Home > Blog > Archive for the “Uncategorized” Category

Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Dennis Ernest Beeby (San Diego, California)

An AWC was issued in which Beeby was assessed a deferred fine of $10,000, suspended from association with any FINRA member in all capacities for eight months and ordered to pay deferred disgorgement of commissions received in the amount of $55,000, plus interest. Without admitting or denying the findings, Beeby consented to the sanctions and to the entry of findings that he never disclosed his participation in private securities transactions in writing or otherwise to his member firm and never received its approval to participate in the transactions. The findings stated that the firm’s relevant WSPs prohibited representatives from engaging in any private securities transaction without its prior express written permission. Beeby recommended the purchase of securities in the form of oil and gas working interests in the development of an oil and gas lease by a corporation to several of his customers. The working interest securities were not offered through Beeby’s firm. Four customers purchased a sum total of $700,000 in oil and gas working interests. Beeby handled all aspects of the sales, including recommending the investment, providing paperwork for investors to sign, signing some of the transaction documents and managing ongoing communications regarding the investment. Beeby also received a commission of $55,000 for the sales.

The suspension is in effect from April 2, 2018, through December 1, 2018. (FINRA Case #2016052305501)

FINRA takes new enforcement action against Charles Acheson Laverty

Laverty was named a respondent in a FINRA complaint alleging that that during consecutive associations with several member firms, he borrowed $1,350,000 from an elderly married couple in violation of each firm’s policies. The complaint alleges that three of the firms prohibited their representatives from borrowing money from their customers.

Although a firm permitted loans between representatives and customers under limited circumstances, any such loan required the written approval of the chief compliance officer. The firm’s chief compliance officer never provided any such approval to Laverty. The complaint also alleges that Laverty concealed the loans from his firms and falsely stated on annual compliance questionnaires and on a heightened supervision attestation that he had not borrowed money from customers. For an example, Laverty lied on a firm’s compliance questionnaires concerning soliciting or accepting a loan from or making a loan to a client and having a judgment against him. On a firm’s annual compliance questionnaire, Laverty’s answers were false because earlier he had borrowed $45,000 from the elderly couple. Moreover, the Superior Court of California, County of Riverside, entered a judgment against Laverty for $114,456.25 in a lawsuit by the Security Bank of California against him arising from his failure to repay a promissory note. Laverty was aware of this judgment.

The complaint further alleges that Laverty concealed the loans from FINRA and provided false on-the-record (OTR) testimony during a previous FINRA investigation into his borrowing activity. During an OTR taken in that investigation, FINRA questioned Laverty about loans from five particular customers, and then asked, “Mr. Laverty, did you borrow from any other customers?” Laverty answered, “No” and insisted that he had only borrowed from these five customers. Laverty’s answers were false. Laverty had, in fact, also borrowed from the elderly couple. In addition, Laverty executed a $1.4 million promissory note for the loans that the elderly couple had extended to him and quickly breached the agreement by making none of the required monthly payments. The elderly couple filed a Statement of Claim against Laverty and the firms through which he registered. One of the firms filed a Form U5 Amendment disclosing the Statement of Claim and informing FINRA, for the first time, that Laverty had improperly solicited and accepted loans from the elderly couple. Neither of these elderly customers lived to see their claims resolved. Nevertheless, days before a scheduled arbitration, the elderly couple, through their successor in interest, settled their claim against Laverty. Soon thereafter, Laverty breached his obligations under the settlement by failing to make a required payment. FINRA suspended Laverty for failure to comply with the settlement. In addition, the complaint alleges that Laverty willfully failed to update his Form U4 to disclose an unsatisfied judgment entered in the Security Bank of California lawsuit and a federal tax lien.

FINRA Sanctions Fifth Third Securities, Inc., $6 Million

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced today it has fined Fifth Third Securities, Inc., $4 million and required the firm to pay approximately $2 million in restitution to customers for failing to appropriately consider and accurately describe the costs and benefits of variable annuity (VA) exchanges, and for recommending exchanges without a reasonable basis to believe the exchanges were suitable. This is the second significant FINRA enforcement action against Fifth Third involving the firm’s sale of variable annuities.

Variable annuities are complex investments commonly marketed and sold to retirees or people saving for retirement. Exchanging one VA with another involves a comparison of the complex features of each security. Accordingly, VA exchanges are subject to regulatory requirements to ensure that brokers have a reasonable basis to recommend them, and their supervisors have a reasonable basis to approve the sales.

FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to ensure that its registered representatives obtained and assessed accurate information concerning the recommended VA exchanges. It also found that the firm’s registered representatives and principals were not adequately trained on how to conduct a comparative analysis of the material features of the VAs. As a result, the firm misstated the costs and benefits of exchanges, making the exchange appear more beneficial to the customer. By reviewing a sample of VA exchanges that the firm approved from 2013 through 2015, FINRA found that Fifth Third misstated or omitted at least one material fact relating to the costs or benefits of the VA exchange in approximately 77 percent of the sample. For example:

  •  Fifth Third overstated the total fees of the existing VA or misstated fees associated with various additional optional benefits, known as riders.
  • Fifth Third failed to disclose that the existing VA had an accrued living benefit value, or understated the living benefit value, which the customer would forfeit upon executing the proposed exchange.
  • Fifth Third represented that a proposed VA had a living benefit rider even though the proposed VA did not, in fact, include a living benefit rider.

FINRA found that the firm’s principals ultimately approved approximately 92 percent of VA exchange applications submitted to them for review. However, in light of the firm’s supervisory deficiencies, the firm did not have a reasonable basis to recommend and approve many of these transactions.

Susan Schroeder, FINRA’s Executive Vice President and Head of Enforcement, said, “FINRA remains vigilant in examining how member firms market variable annuities, which are complex products pitched to retirees and people saving for retirement. Returning $2 million in restitution to harmed investors is a key part of FINRA’s investor protection mission.”

In addition, FINRA found that Fifth Third failed to comply with a term of its 2009 settlement with FINRA. In the 2009 action, FINRA found that, from 2004 to 2006, Fifth Third effected 250 unsuitable VA exchanges and transactions and had inadequate systems and procedures governing its VA exchange business. For more than four years following the settlement, the firm failed to fully implement an independent consultant’s recommendation that it develop certain surveillance procedures to monitor VA exchanges by individual registered representatives.

In settling this matter, Fifth Third neither admitted nor denied the charges, but consented to the entry of FINRA’s findings.

Clifton Stanley Ponzi scheme charges brought by SEC

On April 6, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission charged two Texas companies and their principals in a $2.4 million Ponzi scheme and in a related, $1.4 million offering fraud targeting retirees.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that, from 2010 to 2017, Clifton E. Stanley ran a Ponzi scheme through his retirement planning and real estate investment business, The Lifepay Group, LLC. Stanley is alleged to have lured at least 30 elderly victims to invest approximately $2.4 million of their retirement savings with baseless promises and claims of outsized investment returns. He kept the scheme afloat for years by paying early investors with later investors’ funds and by convincing investors to roll over their investments.  The SEC further alleges that Stanley pilfered from the estate of an elderly woman’s family trust, diverting nearly $100,000 to fund the Lifepay Ponzi scheme. In addition, the SEC’s complaint alleges that, beginning in 2015, Stanley and Michael E. Watts orchestrated a second offering fraud through a company they controlled, SMDRE, LLC. Stanley and Watts allegedly used a collection of misrepresentations and empty promises to convince a group of predominantly elderly victims to invest roughly $1.4 million in SMDRE.

Stanley is alleged to have used roughly $1.3 million of the Lifepay offering proceeds for personal expenses, including country club memberships, daily living expenses, travel, and entertainment expenses. In addition, Watts and Stanley allegedly engaged in shell game transactions so they could use the vast majority of SMDRE investor funds for personal expenses and to keep the Lifepay Ponzi scheme afloat.

The SEC’s complaint charges Stanley, Watts, Lifepay, and SMDRE with violating the registration and antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws. Stanley was also charged for conduct stemming from his role as an unregistered broker.

SEC freezes Longfin (LFIN)

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission obtained an emergency freeze of $27 million in trading profits involving the CEO of cryptocurrency company Longfin and three other people, the agency said in a statement Friday.

Longfin’s stock was halted on the Nasdaq as of 10:01 a.m. ET on the SEC alert after jumping more than 47 percent. Shares had been halted numerous times throughout the week for volatility. The stock was worth more than $3 billion at one point in December after the company announced a cryptocurrency-related acquisition.

“We acted quickly to prevent more than $27 million in alleged illicit trading profits from being transferred out of the country,” Robert Cohen, chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Cyber Unit said in the statement. “Preventing defendants from transferring this money offshore will ensure that these funds remain available as the case continues.”

The SEC claims Longfin CEO and Chairman Venkat Meenavalli had the company issue unregistered shares to the three people so they could sell them, which they did.

The financial watchdog does allow people to own a certain amount of unregistered shares without having to go through what one lawyer calls a “very long” registration process. But those shares are restricted and cannot be sold during certain time periods.

Broker Charged With Repeatedly Putting Customer Assets At Risk

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that Electronic Transaction Clearing (ETC), a registered broker-dealer headquartered in Los Angeles, has agreed to settle charges that it illegally placed more than $25 million of customers’ securities at risk in order to fund its own operations.

Among other things, the SEC found that ETC violated the Customer Protection Rule, which is intended to safeguard customers’ cash and securities so that they can be promptly returned if a broker-dealer fails.  It requires broker-dealers to maintain physical possession or control of customers’ fully paid and excess margin securities.

According to the SEC’s order, ETC put customer securities at risk numerous times in 2015.  ETC improperly transferred almost $8 million of fully paid securities belonging to cash customers to an account at another clearing firm to meet margin requirements on borrowed funds, and the firm used more than $17 million of securities of two customers to borrow funds without consent.  The order also finds that ETC improperly commingled customers’ securities and allowed a customer’s excess margin securities to be loaned out by the other clearing firm.

“The SEC has brought several recent cases charging violations of the Customer Protection Rule, which establishes critical protections to ensure that investors’ securities are kept safe by broker-dealers,” said Michele W. Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.  “As this case shows, no broker-dealer is allowed to use its customers’ securities to fund its own operations.”

The SEC’s order charged ETC with violating the Securities Exchange Act and Customer Protection Rule as well as other related rules.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, ETC agreed to entry of the order, to pay an $80,000 penalty, to cease and desist from committing or causing any similar violations in the future, and to be censured.  ETC cooperated with the SEC’s investigation and has taken remedial steps to prevent future violations.

Robert Mark Magee Settles Charges for Cheating Clients in Fraudulent Cherry-Picking Scheme

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced settled charges against an Austin, Texas-based investment adviser for defrauding his clients through a “cherry-picking” scheme.  The adviser, Robert Mark Magee, who is the principal, sole owner, and sole employee of Valor Capital Asset Management LLC, has agreed to be banned from the securities industry and pay more than $715,000 to resolve the charges.

According to the SEC’s order, for almost three years, Magee traded securities in Valor’s omnibus account but waited to allocate the trades to client accounts until after the securities’ performance changed over the course of the day.  Magee then “cherry-picked” the trades, disproportionately allocating profitable trades to his accounts and unprofitable trades to his clients’ accounts, reaping substantial profits for himself at his clients’ expense. The SEC’s order found that for most of the three-year period there was less than a one-in-a-trillion chance that the outsized performance of Magee’s personal account, compared to that of his clients’ accounts, was due to chance.

“This case echoes the several actions our office has brought in recent months aimed at protecting unsuspecting retail investors from investment advisers who allegedly cheat their clients by cherry-picking profitable trades,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office.  “The settled order here finds that Magee and Valor cherry-picked trades to their clients’ detriment for almost three years.”

The SEC’s order found that Magee and Valor each violated antifraud provisions of the federal securities laws.  Without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, Magee and Valor agreed to the entry of a cease-and-desist order and to pay disgorgement, prejudgment interest, and civil penalties totaling $715,871.57. Magee also agreed to be barred from the securities industry.

SEC Charges Ameriprise With Overcharging Retirement Account Customers for Mutual Fund Shares

The Securities and Exchange Commission today announced that a Minnesota-based broker-dealer and investment adviser has agreed to settle charges for recommending and selling higher-fee mutual fund shares to retail retirement account customers and for failing to provide sales charge waivers.

According to the SEC’s order, Ameriprise Financial Services Inc. disadvantaged certain retirement account customers by failing to ascertain their eligibility for less expensive mutual fund share classes.  Ameriprise recommended and sold these customers more expensive mutual fund share classes when less expensive share classes were available.  Ameriprise also failed to disclose that it would receive greater compensation from the purchases and that the purchases would negatively impact the overall return on the customers’ investments.

“Ameriprise generated greater revenue for itself but lower returns for its retirement account customers by recommending higher-fee share classes,” said Anthony S. Kelly, Co-Chief of the SEC Enforcement Division’s Asset Management Unit.  “As evidenced by our recently announced Share Class Selection Disclosure Initiative, pursuing these types of actions remains a priority for the Division as we seek to get money back in the hands of harmed investors.”

Approximately 1,791 customer accounts paid a total of $1,778,592.31 in unnecessary up-front sales charges, contingent deferred sales charges, and higher ongoing fees and expenses as a result of Ameriprise’s practices.  Ameriprise cooperated with the Commission and voluntarily identified the affected accounts, issued payments including interest to the affected customers, and converted eligible customers to the mutual fund share class with the lowest expenses for which they are eligible, at no cost.

The SEC’s order instituting a settled administrative and cease-and-desist proceeding finds that Ameriprise violated Sections 17(a)(2) and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933.  Without admitting or denying the findings, Ameriprise consented to a cease-and-desist order, a censure, and a penalty of $230,000.

Western International Securities, Inc. Fined $521,098 in Connection With Sales of Non-Traditional ETFs

On February 28, 2018, FINRA Enforcement entered into a settlement via Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (“AWC”) with Respondent Western International Securities, Inc. (“WIS”) (CRD# 39262).  Specifically, without admitting or denying any wrongdoing — WIS consented to paying a fine of $521,908, in addition to restitution to certain investors in the amount of $125,000 — in connection with FINRA’s findings of fact that from January 2011 – November 2015, WIS allegedly failed to supervise its registered representatives with regard to sales of certain leveraged, inverse, and inverse-leveraged Exchange-Traded Funds (“Non-Traditional ETFs”).

Non-Traditional ETFs are designed to return a multiple of an underlying benchmark or index (or both) over the course of one trading session (typically, a single day).  Therefore, because of their design, Non-Traditional ETFs are not intended to be held for more than a single trading session, as enunciated by FINRA Enforcement in its recent AWC as concerns Respondent WIS:

“[t]he performance of Non-Traditional ETFs over periods of time longer than a single trading session ‘can differ significantly from the performance… of their underlying index or benchmark during the same period of time.”  FINRA Regulatory Notice 09-31.

Pursuant to the AWC, FINRA’s findings of fact allege that WIS registered representatives solicited and effected Non-Traditional ETF purchases that were unsuitable for specific customers.  For example, in one instance, FINRA determined that a 73 year-old customer with a net worth of $200,000 and an investment objective of growth and a conservative risk profile was purportedly steered into five Non-Traditional ETFs.  As alleged by FINRA, this elderly investor held the Non-Traditional ETFs for an average of 356 days, resulting in a net loss of $20,232.

In another instance of purported unsuitable recommendations, FINRA Enforcement determined that a WIS customer with a net worth of $200,000 and an investment objective of growth and a conservative risk profile was also purportedly steered into five Non-Traditional ETFs.  As alleged by FINRA, this investor held the Non-Traditional ETFs for an average of 350 days, resulting in a net loss of $32,865.

Larry Martin Boggs – Ameriprise – Dallas, Texas

An AWC was issued in which Boggs was barred from association with any FINRA member firm in all capacities. Without admitting or denying the findings, Boggs consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he engaged in excessive and unsuitable trading in customer accounts. The findings stated that Boggs used his control over the customers’ accounts to excessively trade in them in a manner that was inconsistent with these investors’ investment objectives, risk tolerance and financial situations. Boggs engaged in a strategy that was predicated on short-term trading of primarily income-paying equity securities that were identified on a list of recommended securities by his member firm. Boggs would typically buy or sell these securities based on whether they were added to or removed from this list, and would frequently liquidate positions that increased or decreased by more than 10 percent. The findings also stated that Boggs improperly exercised discretion in these accounts without written authorization from the customers or the firm. The findings also included that Boggs caused the firm’s books and records to be incorrect by changing the investment objectives and risk tolerance for several of these customers in order to conform to his high-frequency trading strategy, even though the customers’ investment objectives and risk tolerance had not actually changed. (FINRA Case #2015045518901)

The Importance of Selection of Counsel

The retention of an attorney is an important decision made with great care. Please review our web site and examine our experience and credentials.


Contact Us