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Articles Posted in Securities Concentration

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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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Silver Law Group is investigating former Plano, Texas-based VSR Financial Services, Inc. (CRD# 14503) broker John H. Towers (CRD# 700221) due to an extraordinarily high amount of FINRA BrokerCheck disclosures alleging unsuitable recommendations and negligence.

According to John H. Towers FINRA BrokerCheck report, Towers has 46 misconduct disclosures, most of which are FINRA arbitrations.  All the FINRA arbitrations allege that Towers recommended unsuitable investments and many allege overconcentration, and all but five of the disclosures have come in the last five years.

This is an extraordinary amount of FINRA BrokerCheck disclosures.  While one or two complaints over a long period of time in the industry is not unheard of, the complaints Towers has amassed over a short period of time is concerning.  Out of the 46, 42 are FINRA arbitrations and 35 of those have settled.

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Rainmaker Securities Sanctioned by Regulators for Multiple Violations on silverlaw.com

President Glen Anderson sanctioned along with Rainmaker Brokerage Firm

With six branches and 34 registered persons, Rainmaker Securities, LLC is in hot water with both FINRA and the SEC. Its president, Glen Anderson, is also included in the sanctions brought against the firm, according to official FINRA documents. The allegations include failure to devote appropriate time, attention and resources to supervision of its financial advisors, among other allegations.

Rainmaker Securities was registered with FINRA in 2005, and Anderson joined the brokerage firm as President in 2010. Rainmaker is approved to conduct business in the origination and sale of private placements. It is alleged that between June 2011 and September 2014, the firm—under Anderson’s direction—consistently violated FINRA rules that required the firm to:

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If the Connecticut Department of Banking (the “Department”) has its way, Meyers Associates and its owner, Bruce Meyers, will be barred from selling securities in Connecticut. A February 2014 Order to Cease and Desist issued by the Department, charges Meyers Associates and Bruce Meyers (“Respondents”) with numerous violations of Connecticut securities laws.  The Order states the Department’s intent to fine Respondents and revoke their registration to sell securities in Connecticut.

The present charges against Respondents stem from a 2012 examination by the Department, out of which the Department claims to have discovered multiple violations of the Connecticut Uniform Securities Act and FINRA rules.  Notably, the Department alleges that Respondents failed to properly supervise employees with known disciplinary histories, violated an order from the Vermont securities regulator, and failed to completely respond to both the Department’s and FINRA’s requests for information and documents.

In seeking fines and revocation of Respondents’ licenses, the Department cites to Meyers Associates’ history of run-ins with the Department over allegations that it employed unregistered agents, offered and sold unregistered securities, engaged in fraud in connection with the sale of securities, engaged in dishonest and unethical practices, violated FINRA conduct rules, and failed to enforce and maintain adequate supervisory procedures.  FINRA’s BrokerCheck report for Meyers Associates shows 14 final regulatory events, two pending regulatory events, and nine final arbitrations.

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UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico has come under the scrutiny of a leading bond market commentator, The Bond Buyer in yesterday’s article titled, UBS Puerto Rico Faces Surge in Arbitration Claims.  Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch’s credit ratings agencies downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds to junk bond status, which is below the investment grade status given to most U.S. municipal bonds.  The downgrade was predicted by UBS Financial Services’ (UBS) recent report Municipal Brief: Puerto Rico Credit & Market Update dated January 29, 2104.  This prediction came long after UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico branch offices mobilized its sales force with a targeted marketing campaign to sell the UBS Puerto Rico Family of Funds to investors.  A market revelation that is too late for those Puerto Rico investors’ whose portfolios are now heavily laden with UBS’ proprietary closed-end funds geographically concentrated in Puerto Rico bonds.

As mentioned in our previous blog post, “The removal of Puerto Rico municipal bonds from the universe of ‘investment grade’ municipal bonds could potentially result in increased sell orders from municipal bond portfolio managers driving prices lower.”  Further price declines in Puerto Rico municipal bonds has already occurred and the effects for many UBS closed-end funds, including UBS Puerto Rico Fixed Income Funds and UBS Puerto Rico Investors Tax Free Funds, has been an average drop in many of the funds’ net asset values (NAV) of another 5% since the announced credit ratings downgrades.

Scott L. Silver, managing partner of Silver Law Group, has brought clarity to many Puerto Rico investors who have contacted his law firm.  These investors have a better understanding of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) securities arbitration process.  The bond buyer reported, “his firm has filed about three dozen claims for FINRA arbitration in the past several weeks.”  According to the Bond Buyer interview Mr. Silver pointed out that FINRA “rules require dealers to supervise the activities in customer accounts” and said “his clients’ losses may be attributed to a failure by UBS to supervise their financial advisors.”

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The Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s credit ratings agencies downgraded Puerto Rico’s general obligation bonds to BB+ and Ba2, respectively, which is below the investment grade status given to most U.S. municipal bonds. The downgrade had been prognosticated by many brokerage firm research analysts, including UBS Financial Services (UBS) over the last several weeks. UBS Financial Services’ recent report Municipal Brief: Puerto Rico Credit & Market Update dated January 29, 2104, predicted downgrade and additional problems for Puerto Rico Municipal Bond Investors. The reported sentiments of UBS Wealth Management research analysts Thomas McLoughlin and Kristin Stephens are clear, “The probability of a downgrade of the Commonwealth’s GO and related bond ratings by all three ratings agencies into the non-investment grade category by the end of the fiscal year (30 June 2014) is high. Given the myriad obstacles facing Puerto Rico, we believe that at least one rating agency will take such an action within the next 30 days.” UBS research opinions were also consistent with recent moves by S&P Dow Jones Indices which oversees the methodology used for constructing the S&P National Municipal Bond Indices that are used by investors to track the performance of municipal bonds issued throughout the U.S.

On December 20, 2013, S&P Dow Jones Indices announced the removal of U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, from the S&P Municipal Bond “investment grade indices.” According to S&P Dow Indices, the removal of Puerto Rico municipal bonds as a component from the U.S. National Municipal Bond Market indices was due to dissimilarities between the “performance and characteristics” between the U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico, and the universe of “investment grade” municipal bonds issued by states and municipalities throughout the country. These changes were originally to be made on a gradual basis through March 2014. On January 8, 2014, S&P Dow Jones Indices hastened the removal of U.S. territories, including Puerto Rico municipal bonds, from S&P National AMT-Free and S&P AMT-Free Municipal Series Indices which was now effective January 2014 month end.

The removal of Puerto Rico municipal bonds from the universe of “investment grade” municipal bonds could potentially result in increased sell orders from municipal bond portfolio managers driving prices lower. Selling pressure from municipal bond portfolios including large mutual funds that hold Puerto Rico municipal bonds could be required because of fund-imposed “investment grade” mandates or money manager negative sentiment about the Puerto Rican economy. UBS Puerto Rico Family of Funds, including UBS Puerto Rico Fixed Income Funds and UBS Puerto Rico Investors Tax Free Funds, that are leveraged 50% against an underlying portfolio of Puerto Rico municipal bonds which may soon face lower prices. The effects of leverage on further price declines could be disastrous for closed-end funds that are illiquid and non-traded.

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UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico reported, as of December 11, 2013, another large decline in multiple proprietary closed-end bond funds managed by UBS Asset Managers. According to the Prospectus and Offering documents for the UBS proprietary closed end bond funds, UBS Puerto Rico Fixed Income Funds and UBS Puerto Rico Investors Tax Free Funds, UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico and its financial advisors characterized the bond fund investment objective as current income consistent with the preservation of capital.  For many years, UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico and its financial advisors recommended that Puerto Rican residents maintain concentrated positions in their family of proprietary closed-end bond funds.

To enhance the yield to investors, UBS Asset Managers had the ability to leverage the investments made in the bond mutual fund portfolios up to 50% of the value of the underlying portfolio.  The leverage resulted in catastrophic losses in the value of the portfolio concentrated in Puerto Rico issued securities sold exclusively to Puerto Rican residents for tax advantaged income.   UBS Asset Managers had an obligation and failed to properly manage the portfolio including effective hedging strategies to protect the fixed income portfolios concentrated in securities issued in Puerto Rico.

UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico reported the Net Asset Values for the following closed-end funds managed solely by UBS Asset Managers as of December 11, 2013:

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