Complaints Against Portfolio Advisors Alliance, LLC and Broker Howard J. Allen

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating complaints against broker-dealer Portfolio Advisors Alliance, LLC and Howard J. Allen (CRD# 2033586).

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), New York based brokerage firm Portfolio Advisors Alliance, LLC (CRD# 101680) has been the subject of at least 3 regulatory events, and Portfolio Advisors Alliance and Mr. Allen have been charged by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) with repeatedly lying purchasing high yield securities.  In addition, Howard J. Allen 4 regulatory events, 5 customer complaints, and the aforementioned SEC action.

On February 3, 2016, the SEC charged Portfolio Advisors Alliance and Howard J. Allen with repeatedly lying to investors purchasing high-yield securities.  The SEC alleges that Portfolio Advisors Alliance and its owner Howard J. Allen and President Kerri Wasserman allegedly knew the offering documents were inaccurate yet continued using them to solicit sales of American Growth Funding II LLC.  According to the SEC, Howard J. Allen became aware by no later than June 2012 that American Growth Funding II LLC’s offering documents were not accurate, but he continued using them to solicit investors.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Portfolio Advisors Alliance, LLC and/or Howard J. Allen, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD is Investigating Claims Against Lawson Financial Corporation for Securities Fraud

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (“CMD”) is investigating claims against brokerage firm Lawson Financial Corporation (CRD# 15261)  for securities fraud.

In May 2016, FINRA filed a complaint against Lawson Financial Corporation and its CEO Robert Lawson, alleging that they carried out a massive securities fraud in connection with the sale of millions of dollars of municipal revenue bonds to Lawson Financial Corporation customers, in violation of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (the “Exchange Act”), Rule 10b-5 there under and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (“MSRB”) Rule G-17.  During this same period, and continuing through the present, Robert Lawson also misused customer funds in violation of FINRA Rules 2150(a) and 2010, and Robert Lawson and Respondent Pamela Lawson  violated FINRA Rule 2010 by abusing their positions as co-trustees of a charitable remainder trust by improperly transferring millions of dollars from the trust in an undisclosed attempt to prop up the faltering borrowers of the municipal revenue bonds.

Lawson Financial Corporation’s and Robert Lawson’s fraudulent securities sales involved four municipal revenue bonds: the Hillcrest Bonds, the Decatur Bonds, the Cullman Bonds, and the Destiny Bonds. Lawson Financial Corporation and Robert Lawson’s fraudulent bond sales included bond sales made in primary market sales to Lawson Financial Corporation customers in the initial bond offering period for the Hillcrest Bonds, as sold commencing in October 2014, as well as later secondary market bond sales of the Hillcrest Bonds to Lawson Financial Corporation customers in 2015.  In addition, Lawson Financial Corporation and Robert Lawson’s fraudulent bond sales included secondary market bond sales made (i) to Lawson Financial Corporation customers who purchased the Cullman Bonds and Decatur Bonds between January 2013 and July 2015, and (ii) to Lawson Financial Corporation customers who purchased the Destiny Bonds between May 2015 and September 2015.

The Destiny Bonds and Hillcrest Bonds funded a charter school located in Mesa, Arizona, while the Cullman Bonds and Decatur Bonds funded two assisted living facilities located in, respectively, Cullman and Decatur, Alabama. The charter school and the two assisted living facilities (the conduit borrowers for the municipal revenue bonds) each suffered from severe financial difficulties and were unable to meet their required operating expenses. Moreover, the Cullman and Decatur assisted living facilities often were unable to meet required debt service payments on the Cullman Bonds and the Decatur Bonds without using funds from the charitable remainder trust account at Lawson Financial Corporation.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Lawson Financial Corporation, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

Complaints Against Securities America, Inc. (CRD# 10205)

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating complaints against broker-dealer Securities America, Inc., a a wholly owned subsidiary of Ladenburg Thalmann Financial Services, Inc.

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Nebraska based brokerage firm Securities America, Inc. (CRD# 10205) has been the subject of at least 29 customer complaints and 46 regulatory events, including sanctions.

In 2015, Securities America entered into an Acceptance, Waiver and Consent with FINRA and consented to sanctions and findings that it failed to identify and apply sales charge discounts to certain customers’ eligible purchases of Unit Investment Trusts (UITs). As a result, the firm was censured, fined $275,000 and ordered to pay $477,686.88 in restitution.

In 2015, the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services, sanctioned Securities America following allegations of unsuitability, failure to supervise, and failure to enforce its written supervisory procedures.  Securities America was fined $70,000.

In 2005, a customer alleged that Securities America made misrepresentations, breach its fiduciary duty, breached its contract and was negligent in the handling of the customers account.  A FINRA arbitration panel awarded the customer $7,284,439.01.

In 2010, a customer alleged that Securities America made misrepresentations and/or omitted facts, breached its fiduciary duty, was negligent and failed to supervise the customer’s account.  A FINRA arbitration panel awarded the customer $1,155,466.01.

In 2012, a customer alleged that Securities America breached its fiduciary duty and made misrepresentations concerning Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs).  A FINRA arbitration panel awarded the customer $573,316.29.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Securities America, Inc., you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against Steven Ellsworth Larson and Oakbridge Financial Services for Fraud

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker Steven Ellsworth Larson (CRD# 2422755) and Oakbridge Financial Services for unauthorized trading and failure to supervise.

FINRA has filed a complaint alleging that Steven Ellsworth Larson made numerous misstatements or omissions of material facts concerning the present values and safety of “church bonds”—bonds issued by religious organizations to construct or develop real property, and which are secured by first mortgages on the real property to be constructed or developed.  The complaint alleges that Larson made these misstatements or omissions in order to mislead customers about the true value of their church-bond holdings, which were securities, to avoid confrontation with customers, and to prevent customers from liquidating their holdings or closing their accounts.  By May 2013, most of the church bonds that Larson’s customers held in their accounts had already gone into default, bankruptcy, forbearance or restructuring.  Due to a decline in real-estate values, many of the church-bond issuers were underwater on their mortgages.  Nonetheless, Larson represented to customers that their defaulted church bonds retained all or most of their original value and even, in many instances, significantly more than their original value.  Larson knew or was reckless in not knowing that his statements and omissions in the church bond update about the church bonds and church bond issuers were false and misleading, and that pricing reports provided to customers repeatedly and significantly inflated the values of his customers’ church-bond holdings.

The complaint also alleges that when recommending the purchase side of each cross trade, Larson knowingly, willfully, or recklessly misrepresented or omitted material facts regarding the prices at which he recommended those purchases.  In particular, Larson knew or was reckless in not knowing that the bonds involved in those cross trades should have been bought or sold only at significant discounts from par value, that the prices at which he recommended his customers buy the bonds were not reasonably related to the prevailing market prices or fair market values for the bonds, and that he recommended each purchase without exercising reasonable diligence to discover whether the purchasers could have obtained the bonds at more favorable prices. As a result, Larson violated Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act Rule 10b-5.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Steven Ellsworth Larson and/or Oakbridge Financial Services, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against TradeSpot Markets Inc. and Mark Bedros Beloyan for Recommending Unsuitable Penny Stocks and Failure to Supervise

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker Mark Bedros Beloyan (CRD# 1392748) and TradeSpot Markets Inc. for recommending unsuitable penny stocks and for failure to supervise.

FINRA has alleged that TradeSpot Markets Inc.’s registered representatives recommended penny stocks and engaged in penny stock transactions without complying with the requirements enumerated under Section 15(h) and Rule 15g-9 of the Exchange Act.  The complaint alleges that in connection with penny stock transactions through the firm, Beloyan sent customers a customer suitability statement for their review and signature without first documenting an affirmative determination of suitability on the document, as required.  The complaint also alleges that TradeSpot Markets Inc and Beloyan falsified records by changing the date next to Beloyan’s signature on each customer suitability statement for a customer.  For each of the documents, the original date next to Beloyan’s signature reflected a date later than the date next to the customer signature on the agreement-to-purchase form.  For each of the customer suitability statements, Beloyan crossed out or otherwise altered the original date to reflect a new date that was earlier than the date appearing next to the customer signature on the corresponding agreement-to-purchase form.  In addition, the complaint alleges that the TradeSpot Markets Inc.’s written supervisory procedures (WSP) were deficient in connection with the penny stock rules and that Beloyan was responsible for implementing and updating the firm’s WSPs manual.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with TradeSpot Markets Inc. and/or Mark Bedros Beloyan, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration. CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against Lance J. Ziesemer and Feltl & Company for Unsuitable Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and Failure to Supervise

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker Lance J. Ziesemer (CRD# 2342087) and Feltl & Company for recommending unsuitable UITs and for failure to supervise.

In May, Lance J. Ziesemer submitted an Acceptance, Waiver & Consent (AWC) in which he was assessed a deferred fine of $7,500, suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for three months and ordered to pay deferred disgorgement of commissions received in the amount of $38,889, plus interest.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Ziesemer consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he implemented a trading strategy and made unsuitable recommendations to customers to switch from UITs to other UITs after holding the investments for a short time period.  The findings stated that Feltl & Company’s procedures in place at the time required him to obtain a switch letter signed by the customer before selling any UIT and purchasing another UIT that carried a sales charge.  Although all of the customers’ short-term UIT trades fell into this category, Ziesemer failed to obtain switch letters for any of them. These short-term UIT transactions resulted in approximately $160,000 in combined net losses for the customers. In addition, the customers paid total commissions of $64,815 on these transactions, of which Ziesemer received $38,889.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Lance J. Ziesemer and/or Feltl & Company, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration. CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against David Michael Miller and The Huntington Investment Company for Unsuitable Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and Failure to Supervise

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker David Michael Miller (CRD# 5461431) and The Huntington Investment Company for recommending unsuitable Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and for failure to supervise.

In July, David Michael Miller was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity, required to pay a total of $799,161.07, plus interest, in restitution to customers, and required to disgorge to FINRA a fine of $15,161.54, plus interest. The sanctions were based on findings that Miller failed to conduct reasonable diligence before recommending UITs to his customers, and thus failed to have reasonable grounds for believing his recommendations were suitable for them. The findings stated that Miller made unsuitable recommendations of UIT purchases totaling more than $5.3 million in customer accounts, but did not undertake reasonable diligence to ensure he adequately understood the features and risks of the UITs before recommending them, causing his customers to lose money. Miller negligently misrepresented and failed to disclose material facts to customers in connection with their purchases of UITs, and acted negligently in misrepresenting material facts to another customer when recommending the customer maintain his UIT holdings, because he failed to conduct reasonable diligence on the UITs. Miller never read a UIT prospectus before making his recommendations, and did not understand features of the UITs, including how they were valued at maturity, risks, volatility and use of leverage. Miller’s unsuitable recommendations and misrepresentations and omissions caused his customers to lose a total of $1,019,656.83.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with David Michael Miller and/or The Huntington Investment Company, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration. CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against Steven Douglas Ridley and International Assets Advisory, LLC for Unauthorized Trading and Failure to Supervise

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker Steven Douglas Ridgley (CRD #4263203, Louisville, Kentucky) and International Assets Advisory, LLC for unauthorized trading and failure to supervise.

In May, Steven Douglas Ridgley submitted an Acceptance, Waiver & Consent in which he was fined $10,000 and suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for two months. Without admitting or denying the findings, Mr. Ridgley consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he exercised discretion in effecting hundreds of securities transactions in customer accounts, without obtaining his customers’ prior written authorization or his member firm’s prior written approval to exercise discretion in these accounts.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Steven Douglas Ridgley and/or International Assets Advisory, LLC, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

CMD Investigating Claims Against Broker Kelsey Marie Molyet and J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, LLC for Fraud

Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating potential claims against securities broker Kelsey Marie Molyet (CRD #5695243, Indianapolis, Indiana) and J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, LLC, for fraud and failure to supervise.

In May, Kelsey Marie Molyet submitted an Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which she was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Without admitting or denying the findings, Ms. Molyet consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that she falsified documents, including checks and account statements, and provided them to J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, LLC’s customers and their agents with the intent to deceive them about their account balances.

FINRA’s findings stated that Ms. Molyet made written misrepresentations to customers and their agents regarding the value of their accounts and the execution status of certain requested transactions. The findings also stated that Ms. Moyet impersonated a customer during telephone calls with third parties. FINRA’s findings also included that Ms. Molyet falsely asserted, in response to a FINRA information request, that she did not alter documents before sending them to customers and their agents.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Kelsey Marie Molyet and/or J.J.B. Hilliard, W.L. Lyons, LLC, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration.  CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.

FINRA Fines Oppenheimer Nearly $3,000,000 on Leveraged ETF Violations

 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) said Wednesday that it has fined Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. $2.25 million and ordered the firm to pay restitution of more than $716,000 to affected customers for selling leveraged, inverse and inverse-leveraged exchange traded funds (ETFs) to retail customers without reasonable supervision, and for recommending these non-traditional ETFs that were not suitable.

Oppenheimer failed to enforce the policies, its reps continued to solicit retail customers to purchase non-traditional ETFs and continued to execute unsolicited non-traditional ETF transactions even though the customers did not meet Oppenheimer’s stated criteria, FINRA states.

From August 2009 through September 2013, more than 760 Oppenheimer representatives executed more than 30,000 non-traditional ETF transactions totaling approximately $1.7 billion for customers.

FINRA found that Oppenheimer did not establish an adequate supervisory system to monitor the holding periods for non-traditional ETFs. And that the firm “failed to employ any surveillance or exception reports to effectively monitor the holding periods for non-traditional ETFs, so certain retail customers held non-traditional ETFs in their accounts for weeks, months and sometimes years, resulting in substantial losses.”

FINRA also found that Oppenheimer failed to conduct adequate due diligence regarding the risks and features of non-traditional ETFs and, as a result, did not have a reasonable basis to recommend these ETFs to retail customers. Similarly, Oppenheimer reps solicited and effected non-traditional ETF purchases that were unsuitable for specific customers. For example:

  • An 89-year conservative customer with annual income of $50,000 held 96 solicited non-traditional ETF positions for an average of 32 days (and for up to 470 days), resulting in a net loss of $51,847.
  • A 91-year conservative customer with an annual income of $30,000 held 56 solicited non-traditional ETF positions for an average of 48 days (and for up to 706 days), resulting in a net loss of $11,161.
  • A 67-year conservative customer with an annual income of $40,000 held two solicited non-traditional ETF positions in her account for 729 days, resulting in a net loss of $2,746.

If you or someone you know lost money investing in leveraged exchange traded funds, ETFs, or with Oppenheimer, you may be entitled to recover your investment losses through FINRA arbitration. CMD accepts cases on a contingency fee basis, which means we only get paid if you get paid.  Your time to file a claim may be limited, so contact us today at (212) 658-0458 or contact@cmdllp.com for a free and confidential case evaluation.