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Securities Fraud Blog

Greco & Greco, P.C.

W. Scott Greco

Fight Investment Fraud

Greco & Greco's lawyers represent investors to recover losses caused by securities fraud, churning, lack of suitability, negligence, sales of unregistered securities, unauthorized trading, and other misconduct by stock brokers, investment advisors, financial planners and their firms.

For a Free Attorney Consultation, call us at 877-821-5550 or 

Prudential Fined for Failure to Supervise Fraudulent Withdrawals From Variable Annuity

FINRA fined Prudential Annuities Distributors $950,000 this month for its failure to detect and prevent the theft by its agent, Travis Wetzel, of almost $1,300,000 from a customer's variable annuity.  The FINRA Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent may be found here.  

Mr. Wetzel, who was a former registered representative of LPL Financial, allegedly submitted multiple forged wire transfer requests from the variable annuity, to be paid to a third party account in Mr. Wetzel's wife's maiden name.

FINRA alleged that Prudential failed to investigate red flags and audits associated with the repeated payments to third parties.  FINRA stated "PAD failed to establish and maintain reasonable supervisory procedures and controls to supervise third-party distributions and prevent fraudulent withdrawals from VA accounts."  

Although the FINRA press release states that the victim was repaid her losses, brokerage firms do not always voluntarily do so in broker theft cases.  Greco & Greco has extensive experience in broker theft and forged withdrawal/wire cases.  Although the individual thief may not have the funds to return the stolen monies, the associated firms required to supervise the activities of their agents may be found responsible under multiple legal theories.  If you are the victim of a fraudulent theft, wire, or withdrawal, please contact Scott Greco for a free attorney consultation about your case.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 07/22/16.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsPrudentialLPL FinancialFINRAFraudSecurities FraudUnauthorized TradingPermalink

Washington DC Investment Advisor Dawn Bennett Barred by SEC

As set out in this SEC Order from an Administrative Law Judge (https://www.sec.gov/alj/aljdec/2016/id1033jeg.pdf), Dawn Bennett has been barred from the securities industry by the SEC. Dawn Bennett was a Washington DC area advisor who was previously registered to sell securities with Western International Securities.

Judge Grimes also imposed over one million dollars of fines and disgorgement against Ms. Bennett.  The findings in the above Order included the following:

"Respondents repeatedly overstated their AUM [Assets Under Management] by at least $1.5 billion in Barron’s magazine, on a radio show hosted by Bennett, and in various other advertisements and communications with existing and prospective clients to create the impression that Respondents were larger and more successful players in the industry than was actually the case."

Judge Grimes' Order ultimately found that "Respondents made multiple material misstatements with scienter regarding AUM and investor performance. They therefore violated Securities Act Section 17(a)(1) and (2), Exchange Act Section 10(b), and Exchange Act Rule 10b-5(a), (b), and (c)." 

Greco & Greco is a law firm located in the Virginia, DC, Maryland area representing investors against securities brokerage firms and advisors involving cases of securities fraud, unsuitable investments, misstatements, churning, and other investment fraud causes of action.  We have previously represented harmed investors in FINRA arbitration proceedings against Ms. Bennett and Western International Securities.  If you would like to discuss potential claims, please contact Scott Greco for a free consultation (http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html).

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 07/12/16.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsWestern International SecuritiesFINRAFraudSECSuitabilityPermalink

Virginia Broker Andrew Corbman Suspended by FINRA

FINRA, a regulator of the securities industry, recently issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) regarding former FSC Securities Corporation broker, Andrew Corbman. Pursuant to the AWC, Mr. Corbman was suspended for one month from being registered with any FINRA firm.

Mr. Corbman was registered with FSC Securities from 2/2008 - 1/2011, Kovack Securities from 01/2011 – 11/2015, and Newbridge Securities from 11/2015 - 3/2016. 

The AWC may be found here:  http://disciplinaryactions.finra.org/Search/ViewDocument/64878  In the AWC, FINRA alleges that “Between April 2009 and March 2010, while registered with a FINRA member firm, Corbman made unsuitable recommendations to three customers that were inconsistent with the customers’ investment objectives and risk tolerances and resulted in overconcentration oftheir liquid net worth in these investments. From April 2009 through June 2009, Corbman improperly recommended to two ofhis customers, who were a married couple with growth objectives and moderate risk tolerances, to purchase unsuitablehighly risky leveraged, inverse Exchange-Traded Funds (Non-Traditional ETFs”).”

The AWC further states:  “The investments that Corbman recommended were unsuitable as they were over-concentrated and exposed each customer to a risk of loss that exceeded each customer’s risk tolerance and investment objectives. Therefore, Corbman’s conduct violated NASD Rule 2310 and FINRA Rule 2010. Additionally, between March 2010 and January 2011, Corbman distributed a sales brochure for an alternative mutual fund to at least 10 of his customers that contained information that was misleading and failed to provide a sound basis for evaluating the alternative mutual fund referenced in it.”

Mr. Corbman’s registered offices over the last 12 years were in Ashburn and Lansdown, Virginia.

If you believe you may have a suitability or misrepresentation case regarding your investments, and wish to speak to a local Virginia attorney, please contact Scott Greco for a free consultation (http://grecogrecolaw.com/contact.html).

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 03/25/16.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsKovack SecuritiesFSC SecuritiesFINRASecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaSuitabilityPermalink

Capitol Securities Censured and Fined for Reverse Convertible Notes and Other Conduct

FINRA recently entered a Letter of Acceptance Waiver and Consent regarding Capitol Securities Management Inc. regarding various alleged sales practice violations. The AWC can be found here:  http://disciplinaryactions.finra.org/Search/ViewDocument/63638 The issues addressed by the AWC involved supervision, its anti-money laundering program, and the alleged unsuitable sales of Reverse Convertible Notes. 

FINRA stated at page 3:  “CSM, acting through RS, recommended and effected 24 unsuitable purchases of customized RCNs totaling approximately $4 million for the accounts of eight customers. Most ofthe customers were over the age of 60 and had modest or conservative investment objectives and risk profiles. Furthermore, all of the customers’ accounts were heavily concentrated in RCNs, with the amounts ofthese investments constituting a substantial portion oftheir net worth. RS’s recommendations were unsuitable given the customers’ risk tolerance, investment objectives, ages and net worth.”

If you would like a free consultation with an attorney to discuss potential claims, please contact Greco & Greco at http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 02/02/16.
Reverse Convertible NotesArbitrationBrokerage FirmsCapitol Securities ManagementFINRAFraudSuitabilityPermalink

Investigation Regarding Randy Watts of Winchester, Virginia

Greco & Greco is currently investigating possible claims regarding a Winchester, Virginia financial advisor, Randy Watts.  Mr. Watts operated under the name Watts Financial Group, and was registered to sell securities with Lincoln Financial Securities until November, 2015.

If you believe you may have a legal claim regarding investments with Mr. Watts or Lincoln Financial, please contact Scott Greco for a free consultation:  http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 12/22/15.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsLincoln Financial SecuritiesFINRAFraudPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

SEC and FINRA FINE UBS OVER PUERTO RICO BOND FUNDS

The SEC and FINRA have brought charges and fined UBS relating to sales practices and supervision of their UBS Puerto Rico Bond Funds.

The SEC press release and Orders can be found here: http://www.sec.gov/news/pressrelease/2015-217.html.  The SEC alleged that UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico (UBSPR) failed to supervise its broker in relation to solicited loans used to purchase additional UBSPR closed end funds, while failing to disclose the risks of this strategy and misrepresenting the safety of the strategy.  The SEC further alleged that UBSPR did not implement reasonable supervisory procedures and had inadequate systems in place to prevent and detect this wrongful conduct. 

UBS was censured and fined over fourteen million dollars.

FINRA also fined UBSPR for actions related to its Puerto Rico Bond funds - see the press release here (http://www.finra.org/newsroom/2015/finra-sanctions-ubs-puerto-rico-185-million-supervisory-failures) which states the following:

“...for more than four years, UBS PR failed to monitor the combination of leverage and concentration levels in customer accounts to ensure that the transactions were suitable given the customers’ risk objectives and profiles. The firm failed to implement a reasonably designed system to identify and prevent unsuitable transactions in light of the unique Puerto Rican economy, in which retail customers typically maintained high levels of concentration in Puerto Rican assets and often used those highly concentrated accounts as collateral for cash loans. Despite UBS PR’s knowledge of these common practices, it failed to adequately monitor concentration and leverage levels to identify whether certain customers’ CEF transactions were suitable in light of the increased risks in their existing portfolio.”

The above sales practices and lack of supervision have formed the basis of hundreds of FINRA arbitration claims pending against UBS and UBSPR.  If you would like to speak to an attorney about possible claims related to UBS of Puerto Rico bond funds, please read more about these claims at Greco & Greco’s website (http://www.securities-lawyers.net/ubs_puerto_rico.html) and contact Scott Greco for a free consultation (http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html).

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 10/09/15.
Closed End Funds ( CEF )Puerto RicoArbitrationBondsBrokerage FirmsUBS Financial Services of Puerto RicoUBSFINRAMutual FundsSECSecurities FraudSuitabilityPermalink

Success of FINRA Arbitration Claims against UBS regarding Puerto Rico Bond Funds

To date, FINRA Arbitration Panels have issued five awards relating to claims filed by investors against UBS and UBS of Puerto Rico regarding their Puerto Rico Closed End Bond Funds (CEFs). 

The Awards (for cases filed after the 2013 crash of the CEF market) are summarized below:

1.  Bauza v. UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico, et al..  Greco & Greco represented the Claimant in this case which resulted in the first award against UBS regarding the Puerto Rico CEFs.  UBS claimed that the Claimant only had $8,000 in net losses from the funds, but the panel awarded $200,000.00.  The case was tried in Washington, DC.

2.  Rosado v. UBS Fin. Serv. of Puerto Rico, et al.  Claimant sought $1,033,596 in damages.  The arbitration panel issued a written opinion (not common in FINRA arbitrations) making the following findings:  a.  “In the process of reducing its exposure in the CEFs by some 75%, UBS undertook an internal push for its brokers to sell its inventory to customers;” b. “this account was extremely over-concentrated and clearly unsuitable for Claimant;”  and c.  “proper and required supervision could have prevented Claimant’s losses or at least limited them greatly.”

The panel Ordered UBS to rescind the sales of the CEFs by repurchasing Claimant’s account for $1,000,000.

3.  Ramis v. UBS Fin. Serv. of Puerto Rico, et al.  The Claimants in this case requested 2 - 2.5 million dollars in compensatory damages.  The panel awarded $250,000 against UBS.

4.  Rodriguez Gonzalez v. UBS Fin. Serv. of Puerto Rico, et al.  Claimants requested damages at the end of the hearing of 3 to 6 million dollars.  The panel awarded $2,545,000.00. 

5.  Lopez Del Valle v. UBS Fin. Serv. of Puerto Rico et al.  This case involved a large number of Claimants, however, all but three Claimants settled their claims prior to the final hearing.  The orignal Statement of Claim requested ten million dollars in damages, but the award is not clear how much of those damages were requested by the three remaining Claimants.  The arbitration panel awarded $2,395,402.00 in compensatory damages, interest from the filing of the Statement of Claim, $50,000 in costs, $5,000 in expert witness fees, and significantly, $479,079.80 in attorneys fees.

In summary, all of the arbitration panels that have heard these cases have issued awards in favor of Claimants, with one also awarding attorneys fees.  If you would like to speak to an attorney about possible claims related to UBS of Puerto Rico bond funds, please read more about these claims at Greco & Greco’s website (http://www.securities-lawyers.net/ubs_puerto_rico.html) and contact Scott Greco for a free consultation (http://www.securities-lawyers.net/contact.html).

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 09/04/15.
Closed End Funds ( CEF )Puerto RicoArbitrationBondsBrokerage FirmsUBSFINRAFraudMutual FundsSuitabilityPermalink

First FINRA Arbitration Award Against UBS of Puerto Rico Regarding Bond Funds

Greco & Greco is pleased to report the first FINRA Arbitration Award against UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico relating to the crash of UBS closed end bond funds in 2013 which were sold to Puerto Rico residents.  W. Scott Greco represented the Claimant customer in the case of Bauza v. UBS Financial Services of Puerto Rico, et al.  The arbitration panel awarded $200,000 in damages to the Claimant, despite claims by UBS that Claimant’s net out of pocket losses were less than $10,000. 

The case involved a heavy over-concentration of the Claimant’s UBS account in proprietary UBS closed end bond funds pursuant to UBS’s recommendations.  The funds invested heavily in Puerto Rico bonds using leverage (a speculative investment technique), and had significant geographic concentration risk.

Read about the arbitration award in this Reuters article.

If you wish to discuss claims againt UBS involving these funds, please contact Scott Greco for a free consulation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 05/18/15.
ArbitrationBondsBrokerage FirmsUBS Financial Services of Puerto RicoUBSFINRAFraudMutual FundsSecurities FraudSuitabilityPermalink

H.D. Vest Charged With Failures Related to Supervision

The SEC entered a Cease and Desist Order pursuant to an Offer of Settlement by H.D. Vest Investment Securities Inc.  The Order can be found here.

The SEC charged H.D. Vest with failing to implement proper supervisory procedures and policies that would have discovered and prevented a fraudulent scheme by one its brokers who wired monies out of customer accounts to an account controlled by the broker.  H.D. Vest further failed to monitor and preserve investment related emails from its brokers.

H.D. Vest was fined $225,000 and ordered to hire an independent consultant to recommend improvements to its supervisory systems.

Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in broker theft cases such as this.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration and/or court by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are a victim of broker theft, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation. Contact

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 03/11/15.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsH.D. Vest InvestmentFINRAFraudSECPermalink

Norfolk Virginia Financial Advisor Charged with Fraud

As reported by the Virginia Pilot, Joshua Abernathy was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with mail fraud related to his alleged unlawful conversion of funds from customers.  Court documents filed by the government allege he defrauded and stole almost 1.3 million dollars from various customers in Texas and Virginia.  The government further alleged that he had many customers write checks to Omega Investment Group and he then converted funds for his personal use.

According to FINRA Brokercheck, Mr. Abernathy was registered with Next Financial from 2007 to 2012 and with The O.N. Equity Sales Company from 2013 to 2014.  FINRA barred him from the securities industry in February, 2015.

Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in “selling away” cases such as this where the broker sells unauthorized securities or converts funds away from his firm.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration and/or court by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are a victim of Mr. Abernathy, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 03/05/15.
Affinity FraudArbitrationBrokerage FirmsNext FinancialO. N. Equity Sales CompanyFINRAFraudPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaPermalink

Vienna Virginia Financial Advisor Pleads Guilty to Defrauding Customers

Ismail Elmas plead guilty on October 21, 2014 to a Count of Wire Fraud in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.  According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office press release (which can be found here), Mr. Elmas worked at Apple Financial Services, an affiliate of Apple Federal Credit Union during the time of the offense.

FINRA’s Brokercheck Report for Mr. Elmas states that Mr. Elmas was previously registered as a securities registered representative with CUNA Brokerage Services and CUSO Financial Services, both FINRA Broker-Dealers.  The Brokercheck Report states that he was terminated by CUSO because he “allegedly converted funds for personal use…”

The above press release references that Elmas admitted to misappropriating client funds given to him for legitimate investments, and that he defrauded more than 10 of his clients, many of whom were seniors and widows. 

Greco & Greco is currently investigating and pursuing claims against the parties involved in the Elmas case.  Greco & Greco regularly represents investors in “selling away” cases such as this where the broker sells unauthorized securities or converts funds away from his firm.  Customers may attempt to recover their losses in FINRA arbitration and/or court by demonstrating firms’ failures to supervise, failure to follow up on red flags, and by arguing the firm is responsible for the acts of its agent under the legal theories of respondeat superior and vicarious liability.  Federal and state securities laws also mandate liability of control persons (such as brokerage firms) if certain requirements are met.  If you are a victim of Mr. Elmas, please contact one of our attorneys for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 10/27/14.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsCUSOCUNAFINRAFraudSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaSuitabilityUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Virginia Regulators Require License Surrender and Fines over sale of 54 Freedom Products

A Settlement Order was recently issued by the State of Virginia (Bureau of Insurance and Division of Securities) against two insurance salespersons and their firm. The Order may be found here.

In the Order, the Virginia Regulators alleged as follows:

a.  “The Defendants, on multiple ocassions, sold over $2 million in unregistered securities in the form of qualified charitable gift annuities (“CGAs”) issued by 54 Freedom Foundation, Inc. (54 Freedom”) and promissory notes…”

b.  The brokers involved mischaracterized the investment risks involved with the investments and failed to conduct adequate due diligence.

c.  “Ultimately, principals of 54 Freedom misappropriated funds obtained through the sale of both 54 Freedom CGAs and Notes… As a result, all of the Defendants’ clients who purchased 54 Freedom CGAs or Notes appear to have lost their principal investments totaling over $2 million.”

Pursuant to the Order the salespersons surrendered their licenses to sell insurance and were required to pay monetary penalties.

If you were sold these investment products and wish to discuss your claims with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 06/09/14.
FraudPonzi SchemeSecurities FraudState RegulatorsVirginiaUnregistered SecuritiesPermalink

Brokers barred for stealing from elderly widow

As shown by this press release, FINRA barred two JP Morgan Chase Securities brokers for taking $300,000 in annuity proceeds from an elderly widow. 

Although the firm paid the monies back to the customer, in many instances securities brokerage firms claim they are not responsible for the theft or wrongful acts of their brokers.  However, multiple legal theories mandate liability for a firm for the wrongful acts of its brokers/agents even if the firm claims it did not know of the activity.  If you are a victim of a similar scheme and wish to discuss your rights with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation with one of our attorneys.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 12/13/13.
Affinity FraudArbitrationBrokerage FirmsJ.P. MorganFINRAFraudSecurities FraudPermalink

FINRA fines JP Turner for Leveraged and Inverse ETF sales

The securities industry self-regulatory body, FINRA, recently required JP Turner & Company to pay $700,000 in restitution to customers who lost money in unsuitable leveraged and inverse exchange traded funds (ETFs).Press Release here.

According to FINRA:

“FINRA found that J.P. Turner failed to establish and maintain a reasonable supervisory system and instead, supervised leveraged and inverse ETFs in the same manner that it supervised traditional ETFs. The firm also failed to provide adequate training regarding these ETFs. In addition, J.P. Turner allowed its registered representatives to recommend these complex ETFs without performing reasonable diligence to understand the risks and features associated with the products. As a result, many J.P. Turner customers held leveraged and inverse ETFs for several months. J.P. Turner also failed to determine whether the ETFs were suitable for at least 27 customers, including retirees and conservative customers, who sustained collective net losses of more than $200,000.”

In June of 2009, FINRA issued a Regulatory Notice (09-31) regarding these Non-Traditional ETFs.  The Notice states:  ‘inverse and leveraged ETFs that are reset daily typically are unsuitable for retail investors who plan to hold them for longer than one trading session, particularly in volatile markets.’

If you suffered losses in your brokerage accounts resulting from your broker’s trading in ETFs, and you would like to discuss your potential claim with an attorney, please contact Greco & Greco.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 12/13/13.
ArbitrationBrokerage FirmsJ.P. TurnerETFFINRAFraudSecurities FraudSuitabilityPermalink

State Securities Regulators release new list of top investor threats

NASAA (the North American Securities Adminstrators Association) has released its 2013 list of top financial product and practice threats to investors here.

The top threat is one that we at Greco & Greco see often - Private Offerings.  As stated by NASAA:  “These offerings commonly are referred to as Reg D/Rule 506 offerings, named for the exemption in federal securities laws that allows private placements to be sold to investors without registration). By definition these are limited investment offerings that are highly illiquid, generally lack transparency and have little regulatory oversight. While Reg D/Rule 506 offerings are used by many legitimate companies to raise capital, they carry high risk and may not be suitable for many individual investors.”

These private offerings are often high risk investments.  Be wary should your stockbroker or investment advisor recommend them to you as safe or low risk.

Other potential threats listed by NASAA include real estate investment schemes, high yield investment and ponzi schemes, affinity fraud, self directed IRAs, Oil and Gas Drilling Programs, and digital currency.

If your stockbroker or investment advisor has sold you a product without disclosing the risks involved, or if you think you are a victim of a fraudulent investment scheme, please contact Greco & Greco for a free consultation.

Posted by W. Scott Greco on 11/08/13.
Affinity FraudArbitrationBrokerage FirmsFraudIRAsPonzi SchemePrivate PlacementsSecurities FraudState RegulatorsSuitabilityPermalink

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