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Articles Posted in Conflicts of Interest

Travis Wetzel of Frederick, Maryland has pleaded guilty to wire fraud relating to a fraudulent scheme to steal over 1.2 million dollars from an elderly client’s annuity account.

According to the government press release, Wetzel processed financial distribution documents for his investment advisory firm located in Rockville, Maryland. According to his plea agreement, from July 2010 to September 2012, Wetzel took a total of approximately $1,282,224 from an annuity account of an elderly client without the client’s knowledge, and used the money for his personal benefit. Wetzel knew that the client was elderly, whose age and physical condition would facilitate repeatedly taking money from the client’s account. Wetzel also laundered some of the money he took by transferring the money to other bank accounts he controlled.

We are currently involved in multiple cases against brokerage firms for mismanagement of elderly investors’ accounts and/or improper conflicts of interest between the financial advisor and the customer.  We routinely work closely with estate planning attorneys to help resolve disputes between family members regarding the management of an elderly family member’s financial affairs and we are frequently consulted regarding the improper sale of securities or mismanagement of the portfolio by a fiduciary, trustee or other trusted advisor.

Scott Silver, Managing Partner of Silver Law Group, is the current co-chair of the Securities and Financial Fraud group of the American Association of Justice (“AAJ”).  On July 28, 2014, during the 2014 AAJ Annual Convention in Baltimore, Maryland, Scott gave a well-received presentation titled “How to Win an Alternative Investment Case.”  AAJ, also known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, is the world’s largest trial bar and promotes justice and fairness for injured persons and safeguards victims’ rights.

The theme of the presentation focused on the rise of Alternative Investment or Product cases over the last several years.   Driven by its desire to replace commissions lost as investors realize stocks and bonds can be traded at discount firms for less than ten dollars a trade, Wall Street has introduced many new Alternatives to investors.  However, many of the new, complex Alternatives can be riddled with fees, conflicts of interest, and are frequently more speculative than marketed by the firms.  Several recent FINRA arbitration claims focus on products which lose substantially all of their value in a short time.  FINRA has seen a rise in arbitration claims where multiple investors all seek damages relating to the same Alternative Investments or Product and where one or more of the asserted claims center around allegations regarding the widespread mismarketing or defective development of a specific investment.

Alternative Investments which have been the subject of recent FINRA claims include:

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