Investors Harmed By Faulty Variable Annuity Exchanges Have Recourse

Two recent enforcement actions from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Inc. demonstrate FINRA’s attention on variable annuities, especially faulty annuity exchanges.

Brokers typically recommend clients replace annuities under Section 1035 of the tax code. That provides a tax-free transfer for the client, but also generates additional commission for the broker. As such, 1035 exchanges are typically how abusive account churning occurs with annuity products.

Clients can incur higher annuity fees and surrender charges due to the exchanges, but they also can have significant tax liabilities because the brokers, in trying to conceal their abuse, don’t categorize the annuity replacements as 1035 exchanges.

FINRA levied $30.3 million in fines among 30 variable annuity cases in 2016, including a $25 million penalty against MetLife Securities Inc. in May for negligent behavior regarding variable annuity replacements.

If you or someone you know lost money in a variable annuity exchange, 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 Kelly Althar and Financial West Group for Unsuitable Recommendations and Engaging in Excessive Trading

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against Kelly Althar and Financial West Group for unsuitable recommendations, engaging in excessive trading (churning) and failure to supervise, particularly related to elderly customers.

According to FINRA, Kelly Althar made unsuitable recommendations and engaged in excessive trading in an elderly customer’s accounts. FINRA alleges that Althar engaged in high-volume trading to generate commissions and over-concentrated the customer’s accounts in risky securities, despite the fact that the customer was close to retirement and wanted only low-risk investments. Althar’s trading decimated the customer’s accounts, which constituted the bulk of her net worth and retirement savings. Althar exercised control over the customer’s account at his member firm. Althar rarely consulted the customer about the transactions in her accounts and made the investment decisions for her, including what to buy and sell, the quantities, and when each transaction would occur.  Althar used this control to excessively trade the accounts in a manner that was inconsistent with the customer’s investment objectives, financial situations and needs.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Kelly Althar and Financial West Group 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 Mauricio Jaramillo and Ultralat Capital Markets, Inc. for Unsuitable Trading, Unsuitable use of Margin, Short-term Trading and for Failure to Supervise

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against Mauricio Jaramillo and Ultralat Capital Markets, Inc. for unsuitable trading, unsuitable use of margin, short-term trading and for failure to supervise.

As reported by FINRA, Mr. Jaramillo recommended unsuitable trades in at least three customer accounts, in that he recommended short-term trading in bonds, undue concentration of positions, and the use of margin to customers who were not suitable for such trading. The findings stated that Jaramillo maintained limited trading authorization over various customer accounts at his member firm and received compensation on trades he placed in such accounts. Two of the customers had long-term growth investment objectives and another customer had a moderate risk tolerance, but their accounts were almost totally concentrated in bonds typically denominated in Brazilian Reais. These customers also had significant margin balances in their accounts. Jaramillo did not have any reasonable basis to believe that such short-term trading, concentrations of positions and use of margin was suitable for the customers, or that such trading was consistent with their investment objectives, risk tolerances, and financial situations and needs.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Mauricio Jaramillo or Ultralat Capital Markets, 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 Christopher B. Ariola, Bay Mutual Financial, LLC and Financial Telesis Inc. for Unsuitable Recommendations in High-Risk Gold and Energy Stocks

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against Christopher B. Ariola, Bay Mutual Financial, LLC and Financial Telesis Inc. for unsuitable recommendations and failure to supervise related to high-risk gold and energy stocks.

As reported by FINRA, Christopher B. Ariola or Chirs Ariola, made unsuitable recommendations to elderly retirees to invest a substantial portion of their limited retirement assets in certain high-risk gold and energy stocks. The findings stated that these recommendations were unsuitable given these customers’ financial circumstances, investment objectives and low risk tolerances, and because the recommendations resulted in the customers’ accounts being unduly concentrated in gold and energy stocks. Ariola made similar unsuitable recommendations with respect to a former customer’s retirement account that he controlled on the former customer’s behalf. As a result of his unsuitable recommendations, these customers suffered combined realized losses of $137,993.13.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Christopher Ariola, Bay Mutual Financial, LLC and Financial Telesis 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 CUSO Financial Services, L.P. for Recommending Unsuitable Unit Investment Trusts (UITs)

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against CUSO Financial Services, L.P. for recommending unsuitable Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and for failure to supervise.

As reported by FINRA, CUSO Financial Services, L.P. through a registered representative unsuitably solicited and sold to customers certain unit investment trusts (UITs) that invested in closed-end mutual funds that employed leverage. The findings stated that CUSO Financial Services, L.P., through the registered representative and the two principals who supervised him and approved his UIT transactions, failed to have a reasonable basis to recommend and approve UIT transactions sold to customers. Neither the registered representative nor the principals who approved the UIT transactions understood the potential risks of the UITs and, in particular, neither understood that the UITs might employ leverage. CUSO Financial Services, L.P., through the registered representative and principals, sold these UITs to customers, including some seniors, in transactions totaling $4,636,146. The customers lost approximately $443,000 on the UITs that the registered representative sold without a reasonable basis. Some of these customers indicated that they had low risk tolerances, which should have raised questions about the suitability of the UITs for them. The firm voluntarily provided restitution totaling approximately $325,000 to many of the customers who indicated that they had low or medium risk tolerances.

The findings also stated that these unsuitable UIT recommendations occurred, in part, because of the firm’s lack of reasonable supervision.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with CUSO Financial Services, L.P. 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 Dennis Albert Mehringer Jr. and Western International Securities Inc. for Churning, Unsuitable Recommendations and Failure to Supervise

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against Dennis Albert Mehringer Jr. and Western International Securities Inc. for churning (excessive trading), unsuitable recommendations and failure to supervise.

According to FINRA, Mr. Mehringer made unsuitable recommendations that caused a customer to engage in excessively expensive short-term trading and intra-day switching of mutual fund Class A shares. The FINRA complaint alleges that Mehringer recommended the short-term mutual fund trading and the intra-day mutual fund switching without reasonable grounds to believe that the recommendations were suitable for the customer in light of the frequency and nature of the transactions, including the associated sales loads, based on the customer’s investment objectives. Given the long-term nature of Class A mutual fund share investments, along with the sales loads incurred in connection with frequent trading and switching between the relevant mutual funds and mutual fund families, Mehringer’s short-term trading and switching was also unsuitable for any customer. Mehringer received $169,735 in commissions from these transactions.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Dennis Albert Mehringer Jr. or Western International Securities 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 First Financial Equity Corporation For Recommending Unsuitable ETFs and Excessive Commissions

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against First Financial Equity Corporation For recommending unsuitable ETFs (Exchange Traded Funds), charging excessive commissions and for failure to supervise.

As reported by FINRA, First Financial Equity Corporation had inadequate procedures with respect to the reasonable-basis suitability requirements, in that it had inadequate processes and procedures to ensure that requisite customer information was obtained prior to its representatives recommending securities and/or investment strategies involving securities to firm customers. Although First Financial Equity Corporation recommended and sold exchange-traded funds (ETFs) (including leveraged and inverse ETFs) to its customers, it did not have any written procedures for the supervision, approval and sale of ETFs.

FINRA also found that First Financial Equity Corporation failed to reasonably supervise a registered representative.  After the firm’s risk manager identified certain commissions being charged by the registered representative as being excessive, it failed to take reasonable steps to supervise and address the same.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with First Financial Equity 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.

CMD Investigating K.C. Ward Financial and Craig David Dima for Unauthorized Trading

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against K.C. Ward Financial and Craig David Dima for unauthorized trading and failure to supervise.

As reported by FINRA, Craig David Dima, a former K.C. Ward Financial registered rep, allegedly sold off almost all the holdings of one of his 73-year-old retired clients who accumulated Colgate stock during his employment. According to FINRA, the client did not want the stock sold but the broker allegedly sold the stock and then bought the stock back when confronted.  As a result, the customer paid Dima $375,000 in fees, mark-ups and mark-downs, while losing out on “substantial” dividends in the process, according to the press release from FINRA.  FINRA also alleges Dima’s trades in Colgate were unsuitable and broke rules on excessive mark-ups and mark-downs.  In response, FINRA barred Craig David Dima whom FINRA says made $15 million in unsuitable and unauthorized trades in this elderly client’s account.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with K.C. Ward Financial or Craig David Dima, 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 Richard Gomez for Unsuitable Recommendations and Failure to Supervise

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against securities broker Richard Gomez and brokerage firms Woodstock Financial Group Inc. and Rockwell Global Capital, LLC for unsuitable recommendations and failure to supervise.  According to Mr. Gomez’s FINRA BrokerCheck, he has been the subject of at least three (3) customer complaints.

In September 2016, Gomez was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity.  The sanction was based on findings that Gomez recommended the securities of two companies without a reasonable basis to conclude that the investments were suitable for any customer.  The findings stated that Gomez did virtually no investigation beforehand and failed to follow up on numerous red flags presented to him.

Most significantly, while one company and its entities claimed to hold hundreds of millions of dollars in pre-initial public offering stock, Gomez never independently verified those claims. When he asked questions, nobody at the company, the issuers of the stock, or the private equity firms through which the company purportedly had acquired its stock, would talk to him. In the end, Gomez based his diligence on the company almost exclusively on what was told to him by the company’s founder and one of its employees, or on information gathered from a handful of websites affiliated with the company’s founder. Gomez admits that he did not even search the SEC’s website during his investigation of the company. Gomez’s investigation of the other company was similarly limited since he primarily relied on information provided to him by the company’s founder and other registered representatives associated with other FINRA-member firms.

When Gomez questioned one of the representatives about the resignation of the company’s CEO, he took at face value the explanation that the CEO had resigned because he believed the company might be bought before it went public, and that there was nothing more for the CEO to do. Gomez was also unable to confirm what he had been told about a FINRA member firm being the second-largest shareholder in the company, and failed to press one of the registered representatives for answers to his questions regarding the firm’s shareholder status.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Richard Gomez, Woodstock Financial Group Inc. and/or Rockwell Global Capital, 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 Lawrence Roberson and Capital City Securities, LLC for Misrepresentations and Fraud

Securities law firm Carmel, Milazzo & DiChiara LLP (CMD) is investigating claims against securities broker Lawrence Roberson and brokerage firm Capital City Securities, LLC for misrepresentations and omissions, fraud and failure to supervise.  According to Mr. Roberson’s FINRA BrokerCheck, he has been the subject of at least five (5) regulatory inquires.

In September 2016, Roberson consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he made material misrepresentations and omissions in the sale of a $40,000 bond debenture to a customer when the purported investment was not a genuine security.  Roberson did not invest the customer’s funds and instead converted the funds to pay for his personal expenses.  As a result of his conduct, Roberson willfully violated Section 10(b) of the Exchange Act and Rule 10b-5, and FINRA Rules 2010 and 2020.

If you or someone you know lost money investing with Lawrence Roberson and/or Capital City Securities, 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.