Articles Posted in FINRA

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently barred a financial advisor from Alexandria, Virginia who had been registered with Wells Fargo Clearing Services LLC.  According to the FINRA AWC (Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent), FINRA began an investigation into whether Paul Trimber “converted a senior customer’s funds for his personal use and benefit…”  Mr. Trimber allegedly refused to produce documents in response to FINRA’s requests in the investigation, resulting in FINRA’s bar from Mr. Trimber associating with any FINRA member.

According to FINRA’s Brokercheck report, Mr. Trimber was terminated by Wells Fargo in February 2024 for the following reason:  “Financial Advisor discharged after he admitted during review to making unauthorized transfers of client funds to recipients outside of the Firm.”

Financial Advisors occupy positions of trust and access to accounts that unfortunately can result in the theft of customer funds.  In such situations, the brokerage firms for which the advisor is registered also bear responsibility for their advisors’ criminal actions, and also can be found liable for failures to supervise the wrongful activity.

FINRA has reported on the Brokercheck report for former advisor Shane Wilhelm that he has been permanently barred from registration with a FINRA Broker-Dealer.  The Report states that Mr. Wilhelm was previously registered with Fortune Financial Services and Truist Investment Services, and that he previously had offices in Roanoke, Virginia, Moneta, Virginia, and Lynchburg, Virginia.

FINRA states “Pursuant to FINRA Rule 9552(h) and in accordance with FINRA’s Notice of Suspension and Suspension from Association letters dated June 2, 2023, and June 26, 2023, respectively, on September 5, 2023, Wilhelm is barred from association with any FINRA member firm in all capacities. Wilhelm failed to request termination of his suspension within three months of the date of the Notice of Suspension; therefore he is automatically barred from association with any FINRA member in all capacities.”

The Virginia-based securities fraud lawyers at Greco & Greco have been representing wronged customers of financial advisors for decades, including many clients from southwest Virginia including Roanoke.  We have extensive experience for cases of securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, churning, broker theft, false statements, unsuitable recommendations, and unauthorized trading.  If you believe you may have been victimized by your investment advisor, please contact Scott Greco for a free attorney consultation.

 

FINRA, a regulator of the securities industry, recently barred North Carolina broker Christina Peterman after she failed to respond to a FINRA request for information and documents.  The Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent states that the investigation related to a filing by her Broker-Dealer firm, Truist Investment Services, Inc. stating that she had been discharged based on the allegation that she “accessed client information without a business purpose and engaged in unauthorized client transactions.”

Unauthorized trading by investment advisors is generally considered to be a fraudulent activity.  Typically, unless discretion to trade without speaking to the customer is granted to the broker in writing, the broker is required to obtain permission for all transactions for the customer after discussing the relevant factors which form the basis for a recommended trade.

Greco & Greco has represented North Carolina investors for decades in FINRA arbitrations based on wrongful conduct by stock brokers and their brokerage firms.  If you believe you may have been harmed by a broker’s bad acts, please contact Securities Fraud Lawyer Scott Greco for a free attorney consultation about your case.

 

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has issued a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) against LPL Financial LLC, a notable member firm in the securities industry. The AWC alleges a series of alleged rule violations that occurred over several years, painting a picture of insufficient supervision and inaccurate information dissemination to customers. Let’s delve into the details of this regulatory action and what it means for investors and the securities industry at large.

Background: LPL Financial LLC

LPL Financial LLC, a long-standing member of FINRA since 1973, operates as a significant player in the securities industry and is one of the larger “independent” FINRA firms. Headquartered in Fort Mill, South Carolina, LPL boasts a considerable network, with over 27,000 registered representatives across more than 18,000 branch offices.  Most advisors who are registered with independent firms operate out of small one or two advisor offices.  Although independent firms have the same supervisory duties and more traditional firms with big branch offices, proper supervision does not always occur.

The Securities and Exchange Commission of the U.S. (the SEC) recently fined J.P. Morgan Securities $18,000,000 for taking various steps to prevent securities whistleblowers from contacting the SEC or other securities regulators.  J.P. Morgan agreed to the Order which can be found here.

The alleged wrongdoing centered on the language included by J.P. Morgan in its settlement agreements with its advisory and brokerage firm customers to which it paid over $1,000.00.  Virtually all FINRA securities firms and Registered Investment Advisors require a confidentiality clause to be included in any settlement agreement with a customer.  These settlement agreements are often the result of various misconduct by the firms or their advisors, such as securities fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, unauthorized trading, broker theft, recommended unsuitable investments, and churning.  The reason why securities firms always require their settlements to be confidential is clear – they wish to hide their misconduct and the misconduct of their advisors from the public.  FINRA’s Brokercheck report does require firms to disclose settlements with advisors/firms, but the details are often extremely general, and one has to look up the broker directly to find the disclosures.

According to the SEC Order, from 2020 to 2023 J.P. Morgan included language in 362 release agreements that prohibited customers not only from disclosing the amount of the settlement to the SEC, but also prohibited disclosing the facts related to the account (i.e. the misconduct).  Although the releases did allow disclosure to the SEC in response to an inquiry, it did not allow the customers to initiate contact with the SEC.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently issued a disciplinary order against Christopher Booth Kennedy, a former registered representative with Western International Securities, for a series of egregious violations. The order which can be found here, stemming from a complaint filed by FINRA’s Department of Enforcement, outlines Kennedy’s misconduct between July 2020 and July 2021. During this period, Kennedy engaged in churning and excessive trading in the accounts of six customers, resulting in significant financial losses.  The Order bars Kennedy from associating with a FINRA firm.

Kennedy’s actions, as detailed in the findings and conclusions of the order, paint a troubling picture of misconduct and deceit. He directed over 5,300 trades totaling more than $350 million in the accounts of six customers, with an average of 102 trades per account each month. These excessive transactions generated substantial commissions for Kennedy while causing substantial losses for his clients. Moreover, Kennedy went to lengths to conceal the true extent of these losses by fabricating account statements and providing false information to his clients.

The disciplinary order found Kennedy in violation of several securities regulations, including Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Regulation Best Interest, and various FINRA rules.

A former stockbroker / investment advisor from Bergen County, New Jersey, has been indicted for allegedly stealing over $3 million from five unsuspecting clients. Kenneth A. Welsh, 42, of River Edge, has been charged with four counts of wire fraud and one count of investment advisor fraud, as announced by U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger on November 16, 2023.

According to the indictment, from July 2017 through March 2021, Welsh, operating as a financial advisor registered with Wells Fargo Clearing Services, purportedly abused his position to misappropriate funds entrusted to him by clients. Instead of responsibly managing their investments, Welsh is accused of diverting substantial sums into accounts under his control, leaving his clients in financial distress. The charges carry severe penalties, with each wire fraud count potentially leading to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine, while the investment advisor fraud count could result in five years behind bars and a $10,000 fine, or twice the gross gain or loss from the offense.

The indictment details that Mr. Welsh allegedly used multiple fraudulent means to siphon off customer funds, including having customers sign forms in blank, fraudulently forging signatures, and carrying out unauthorized wires from customer accounts.

Lickhai Quach, a Silver Spring, Maryland broker/agent of Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc., was recently barred by FINRA from association with any FINRA firm.  The FINRA Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent states that Mr. Quach refused to produce documents or information to investigators as required by FINRA Rule 8210.

Mr. Quach was allegedly under investigation by FINRA as a result of being permitted to resign “while under review by the firm for violating firm’s policy related to borrowing funds from a client.”  Mr. Quach’s FINRA Brokercheck report states that he was registered with Transamerica since 2012.  The report further states that he had one recent customer complaint relating to borrowed funds that settled, and that he was permitted to resign in March, 2023.

Registered financial advisors are generally prohibited from borrowing money from customers under FINRA Rule 3240 except in limited circumstances such as from a family member or other personal relationship.  The loan must also be disclosed and approved by the advisor’s firm.

Miche Jean was a registered securities salesperson with Morgan Stanley in Rockville, Maryland since 2015. However, on November 12, 2020, Morgan Stanley submitted a Termination Notice (Form U5), indicating that they terminated Jean’s employment due to concerns related to his trading strategy for certain clients, potential unauthorized discretion in specific accounts, and incomplete and delayed communication with clients regarding transactions. Furthermore, on March 30, 2021, an amended Form U5 disclosed a customer complaint alleging unauthorized trading with exchange-traded funds (ETFs) during Jean’s tenure at Morgan Stanley.

Then, on November 15, 2022, the Maryland Securities Commissioner issued a Consent Order in which Jean admitted to fraudulent actions during his time with Morgan Stanley in Maryland. Specifically, he was found to have initiated four ACH transfers, totaling $10,182, from a Morgan Stanley customer’s brokerage account to cover his personal credit card expenses.

FINRA, a national self-regulatory securities regulator, recently barred Mr. Miche from the industry pursuant to a decision by its Office of Hearing Officers.

The local Virginia Securities Fraud Lawyers of Greco & Greco are currently representing multiple Virginia customers of Richmond, Virginia based broker John Starke. These claims for investment losses have been filed in FINRA arbitration against Mr. Starke’s brokerage firm, Centaurus Financial.

As shown by Mr. Starke’s FINRA Brokercheck report, found here, in the last two years customers have filed seven complaints against Mr. Starke, most involving allegations of the sale of illiquid, unsuitable, and high-risk investments.

Alternative Investments, which include REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts), are often sold as an alternative to more traditional stocks, bonds, and stock and bond funds. These higher-risk investments are often touted for their high returns, especially in a low interest rate environment, however those high returns are accompanied with corresponding high risk.

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