Articles Tagged with California

On October 2, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Tweed Financial Services, Inc. (“TFSI”), an investment advisory firm, and its proprietor, Robert Russel Tweed (“Tweed”).  The SEC’s complaint alleges that TFSI and Tweed “defrauded their clients by misleading them about how their money had been invested and how poorly those investments were performing.”  According to the SEC, TFSI and Tweed violated the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 by deceiving their clients.

According to the SEC’s complaint, TFSI and Tweed formed Athenian Fund L.P., a private fund, in 2008.  Twenty-four investors placed money in the Athenian Fund, and the fund raised approximately $1.7 million.  The Athenian Fund’s private placement memorandum informed investors that money invested in Athenian Fund would be invested in a master fund that “had been established to trade stocks using an algorithmic trading platform developed by acquaintances of Tweed.”  However, beginning in March 2010, Tweed transferred all of the Athenian Fund’s assets to another fund.  In March 2011, TFSI and Tweed had the Athenian Fund loan $200,000 to a startup software company.  The SEC alleged that these two ventures resulted in the Athenian fund losing approximately $800,000. Continue reading

On August 22, 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) filed a complaint in the United States District Court for the Central District of California against Jeremy Drake (“Drake”), an investment adviser.  The complaint alleges that Drake lied to two clients, a high-profile professional athlete and his wife, regarding their annual management fees.  The complaint also alleges that Drake used extensive measures to back up his deception, including sending “false and misleading emails” and “a number of fabricated documents.”

According to the SEC’s complaint, Drake’s alleged misconduct occurred when he was an investment adviser representative of HCR Wealth Advisers (“HCR”), a Los Angeles-based registered investment adviser.  In September 2009, the clients entered into an “Investment Advisory Agreement” with HCR.  The agreement, which was signed by Drake on behalf of HCR, provided that the clients would pay an annual management fee of 1% of the clients’ assets under management.  Evidence shows that the clients paid a 1% management fee for the entire period when they were clients of HCR. Continue reading

On November 23, 2016, Wells Fargo successfully defended a class action lawsuit relating to the recent fake account scandal, Mitchell v. Wells Fargo Bank NA.  This class action lawsuit, filed by three Wells Fargo customers in the United States District Court for the District of Utah, called for at least $5 million in damages, as well as potential punitive damages, stemming from the bank’s opening of at least 2 million accounts that its customers did not authorize.  However, Wells Fargo succeeded in having the case referred to arbitration, citing clauses in its account agreements compelling arbitration in the event of a dispute, as well as a September 2015 case from the United States District Court for the Northern District of California that also involved Wells Fargo’s alleged opening of unauthorized accounts. Continue reading

In a decision last month, the California Court of Appeals may have opened the door for brokers to bypass the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) rigid expungement rules in order to remove matters from their CRD records. Currently, brokers must abide by Rule 2080 in order to expunge their records. The FINRA rule allows for expungement only upon meeting one of three tests: (1) the claim is factually impossible, (2) the broker was not involved in the conduct or (3) the information is false. The rule states that a broker who seeks expungement “must obtain an order from a court of competent jurisdiction directing such expungement or confirming an arbitration award containing expungement relief.”

In its recent decision, the California Court of Appeals held that a court may expunge a broker’s CRD record in the interest of fairness and equity, regardless of FINRA’s rule. Edwin Lickiss filed a petition in the court in April 2011 seeking expungement of 17 customer complaints and a regulatory action from his CRD record claiming that they were old and irrelevant and negatively affected his profession. The customer complaints against Mr. Lickiss had resulted in total payments of $831,000, and Mr. Lickiss was required to personally pay a $5,000 settlement. FINRA objected to Mr. Lickiss’s expungement request, stating that he was trying to “sanitize his record and prevent regulators, brokerage firms and investors from learning of this history for what amounts to ‘time served.'” The trial court dismissed the complaint, citing the requirements of Rule 2080. The court of appeals reversed the trial court’s decision, holding that it should have looked to equitable principles instead of FINRA rules.
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An independent insurance agent, Glenn Neasham, was convicted on a felony-theft charge in March for selling a complex indexed annuity to an 83-year old client in a California court. He was sentenced to spend ninety days in jail. Prosecutors claimed that Mr. Neasham’s client had exhibited signs of dementia and was not capable of consenting to the transaction.

This case has stirred fear among insurance and securities agents. The state’s then-insurance commissioner stated in 2010, after Mr. Neasham’s arrest, that agents “who steal from vulnerable seniors will not get away with their shameful tricks.” Agents are attracted to indexed annuities because they receive high commissions, which can be 12% or more of the invested amount. As a result of this case and heightened regulatory scrutiny, agents will have to think twice before selling indexed annuities to the elderly. The $14,000, or 8%, commission that Mr. Neasham received was a factor used against him to prove his criminal intent.
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