Three Protections For Pension Funds

Geoff Mulville wrote in an article for the Associated Press printed in The Oregonian on January 24 that pension funds could be damaged by the recent stock market slide.

Pension and other retirement funds will best weather the storm when protected by the following three strategies:

  1. Proper Asset Allocation
  2. Diversification Within Asset Classes
  3. Careful Management of Investment Costs

If you are an employer who selected your fund manager, do you know how to evaluate those criteria? Bob Banks works with registered investment advisors to evaluate and advise about the legal and investment consequences of your employer sponsored retirement fund.

Investor Defender attorneys Robert S. Banks Jr. and Darlene Pasieczny have the experience, knowledge, and dedication to help you. Banks, a nationally recognized securities attorney, has fought on behalf of investors in court and FINRA arbitration since 1985. If you have concerns about your investments, lost money in an investment, or if you have concerns about the conduct of your financial advisor, please contact us for a free, confidential initial consultation with an experienced securities litigation attorney. For more information about different types of securities claims, the FINRA arbitration process, current investigations, sample cases and results, and our attorneys, visit our website at InvestorDefenders.com and SamuelsLaw.com.

Investment Losses in Oil, Gas, and Energy Driving Down Your Retirement Savings?

You might have a claim to recover your loss in oil, gas, or energy stocks.

If you have concerns about the effect that oil, gas and energy stocks and investments are having on your retirement savings, we are happy to provide a free and confidential review of whether claims may exist based on your investments, and whether you have a right to recover your losses.

Investments in oil and gas stocks and partnerships have taken a real hit lately. Energy stocks in general have as well. However, if your financial advisor has properly allocated and diversified your retirement savings, you should not see a significant decline in your savings because of these investments. That is because oil, gas and energy stocks should only represent a small portion of your retirement savings, unless you specifically instructed your advisor to overweight your savings with those investments.

We have received calls from very concerned investors this month, who tell us that their accounts have lost 50% or more in value in recent months. The reason is that they were grossly over-concentrated in energy stocks. We have been retained to investigate and file claims against advisers who have invested too much of their clients’ savings into the energy sector. Among others, we are investigating portfolios managed by Cetera Advisors and George Merhoff, based in Colorado and Oregon, respectively.

Since 1985 Bob Banks Jr. has fought on behalf of investors nationwide in court and FINRA arbitration. He leads the Investor Defenders team at Samuels Yoelin Kantor, LLP. He has represented many investors on claims to recover investment losses resulting from over-concentrations. If you’ve lost money in an investment, or if you have concerns about the conduct of your financial adviser, he will speak with you directly. Please contact us or call our office at 800-647-8130.

The North American Securities Administrators Association Nation (NASAA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) have published the linked informational articles about energy stocks. Please understand, while filing a complaint with these agencies is helpful for future investors, it is not likely to result in any loss recovery for you, and it does not stop the applicable statutes of limitation from running. Those time periods do not stop running until a lawsuit or FINRA arbitration claim is filed.

Before Hiring a Financial Professional – Ask These Questions

It’s a new year and you’re looking to hire a broker or investment advisor to help you with your financial planning and investment decisions. What questions should you ask at that first meeting? FINRA recently released an Investor Education top 5 questions to ask:

1. What experience do you have working with people like me?

2. Are you registered with FINRA, the SEC or a state securities regulator?

3. Do you or your firm have an overarching investment philosophy?

4. Do you or your firm impose any minimum account balances on customers?

5. How do you get paid?

Before you entrust your retirement or other savings with a financial professional, it’s important that you understand the answers to these and other questions.

The Investor Defenders attorneys at Samuels Yoelin Kantor represent investors each day who were unlucky in hiring the wrong adviser. We work to recover investment losses caused by negligent portfolio management, unsuitable product sales, excessive transactions (“churning”), and other bad acts.

Investor Defender attorneys Robert S. Banks Jr. and Darlene Pasieczny have the experience, knowledge, and dedication to help you. Since 1985, they have represented clients nationwide. If you have concerns about your investments or the conduct of your financial adviser, please contact us for a free, confidential initial consultation with an experienced securities litigation attorney. For more information about different types of securities claims, the FINRA arbitration process, current investigations, sample cases and results, and our attorneys, visit our website at InvestorDefenders.com and SamuelsLaw.com.

FINRA Examines Conflict in Broker Compensation

As reported by Investment News recently, FINRA has sent letters to brokerage firms asking about Broker Compensation. The goal is to discourage firms from selling products that benefit the brokerage firm and the broker at the expense of the customer. I think FINRA enforcement staff would agree that investors expect their financial advisors (whether called registered representatives or investment advisors) to recommend an investment based on what is in the client’s best interest, and not on the amount of sales compensation to be earned.  I applaud FINRA for sending out its compensation inquiries. There have been too many cases where my clients have been sold investments that paid a 5% commission, where there were far more appropriate investments available, that paid less to the salesman.  FINRA should take the next logical step and support the Department of Labor’s proposed fiduciary standard. Brokers claim to have the client’s best interests at heart, and they should be held to the same standard  — the fiduciary standard —  when handling the life savings of public investors.

I have represented investors in breach of fiduciary duty cases for more than 25 years.  If you have questions about investor rights issues, do not hesitate to contact Investor Defenders at (800) 647-8130.

Robert S. Banks, Jr. has over 30 years experience representing investors in securities industry disputes and FINRA arbitration across the United States. His clients include institutional investors, pension funds, municipalities, fiduciaries, as well as individual investors. If you have concerns about your financial advisor or investment portfolio, please contact us and visit our website at investordefenders.com

Investor Defenders is a practice group of Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP focused exclusively on investor advocacy.

Asset Allocation – The Life Raft in a Stock Market Storm

Stock Market Decline Should Not Rattle Investors Who Are Properly Asset Allocated

Asset Allocation as a Predictor of Stock Performance

The recent plunge in the stock market is grabbing headlines and making investors anxious. Most of the worrying should be unnecessary for moderate and conservative investors who use competent financial advisers, however. While no one can reliably predict what the markets will do, studies have repeatedly shown that asset allocation is the best predictor of how a portfolio will perform, and the best way to control the risk/reward ratio. Asset allocation in its most simplified form is the percentage of a portfolio that is invested in stocks, and in bonds or cash. The larger the percentage in stocks, the more aggressive the portfolio. Conversely, the larger the percentage in bonds and cash, the more conservative the portfolio. An 80/20 asset allocation (80% stocks, 20% bonds) is an aggressive portfolio that will have suffered significant declines since May of this year. An allocation of 20/80 will have weathered the storm much more favorably. Of course, in a rising market, the aggressive portfolio (assuming it was properly diversified) will have made more money than the portfolio heavily weighted toward bonds and cash.

Financial Advisers Should Have Their Older Clients Allocated to Weather the Market Swing

Most investors who are at or approaching retirement that plan to rely on their investment savings to meet their living expenses should have a conservative to moderate asset allocation. Good financial advisers have so positioned their clients to guard against the recent market volatility. If you are a conservative investor and your portfolio has dropped as much as or more than the S&P 500 index over the last few months, chances are your portfolio is not properly asset allocated. If so, you may have a right to complain and recover your losses in a FINRA arbitration if a financial professional recommended your lopsided portfolio. If you have questions about this, contact Investor Defenders and we will be happy to discuss it with you.

More on Asset Allocation and How To Find A Trustworthy Adviser From CNN Here: http://money.cnn.com/pf/money-essentials-asset-allocation/

Robert S. Banks, Jr. has more than 33 years experience representing investors in securities industry disputes and FINRA arbitration across the United States. His clients include institutional investors, pension funds, municipalities, fiduciaries, as well as individual investors. If you have concerns about your financial advisor or investment portfolio, please contact us and visit our website at investordefenders.com

Investor Defenders is a practice group of Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP focused exclusively on investor advocacy.

Philippine Investors – Understand Your Options

Investment fraud in the Philippines continues to be a problem, and the remedies under the law allow investors to bring civil claims to recover their losses.  In an informative article in The Philippine Star, Mary Ann Reyes explains that the Securities Regulation Code in the Philippines does not give the government the same rights to pursue claims for securities fraud that the US law gives to the Securities and Exchange Commissions.  But, the good news for Philippine investors is that the law does permit them to bring claims on their own to recover losses due to fraud.

Attorney Robert Banks, the lead securities fraud attorney at Investor Defenders, has successfully represented Filipinos to recover investment losses.  If the fraudsters are in the United States, our firm can pursue those claims in the US.  If the wrongful conduct occurred in the Philippines, we have worked with attorneys in Manila to protect our clients’ rights. We invite you to review Mr. Banks’ full bio.

Filipinos are encouraged to contact us: phone: 800.647.8130, email: info@investordefenders.com, or fax: 503-222-2937 to discuss their investment problems.  We accept many of our cases on a contingency fee, which means that you don’t pay any attorney fees unless we recover money for you.

New FINRA/SEC Report: Sales Practices Targeted at Seniors

As part of the “National Senior Investor Initiative”, in 2013 FINRA and the SEC conducted 44 examinations of brokerage firms that focused on how firms conduct business with senior investors (defined as age 65 and older) as they prepare for and enter retirement.  A newly issued report gives the results.

The exams found that among the top five revenue-generating securities based on sales to senior investors were the following:

  • Open-end mutual funds (77% of the examined firms)
  • Variable annuities (68% of the examined firms)
  • Equities (66% of the examined firms)
  • Fixed income investments (25% of the examined firms)
  • Unit Investment Trusts (UITs) and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) (almost 25% of the examined firms)
  • Non-traded REITs (almost 20% of the examined firms)
  • Alternative investments such as options, exchange-traded notes, hedge funds, private placements, Business Development Companies (BDCs), and leveraged inverse ETFs (about 15% of the examined firms)
  • Structured products such as structured notes and other market-linked securities, reverse convertible notes, principal-protected notes, and collateralize debt obligations. (11% of the examined firms)

Variable annuities, UITs, ETFs, non-traded REITS, alternative products and structured products often carry increased risks of investment loss and penalties for early withdrawal or an inability to liquidate that are inappropriate for senior investors needed access to retirement funds. These are complicated products that are not always explained when sold to investors. And many of these products are inappropriate for an individual retirement account (IRA). Variable annuities in retirement accounts are often completely unsuitable because any tax advantages of those products are lost in an IRA account.

The report notes that in the 44 exams:

“Staff found evidence indicating that 34% of the [examined] firms made one or more potentially unsuitable recommendations of variable annuities.”

“Approximately 14% of firms made potentially unsuitable recommendations to purchase alternative investments, which can be difficult to value, involve high purchase costs, have limited historical data, and often lack liquidity. For example, at one firm, representatives failed to consider the age (90) and low income of one investor, and the limited investment experience and ‘growth and income’ investment objectives of another. These senior investors held the positions for less than ten days and experienced significant realized losses.”

If you are a senior investor concerned about your investment portfolio or particular products, contact us for a free consultation.

Investor Defender attorneys Robert S. Banks, Jr. and Darlene Pasieczny represent investors in securities industry disputes in FINRA arbitrations across the U.S.   Bob Banks himself has over 33 years of experience in securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, and has served multiple times on the National Arbitration and Mediation Committee, an advisory board to FINRA on its rules, regulations, and procedures.  We know the rules, and we fight for our clients in recovering investment losses.

Previous posts on investment products:

Investor Alert – Pacific West Capital Group and Owner Andrew Calhoun IV Charged With Fraud in Sale of Life Settlement Investments

We are investigating Pacific West Capital and their sales agents after the SEC announced fraud charges related to their sale of life settlements. Investors with life settlement investments are encouraged to contact us at 800.647.8130 or by email at info@investordefenders.com.

The SEC alleges that Pacific West and Andrew B. Calhoun IV, a life insurance agent, raised $100 million from investors who purchased life settlement contracts.  The alleged fraud occurred when Pacific West used proceeds from the sale of new life settlements to continue funding life settlement investments sold years earlier, without informing would-be buyers of this practice.

According to the SEC, Calhoun and West used false and misleading statements about the risk of the life settlements, and they misled investors as to the annual returns. They are charged with violating broker-dealer and anti-fraud securities registration provisions of the federal securities laws.

Also named as defendants are PWCG Trust, which held and serviced the insurance policies and five sales agents of Pacific West: Brenda C. Barry and her company BAK West, Andrew B. Calhoun Jr. of Anderson, Eric C. Cannon and his company Century Point, Michael Dotta, and Caleb A. Moody.

We have handled a number of life settlement cases with death benefits ranging from $50,000 to $4.5 million.   We’ve found life settlements to be an area where fraud and misrepresentation frequently occurs.

If you purchased life settlements from Pacific West Capital Group and have questions about your investment, contact us to learn more. We represent individual and institutional investors nationwide in FINRA arbitration and in court since 1985.

Are FINRA Arbitration Hearings for Securities Disputes Public Record?

We are sometimes asked whether FINRA arbitrations are public.   Anyone can go to a courthouse and observe a hearing or trial unless there are good reasons for the court to order the proceeding closed to the public. However, FINRA arbitration hearings are private proceedings.   That means that only the parties and their attorneys, expert witnesses and the arbitrators may attend the entire arbitration hearing. Fact witnesses are called, but normally they are only present during their own testimony.  Members of the public and other interested persons are generally not allowed to attend FINRA arbitration hearings. Even regulators are not permitted to attend FINRA arbitrations.

While FINRA Awards issued by arbitrators are publicly available through the FINRA Awards Online Database, all materials submitted to FINRA by the parties in a case (such as the Statement of Claim and Answer) are deemed “confidential” and are not made publicly available by FINRA. While an Award will usually give a brief outline of the claims and allegations, the arbitrators are not required to give their reasoning for a decision unless both sides request it. Combined with the private proceedings, that makes it very difficult for a claimant (or attorney unfamiliar with securities claims in FINRA arbitration) to research and understand how similar claims may have been made and argued in other cases.

Having an Attorney Familiar with Securities Claims in FINRA Arbitration Matters

Attorneys Robert S. Banks, Jr. and Darlene Pasieczny use their experience representing claimants in FINRA arbitration across the U.S. at every step of the process, including evaluating claims before filing a case and understanding the procedural rules for effective advocacy. And we are sitting right next to our clients throughout the entire arbitration hearing. As senior counsel, Robert S. Banks, Jr. personally has over 32 years of experience representing investors in FINRA (formerly NASD) arbitration, and has served on FINRA’s own rule-making committees for a deep knowledge of the process.

Do You have a FINRA Arbitration Claim?

Most securities industry disputes – whether an individual investor suing a broker or brokerage firm for improper conduct such as churning an account, negligence, margin calls, unsuitable recommendations, failure to supervise, unauthorized trading, or misrepresentation of an investment, or an intra-industry dispute by a broker against a firm for improper termination, unpaid wages, promissory notes, or form U5 reporting – are handled through FINRA Dispute Resolution and FINRA arbitration. That’s because pre-dispute arbitration clauses are found in almost all brokerage account agreements and registered representative agreements with brokerage firms. A series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions over the past few decades have upheld that those arbitration clauses are usually binding and enforceable.

Investor Defender attorneys Robert S. Banks, Jr. and Darlene Pasieczny at Samuels Yoelin Kantor have the knowledge you want in fighting for investment loss recovery or intra-industry disputes. Our clients include institutional investors, pension funds, municipalities, fiduciaries, as well as individual investors. For a free initial consultation and more information about Samuels Yoelin Kantor’s Investor Defenders litigation team and securities litigation visit: http://investordefenders.com/