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Investment Center Broker Accused of Stealing $300K from Elderly Client on silverlaw.comLeon Vaccarelli allegedly defrauded a total of nine clients out of more than $1 million

In May, former financial advisor Leon Vaccarelli was charged with 12 counts of fraud and money laundering in a federal court in Connecticut. If convicted on all of them, he could receive a maximum penalty of 210 years in prison. After pleading not guilty, Vaccarelli was released on a $100,000 bond.

Vaccarelli is alleged to have stolen money from several clients between 2011 and 2017. During that time, he reportedly informed his clients that their money would be invested in different places, including money market accounts and retirement products. What Vaccarelli actually did, according to investigators, was put the money into his own account and use it to pay his own expenses. In addition, federal prosecutors also say that he also used client money to make interest payments to other investors.

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Securities Arbitration Claims Against National Securities Corp. on silverlaw.comAccording to some reports, nearly 1/3 of National Securities brokers have had regulatory issues, legal disputes, or personal financial problems that have been disclosed to investors

National Securities Corporation is one of the oldest financial firms in the U.S., dating back over 70 years. Its the main office is in Seattle, Washington, but the company has licenses to operate in every state in the country, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

National Securities Corporation is registered with the SEC and three self-regulatory organizations: Nasdaq, Cboe BZX Exchanged, Inc., and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) – and it is with the latter agency that the company has come under intense scrutiny over the last couple of decades.

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SEC Charges Texas Pastor and Former Louisiana Broker with Money Laundering and Wire Fraud on silverlaw.comThe elder financial fraud allegations reportedly cost elderly investors over $1M of retirement savings

Once a prominent Methodist pastor in Houston, Texas, Kirbyjon Caldwell is now charged by the SEC with numerous counts of money laundering and wire fraud. The charges are directly related to a scheme Caldwell and his partner, Gregory Alan Smith – a self-proclaimed financial advisor who was also charged – allegedly used to defraud elderly investors by selling them an interest in defunct, pre-Revolutionary Chinese bonds.

It is alleged that in 2013 and 2014, Caldwell and Smith singled out vulnerable investors to invest in bonds that had no more value than being collectible memorabilia – promising instead that they were worth millions.

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The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) has formed a new group to increase oversight of private equity and hedge funds.  The SEC has assigned two former industry veterans to oversee the unit.  The SEC frequently creates these units when it sees increased activity in a particular type of investment product or is concerned that a particular segment of the securities industry may be violating the federal securities laws.  Over the last decade, alternative investments such as private equity and hedge funds have become very popular, and sales of these types of funds have expanded from the institutional level to the retail investor level.

The SEC’s 2014 Compliance Outreach Program focused on alternative investments such as hedge funds.   Private funds run by private equity firms, hedge funds, venture capital funds and other alternative investments have been the subject of heightened scrutiny during the last several years, furthered by the creation of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act in the wake of the financial crisis.

At the 2014 SEC Compliance Outreach Program, the SEC brought attention to a number of concerns it has relating to private equity.  Among the SEC’s rising concerns in this area are vague limited partnership agreements and poor disclosure practices to limited partnerships at private equity funds, the shifting of fees and expenses at those funds, and misleading performance and valuation metrics at private equity firms and hedge funds.

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According to recent SEC filings, the Endowment Master Fund LP, has offered investors an exit strategy from the hedge fund offering a new fund through a Private Placement Memorandum (PPM) which will be used to liquidate the Fund.  The Endowment Master Fund, LP was marketed heavily by Wall Street firms, including Merrill Lynch.  The PPM describes the Offer as a like-kind exchange of investors’ pro-rata interest of the portfolio holdings into a new PMF Fund, LP.   According to the SEC filings, dated February 20, 2014, “the PMF Fund, LP and the Endowment Master Fund, LP will be managed differently, with the PMF Fund, LP managed for purposes of orderly liquidation.”

For investors, the Offer provides little certainty because investors must choose whether to liquidate now without knowing the true value of the Fund which will be determined at a later date.  `The Offer for the like-kind exchange expires March 19, 2014 which requires more than a leap of faith for investors in a hedge fund that has languished far behind the market returns.  Investors must make an investment decision without knowledge of the value exchanged and how much will be realized during the liquidation period.  According to the New York Times article, After Weak Returns, the Endowment Fund Limits Withdrawals, the hedge fund, “began to struggle in 2011, suffering losses of about 4.1 percent, after fees, compared with a gain of 2.5 percent by the S&P 500.”

 On February 24, 2014, a Thomson Reuters article underscores the effects of the substantial hedge fund costs on the Funds dismal performance, “Even for investors who stay with the fund, there will be high costs.  They will not be permitted to ask for any money back this year.  They will also be charged a 1 percent management fee and a 1 percent servicing fee.  On top of that there will be the fund’s underlying managers’ 1.3 percent management fee and a 16 percent of profits as an incentive fee.”  The article points to the hedge fund underperformance in 2013, “with the fund earning only 2.08 percent last year, dramatically trailing the Standard & Poor’s 32 percent gain.”  For Merrill Lynch customer’s, “If investors accessed the Endowment Fund through Merrill Lynch they will have paid as much as a 2.5 percent upfront charge.”

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