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Brian Lewis Pittman, a former broker employed by Naples, Florida-based Westport Resources Investment Services, Inc. (Westport Resources), submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which he consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the described sanctions and the entry of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that he participated in private securities transactions without giving the required written notice and without the approval of Westport Resources.

FINRA found that Brian Pittman referred two Westport Resources account holders to invest in an oil and gas limited partnership interest in the Permian Advanced Oil Recovery Investment Fund I, LP, offered by Quest Energy Management Group, Inc. The two Westport customers, according to FINRA, invested $375,000 in the Permian offering and Mr. Pittman received approximately $45,000 from Quest in compensation, which he ultimately ended up returning when he was told to do so. Continue reading →

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Citigroup Global Markets Inc., (Citigroup) submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which the firm consented to, but it did not admit to or deny, the described sanctions and the entry of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that it failed to deliver prospectuses with respect to the sales of exchange-traded funds (ETFs) to its investor customers.

According to FINRA, Citigroup failed to deliver prospectuses for nearly 255,000 investor purchases of approximately 160 ETFs over a three-month period. Further, FINRA found that from 2009 through April 2011, Citigroup may have failed to deliver prospectuses for more than 1.5 million purchases of ETFs by investors. Moreover, Citigroup’s supervisory system failed to achieve compliance with Federal securities laws with regard to prospectus-delivery requirements, especially since the firm allegedly detected certain failures back in 2009. Continue reading →

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Timothy Dembski, of Lancaster, New York, and Walter Grenda Jr., of Buffalo, New York, were named in a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) complaint alleging that they fraudulently induced customers to invest in a hedge fund, the Prestige Wealth Management Fund, LP.

The FINRA complaint alleges that Timothy Dembski and Walter Grenda Jr. led investors to believe that the Prestige Wealth Management Fund (Prestige Fund) was a growth fund and was based on a computer algorithm, which included risk protections and stop-losses, to limit investor losses in the hedge fund. However, FINRA alleged that the Prestige Fund was a speculative, aggressive investment, was not obligated to follow the computer algorithm, and lost over 80% of its value in its last full month! Mr. Dembski and Mr. Grenda allegedly recommended the Prestige Fund to investors with limited investment experience, who had never invested in hedge funds before, and who used their retirement assets to invest in the fund. Continue reading →

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Newbridge Securities Corporation (Newbridge) of Fort Lauderdale, Florida was fined $138,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failing to supervise corporate bond transactions. Without admitting or denying the findings, Newbridge consented to FINRA’s sanctions and to the entry of findings that it sold corporate bonds to investors and failed to sell the bonds at a fair price, considering the relevant circumstances, like market conditions.

FINRA found that Newbridge failed to conduct proper due diligence with respect to the best inter-dealer market and thereby failed to buy or sell the corporate bonds in a market which would result in a price to its investors which was as favorable as possible.
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Popular Securities, Inc. n/k/a Popular Securities, LLC, was fined $125,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failure to supervise violations involving over-concentration of investments in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and closed-end bond funds in many of its customers’ accounts.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Popular consented to the sanctions and to FINRA’s findings that between July 1, 2011 and June 30, 2013, it failed to supervise its customers’ Puerto Rico bond fund investments, even after the bond rating had been downgraded to junk bond status. Following the junk bond downgrade, FINRA found that Popular Securities’ customers continued to purchase concentrated positions of the Puerto Rico securities. Continue reading →

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The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has ordered Boca Raton, Florida resident Isaiah Goldman and Delray Beach, Florida resident Brock Catronio, along with their companies Paramount Metals Exchange, LLC and Paramount Credit, LLC (collectively Paramount), to pay more than $2.5 million in sanctions for illegal off-exchange precious metals fraud.

The CFTC Order states that Isaiah Goldman (Goldman), Brock Catronio (Catronio) and Paramount solicited investors to make cash purchases of precious metals, falsely representing how the physical metals would be held on the investors’ behalf. According to the Order, Goldman, Catronio and Paramount treated the metals transactions as financed purchases, with the investor only paying a portion of the purchase price, and then taking out a loan for the balance of the purchase price. Continue reading →

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Girard Securities, Inc. (Girard Securities) is the subject of a massive audit by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The primary focus of the audit will be on the supervision of the registered representatives and financial advisors in its branch offices. With over 230 producing registered reps and financial advisors, the big question is, How will Girard Securities fare under the microscope of the SEC?

Girard Securities has been acquired by RCS Capital Corp., an acquisition awaiting the approval of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Approval is expected at the end of February, according to a memo from Girard Securities’ Chairperson and Chief Executive, Susie Woltman Tietjen. RCS Capital Corp.’s purchase of Girard Securities, plus its August 2014 purchase of VSR Financial, with its 264 registered representatives and financial advisors, means that RCS Capital Corp. will have nearly 9,700 registered reps and advisors! It appears that the SEC is right on target with its audit priority of branch office supervision! Continue reading →

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As part of concurrent settlements with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. (Oppenheimer) has admitted it is guilty and agreed to pay $20 million for engaging in unregistered sales of penny stocks.

According to the SEC Order, one Oppenheimer Financial Advisor and his immediate supervisor, an Oppenheimer Branch Office Manager, engaged in the sales of 2.5 billion shares of unregistered penny stocks for an investor customer. Those trades generated $12 million, of which Oppenheimer was paid $588,400 in commissions. The SEC Order states further that Oppenheimer personnel was aware of red flags indicative of illegal unregistered penny stock trades and failed to property follow up on those warning signs. Further, Oppenheimer failed to supervise its employees by failing to establish procedures to ensure its employees comply with Section 5 of the Securities Act. Continue reading →

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The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has ordered Florida resident Anthony Lauria and his Fort Lauderdale, Florida based company, Gold Coast Bullion, Inc., to pay nearly $10 million for committing illegal off-exchange precious metals fraud.

The CFTC Order states that Gold Coast Bullion used telemarketers to solicit customers to invest in financed precious metals transactions. According to the CFTC Order, Anthony Lauria and the Gold Coast Bullion telemarketers represented to investors that in order to purchase the precious metals, they needed to deposit about 25% of the total metal value, that Gold Coast Bullion would arrange for the investor to receive a loan for the remaining 75%, and the investor would pay a finance charge on the loan. Continue reading →