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.

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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.”

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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.

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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 […]

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George Merhoff and Energy Stocks – The Investigation Continues

The Investigation of Klamath Falls Financial Advisor George Merhoff Jr. and Cetera Investments, Pacific West Securities, Inc. Continues Customer Concerns Grow About Energy Stock Concentration and George Merhoff Our office continues to investigate Cetera Investments and its representative George Merhoff Jr. Since our last reporting, even more investors have called us to report that they […]

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Form U5 Information Gets to BrokerCheck Faster with New FINRA Rule Change

Effective December 12, 2015, certain information provided on the registration termination paperwork (Form U5) for a brokerage firm or terminated broker will be accessible on BrokerCheck in 3 business days instead of 15. The SEC approved the proposed change to FINRA Rule 8312 (FINRA BrokerCheck Disclosure). The Form U5 includes important information for investors researching […]

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LPL Financial In Trouble Again For Improper Sales of Non-Traded REITs

The North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) announced Wednesday a settlement with brokerage firm LPL Financial. The settlement is the result of a multi-state investigation led by the Nevada Secretary of State Securities Division into LPL’s failure to implement adequate supervisory systems and failure to enforce its own written procedures regarding sales of non-traded REIT […]

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Investor Alert: Kevin Winder Lesson – Beware of Promised High Return Investments

Oregonian article alerts investors to the dangers of high return investments The Chief of Enforcement at the Division of Finance and Corporate Securities Consumer & Business Services Department (DFCS), Van Pounds,  was both quoted in Molly Young’s recent Oregonian article about high return investments and Salem investment adviser Kevin Winder.  Winder lost his license for […]

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LPL Financial – More Supervisory Failures in Sales of ETFs, Annuities, REITs

FINRA announced yesterday that as part of a settlement reached with brokerage firm LPL Financial LLC, it is fining LPL $10 million for broad supervisory failures over multiple years and ordered almost $1.7 million in restitution to certain LPL customers. The sanctions are for LPL’s supervisory failures including failure to adequately supervise LPL broker sales […]

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