The Resolution Law Group: FINRA Considers System That Would ‘Red Flag’ Customer Accounts at Brokerage Firms

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is looking at a system that would let the SRO run analytics on the customers accounts at brokerage firms that would allow it to identify “red flags” involving business and sales misconduct involving branches, firms, and registered representatives. The agency is now seeking comments for its proposal for the Comprehensive Automatic Risk Data System (CARDS).

Upon implementation of CARDS, clearing firms and self-clearing firms would regularly turn in, in standardized, automated format, specific data about customer accounts and the customers accounts of each member account that they clear for. This would allow FINRA to conduct analytics so it can identify excessive commissions, churning, markups, pump and dump scamps, and mutual fund switches. The information would also be used to examine broker-dealers.

FINRA says it wants to be able to find the risks and red flags earlier. According to a notice from the SRO, the agency says that this type of automated reporting would get rid of some of the one-off reporting that brokerage firms now have to engage in. This would also let FINRA compare broker-dealers and identify trends and patterns in the industry.

CARDS is part of FINRA’s efforts, since the 2008 financial crisis, to go from depending on individual financial firm exams to surveillance that is broader and occurs on an ongoing basis. The SRO says it conducted a successful trial of CARDS earlier in 2013. 300 introducing firms were involved.

To make CARDS a working reality, brokers might have to gather historical data. Meantime, clearing firms would need to construct a system that would let them turn in the information and oversee data transmission. FINRA CEO and Chairman Robert Ketchum said that the purpose of CARDS isn’t to “replace the compliance officer.” He said the SRO wants to be able to swiftly place attention on firms and their branches where there may be a “concentration in assets that are more likely to be hit.”

The Resolution Law Group works with institutional investors and high net worth individual investors to get back their money that they lost due to securities fraud. Contact our broker fraud law firm today.

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The Resolution Law Group: MF Global to Pay $1.2B to Customers

U.S. District Court Judge Victor Marrero has ordered MF Global to pay customers over $1.2 billion. The defunct brokerage firm left an about $1.6 billion shortfall for approximately 38,000 customers when it filed for bankruptcy protection in 2008.

Now, with this court order, along with the attempts of a liquidation trustee to get back the missing funds, customers are going to get almost all of their money back. Also, in addition to paying certain creditors and customers, MF Global will pay a $100 million penalty.

The brokerage tanked financially after it revealed that it had placed bets worth billions of dollars on high risk European debt. As customers started to leave MF Global in bulk and trading partners demanded bigger margin payments, the firm used customer funds for its own purposes (more than a billion dollars was taken out of their accounts) and did not replace them. This is not allowed. Also the estimated shortfall was about $1.6 billion.

It was the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission that got the federal court consent order against MF Global obligating the latter to pay the restitution. The CFTC filed its complaint against MF Global in June charging the firm and others with unlawfully using the funds of customers. The agency also accused the brokerage of making false statements to cover up the shortfall in filings it submitted to the regulator.

In the consent order, MF Global admits to the allegations related to its liability on the basis of omissions and actions committed by its employees. (Also, a bankruptcy judge has just cleared the firm to repay all the funds it owes to commodity customers both in the US and abroad.)

Just last week, Judge Marrerro rejected Corzine’s attempt to get a shareholder securities lawsuit against him and other MF Global executives dismissed. The plaintiffs are accusing them of misleading investors about the high-risk bets that were made on European debt. In his decision, Marrero commented on how the defendants appeared convinced that none of them did anything wrong. He speculated that maybe instead, “supernatural forces” or “stuff happens” was to blame for the firm’s spectacular “multi-billion dollar” crash. Meantime, the CFTC’s civil case against MF Global Holdings Ltd, ex-CEO John Corzine, and ex-Assistant Treasurer Edith O’ Brien have yet to be resolved.

While it is a positive that customers are finally getting their money back—it doesn’t mean that this makes up for the last two years when they were unable to access their funds. Some folks were shut out of trading while others lost their businesses.

Our securities lawyers at The Resolution Law Group were among those that investigating MF Global claims of customers. We represent institutional and individual investors in getting their losses back.

Berthel Fisher, VSR Financial Services, & Cetera Financial Modify the Way They Sell Nontraded REITs and Other Alternative Instruments

Investment News is reporting that in the wake of pressure from regulators, Berthel Fisher & Co. Financial Services Inc., Cetera Financial Group Inc. and VSR Financial Services Inc., are modifying the way they sell specific alternative investments, including nontraded real estate investment trusts, by revising current policy or including no procedures and guidelines. According to executives at the three brokerage firms, they want add liquid alternative choices to their platforms while staying mindful of the issues that regulators recently addressed.

These types of financial instruments are in demand due to their higher yields, especially as traditional investment interest rates for retirees stay low due to the Federal Reserve’s policy. According to VSR chairman Don Beary, Following recent FINRA’s ‘senior sweep,’ his brokerage firm is now more careful about what senior citizens can invest in. VRS’s registered representatives have just been notified about the new illiquid alternative investment sale guidelines, which include a 35% of illiquid investment limit for older clients’ accounts—down from 40-50% previously. Also, for clients in the 70 to 75 age group, they will be allowed to possess no more than 25% of illiquid investments in their portfolio. Clients in the 75 to 84 age group have a 15% limit, while customers older than that will not be allowed to make own any illiquid investments.

Meantime, Centera hasn’t modified customer allocations percentages , but it has enhanced its representative training requirements for representatives that sell illiquid investments and brought in more employees to conduct product due diligence.

It is important that your financial representative only recommend investments that are suitable for you, your goals, and your financial needs. Failure to do so can be grounds for a securities fraud case if the customer loses money as a result.

Seniors are especially vulnerable to losing big from unsuitable trades. Many have ended up losing the savings they have spent a lifetime accumulating, which can drastically hurt their retirement that they have worked hard for.

You want to work with an experienced REIT lawyer who knows how to recoup your losses for you.  Contact The Resolution Law Group at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud

The Resolution Law Group: FINRA Orders LPL Financial to Pay $7.5M Over Allegedly Inadequate Supervision of E-Mails

In what is being called the SRO’s largest fine to date over e-mail violations, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority announced that it is fining LPL Financial LLC $7.5 million over 35 key e-mail system failures. The financial firm also has to set up a $1.5 million fund to compensate customers that may have been impacted. That is a total of $9 million.

According to FINRA, the e-mail and retention issues took place between 2007 and 2013, with LPL’s systems failing a minimum of 35 times. The brokerage firm allegedly did not fulfill its duty to supervise representatives, capture email, and answer regulator requests.

For more than four years, LPL purportedly did not supervise 28 million business emails that involved thousands of independent contractor representatives. The broker-dealer also is accused of making misstatements to the SRO during the latter’s investigation into the matter (email systems failures made it impossible for the firm to give over certain documents).

By settling, LPL is not denying or admitting to the securities fraud allegations.

Under securities industry rules, broker-dealers must keep and review emails for a certain length of time to make sure that procedure compliance is happening and to prevent possible wrongdoing. In a statement, the financial firm said that it was the one that notified FINRA about the e-mail issues. LPL says that not only did it fully cooperate with the SRO’s probe but also, regretting what happened, it is redesigning email systems and related compliance procedures and policies and working with independent experts. The firm says it is training employees so that in the future these kinds of oversights are identified and dealt with more quickly. Meantime, Reuters is reporting that in the wake of recent fines LPL has agreed to pay over abusive securities sales practices allegations, it is redoing its procedures related to its supervision of 13,000 advisers.

If you, your family, friends, neighbors or associates have been subjected to Mortgage Fraud, please contact The Resolution Law Group at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud

FINRA Notifies Brokerage Firms About Non-traded REIT Information that Can Mislead Investors

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is alerting broker-dealers that the way they market certain non-traded real estate investment trusts could be misleading investors. The regulator said its recent reviews of brokerage firm communications with the public about these investments showed “deficiencies.” The SRO has been trying to improve the sales practices related to illiquid REITs and increase their transparency.

Among the identified information shortcomings:
• Inaccurate and misleading statements about the benefits of investing
• Failure to adequately explain the risks involved
• Describing a real estate security as a “yield,” which can incorrectly suggest that it is a bond

FINRA said it is necessary for brokerage firms to provide “fair and balanced” distribution rates, while explaining that distribution payments are not a given. The regulator observed that some broker-dealers are prone to highlight these payments, which are given to investors as soon as the nontraded REITs are sold, but fails to inform that some distributions are the return of their principal or borrowed money. FINRA reminded broker-dealers that they have to wait until an REIT has paid distributions for six months before it can make claims about the instrument’s yearly return rate.

The SRO noted that data about related or affiliated REITs should be as prominently visible as other information, and past performance information about REITs involving the current investment being promoted cannot be cherry picked.

REITs and Non-traded REITs
REITs invest in commercial real estate, which gives investors a chance to benefit from the increase in property values, and they are publicly traded. Non-traded REITs, which don’t trade on securities exchange, can be tough to sell in secondary markets or illiquid. Investors usually have to pay higher fees for them.

FINRA has been targeting the improper-sale of non-traded REITs for some time now. This latest notification to brokerage firms doesn’t mention how many broker-dealers it looked at (or which ones) to reach its conclusions.

The Resolution Law Group represent investors throughout the US. For over two decades, The Resolution Law Group has helped thousands of investors recoup their investment losses by going through arbitration via FINRA, NYSE, NASD, and AAA, as well as through the state and federal courts.  Visit our website http:www.theresolutionlawgroup.com

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud

FINRA Plan May Dramatically Change The Way Brokerage Firms Report On Nontraded REITS & Other Illiquid Investments on Client Statements

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s board of governors has a plan that could radically modify the way brokerage firms report illiquid investments’ value on the account statements of clients. The SRO, which wants to give investors more transparency in regards to the actual value of such investments, has been trying to modify its rules about REITs and private placement valuations on client statements for well over a year.

Earlier this month, in changes it is proposing to Rule 2340, the FINRA board presented two reporting alternatives for brokerage firms. With the first option, a brokerage firm wouldn’t need to have the per-share estimated value of an REIT or a private placement that is unlisted included in customers’ account statements. The second choice lets a brokerage firm chose from three options:

• A valuation done by an external service at least one time every three years.
• A valuation performed by a service that performs valuations according the methodology revealed in the prospectus.
• For a couple of years after the initial investment, a “net investment” valuation that is comprised of the offering price without cash that is distributed to investors and “organization and offering expenses” paid for via the offering or borrowing of proceeds.

The majority of nontraded real estate investment trusts sell at $10/share and they generally stay at that value on a client’s account statement until a year and a half has passed since the REIT ceased to raise funds. This means that years may go by without a client being able to see that the nontraded REIT has a value that differs from that $10/share price.

However, when the recent credit crisis hit, some of the biggest nontraded REITs experienced steep drops in valuation each quarter, and advisers and investors found it difficult to figure out how, why, and to what extent the valuation declines occurred. The matter of the way a nontraded REIT should be valued (and a brokerage firm’s duty to make sure that valuation is stated on client account statements) has become a highly charged issued.

Also, to the dismay of FINRA, its examiners, who have studied quite a number of retail sellers of nontraded REITs in the last couple of years, have found that firms selling these instruments didn’t perform much reasonable diligence before selling them or failed to determine whether the product was appropriate for investors. In comments made to a Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association forum last year, FINRA executive vice present of member regulation sales practices Susan Axelrod said that when REITs have gotten into financial trouble, there were usually red flags that brokerage firms could have assessed first before making more sales.

Our REIT lawyers represent investment fraud victims. Contact The Resolution Law Group today at (203) 542-7275 for a confidential, no obligation consultation.

Lender Litigation, Unlawful Foreclosure, Tarp Money, Mortgage Backed Securities, Derivitives Lawsuits, Insider Trading Lawsuit, SEC Settlements, Ponzi Scheme Lawsuits, Intentional Misrepresentation, Securitized Mortgage, Class Action Securities Lawsuit, Robo-Signing Lawsuit, Lost Equity Litigation, Mortgage Lender Fraud, FINRA Fraud Lawsuit, Suing Banks, Fraudulent Misrepresentation, Short Sale Fraud, Fraudulent Business Practices, Mortgage Litigation, Complex Tort Litigation, Injunctive Relief, MERS Fraud