The Most Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty (And What to Do)

Breaches of fiduciary duty are unfortunately common. Since the fiduciary duty is the highest legal standard of care, however, there are severe consequences for a breach of fiduciary duty. With the help of an investment loss recovery attorney, you can hold the fiduciary accountable for his or her misconduct. What Is a Fiduciary Duty? A fiduciary is a person entrusted to act in the best interests of another (i.e. the principal). Once the fiduciary agrees to the relationship, the fiduciary is bound by a set of legal and ethical obligations, known as fiduciary duties.  In general, all fiduciaries owe a duty of loyalty and a duty of care. Some fiduciaries will owe additional duties based on the relationship and the industry in which they are in.  The duty of loyalty requires fiduciaries to act in the best interest of the principa, avoid any conflicts of interest, and refrain from self-dealing. The duty of care means the fiduciary must make informed decisions based on all information available.  Fiduciary Duties of Financial Advisors  While all financial advisors have a duty of care to their clients, only registered advisors have a fiduciary duty. It is important to know whether your financial advisor is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulating agency. Financial advisors who are not registered can make investments that benefit them, as long as the investment is within your stated objectives. A registered financial advisor, on the other hand, can invest only if it is in your best interest. For registered financial advisors, the fiduciary duties owed vary by state. However, the following fiduciary duties apply to all registered financial advisors in all states Duty to Recommend Suitable Investments Prior to recommending an investment, the financial advisor must study and understand the investor’s objectives, tax status, and financial situation, among other things. Any investments that the financial advisor recommends must be suitable to the investor’s needs.  Duty to Inform Investor A financial advisor must fully inform the investor of the risks associated with the purchase or sale of a security. The advisor cannot misrepresent any material facts regarding the transaction. Duty to Act Promptly and with Authorization  All client orders must be performed promptly and with investor’s express consent. The advisor must obtain separate authorization for each investment unless the investor has a discretionary account.  Duty to Refrain from Self-Dealing  A financial advisor cannot initiate a transaction where he or she personally benefits. Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest For any recommendations made after June 30, 2020, financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to avoid any conflicts of interest. If unavoidable, the advisor must disclose the conflict to the investor.  What Constitutes a Breach of Fiduciary Duty? A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the principal. This can happen through an intentional act or failure to act.  There are four elements to a valid breach of fiduciary duty claim. Duty A fiduciary relationship must exist for the fiduciary to owe a duty. You must show that the fiduciary knowingly accepted that role to hold them to the fiduciary standard of care. This is typically shown through a written agreement between the parties, such as a customer agreement. Breach The fiduciary must act contrary to your best interests. A breach of fiduciary duty can be shown through deliberate acts, such as making decisions on your behalf without consent. You can also prove a breach through the fiduciary’s failure to act—for example, not disclosing a conflict of interest.  Damages You must suffer actual harm or damages from the fiduciary’s breach. Proving there was a breach is not enough for a valid claim of breach of fiduciary duty. Damages can be either economic or non-economic, such as mental anguish.  Causation There must be a direct causal link between the fiduciary’s breach and harm to you. Despite your damages, if they are unrelated to the fiduciary’s misconduct or an unforeseeable result of the breach, you cannot recover your losses.  What Are Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty? Below are just a few examples of how a financial advisor can breach his or her fiduciary duty. In each instance, the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the investor. Misrepresentation or Failure to Disclose Information If a financial advisor does not present a client with all material information about an investment, this is a breach of fiduciary duty. Material information is what a reasonable investor would consider important when deciding whether to invest.  Sometimes financial advisors will mislead investors by omitting information, such as risk factors or any negative information about a stock.  Excessive Trading Excessive trading, also known as churning, in your account is a breach of fiduciary duty. Financial advisors will make large numbers of trades solely to generate more commissions for themselves.  Unsuitable Investments Financial advisors must “know their customer” before making investment recommendations. This includes understanding the client’s investment objectives, risk tolerance, time horizon, financial standing, and tax status. The advisor breaches their fiduciary duty if they make an unsuitable investment, even with the best intentions.  Failure to Diversify Your financial advisor must recommend a mix of investments so that your assets are properly allocated among various asset classes and industries. Failing to diversify your portfolio puts you in a position of great risk and is a breach of fiduciary duty. If your assets are over-concentrated in a particular stock or sector, you may experience significant losses if the company or industry does not perform well.  Failure to Follow Instructions When you give instructions to your financial advisor, they have the fiduciary duty to promptly perform your orders. If your advisor fails to follow your instructions in a timely manner and you suffer financial losses, you can recover.  What To Do If Your Financial Advisor Breached a Fiduciary Duty If you lost money at the hands of your financial advisor, there are several potential courses of action. An experienced investor loss recovery attorney can walk you through the different options and...

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What Is Financial Advisor Malpractice?

As an investor, you expect your financial advisor to properly manage your investment portfolio. Unfortunately, this is not always what happens. Financial advisors owe their clients certain obligations with respect to their investment accounts. Failure to adhere to these obligations can result in a claim for financial advisor malpractice. In certain circumstances, the financial fraud committed by your financial advisor will be obvious. For example, if your financial advisor forged your signature on a document, he or she clearly committed misconduct. However, most financial malpractice claims are not this straightforward.  The investment loss recovery attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., have helped hundreds of investors recover losses caused by financial advisor malpractice. Contact us today for a free consultation. What Are My Financial Advisor’s Obligations and Duties to Me?  Registered financial advisors must adhere to certain fiduciary duties, or obligations, with respect to their clients. Financial advisors who are not registered and are not making securities recommendations to retail customers still owe their clients certain obligations, but they are not as stringent as fiduciary duties. Fiduciary Duties Registered investment advisors are bound by fiduciary duties to their clients. The Investment Advisers Act of 1940 defines the role and responsibilities of investment advisors. At its core, the purpose of this act was to protect investors.  A financial advisor owes their client a duty of care and a duty of loyalty. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) interprets these fiduciary duties to require a financial advisor to act in the best interest of their client at all times. The SEC provides additional guidance for each fiduciary duty specifically. The duty of care requires that an investment advisor provide investment advice in the client’s best interest, in consideration of the client’s financial goals. It also requires that a financial advisor provide advice and oversight to the client over the course of the relationship. The duty of loyalty requires an investment advisor to disclose any conflicts of interest that might affect his or her impartiality. It also means that the financial advisor is prohibited from subordinating his or her client’s interests to their own. The Suitability Rule Broker-dealers in the past were subject to less demanding obligations.  The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) regulates broker-dealers in the United States. FINRA previously imposed a suitability obligation on broker-dealers that only required them to make recommendations that were “suitable” for their clients.  Under the suitability rule, a broker-dealer could recommend an investment only if it was suitable for the client in terms of the client’s financial objectives, needs, and risk profile. Broker-dealers did not owe a duty of loyalty to their clients and did not have to disclose conflicts of interest.  Recently, however, FINRA amended its suitability rule. Regulation Best Interest FINRA recently amended its suitability rule to conform with SEC Regulation Best Interest (Reg. BI), making it clear that stockbrokers now uniformly owe certain heightened duties when making recommendations to retail customers.  As with fiduciary duties, under Reg. BI, all broker-dealers and their stockbrokers now owe the following duties:  Disclosure,  Care,  Conflicts, and  Compliance.  However, it’s important to remember that they owe these duties only when they make recommendations regarding a securities transaction or investment strategy involving securities to a retail customer.  While these changes are still new, one thing is certain—the Reg. BI standard is definitely a heightened standard compared with the previous suitability standard.  Forms of Financial Advisor Malpractice Investors usually hire financial advisors because they do not have experience in investing. With this lack of experience, how can an investor know when a financial advisor is committing malpractice? There are several ways financial advisors can commit financial malpractice. Lack of Diversity Financial advisors have a duty to ensure your investment portfolio is properly diversified to include a variety of investment assets. That may include a mixture of stocks, bonds, or mutual funds in multiple different sectors.  A portfolio that lacks diversification is likely to result in significant losses to the client in the event of a market downturn in a specific sector. If you believe your financial advisor failed to properly diversify your portfolio, contact an investment loss recovery attorney today. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., have significant experience handling these types of cases and will ensure the financial advisor responsible for your losses is held accountable.  Your Investments Are Unsuitable Every investor is unique. That means financial advisors must consider the specific goals and needs of each individual client before recommending investments. A financial advisor must consider a client’s risk tolerance when recommending investments. Risk tolerance refers to an investor’s willingness to endure losses in the financial market. For an aggressive investor, a financial advisor might recommend a risky investment that has a better possibility of high returns. The same recommendation would be unsuitable for an investor with a low risk tolerance. If your financial advisor recommended investments that you believe are unsuitable, contact the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce to have your case reviewed by an experienced investment losses attorney. Your Investment Advisor Is Excessively Trading Excessive trading, sometimes called churning, occurs when a financial advisor buys and sells stocks excessively with the goal of generating commission fees. Churning is prohibited by the SEC. Investors should frequently review their account statements to ensure that the number of trades in their account does not increase drastically. If your financial advisor has been excessively trading in your investment account, reach out to an attorney as soon as possible to prevent further losses.  Financial Advisor Negligence In some cases, your financial advisor may seem like he or she is doing nothing at all. The financial advisor could be focused on other clients or on personal matters. Regardless of the reason, this behavior is not appropriate. A financial advisor may be guilty of malpractice for failing to give the appropriate amount of attention to a client.  Client Testimonials The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., has been representing investors in disputes against...

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Things You Need To Know About a Securities Lawyer

Securities are financial instruments that can offer promising opportunities for investors to earn income and profit upon sale. Securities come in a variety of forms, including: Stocks, Options,  Municipal (government) bonds, Corporate bonds, Mutual Funds, Closed-End Funds, Promissory Notes, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). But investment losses are a possibility no matter what type of security you invest in. Some securities are more inherently risky than others. Because of the complexities of securities, investors often seek out experienced financial advisors or brokers to handle their investments. Investors expect their advisors to provide honest, transparent advice and to act in a way that serves the client’s best interests. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens.  If you have suffered investment losses due to the actions of a financial advisor, contact a securities lawyer today. You might be wondering, What does a securities lawyer do? The answer is simple—a securities lawyer can be an advocate in your corner who will help you fight for your rights in the aftermath of your investment losses.  Securities lawyer Robert Wayne Pearce has decades of experience helping investors recover. Call The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., today to discuss your case.  Why Would I Need a Securities Lawyer? When a financial advisor’s misconduct results in financial losses to their client, the financial advisor may be liable for securities fraud. However, suffering losses does not automatically entitle you to compensation. Investing is inherently risky, and success is never a guarantee. So what forms of misconduct amount to investment fraud? Knowing the most common types of investment fraud claims brought by investors is a good place to start. Breach of Fiduciary Duty Registered investment advisors are held to a fiduciary duty standard when it comes to serving their clients. Being a fiduciary essentially means that you have a legal duty to act in your client’s best interest. In some cases, a breach of fiduciary duty is easy to recognize. For example, if an investment advisor only recommends products that will generate the highest commission fees, they are putting their interest in gaining commissions over their client’s interest. However, a breach of fiduciary duty is not always so easy to recognize. Other ways a fiduciary can violate his or her duties include: Failure to disclose material facts; Commingling of investment funds; Failure to disclose conflicts of interest; Usurping an investment opportunity; and Misappropriation of client funds.  The fiduciary standard is the most stringent standard of care in American law. However, not all investment professionals must comply with this standard. The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 mandates that registered investment advisors adhere to the fiduciary standard. Other types of advisors may have more limited fiduciary duties.  Failure to Supervise Brokerage firms are responsible for the conduct of their securities representatives. FINRA Rule 3110 requires registered brokerage firms to establish and maintain a “reasonably well-crafted system” to supervise its representatives, so the firm can ensure compliance with securities laws and regulations. Some of the most common failure to supervise claims include: Inadequate screening practices; Inadequate training of representatives; Failure to install appropriate written supervisory procedures; Failure to follow up on suspected misconduct; Lack of sufficient reviews and inspections; Failure to effectively monitor transactions; and Failure to effectively monitor registered representatives’ communication.  Brokerage firms who fail to adequately supervise their representatives open the door for their customers to be taken advantage of. If you believe your representative was not being properly supervised, contact a securities lawyer today to discuss your case.  Fraud or Misrepresentation You need access to all relevant information about a security before you can make an informed decision on whether to invest. Thus, a financial advisor must disclose all relevant information when presenting you with an investment opportunity.  The failure to disclose material information about an investment is a form of investment fraud. If your broker or financial advisor failed to disclose information material to an investment opportunity, contact a securities lawyer to discuss your claim. Unauthorized Trading A broker or financial advisor must have valid authorization before effectuating a transaction in your investment account. You can grant authorization to your advisor in two ways: Open a discretionary trading account; or Grant express authorization for each individual trade. A discretionary account permits your broker to make trades in your account at his or her discretion, within the parameters you allow.  Otherwise, express authorization must be given for each individual transaction made in your investment account.  Excessive Trading Excessive trading, also known as churning, occurs when an investment professional makes repeated trades in a client’s account for the sole purpose of generating commissions. Churning is most common in discretionary accounts because investors might show alarm if their investment professional is seeking trade authorization repeatedly.  Making excessive trades is not a good investment strategy and often results in significant losses for investors. If your financial advisor or broker is repeatedly buying and selling securities in your account to drive up their commissions, contact a securities lawyer today.   Lack of Diversification An ideal investment portfolio contains multiple types of securities in a variety of sectors. This minimizes the risk of suffering significant losses if one sector of the stock market tumbles.  A failure to diversify a client’s investment portfolio is a form of investor fraud. If you suffered investment losses because your portfolio was over-concentrated, you may be entitled to relief.  What Does a Securities Lawyer Do? Unfortunately, investment professional misconduct that causes investors to suffer significant losses is not uncommon. If you find yourself in this situation, you may not know what your options are or what steps to take next. This is where a securities lawyer comes in.  If you are considering hiring a securities lawyer, you might also be wondering, What does a securities lawyer do? An experienced securities attorney will review your case to help you determine what to do to protect your rights and finances. Then, a securities lawyer can help you fight for the recovery you deserve.  Contact a...

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How to Sue a Financial Advisor Over Investment Losses

If you have lost a significant amount of money in your investment portfolios you may be asking yourself can you sue your financial advisor to help recover your losses. Can I Sue My Financial Advisor? Yes, you can sue your financial advisor. If you lost money on investments due to either a financial advisor’s advice or their failure to comply with FINRA’s rules & regulations, you have the right to file an arbitration claim to seek financial compensation. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. People hire financial advisors and brokers to grow and protect their money. Financial advisors have advanced education and training, which should provide their clients with valuable insight and accurate financial advice. Individual investors expect that their advisors will not defraud or harm them in any other way. Market volatility is difficult to predict with any certainty. Markets dip and rebound over time. A financial advisor must guide you through those difficult times and offer you sound investment advice to minimize or avoid losses.  Some investments are riskier than others. Brokers and financial advisors need to understand their clients’ risk tolerance, as well as their clients’ investment needs. Losses could ruin years of hard work and financial planning.  Market volatility is one thing—negligence, deception, and fraud are something else entirely. Therefore, you should review your portfolio closely to see if you are a victim of misconduct.

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Solicited vs. Unsolicited Trades: Understanding the Difference

Ideally, hiring a skilled broker takes some of the risk out of investing. Unfortunately, however, some brokers fail to act with the appropriate level of integrity. As an investor, it’s very important to understand the difference between solicited and unsolicited trades. The distinction has significant consequences on your ability to recover losses from a bad trade. What’s the Difference Between Solicited and Unsolicited Trades? Solicited trades differ from unsolicited trades based on who originally suggested the trade. A solicited trade is one “solicited” by the broker; in other words, the broker sees the potential trade and recommends it to the investor. As a result, the broker is ultimately responsible for the consideration and execution of the trade because he or she brought it to the investor’s attention. In contrast, unsolicited trades are those initially suggested by the investor. The responsibility for unsolicited trades therefore lies primarily with the investor, while the broker merely facilitates the investor’s proposed transaction.

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Non-Discretionary Accounts vs. Discretionary Accounts

When investors first set up an account with a brokerage firm, that account is designated as either discretionary or non-discretionary. Unfortunately, many investors are simply unaware of the status of their account or what it means. This is usually because investment brokers fail to properly explain each type of account. However, knowing what kind of investment account you have is important. The claims available to a victim of investment fraud or broker misconduct depend on the status of your account.

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What Is Selling Away?

The securities industry is one of the most regulated, largely because of the high potential for fraud and abuse. Various laws and regulations protect investors by imposing requirements on securities transactions and the people who facilitate them. Individual brokers and brokerage firms must be registered and licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) before they are permitted to conduct securities transactions. FINRA also administers a number of exams that provide certification for selling specific kinds of securities. All of these regulations exist to protect investors from fraudulent conduct by brokers. Nevertheless, brokers occasionally attempt to skirt the rules and offer private deals to their clients. Not only do these transactions violate FINRA rules, they also pose additional risks for investors. What Is Selling Away? “Selling away” describes the practice of selling securities in unauthorized private transactions outside the regular scope of the broker’s business. Brokerage firms maintain a list of approved securities their brokers are allowed to offer. By approving products ahead of time, brokerage firms ensure that their brokers sell only securities that are vetted and verified as legitimate products. Brokers sell away when they offer their clients securities not on the firm’s approved product list. Brokers may sell away if they want to make extra commissions without sharing with their firm. Selling away is not always malicious; sometimes, a broker means well but isn’t able to offer the securities a client wants through normal channels. Regardless of the broker’s intent, however, FINRA prohibits selling away and sanctions brokers for doing so. Common Examples of Selling Away While there is no specific form a selling-away transaction takes, they frequently involve certain types of investments. These investments include: Private placements involving unregistered securities; Private deals involving promissory notes; and Real estate deals conducted privately and away from the broker’s regular business. Deals that involve selling away often exhibit the same red flags as other types of investment fraud, like Ponzi schemes. Excessively high or consistent returns are indicators that the deal is probably too good to be true. What Are the Risks of Investing in Securities That Are Sold Away? Investments of all kinds carry a certain level of risk. However, investing in a selling-away deal carries more risk because they come without the safeguards that accompany approved investments. Lack of screening First, selling-away deals involve securities that are not screened by the brokerage firm. Brokerage firms screen the products they offer for a reason: to make sure that their customers have access to solid investments. Without these safeguards, investors are taking on significantly higher risk. Lack of disclosures Second, selling away deals rarely include the formal risk disclosures found with approved brokerage products. There is no review of the investment by the brokerage’s compliance department, and the exact nature of the risk involved may be unclear. Less accountability Finally, it may be harder to recover losses. When a broker engages in an approved transaction, the brokerage takes on liability for the broker’s activity. Because brokerages are often completely unaware of selling-away transactions, it is much harder to prove liability on the part of the brokerage. In the case of significant investor losses, this can mean less money recovered overall. Selling-Away FINRA Regulations There are two main FINRA regulations that cover selling away: Rule 3270 and Rule 3280.  FINRA Rule 3270 prohibits brokers from engaging in activities that are outside of the broker’s relationship with their brokerage firm unless written notice is provided to the firm.  FINRA Rule 3280 is similar, and prohibits brokers from engaging in private securities transactions (including selling away) without first providing written notice to their firm. After receiving that notice, the member firm may approve or disapprove the transaction. If the firm approves, then the firm supervises and records the transaction. Disapproval, on the other hand, prohibits the broker from participation in the transaction either directly or indirectly. What Are the Penalties for Selling Away? Both brokers and brokerage firms can be held liable when a broker sells away. FINRA regulations require brokers to offer securities products suitable for each of their client’s needs. Brokers must account for their clients’ objectives, level of investing sophistication, and risk tolerances. When a broker fails to fulfill this obligation, FINRA may sanction, suspend, or bar the broker from the financial industry. According to FINRA’s Sanctions Guidelines, Brokers who engage in selling away open themselves up to monetary sanctions between $2,500 and $77,000 for each rule violation. For serious violations, FINRA may suspend the broker for up to two years or permanently bar them from practicing as a broker. The severity of the penalty depends on several factors: Whether the selling away involved customers of the broker’s firm; How directly the selling away relates to the injury caused to investors; How long the outside activity occurred; The amount of money involved in the sales; Whether the broker misled their firm or clients with respect to the transactions; and How important the broker was in facilitating the transaction. Because selling away involves transactions outside of a broker’s relationship with their brokerage firm, holding the firm responsible for investor losses is more difficult. Nevertheless, a brokerage firm may still be liable for the conduct of its brokers under FINRA regulations. Brokerage firms have an obligation to supervise the brokers with which they are associated. Failure to do so may result in the firm’s liability to the investor. How Do I Recover Losses from Selling Away Deals? Investors can try to recover their losses through several formal and informal methods. Speaking with a securities attorney is the best way to determine which method is right for your situation. FINRA Arbitration Many brokerage firms require their customers to sign mandatory arbitration clauses. If this is the case, then the investor must use FINRA’s arbitration process rather than filing a lawsuit.  Arbitration starts when the investor files a claim. From there, the parties go through similar procedures to those in the regular court system. Each side will engage in discovery and present their...

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FINRA Arbitration: What To Expect And Why You Should Choose Our Law Firm

If you are reading this article, you are probably an investor who has lost a substantial amount of money, Googled “FINRA Arbitration Lawyer,” clicked on a number of attorney websites, and maybe even spoken with a so-called “Securities Arbitration Lawyer” who told you after a five minute telephone call that “you have a great case;” “you need to sign a retainer agreement on a ‘contingency fee’ basis;” and “you need to act now because the statute of limitations is going to run.”

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The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Wins $6 Million Plus Award Against UBS and UBS Puerto Rico

In an arbitration proceeding against UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and UBS Financial Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. won $4.25 million in compensatory damages plus interest at 6.25% from February 28, 2014 and costs of $170,000 for one of the firm’s clients last month. A summary of our clients’ allegations against UBS and UBS-PR are set forth below. If you or any family member received similar unsuitable recommendations from UBS-PR and its stockbrokers, or found yourself with an account overconcentrated in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and/or closed-end bond funds, or if you borrowed monies from UBS and used your investments as loan collateral, we may be able to help you recover your losses. Contact our office as soon as possible for a free consultation about your case. Time is of the essence!

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The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Wins $1.45 Million Plus Interest Award Against UBS and UBS Puerto Rico

In an arbitration proceeding against UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and UBS Financial Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P. A. won a $1.45 million plus interest award for one of the firm’s clients last week. A summary of Claimant’s allegations against UBS and UBS-PR are set forth below. If you or any family member received similar unsuitable recommendations from UBS-PR and its stockbrokers or found yourself with an account overconcentrated in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and/or closed-end bond funds, or if you borrowed monies from UBS and used your investments as collateral for those loans, we may be able to help you recover your losses. Contact our office for a free consultation about your case.

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