Roger Owens (CRD# 2359204), a broker previously employed by Cetera Advisors LLC in Elkton, Maryland, has been suspended by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) from acting as a broker. Owens worked for Cetera for the past decade.
Owens began in the industry in 1994. His problems began when he started selling unregistered Woodbridge securities. In 2018, he settled a customer complaint for $45,000 arising out of the sale of Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Funds. Among the allegations in that complaint were (1) violation of federal and state securities laws, (2) breach of contract and fiduciary duty, (3) common law fraud, and (4) negligence. Unfortunately, this complaint was only the tip of the iceberg.
In April 2019, Owens was discharged by Cetera for “violating firm policies and procedures by participating in unapproved private securities transactions.” These “transactions” included the recommendation of Woodbridge securities.
In August 2019, FINRA initiated a regulatory action that ended with Owens’ suspension from the industry. According to FINRA’s Letter of Acceptance, Withholding, and Consent (AWC), “[b]etween November 2015 and October 2017, Owens violated FINRA Rules 3280 and 2010 by engaging in private securities transactions without providing notice to, or obtaining approval from, Cetera.”
Specifically, Owens’ suspension arose out of Owens’ conduct in soliciting 14 investors to purchase promissory notes relating to the Woodbridge Group of Companies LLC (Woodbridge) without his firm’s approval. FINRA’s AWC indicates that Owens falsely represented in compliance questionnaires that he had not engaged in these transactions.
Owens was suspended for 12 months, fined $10,000, and ordered to disgorge any commissions received.
Woodbridge Now Known To Be A Ponzi Scheme
Woodbridge was a Southern California real estate development company. Woodbridge promised 5 to 10 percent returns by financing high-end properties in Beverly Hills, Aspen, and other wealthy pockets of the country. The company missed payments on notes sold to investors and filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2017.
In April 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged the company and several executives with criminal fraud. Some of Woodbridge’s insiders were eventually arrested on criminal charges that they operated a billion-dollar Ponzi scheme that defrauded thousands of retail investors. Woodbridge’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, eventually pleaded guilty to conspiracy and tax evasion in connection with this scheme and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.
Since then, the SEC expanded its investigation to include more than 200 of Woodbridge’s subsidiaries, as well as some firms and individuals charged with selling the unregistered securities.
Woodbridge and several insiders have been ordered by a federal judge in Florida to disgorge ill-gotten gains and pay civil penalties. The firm and hundreds of related companies settled with the SEC for $1 billion.
Did You Or Someone You Know Lose Money Investing In Woodbridge Group Of Companies LLC?
FINRA Rule 3280 requires a broker to provide written notice to the broker-dealer of any proposed private securities transaction detailing his role therein and any compensation he will receive. FINRA defines a “private securities transaction” as one outside the regular course or scope of a broker employment.
FINRA Rule 2010 requires brokers, in the conduct of their business, to observe high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade.
Furthermore, broker-dealers are required to supervise a broker’s activities during the time they are registered with the firm. If your broker recommended investing in Woodbridge in the form of a commercial mortgage, annuity, or bridge loan, the firm may be liable for your losses.
Silver Law Group has already filed claims on behalf of investors who lost money because they were improperly recommended investments in Woodbridge. If you or someone you know invested in any of Woodbridge’s offerings, please contact the Silver Law Group toll free at (800)-975-4799 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for a confidential consultation.