Down Markets – A Good Time to Look For Red Flags and Recoverable Investment Losses

The news has been full of stories of investment losses. First, it was cryptocurrencies and related investments on a roller coaster ride of valuation. Then, in the last week, the major stock market indices followed… Dow Jones, S&P 500, Nasdaq…

What is a Main Street investor to do?

As a securities attorney representing investors in disputes with the financial industry, down markets mean my phone starts ringing. Investors start to look closely at their portfolios.

Some find surprises. Potential claims against their financial advisor to recover investment losses.

Not every investment loss is a recoverable investment loss – far from it. But, sometimes investment losses are caused because of a financial advisor’s misconduct. Making unsuitable securities recommendations to buy risky investments or allocate a portfolio in a certain way. Failing to follow instructions, negligence, or outright fraud and misrepresentation.

The law provides remedies to investors injured by advisor misconduct. Typically, securities claims are brought by filing a statement of claim in FINRA arbitration. I’ve helped my clients bring securities claims in FINRA arbitration. I help them to navigate mediation and informal settlement discussions. And I have helped them recover millions of dollars, thought to be lost forever due to “bad luck”.

I recently filed some short video clips explaining how an experienced securities attorney like myself can help investors who think they may have a problem, and why investors may be hesitant to seek help and file claims to recover losses.

A down market is a good time to take a hard look at your, or your client’s, portfolio. And ask questions.

Why is the portfolio heavily allocated in one volatile sector, such as oil and gas?

Was that level of risk appropriate for the investor at the time of the recommendation? Why are there so many LP and LLC private placement interests in the portfolio? Can those interests be sold? And why are my investment losses in this down market so much more than my friend’s losses, when we have similar financial goals and risk tolerances? These and other red flags may be signs of investment fraud.

If you think you may be the victim of investment abuse, call me toll free at 1-800-647-8130 for a free, confidential initial consultation. I represent investors in FINRA arbtiration nationwide who have investment losses caused by the conduct of a financial professional or a defective investment product. I also represent parties in trust and estate disputes where a fiduciary has breached their duties and money is recoverable to the estate, trust, or beneficiary.

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 investment losses have become personal.

If you have concerns about how your money is being handled by your financial professional, or concerns that you or a loved one might be the victim of financial exploitation, call me at 1-800-647-8130. Again, consultations are free, and confidential.

Darlene Pasieczny’s practice at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP 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 includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes through FINRA arbitration.

Ten Red Flags for Investors

Ten Red Flags of Investment Fraud

We’ve updated our list of ten red flags that  investors should be aware of: danger signs that point to potential mismanagement of an account or investment fraud by a financial advisor. These red flags are useful as you evaluate your own investments, review the investments of an elderly relative, or if you’ve decided to change brokers.

From our firm’s first-hand experience in reviewing thousands of financial statements and successfully recovering investment money for many clients, these red flags of investment fraud are often a sign of trouble. If you notice any of these red flags and you have concerns, we encourage you to contact us for a free, confidential review. With early detection, investors have the potential to avoid a lot of heartache and significant financial loss.

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Red Flags:

1. Your financial advisor didn’t discuss your risk tolerance with you, told you “not to worry” about that category when filling out account paperwork, or you somehow ended up with a higher risk portfolio than you wanted.  Any reported swing in portfolio value of more than 10% up or down, when you’re a conservative or moderate investor, is a red flag.

2. You discover that you cannot liquidate investments that you thought you could sell. Or you discover an unexpected high fee or surrender charge for selling.

3. Big portions of your portfolio are used to purchase “alternative investments” – things like interests in limited partnerships (LPs), non-traded REITs, private placements, promissory notes, and interests in limited liability companies (LLCs). Many of these investments come with a prospectus, require you to complete special forms just to purchase them, carry high risk for investors, and pay big commissions to the selling brokers.

4. You are encouraged to purchase investments where you must formally certify that you are an “accredited investor”. These investments also often carry a high degree of risk and are only designed for people who can afford to lose all of their investment.

5. You are advised to purchase investments the same day that they are offered to you, without giving you a chance to think about it, especially when your advisor says that the opportunity won’t last long. If you feel any sense of rush, surprise, or pressure to make any investment decision, that’s a red flag.

6. Your account statements stop arriving, your broker is suddenly hard to reach, or your advisor discourages you from discussing your investments with anyone else at the brokerage company.

7. You have investments that do not appear on the brokerage company’s account statements that you receive.   Or the statements otherwise look irregular, show frequent transactions that you don’t understand, or don’t add up.

8. Your financial advisor promises returns that seem too good to be true. In today’s market, there are no legitimate, safe and secure investments that can guarantee an 8% annual return year after year.  Any promised return that seems like an unusually good deal deserves closer scrutiny.  Risky, unsecured promissory note scams may be particularly targeted towards elderly investors as “fixed income” investments.

9. You are offered an investment that you do not understand.  Or your portfolio contains investments that, on closer examination, are not plausible or understandable.

10. You discover that your advisor has multiple disclosures when you look him or her up on FINRA’s BrokerCheck system (search by name at http://www.finra.org/Investors/ToolsCalculators/BrokerCheck). Disclosures may include prior client complaints, bankruptcy, termination from prior employers, regulatory investigations and sanctions, criminal charges, on-going or resolved client disputes.  These are all red flags about a broker’s prior conduct that you probably want to know about before entrusting them with your money.

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If you have seen any of these red flags, and have questions about the legitimacy of your investments or seen large financial losses, do not ignore your suspicions. Call us for a free initial consultation.  We will tell you if your concerns are well founded and whether we can help.  Your call is confidential.

Please call us first, before contacting your financial advisor or any regulatory agency.  Why?  Because those calls are not confidential.  Once you contact the firm you can bet that your communications are being recorded, and the details you include or leave out may undermine your claim.  Securities regulators may be important allies in stopping wrongdoing, but they are not your attorney. By reporting a complaint to your state agency, FINRA or the SEC, you may be starting the clock on a statute of limitations for filing a claim, without understanding what that means.

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 concerns that you or a loved one might be the victim of financial exploitation, call me at 1-800-647-8130. Consultations are free, and confidential.

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

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.

Adorean Boleancu – In Trouble With FINRA And In Court

Our original concerns about Wells Fargo Broker Adorean Boleancu have escalated. In March, Boleancu was ordered by FINRA to pay back a widowed client $650,000. He was indicted on charges of check fraud and money laundering in California and, in a civil complaint filed in August of 2012, it was alleged that Boleancu made an unsuitable investment of $2,000,000 in variable annuities and “risky equity funds.”

These actions leave no doubt that you should seek the help of an attorney who has a focused practice on investment recovery. In these situations the choice you make for representation is critical. Please give our office a call to discuss the details of your potential claim.

More on Craig Berkman

High-profile securities fraudsters are often repeat offenders.

The 71-year-old square-jawed former Oregon candidate for governor, Craig Berkman, recently pled guilty in a New York courtroom to one count of securities fraud and one count of wire fraud. This all relates to a scam that targeted investors eager to make early purchases of Facebook stock when it had its initial public offering. Berkman now faces forfeiting $13 million, paying restitution of $8.4 million, and perhaps ten years in prison. We’ve written about Mr. Berkman before.

This isn’t Berkman’s first multimillion dollar scam. In 2003, investors in Oregon received a $28 million judgment against Berkman for breach of fiduciary duty, conversion of investor funds, and misrepresentation in a completely unrelated securities scheme. In response, Mr. Berkman simply moved from Oregon to Florida and victimized a new group of people.

And there’s Russell Erxleben. We wrote about Erxleben, the well-known University of Texas Longhorns kicker, back in January 2013 when he was charged with multiple accounts of wire fraud, securities fraud, and related charges by the U.S. Attorney’s office in Austin. Erxleben was accused of defrauding investors of $2 million in a Ponzi scheme and a narrative involving Weimar-era German government gold bonds and Gaughin paintings. The Texas investors did not realize that Erxleben had been convicted, sent to federal prison, fined $1 million and ordered to pay restitution of $28 million to a previous round of victims in 2000.

And there’s Richard Vitale. On May 30, 2013 the SEC announced charges against Richard Vitale for obstructing justice and lying to investigators about his real estate securities offerings. The SEC went after Vitale back in 2004 for his part in a pump-and-dump gold-mine stock scheme. Vitale settled those charges and was barred from the securities industry. And yet he was back selling securities yet again.

And there’s Yusaf Jawed, another Oregonian like Berkman. Banks Law Office has represented multiple investors harmed by Jawed’s Grifphon hedge funds and related scams over the past few years. To quote attorney Robert Banks, “Grifphon’s owner, Yusaf Jawed, already had a documented history of securities violations before anyone invested in Grifphon. It is simply inexcusable to me that licensed securities salespeople would sell investments to their trusting clients from an individual who was a known violator.”

This incredible pattern of recidivism in the fraud “industry” is not all that unusual. There’s a crystal-clear message for investors here.

Regulators, investigators and prosecutors, at both the state and federal levels, have important roles and often work admirably with limited resources to fight financial fraud. But you cannot wholly depend on them to track each and every fraudster. BrokerCheck, FINRA’s public resource for certain background information on licensed brokers and RIAs, is a good but also limited tool.

Berkman’s Florida investors could have saved themselves heartache and hundreds of thousands of dollars if they had simply Googled his name. When was the last time you Googled your financial advisor’s name?