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