Attorneys Blachly & Pasieczny Present on Combating Financial Elder Abuse

Recent Tools to Combat Financial Elder Abuse”: a closer look at mandatory and permissive conduct for Oregon securities professionals.

Today, over 46 million Americans are 65 years of age or older. This accounts for nearly 15% of the population. According to the Population Reference Bureau, that number is projected to more than double by the year 2060. It will reach an estimated 98 million and 24% of the U.S. population. Approximately 1 out of every 10 Americans, age 60 and older have experienced some form of elder abuse. Estimates of financial elder abuse and fraud costs range from $2.9 billion to $36.5 billion annually

On Thursday, February 21st, SYK attorneys Victoria Blachly and Darlene Pasieczny will speak to the Oregon State Bar Securities Regulation Section about financial elder abuse in the securities industry. Their program “Recent Tools to Combat Financial Elder Abuse: Mandatory and Permissive Conduct Under FINRA Rules and Oregon Law for Securities Professionals,” will take a closer look at Oregon statues and FINRA rules regarding mandatory and permissive conduct for brokers and investment advisers when there is reasonable suspicion of financial abuse.

Meet the experts – Victoria Blachly and Darlene Pasieczny

Victoria Blachly is a fiduciary litigator, licensed in Oregon and Washington. She represents individual trustees, corporate trustees, beneficiaries, and personal representatives in often difficult and challenging cases including:

  • Trust and estate litigation
  • Will contests
  • Trust disputes
  • Undue influence
  • Capacity cases
  • Claims of fiduciary breach
  • Financial elder abuse cases
  • Petitioning for court instructions
  • Contested guardianship and conservatorship cases.

Darlene Pasieczny is a fiduciary and securities litigator. She represents clients both in Oregon and Washington, with matters regarding trust and estate disputes, financial elder abuse cases, securities litigation, and represents investors nationwide in FINRA arbitration. Her article, New Tools Help Financial Professionals Prevent Elder Abuse, was featured in the January 2019, Oregon State Bar Elder Law Newsletter.

Report abuse

If you suspect someone is being abused, neglected, or financially exploited, please reach out to the Oregon Department of Human Services. Also, you may consider hiring a private attorney to help employ legal tools to prevent harm, or recover financial losses.

Investor Alert – NASAA and SEC Warn about Cryptocurrency Related Investments

This past Thursday, the same day I posted about a recent FINRA Investor Alert regarding cryptocurrency, there was a new press release from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) with further guidance on the same topic. NASAA’s analysis and warning amounts to this:  Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”), and all other investment products related to cryptocurrency or the blockchain, pose a threat to investors.

“A NASAA survey of state and provincial securities regulators shows 94 percent believe there is a ‘high risk of fraud’ involving cryptocurrencies. Regulators also were unanimous in their view that more regulation is needed for cryptocurrency to provide greater investor protection.”

The same day, the SEC made a public statement from Chairman Jay Clayton and Commissioners Kara M. Stein and Michael S. Piwowar, in wholehearted agreement with NASAA:  “The NASAA release also reminds investors that when they are offered and sold securities they are entitled to the benefits of state and federal securities laws, and that sellers and other market participants must follow these laws. Unfortunately, it is clear that many promoters of ICOs and others participating in the cryptocurrency – related investment markets are not following these laws. The SEC and state securities regulators are pursuing violations, but we again caution you that, if you lose money, there is a substantial risk that our efforts will not result in a recovery of your investment.”

“High risk of fraud”?  That’s a polite understatement. The conditions in this cryptocurrency market are the perfect conditions for bad actors to harm investors and cause investment losses. How? Fraud through market manipulation. Fraud through technical manipulation. Fraud through plain theft. Adverse terms and conditions on a clickthrough agreement. Technical failure, incompetence, malfeasance on the part of the provider. Cyberthreats from third parties online, vandals or burglars. Misrepresentations of the real possibility that cryptocurrency is an object of temporary interest, the bubble will pop, and prices will drop.

And, of course, bad actor conduct includes flawed recommendations by financial advisors to jump in and buy these new, complicated products related to cryptocurrency.  If your portfolio contains investments that, on closer examination, are not plausible or not understandable, that’s one of the ten red flags of financial fraud.

As a securities attorney, I represent investors nationwide who have lost money due to the conduct of a financial professional or a defective investment product.

The Investor Defenders at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP help investors get their money back from brokerage fraud, fraudulent investments, elder financial abuse, and other situations.  Our specialized investment litigation practice combines familiarity with complex financial modeling, experience with specialized FINRA arbitration rules and securities laws, and empathy for our clients whose financial losses have become personal.

If you have concerns about how your money is being handled by your financial professional, or if your broker has stopped returning your calls, contact me for a free, confidential consultation at 1-800-647-8130.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor focuses on all stages of corporate and securities law issues, securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, fiduciary litigation in trust and estate disputes, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice also includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes.

Raymond James Fined $2 Million by FINRA for Supervisory Failures

On December 21, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced it had fined brokerage firm Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. $2 million for significant supervisory failures in reviewing email communications. FINRA found that, over a nine-year period, Raymond James did not have a reasonably designed supervisory system and procedures for reviewing email communications.

Why is email review important? Under FINRA rules, brokerage firms must reasonably supervise all electronic communications technology used by a firm and its brokers to conduct firm business.  Many firms used a risk-based approach to supervision, automatically searching for key words and phrases in emails. This review is important for firms to catch bad conduct, such a broker involved in unapproved “outside business activities,” or conducting securities transactions that are not approved by the firm, also known as “selling away.” 

Brokers engaging in “selling away” sometimes create their own spreadsheets and account statements to mislead customers into thinking that recommended investments are approved by the brokerage firm. Often those investments are especially risky, inappropriate for the particular investor, and very lucrative for the seller. For example, it is not uncommon for a seller to receive a 7 – 10% commission on a sale of a private placement investment like a limited partnership (LP) interest. The most slick-looking investment pamphlet could be an outright investment fraud … with the check going straight to the seller’s pocket.

Firms must actively maintain supervisory procedures reasonably designed to catch such unlawful conduct, and protect its customers.  Email supervision, office audits, and document review are only a few of the ways firms should be monitoring the activities of its brokers.

Under FINRA rules and the applicable state or federal law, a brokerage firm can be held financially liable to the customer for the losses caused by its bad actor brokers.  And, for the firm’s own supervisory failures.

If you believe you are the victim of “selling away,” negligent portfolio management, churning, securities fraud, or other unlawful conduct by your financial professional, contact the SYK Investor Defenders team at 1-800-647-8130 for a free, confidential initial consultation.

You may be able to recover financial losses caused by your financial professional.  An experienced securities attorney will fight on your side.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor focuses on all stages of corporate and securities law issues, securities litigation and FINRA arbitration, fiduciary litigation in trust and estate disputes, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice also includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes.

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.

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:

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: https://investordefenders.com/

Confused About Crowdfunding Rules?

Robert S. Banks, Jr. was appointed by the Oregon Division of Finance and Corporate Securities to the Rule Advisory Committee for a proposed Crowdfunding exemption in Oregon. The first meeting is being held on October 20, 2014 in Salem. Any interested citizens should feel free to contact Mr. Banks with their comments or concerns about whether Oregon should have a crowdfunding exemption to the registration requirements of the securities laws.

SEC Raises Concerns About Reverse Churning In Fee Based Accounts

Investors wary of a broker’s self-interest in selling commission-based products may look to change to a fee-based advisory account. Rather than charging a commission for each transaction, fee based accounts typically charge an annual fee based on total account value.

However, while a broker might “churn” an account in commission situations by inappropriately purchasing securities to drive up personal profit, the SEC is increasingly concerned about “reverse churning” – where an advisor neglects making appropriate periodic reviews and recommendations for a fee-based account. Since the fees are charged regardless of activity, advisors have a lack of financial incentive to take the time to review accounts. Crunching the numbers, for an investor holding a lot of cash or cash equivalents, or with little active trading annually, a fee-based account might be significantly more expensive than a brokerage account and without additional value. Paul Meyer, a principal at the Securities Litigation & Consulting Group Inc (SLCG) offers up this $100,000.00 example:

An investor with a $1 million portfolio trading $100,000 in securities per year who pays the equivalent of 1 percent in commissions would have nearly $1.47 million after five years, assuming an 8 percent return. The same investor, in a fee-based account who pays a fee of 1.5 percent of the portfolio, would have $1.37 million,

See the full article for Meyer’s example and all of the SEC concerns about reverse churning here.

Registered investment advisors overseeing fee-based accounts have fiduciary duties to their customers, and neglect of an account while charging an annual fee can be a breach of those fiduciary duties in violation of the law.

RIA Sector Likely to Consolidate

(June 2) Rising costs of doing business, pressure on margins, and demographic changes are likely to benefit larger Registered Investment Advisor firms in the next few years, according to industry forecasts. The 19,000 RIA firms in the United States look to be increasingly dominated by perhaps 150 of the biggest firms, each of them with billions under management. The giants’ scales of operation may give them the market power to lower vendor pricing and further increase their advantage.

For investors this may be mixed news. One of the rising costs is the regulatory burden, which provides investor protections and lowers risk. Smaller RIA offices without the budget for a dedicated regulatory officer have been known to “self-regulate”. But if consolidation in this sector follows the pattern of other consumer financial businesses, fewer players may mean fewer choices for RIA clients.

(Investment News)