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Articles Posted in REITs

WFG Investments, Inc. has submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) in which it has been fined $150,000 by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for failing to supervise its registered representative’s unsuitable trading despite numerous red flags.

WFG Investments is headquartered in Dallas, Texas and currently has approximately 237 registered representatives and 118 branch offices.  FINRA found that WFG Investments failed to appropriately supervise the sales practices of a registered representative who had engaged in unsuitable trading in his customers’ accounts by overconcentrating them in low-priced securities.  For example, FINRA found that during 2012, the WFG representative’s account purchases were 66% low-priced securities.  In 2013, FINRA’s findings state that the account purchases were 80% concentrated in these securities and/or illiquid and highly speculative private placement and REIT investments. Continue Reading

Gary Saitowitz, of Marietta, Georgia, submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was fined $10,000, suspended for 18 months, and ordered to pay $11,455 plus interest in restitution to a customer for several violations related to the sale of non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs).

Gary Saitowitz, a former registered representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors, Inc. (Transamerica) was found by FINRA to have recommended that four customers, including a senior citizen, allocate unsuitable amounts of their assets in non-traded REITs. As a result of Mr. Saitowitz’ recommendations, the customers’ accounts were allegedly overconcentrated and therefore unsuitable in light of their investment goals and risk tolerances.  FINRA also alleged that Mr. Saitowitz tried to circumvent the firm’s concentration limits on the amount of a customer’s liquid assets that could be invested in non-traded REITs by overstating the liquid net worth of certain customers.  Continue Reading

John Hudnall, a former broker with BancWest Investment Services, Inc. (BancWest), submitted an Offer of Settlement to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in which he was barred from the securities industry amid findings that he recommended and sold a REIT investment to an 80 year old customer, which he split into two transactions in order to circumvent his firm’s supervisory review.

FINRA found that John Stuart Hudnall, of Pacifica, California, sold a $400,000 Wells Core Office Income REIT investment to an 80 year old customer.  He then split it into two transactions, one of 40,000 and the other of $360,000, to avoid supervisory review of such a large transaction.  Mr. Hudnall only submitted the $40,000 portion to his firm, and submitted the $360,000 portion directly to the REIT sponsor.  Mr. Hudnall allegedly received a gross commission of $25,200 in connection with the $360,000 part of the REIT investment. Continue Reading

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined six independent broker dealers for failing to give their clients the proper discounts available to them, known as breakpoint discounts, on large sales of certain nontraded REITs. The six firms are Voya Financial Advisors Inc. (Voya), Transamerica Financial Advisors Inc. (Transamerica), Investacorp Inc. (Investacorp), J.P. Turner & Co. (J.P. Turner), National Planning Corp. (National Planning), and Cetera Investment Services (Cetera).

The fines were levied in July and August and total more than $500,000. Voya and Transamerica were fined the largest amounts: $325,000 for Voya and $85,000 for Transamerica. The other fines levied against Investacorp, J.P. Turner, National Planning, and Cetera were: $50,000, $45,000, $30,000, and $30,000, respectively. All six firms were also ordered to pay restitution. Continue Reading

Douglas Finlay Jr. of Point Pleasant Beach, New Jersey submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent (AWC) to the Department of Enforcement of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority under the allegations that he recommended and effected an unsuitable transaction in a customer’s account.

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Fox Financial Management Corporation (Fox Financial) of Carrollton, Texas, Brian Murphy of Frisco, Texas and James Rooney of Carrolton, Texas were all fined and suspended by the Department of Enforcement for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority for allegedly failing to supervise a registered representative and for failing to establish, maintain and enforce written supervisory procedures.

Fox Financial’s primary business was selling private placements in real estate investment trusts (REITs) and life insurance settlement funds (viaticals) issued by a Fox Financial affiliate. Rooney and Murphy were both General Securities Principals and General Securities Representatives. Rooney was the firm’s President from 2005 until Fox Financial ceased to be a FINRA member. Murphy was Fox Financial’s Chief Compliance Officer (CCO) from 2008 until Fox Financial ceased to be a FINRA member. Rooney and Murphy shared supervisory responsibilities for Fox Financial registered representatives. Continue Reading

FINRA has filed a complaint against Lawrence LaBine of Fountain Hills, Arizona for alleged misrepresentations and omissions of material fact. LaBine, who was a representative at DeWaay Advisory LLC between 2007 and 2010, allegedly sold senior debentures (Series D) issued by Domin-8 to over 100 clients guaranteeing them that they would preserve their initial principal.

At the time (April-August 2009), LaBine was receiving updates on Domin-8’s poor financial condition. FINRA alleges that LaBine knew of and willfully failed to disclose Domin-8’s perilous financial condition to his clients in connection with those sales. In September 2009, Domin-8 filed for bankruptcy. Continue Reading

Marion, Iowa-based Berthel Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (Berthel Fisher) and its affiliate, Securities Management Research, Inc. consented to, but did not admit to or deny, the described sanctions and to the entry of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) findings that it failed to supervise the sale of non-traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) and exchange-traded funds (ETFs) and also made unsuitable recommendations relating to alternative investments.

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