Articles Posted in Investments In The News

Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. is investigating and representing investors nationwide that were sold investments in UBS Financial Services Yield Enhancement Strategy (YES) program.  UBS offered the high-risk YES program to customers whose net worth was at least $5 million.  UBS financial advisers across the United States presented the YES program as a safe way to earn additional income by using existing assets at UBS as collateral.  UBS further represented to its clients that the YES program had “excellent risk metrics” and would allow its clients to increase returns, while reducing risk.  Unfortunately, many UBS brokers failed to adequately understand and/or disclose the risks associated with this high-risk investment program.

It also appears the UBS YES program was mismanaged.  UBS presented its YES program as using a “market neutral” options strategy, which means that it is not a directional wager that the price of the underlying asset will increase or decrease in value. The strategy instead seeks to profit from a relative lack of volatility in the price of the underlying asset.  Contrary to UBS’ presentation of the YES program, we believe the YES managers actively engaged in market timing and took directional positions on the market and suffered significant losses as a result.  We believe the UBS YES program was, in fact, an aggressive options strategy.  Consequently, YES posed a significant risk for investment portfolios, especially those that were over-concentrated in these securities. Continue Reading

Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. is investigating and representing investors nationwide that were sold steepeners, which are notes or CDs that pay varying levels of interest depending on the steepness or flatness of the yield curve.  When the yield curve flattened in 2018, these steepeners rapidly declined in value and either stopped paying interest or paid much less interest.  In 2019, the yield curve inverted and short term interest rates rose to a higher level than long term interest rates. This yield curve inversion caused even more losses.

The negative impact on investors in the following types of structured products has been significant: Structured CDs, Market-Linked CDs, Leverage Callable CMS Curve Linked Notes, Callable Quarterly CMS Spread-Linked Notes, Callable Variable Rate Range Accrual CDs, Callable Interest Rate Spread CDs, Callable CMS Spread Notes, and Senior Callable CMS Steepener Notes. Continue Reading

Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. is investigating and representing investors against brokerage firms and financial advisors who offered and sold securities issued by affiliates of GPB Capital.  GPB Capital Holdings, based out of New York, organized and manages the following nine private placements: GPB Automotive Portfolio, LP; GPB Cold Storage LP; GPB Holdings, LP;  GPB Holdings II, LP; GPB Holdings III, LP; GPB Holdings Qualified, LP; GPB NYC Development, LP;  and GPB Waste Management Fund, LP.

GPB Capital’s two most significant investment funds are GPB Holdings II and GPB Automotive Portfolio.  These two funds have collectively paid brokers $100 million in commissions at a rate of 7.9%!  Over the last year, it has been the subject of a series of federal, state, and self-regulatory agency investigations and other bad news.  For example, in September 2018, Massachusetts Secretary of the Commonwealth, William Galvin, announced an investigation into 63 broker-dealer firms that sold private placements sponsored by GPB Capital Holdings. More recently, in July 2019, David Rosenberg, a former business partner and chief executive of Prime Automotive Group, filed a lawsuit against GPB Capital Holdings, alleging severe financial misconduct. According to a Boston Globe article, Rosenberg allegedly accused GPB Capital Holdings of running a Ponzi-like scheme, in which it used investor money to prop up the performance of the auto dealerships it owns, as well as to finance payments to other investors. Continue Reading

Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. is investigating and representing investors against brokerage firms and financial advisors who offered and sold securities issued by affiliates of EquiAlt, LLC.  EquiAlt is a private real estate company which organized at least four private placements: EquiAlt Fund, LLC; EquiAlt Fund II, LLC; EquiAlt Fund III, LLC; and EA Sip, LLC (collectively referred to as the EquiAlt Funds).  According to a recent SEC Complaint, EquiAlt CEO Brian Davison and Managing Director Barry Rybicki offered and sold $170 million of unregistered debentures issued by the EquiAlt Funds to over 1,100 investors across the United States.

The SEC Complaint alleged that Brian Davison, Barry Rybicki, and others misrepresented the unregistered debentures as “safe,” “low risk,” and “conservative.”  Also, while investors were promised “that substantially all of their money would be used to purchase real estate in distressed markets in the United States and their investments would yield generous returns … EquiAlt, Davison, and Rybicki misappropriated millions in investor funds for their own personal use and benefit.”  According to the SEC Complaint, the revenues generated by the EquiAlt Funds became insufficient to pay the interest owed to investors.  Because of this insufficiency, the SEC alleged the Defendants resorted to fraud (a Ponzi scheme), using new money from investors to pay the returns promised to existing investors.

While many of the sales were solicited by unregistered EquiAlt salespersons, there were reportedly many sales by small offices of registered salespersons associated with large independent FINRA-registered brokerage and insurance firms in Arizona, California, Nevada, and many other states nationwide. Continue Reading

On July 30 Robert Russel Tweed of Glendale, California appealed an Office of Hearing Officers (OHO) decision to the National Adjudicatory Council (NAC) in which he was fined $50,000 and barred from association with any FINRA member in all capacities for allegedly in violating FINRA Rule 2010 and Sections 17(a)(2) and (3) of the securities act of 1933. The sanctions are not in effect, pending review of the OHO decision by the NAC. Continue Reading

Stuart Horowitz, a former registered representative with the Coral Springs, Florida branch of Securities America, Inc., submitted a letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent in which he consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) sanction and findings that he made unsuitable recommendations and trades in CSMIF preferred notes of an unregistered limited partnership investment fund despite numerous red flags that the fund was not a viable investment.

FINRA found that Stuart Horowitz requested that his member firm, Securities America, quickly approve the CSMIF preferred notes fund so he could begin selling them.  While awaiting a third-party due diligence report, the firm agreed to allow Mr. Horowitz to offer the CSMIF preferred notes for sale to existing fund investors.  Mr. Horowitz emailed his customers with an interest in the fund and recommended they move forward with an investment conversion.  FINRA noted that recommendations were made despite the fact that Mr. Horowitz was aware of numerous red flags, including that his previous member firm had decided not to allow the sale of the CSMIF preferred notes due to concerns about the fund’s ability to generate income for investors. Continue Reading

Master limited partnerships (MLPs) in oil and gas have been a highly recommended investment over the past few years. Many brokerage firms and financial advisors have advised clients to invest in these oil and gas energy stocks for the high yield or income potential. Touted to investors as secure, high quality income generating investments with only a moderate risk, these investments were anything but. Oil and gas MLPs are, in fact, risky and speculative because of their connection with oil prices. The massive slides in oil prices have caused these MLP investments to lose substantial value, which has resulted in substantial investment losses for many investors.

Brokerage firms and financial advisors should never have sold these risky investments to investors with conservative or moderate investment objectives. Unfortunately, these MLPs were often recommended to retirees and conservative investors who needed to protect their principal or earn income. Continue Reading

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors, LLC (Wells Fargo) to pay a $500,000 fine and $241,974.34 plus pre-judgment interest in restitution to customers for allegedly making unsuitable recommendations to customers to purchase structured repackaged asset-backed trust securities (STRATS).

From approximately 2005 to 2012, Wells Fargo made unsuitable STRATS recommendations to its retail customers, selling nearly $12 million worth of the complex structured products. According to FINRA, Wells Fargo failed to properly educate its registered representatives about the risks associated with STRATS and that the customers had the potential to suffer significant losses. FINRA also found that Wells Fargo’s internal-use STRATS brochures were not fair and balanced and neglected to provide an appropriate basis for evaluating the risks and therefore the suitability of the STRATS. Wells Fargo did not admit to or deny FINRA’s findings. Continue Reading

According to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), from February 2012 through January 2014, Christopher A. Novinger and Brady J. Speers, and their company NFS Group, LLC d/b/a Novers Financial (collectively the “Defendants”) fraudulently offered and sold life settlement interests. In so doing, the SEC claims that Mr. Novinger and Mr. Speers made false and misleading representations to prospective investors about their purported business experience and financial expertise and that the Defendants misrepresented the investments.

The SEC alleged that Mr. Novinger and Mr. Speers also constructed fake, meaningless titles for themselves to make investors believe that they were experienced and sophisticated financial advisers. The SEC alleged that Mr. Novinger and Mr. Speers used terms such as “licensed financial consultant,” “licensed consultant,” and “licensed financial strategist” toward that end. In truth, they had no training relating to securities and non-insurance related financial products, including life settlements. The SEC also alleged that the Defendants told investors that the life settlement investments were “safe,” “risk free,” “safe as CDs,” “the most secure, safe method for growing funds,” “federally insured,” and finally comprised of “polices insured with large, A-rated companies and backed by Federal Reserves.” Continue Reading