Were you a client of broker Daniel Noah Winger?

The securities attorneys at the Investor Defenders practice group of Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP are investigating potential claims against this broker.

Public records from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) show that in August 2018, Daniel Noah Winger (CRD# 1542674) entered into an Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) agreement in which Winger was barred from associating with any FINRA member in all capacities.

Daniel Noah Winger was most recently registered with PFS Investments Inc. in Federal Way, Washington.

The Facts and Violative Conduct alleged in the AWC include that, between April 2015 and April 2018, Daniel Noah Winger converted the funds of an elderly customer in violation of FINRA rules 2150(a) and 2010.  The elderly customer gave checks to Winger totaling approximately $100,000.  The AWC alleges that Winger used the customer’s funds for his own personal use.

Brokers are licensed and regulated by FINRA and state regulatory agencies.  FINRA rules, state securities laws and state common law offer protections for investors from unlawful broker conduct such as:  negligent portfolio mismanagement, selling away, overconcentration, unsuitable investment recommendations, excessive trading (“churning”), failure to supervise, misrepresentations about investments, or outright conversion and theft.

Common Red Flags of broker misconduct include lack of communication from your broker, discovering that you cannot liquidate investments that you thought you could sell, or discovering that large portions of your portfolio are used to purchase “alternative investments” like interests in Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, or promissory note investments.   The Investor Defenders have compiled a list of Ten Red Flags for Investors, which you can see by clicking on this link.

If you were a client of Daniel Noah Winger, and suspect that financial losses in your brokerage account may have been caused by broker misconduct, call the Investor Defenders.  We represent investors in the United States with securities claims against brokers and brokerage firms for financial losses caused by unlawful conduct.

Darlene PasiecznyDarlene 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.

Were you a client of broker Jameson Jeewon Shin?

The securities attorneys at the Investor Defenders practice group of Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP are investigating potential claims against this broker.

Public records from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) show that Jamewon Jeewon Shin (CRD# 2436899) was suspended as of August 13, 2018, from associating with any FINRA member for failure to provide information or keep information current pursuant to FINRA Rule 9552(d).

Jameson Jeewon Shin was most recently registered with LPL Financial LLC in Bellevue, Washington, and was previously registered with Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC in Seattle, Washington.

FINRA records show that the names James J Shin, James Shin, Jameson Jee Won Shin are related to Jameson Jeeswon Shin.

Brokers are licensed and regulated by FINRA and state regulatory agencies.  State securities laws and state common law offer protections for investors from unlawful broker conduct such as: negligent portfolio mismanagement, selling away, overconcentration, unsuitable investment recommendations, excessive trading (“churning”), failure to supervise, misrepresentations about investments, or outright conversion and theft.

Common Red Flags of broker misconduct include lack of communication from your broker, discovering that you cannot liquidate investments that you thought you could sell, or discovering that large portions of your portfolio are used to purchase “alternative investments” like interests in Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies, or promissory note investments.   The Investor Defenders have compiled a list of Ten Red Flags for Investors, which you can see by clicking on this link.

If you were a client of this broker, and suspect that financial losses in your brokerage account may have been caused by broker misconduct, call the Investor Defenders.  We represent investors in the United States with securities claims against brokers and brokerage firms for financial losses caused by unlawful conduct.

Darlene PasiecznyDarlene 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.

Pasieczny Moderates PIABA Panel on Cryptocurrency Investment Regulation

Current cryptocurrency regulation and cryptocurrency investment regulation can be summed up in one phrase:  Regulation by Enforcement.

I moderated a great panel presentation this weekend on Cryptocurrency Investments, Supervision and Securities Regulation at PIABA’s mid-year CLE event in Los Angeles on May 5, 2018.  We discussed the current state of regulation as well as the nuts-and-bolts of blockchain technology: everything from Bitcoin, the basics of utility tokens, security keys, and even ranging into CryptoKitties.  Our audience included securities attorneys, law professors, and representatives from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).  I was joined by Professor Benjamin Edwards (William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Las Vegas, Nevada), securities attorney and former SEC Enforcement officer Celiza Braganca (Braganca Law LLC), and industry expert Louis Straney (Arbitration Insight LLC).

Most securities professionals that I’ve talked with consider cryptocurrency investments the Wild West in terms of regulation and safeguards (minimal to none) for the investing public.   The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), the association of state securities regulators, would agree.

Accumulating SEC enforcement actions and reports like the “DAO Report,” Release No. 81207 (June 25, 2017), are the current guides that issuers and industry participants have for what to do, or not do, so that an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) or Initial Token Offering (ITO) complies with existing federal and state securities laws. This kind of “regulation by enforcement” leaves industry participants guessing at what they can do as the technology changes.   And, the SEC and state securities regulators are by no means the only regulatory bodies overlapping with enforcement.  The Internal Revenue Service, FinCen, the CFTC, criminal law, and private class actions are all taking their pound of flesh from industry participants.   FINRA’s 2018 Regulatory and Examination Priorities Letter notes that the SRO will be keeping an eye on developments with ICOs and the supervisory and compliance mechanisms that brokerage firms have put in place for compliance with securities laws and FINRA rules.

But, since December, 2017, the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has allowed cryptocurrency futures contract trading on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.  Goldman Sachs recently announced that it will open a Bitcoin trading desk, and now the New York Times reports that the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange, Intercontinental Exchange, has been working on an online trading platform for large investors to buy and hold Bitcoin.   The confidence of these institutions may lead the market in another round of soaring blockchain hype and eager investors buying in … to what?

Warren Buffet made his feelings about clear when he called Bitcoin “probably rat poison squared” in an interview with CNBC over the weekend.

If a FINRA-licensed broker or SEC-licensed registered financial advisor makes recommendations for a customer to buy cryptocurrency investments, it could be a big red flag for a compliance department.  SEC Chairman Jay Clayton has basically said that he thinks all cryptocurrency-related investments are securities.  But the SEC hasn’t issued specific cryptocurrency regulations, and it seems to be relying on shutting down unregistered ICOs and ITOs to create a regulatory roadmap.  Do those offerings sound like Initial Public Offerings (IPOs)?  You are correct, that’s on purpose.  But, importantly, unlike an IPO, you get no ownership interest when buying into an ICO or ITO. There’s no there, there. Unfortunately for investors duped into participating in a fraudulent cryptocurrency offering or hacked offering, the likelihood is that your money is halfway around the world and difficult to recover from the issuer.

I suspect the future of cryptocurrency regulation will include increased claims for participant liability under state securities laws that offer broader investor protections than those provided by federal law.  Attorneys and accountants assisting issuers in these fraudulent offering should be held accountable under appropriate circumstances.  I bring participant liability claims under state blue sky laws to recover investment losses for individuals and groups of individuals.  And, if financial advisors are actively making purchase recommendations to clients otherwise unwilling to take on high risk, speculative investments, there could be viable FINRA arbitration claims against the brokerage firms that allow their brokers to make irresponsible, unsuitable recommendations.

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, and complex civil litigation. Darlene’s practice includes representing investors nationwide in investment disputes through FINRA arbitration.

What Does it Mean for Investors? LPL Financial Settlement $26 Million

Today the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) announced a massive LPL Financial settlement with state securities regulators relating to over a decade of sales of unregistered securities by LPL brokers.

Under the terms of the LPL Financial settlement, the firm agreed to repurchase from investors certain securities that were sold to them since October, 2006.  LPL will also have to pay civil penalties to the states, which could be as much as a $26 million penalty.

What happened?   State securities regulators have been investigating LPL Financial for years regarding failures to have reasonable policies and procedures.  In the last year, NASAA’s task force has focused on investigating LPL’s procedures to prevent LPL brokers from selling unregistered, non-exempt securities.

The sale of unregistered, non-exempt securities violates most states’ securities law and federal securities laws.  Often those securities do not disclose important information to the prospective buyer, like the riskiness of the investment, lack of liquidity or ability to sell the investment, or true financial history of the investment.  Sellers may get high commissions and other incentives to pitch these products to investors, even if the product is not suitable or in the best interest of that investor.

Under the agreement, LPL will repurchase from investors unregistered, non-exempt securities sold since October 1, 2006 to LPL customers by their broker.  Not only will LPL repurchase, it will pay 3% interest from the date of sale.  Other terms were agreed upon for customers who have since sold or transferred their qualified securities out of their LPL account.

Is this a good deal?  Yes, for many cheated investors, it’s an unusually good deal. NASAA is an association of state securities regulators.  Those state regulators help investors by cracking down on bad broker conduct by national firms like LPL Financial.  The dollars from civil penalties issued by regulators occasionally go back to compensate the victims — but not usually.  The key to this LPL Financial settlement is that the firm agreed to buy back the securities from investors and pay 3% interest.  For many investors, especially those with smaller amounts of affected securities, that’s a very good result for a recovery without private litigation.

However, investors that otherwise qualify for the buy-back may have strong, valid, private claims for relief against LPL Financial that might result in a better outcome.   It depends on the facts, and an experienced securities attorney can help you make that evaluation.

Failure to have reasonable supervisory and compliance procedures, failures to reasonably supervise its brokers, and unlawful broker conduct all are violations of FINRA rules and may state blue sky securities laws.   In some states like Oregon, brokerage firms may have joint and several liability with the bad broker, and the statutory remedy for these violations can be repayment of the original purchase price, plus interest at 9% from date of purchase, less any dividends or money otherwise received from the investment.  It may also include payment of attorney fees.  These are claims that an experienced securities fraud attorney like Darlene Pasieczny can bring on behalf of an investor in FINRA arbitration.

If you are an LPL Financial customer, or customer of any brokerage firm, and you have concerns about what you were sold for your investment portfolio, call us today for a free initial consultation.   Sudden large drops in portfolio value for a moderate or conservative investor, or discovering you cannot easily sell an investment, are some of the Red Flags that you may have securities claims for recoverable losses.  Don’t wait – statute of limitations may apply to set deadlines of when you can file a claim.

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.

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.

Investor Alert – Cryptocurrency Stock Scams

FINRA recently released an Investor Alert on cryptocurrency scams. Investors should be wary of jumping into this “hot,” volatile sector, and do their research before handing over their money to a potential fraudster, or for a risky investment that they don’t understand.

In the last quarter, cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Ripple have received a fresh burst of press attention. This includes reporting on massive price swings up and down, and stories of overnight millionaires. According to the media, a Welsh man who spilled lemonade on his laptop in 2013 and absentmindedly threw the hard drive away now wants to mine the local dump for the hard drive. Why? It contained the key to access his lost Bitcoin fortune said to be worth $100 million — but only if he finds it and if the drive is still operational.  It’s a good metaphor for Wild West, gold rush atmosphere of the whole cryptocurrency hype.

With this Investor Alert, and other recent warnings, FINRA points out that:

According to a December 11, 2017, public statement from SEC Chairman Jay Clayton, the number of such investments registered with the SEC is ZERO. “Investors should understand that to date no initial coin offerings have been registered with the SEC. The SEC also has not to date approved for listing and trading any exchange-traded products (such as ETFs) holding cryptocurrencies or other assets related to cryptocurrencies.”

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. Consultations are free and confidential. Call 1-800-647-8130 now.

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.

FINRA Expels New York Stockbroker Hank Mark Werner

On November 8, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that a broker named Hank Mark Werner of upstate New York had been barred from the securities industry. The headline: FINRA Hearing Panel Bars Broker for Defrauding Elderly, Blind Customer”.

The pattern of this behavior is outrageous but not all that unusual. It makes a good example of how financial professionals fail their clients.

According to the FINRA news release, Mr. Werner served as the licensed broker for an elderly couple since 1995. The husband died in 2012. Mr. Werner made some 700 trades on “behalf” of his client, a sightless 77-year old recently widowed woman in poor health between October 2012 and December 2015. He ultimately collected $210,000 in commissions. The panel’s decision includes an order of restitution to the widow, a fine, Mr. Werner’s banishment from the industry, and a further fine and censure for his employer – Legend Securities, brokerage firm expelled from the securities industry as of April, 2017.

The hearing panel found that Mr. Werner engaged in a pattern of “fraudulently churning and excessively trading” the client’s brokerage accounts – trades executed only for the sake of generating commissions. Compounding the excessive number of trades, Mr. Werner’s commission rates were so above range as to be “exorbitant”.

“Churning” is one common way investors can be defrauded by financial professionals. On a commission-based account, where a fee is generated for the broker for each purchase and sale, it’s easy to see how an unscrupulous broker might take advantage of a client with unnecessary trading.

Mr. Werner also steered his elderly client’s money into “unsuitable recommendations” — specifically a risky variable annuity that was not suitable based on his client’s age, heath, financial position, and other factors. Why do bad actors love putting their clients’ money into high-risk investments? It’s not just incompetence or the urge to gamble (although there’s that too). Again, it comes down to commissions. There’s a whole class of dubious variable annuities, commodities instruments, exotic real estate investment trusts (REITs), and other extremely complicated investments that are engineered to carry all kinds of risk, while cloaked in the appearance of a moderate investment, and which richly reward any broker who signs somebody up.

We applaud FINRA’s enforcement actions. But FINRA can’t help everybody.

As a securities litigator, I represent investors who have lost money due to the conduct of a financial professional or a defective investment product. If you have concerns about how your money is being handled, or if your broker has stopped returning your calls, contact me for a free, confidential consultation at 1-800-647-8130 or InvestorDefenders.com

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.

Dual-Registered Advisors Barred From Recommending 401(k) Rollovers

LPL Financial Bars Its Dual-Registered Advisors From Recommending 401(k) Rollovers in Brokerage Capacity

According to an internal advisor memo, LPL Financial is prohibiting its “hybrid” or dual-registered advisors to recommend 401(k)to IRA rollovers to LPL clients in a brokerage capacity. Investment News reports that the policy was adopted in response to the Department of Labor’s new fiduciary rule. The rule imposes fiduciary duties on financial advisors when giving recommendations regarding 401(k) plans.

What are “hybrid” or dual-registered advisors?

LPL Financial is a FINRA-registered broker-dealer, and FINRA-licensed stockbrokers are registered with LPL to sell securities to clients. A broker may also be (but is not required) licensed separately through the SEC as a Registered Investment Advisor (“RIA”). Federal law and regulations already impose fiduciary duties on RIAs when giving investment recommendations. Brokers, on the other hand, may be held to fiduciary duty standards only under certain circumstances or through state law. FINRA rules only mandate that brokers give recommendations that are “suitable” for a customer based on their customer profile. A recommendation may be “suitable,” but is not in the best interest for that customer, which satisfies FINRA rules but violates the higher fiduciary standard.

Why does LPL care?

Under FINRA rules, common law and securities statutes, LPL has supervisory responsibilities over its registered brokers, including its dual-registered broker / RIAs. FINRA has been clear that brokerage firms can’t turn a blind eye to the activities of their brokers when they supposedly are “wearing the RIA hat”. Depending on the circumstances, it may be better for an investor to keep his or her 401(k) plan, even after leaving an employer, because of lower costs or certain tax advantages. If the rollover recommendation is not in the best interest of the client – above even the broker’s own interest – then it could be a breach of fiduciary duty by the broker and by LPL to make the rollover recommendation. Financial losses caused by the unlawful conduct may be recoverable by the investor.

FINRA is the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, a self-regulatory organization that is responsible for licensing, regulation, and enforcement of rules governing the activities of 3,800 broker-dealers with 633,300 brokers. FINRA also operates the largest dispute resolution forum for customer disputes with their brokers and brokerage firms. Customers can file a claim in FINRA arbitration to initiate proceedings for improper conduct like unsuitable investment recommendations, selling fraudulent investment products, excessive transactions and commissions (“churning”) in an account, and other claims to recover investment losses caused by such improper conduct.

The Investor Defender attorneys at Samuels Yoelin Kantor LLP represent investors  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.

If you are concerned about the investments or conduct of your financial adviser, contact the Investor Defenders 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 about our attorneys, please call us: 800-647-8130.

See the full Investment News article about LPL Financial’s on their website.