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Articles Tagged with alternative investments

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WFG-Investments-Broker-Carl-Busch-Fined-and-Suspended-by-FINRA-300x200Massachusetts is investigating allegations that 63 broker-dealer firms may still be selling private placements in GPB Capital Holdings LLC after the firm temporarily stopped raising funds.

The head of the Massachusetts Securities Division, William Galvin, received a tip from an independent firm, and began investigating GPB’s sales practices. His office has requested documentation relating to sales activity in the state, marketing materials provided to investors and information related to investor suitability.

GPB recently stated it is suspending their efforts to raise new capital to take care of overdue accounting and financial reporting of two of its biggest funds, GPB Holdings II and GPB Automotive Portfolio. These two funds have raised a combined $1.3 billion in investor capital, and became eligible to release financial information to the public over a year ago. They are now required to report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, but missed the April 30th deadline.

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Donna Jean Hines (CRD #4275542, aka “Donna Jean Atchison” or “Donna J. Hines”) is a registered broker and investment advisor who is currently employed with Cetera Advisors LLC (CRD #10299) of Weston, WV. Her previous employers include Investment Planners, Inc. (CRD #18557), also of Weston, WV, Sammons Securities Company, LLC (CRD #115368) of Ann Arbor, MI, and Edward Jones (CRD #250) of St. Louis, MO. She has been in the industry since 2000.

Lawrence-LaBine-Under-Fire-for-Alleged-Unsuitable-Recommendations-and-More-300x200On 06/12/20018, a customer filed a dispute against Hines, alleging unsuitable investments from 2005 through 2018, negligence, common law fraud and other claims, and requested damages of $142,026.00. Hines responded that a motion to compel would be filed to bring the case to arbitration, and reasons why the claims were without basis.

Three previous customer disputes were filed on 12/21/2015, 12/24/2015 and 12/28/2015. The claimants were children of a deceased customer, who each inherited from the customer’s estate. The claims allege misrepresentation, omissions, negligence and breaches in regards to “alternative investment products” that Hines sold the customer. The damages requested were different for each case, but all three claims were settled for $100,000. Hines’ response was that the alternative investments were purchased more than ten years ago. The client passed away in 2011, and the claims were settled to avoid the cost and expense of litigation.

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Lloyd Mark Johnston (CRD #1626695) is a previously registered broker and investment advisor who was last employed with Capital Financial Services, Inc. (CRD #8408) of Spokane, WA. He was previously employed with Legacy Financial Services, Inc. (CRD #38697) of Clinton, MD., Investors Capital Corp. (CRD #30613) of Lynnfield, MA, and Intersecurities, Inc. (CRD #16164) of St. Petersburg, FL. No current employment information is available. He has been in the industry since 1987.

Failure-to-Adequately-Supervise-Prompts-FINRA-Suspension-of-Roman-Luckey-300x200FINRA suspended Johnston on 06/25/2018 indefinitely after he failed to respond to a request for information. The suspension will continue until he provides the requested information. Should Johnson decline to provide this information, continue not responding or fail to request termination of his suspension, the suspension will be converted to a bar. FINRA began its investigation on 02/08/2018.

Johnston was discharged from Capital Financial Services on 05/14/2018 for failing to disclose “reportable events” on his U4. While the reportable events were not described, BrokerCheck lists a total of 15 tax liens in his disclosures dating back to 2000.

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FINRA Reports Brokers Nas Adel Allan and Gregory Anastos Made Unsuitable Recommendations on elderfinancialfraudattorneys.comSilver Law Group represented the Claimant in a FINRA arbitration claim against Texas E&P Partner, Inc. and Mark Plummer.  Scott Silver, managing partner of Silver Law Group, a leading securities and investment fraud law firm, said “the Award is significant because we have seen a rise in cases involving private placements and alternative investments and we are grateful that the FINRA Panel recognized the damage caused by Respondent.

The securities arbitration claim alleged that Respondents sold a Reg D private placement to the Claimant without disclosing all of the risks and the investment was unsuitable.  The FINRA Statement of Claim further alleged that the Respondents charged excess commissions or markups.  Significantly, the FINRA Arbitration Panel found that Respondents are jointly and severally liable for and shall pay to Claimant the sum of $1,000,000.00 in punitive damages pursuant to Mastrobuono v. Shearson Lehman Hutton, Inc., 514 U.S. 52, 64 (1995).

If you’ve lost money investing in unsuitable private placements or Reg “D” offerings, you may be able to recover your investment losses. We take cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning you pay nothing unless we recover. Please contact Scott Silver of the Silver Law Group for a free consultation at ssilver@silverlaw.com or toll free at (800) 975-4345.

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Broker Walter Parker (CRD #2131232) is a former registered broker and investment advisor last employed with Titan Securities, Inc. (CRD #131392) of Rowlett, TX. His previous employers include ING Financial Partners, Inc. (CRD #2882) of Wylie, TX, Locust Street Securities, Inc. (CRD #1703) of Des Moines, IA, and BMA Financial Services, Inc. (CRD #7943) of Kansas City, MO. No current employment information is available. Parker has been in the industry since 1991.

Lawrence-LaBine-Under-Fire-for-Alleged-Unsuitable-Recommendations-and-More-300x200FINRA recently suspended Parker for one month, and fined him $7,500 related to his activities with a client’s accounts. Parker made a number of recommendations to a client that she immediately begin investing in “alternative investments.” This client had very little prior investing experience, particularly with alternative investments. She was 64 at the time the account was opened. He recommended that she invest $290,000 into four of these illiquid alternative investments from her retirement accounts, all REITs.

These investments concentrated a large percentage of her net worth into these illiquid alternative investments, and were totally unsuitable for the client’s investment objectives. Unfortunately, the client suffered significant losses from all four of these REITs, requiring her to seek and obtain fulltime employment in 2016.

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Proposed Fiduciary Duty Rule Poised to Pass, Leaves Brokers Seething on silverlaw.com

New Department of Labor rule looks to protect investors from over-zealous brokers

In an effort to protect investors from conflicted investment advice, the Department of Labor is seeking to instate a new fiduciary duty rule that has left many independent brokers-dealers chafing in their suits.

What is a fiduciary duty?

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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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The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has recently sponsored a new securities industry rule that makes the information included on customer account statements more transparent.  Transparent commissions will likely lower the total up-front commissions a broker can collect on certain popular securities as investors realize the steep fees they are paying.

Nontraded real estate investment trusts (REITs) are among the most popular investment products sold by registered representatives and their broker-dealers.  Typically sold for less than $10 per share, the commission to a rep and the firm in this $1.4 billion “alternative investment” sector of the retail investment market is 7%, though the amount that goes toward the total upfront commission is split amongst several different players involved in selling the REIT.  A problem for investors is that their account statements do not clearly show the breakdown of those commissions or the estimated per-share valuation of their investment — something that the current rules do not require be revealed to them until 18 months after the REIT sponsors stop raising funds.

Under FINRA’s proposed new rule, the time frame in which broker-dealers will have to show investors a true valuation of such purchases will be drastically sped up.  By accelerating that timetable, investors will be provided quicker and much greater transparency in seeing the commissions being charged to them; and industry experts anticipate that broker-dealers are likely to lower the fees they assess to investors on such alternative investments.  Both nontraded REITs and illiquid private placements known as “direct participation programs” (DPPs), which would also fall directly under this new rule, have frequently been criticized for high commissions.

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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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In February 2014, Bond Buyer magazine featured a story about Silver Law Group’s representation of many Puerto Rico investors in FINRA arbitration claims against UBS of Puerto Rico for losses in leveraged bond funds.  The article concluded by highlighting Silver Law Group Managing Partner Scott Silver’s concerns that FINRA was not equipped to handle the large number of claims which could easily be anticipated against UBS for selling this complex alternative investment which lost more than 60 percent of its value last fall.

Last week, FINRA finally took public action to address the issue by recognizing the problem and temporarily halting all claims against UBS Puerto Rico while FINRA creates a protocol to administer the cases.  Silver Law Group urges FINRA to quickly address these issues and avoid unnecessary delay.

FINRA and the securities industry force investors to arbitrate all disputes with a broker-dealer through an arbitration clause in the customer agreement.  However, FINRA arbitration is promoted as a fast, inexpensive process for deciding disputes.  Many investors are now frustrated by a system which cannot administratively manage their claims.  Investors have suggested, amongst other solutions:

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