If you invested in Woodbridge Units or Notes, as further defined below — based upon a recommendation by financial advisor Frank Capuano — you may be able to recover your losses through securities arbitration before the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). Publicly available information through FINRA BrokerCheck indicates that Frank Capuano was formerly affiliated with broker-dealer Royal Alliance Associates, Inc. (“Royal Alliance”) (CRD# 23131) in Mount Holyoke, MA, from 1989 – July 2015.
Pursuant to an Acceptance, Waiver & Consent (AWC) entered into by Mr. Capuano and FINRA on or about May 2, 2016, the former Royal Alliance stock broker, without admitting or denying any wrongdoing, consented to a one year industry suspension. In connection with the AWC, FINRA alleged that Mr. Capuano:
“engaged in undisclosed and unapproved private securities transactions. The findings stated that he offered and sold approximately $1.1 million in notes to nine of his firm’s customers … The findings also stated that he received over $34,000 in commissions in connection with these transactions. The findings further stated that he did not seek or obtain approval from his firm before participating in these private securities transactions, nor did he disclose them to his firm.” (emphasis added)
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, as well as various licensed and unlicensed financial advisors. These investments came in at least 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 has been 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.”
Brokerage firms like Royal Alliance have a duty to ensure that their registered representatives are adequately supervised. Consequently, brokerage firms must take reasonable steps to ensure that their brokers follow all applicable securities rules and regulations, as well as adhere to the firm’s internal policies and procedures. In those instances when brokerage firms fail to adequately supervise their registered representatives, they may be held liable for losses sustained by investors.
In the event that a financial advisor wishes to consummate a private securities transaction, then he or she must first provide the firm with prior written notice, detailing the contemplated transaction. Such a transaction must first be approved by the firm. In the event that the transaction is not approved by the firm, then the broker cannot participate in the transaction. If the broker fails to notify the firm, in the first instance, or proceeds with an unauthorized transaction in derogation of the firm’s order, then selling away has occurred, in direct violation of FINRA Rule 3280.
The attorneys at Law Office of Christopher J. Gray, P.C. have significant experience representing investors in disputes involving broker misconduct, including selling away claims, in addition to claims against brokerage firms for their failure to supervise. Investors may contact a securities arbitration attorney via the contact form on this website, by telephone at (866) 966-9598, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org for a no-cost, confidential consultation.