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Investors With “Blown-Out” Securities-Backed Credit Line and Margin Accounts: How do You Recover Your Investment Losses?

If you are reading this article, we are guessing you had a bad experience recently in either a securities-backed line of credit (“SBL”) or margin account that suffered margin calls and was liquidated without notice, causing you to realize losses. Ordinarily, investors with margin calls receive 3 to 5 days to meet them; and if that happened, the value of the securities in your account might have increased within that period and the firm might have erased the margin call and might not have liquidated your account. If you are an investor who has experienced margin calls in the past, and that is your only complaint then, read no further because when you signed the account agreement with the brokerage firm you chose to do business with, you probably gave it the right to liquidate all of the securities in your account at any time without notice. On the other hand, if you are an investor with little experience or one with a modest financial condition who was talked into opening a securities-backed line of credit account without being advised of the true nature, mechanics, and/or risks of opening such an account, then you should call us now! Alternatively, if you are an investor who needed to withdraw money for a house or to pay for your taxes or child’s education but was talked into holding a risky or concentrated portfolio of stocks and/or junk bonds in a pledged collateral account for a credit-line or a margin account, then we can probably help you recover your investment losses as well. The key to a successful recovery of your investment loss is not to focus on the brokerage firm’s liquidation of the securities in your account without notice. Instead, the focus on your case should be on what you were told and whether the recommendation was suitable for you before you opened the account and suffered the liquidation.

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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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A Stockbroker’s Introduction to FINRA Examinations and Investigations

Brokers and financial advisors oftentimes do not understand what their responsibilities and obligations are and what may result from a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) examination or investigation. Many brokers do not even know the role that FINRA plays within the industry. This may be due to the fact that FINRA, a self-regulatory organization, is not a government entity and cannot sentence financial professionals to jail time for violation of industry rules and regulations. Nevertheless, all broker-dealers doing business with members of the public must register with FINRA. As registered members, broker-dealers, and the brokers working for them, have agreed to abide by industry rules and regulations, which include FINRA rules.

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FINRA Rule 2165: Financial Exploitation of Specified Adults

Are you curious about how FINRA Rule 2165 can protect you or a loved one who is being financially exploited? FINRA Rule 2165 helps families and brokers who suspect securities fraud in a vulnerable adult’s account. It allows them to take key actions against investment loss.  While their broker may be trustworthy, your parents or other elderly loved ones may reach a point where they are no longer able to make sound investment decisions. A common example of this is when a parent becomes involved in a Ponzi scheme. Another often-seen scenario is when a parent is defrauded into allowing a nefarious third party access to their accounts. Their accounts are quickly drained before an eagle-eyed broker or a caring son or daughter suspects investment fraud. FINRA Rule 2165 is designed with folks like senior citizens in mind. The rule helps a broker look out for their vulnerable clients’ interests. It also enables them to do so before losses become catastrophic.  FINRA Rule 2165: Financial Exploitation Defined FINRA Rule 2165 defines “financial exploitation” as consisting of either of two circumstances. First, Rule 2165 identifies financial exploitation as the wrongful or unauthorized taking or use of a specified adult’s funds or securities. This first definition is very broad and can encompass many types of financial exploitation. Second, Rule 2165 defines financial exploitation as any action or omission, including through a power of attorney or a guardianship, to do any of the following things:  Obtain control over a specified adult’s money, assets, or property through deception, intimidation, or undue influence; or  Steal the specified adult’s money, assets, or property.  FINRA Rule 2165 only protects “specified adults.” These are vulnerable people who may not be able to make their own financial decisions. FINRA Rule 2165 defines a “specified adult” as: A person age 65 or older; or A person age 18 or older who has a mental or physical impairment that impacts their ability to look after their own interests. The financial exploitation definition under FINRA Rule 2165 relates only to actions taken against specified adults. If you do not fit into the category of “specified adult,” you still may have been the victim of securities fraud. If so, it’s important to reach out to an experienced securities fraud attorney as soon as possible.  How FINRA Rule 2165 Protects Vulnerable Adults from Financial Exploitation FINRA Rule 2165 and its sister rule, FINRA Rule 4512, protect vulnerable adults from financial exploitation. These rules work together to allow a vulnerable person’s broker to freeze disbursement of funds from an account suspected of financial exploitation. They also allow a broker to notify a vulnerable person’s important contacts when the broker suspects financial exploitation is taking place. Preventing the Disbursement of Funds When Financial Exploitation Is Suspected A broker is able to place a temporary hold on a disbursement of funds or securities from a specified adult’s brokerage account if/when: A broker has a reasonable belief that financial exploitation has been or will be attempted, has occurred or is occurring; A broker notifies all parties authorized to transact in the account, as well as the account’s trusted contacts, about the temporary hold and the reason for it; and A broker initiates an internal review of why they believe financial exploitation was taking place. The notification to authorized persons on the account can be made orally or in writing (electronic communication is okay) within two business days. Brokers must communicate clearly and quickly about the temporary hold and the reason for the temporary hold. When working with specified adults, a broker needs to maintain a list of trusted contacts. A trusted contact person does not have to be a signatory on the account but can be anyone the broker can share important account information with.  Notification is a very important element of Rule 2165 because placing a hold on client funds is no small matter. However, if the broker suspects that the trusted contact is the person perpetrating the fraud, the broker is no longer under an obligation to notify them.  Rule 2165 Amends Other Protections Against Exploitation The SEC adopted FINRA Rule 2165 in February 2018, which amended FINRA Rule 4512. Previously, Rule 4512 only required brokers to collect and maintain basic personal data about their clients. Now, brokers are required to make reasonable efforts to obtain and maintain the name of a trusted contact person as well.  This revised rule is a great resource for investors and brokers alike. As the investor population ages, trusted contacts can be an excellent resource for brokers to share concerns about unusual client behavior or diminished capacity to make investment decisions. Early communication can lead to better results for investors, caregivers, and brokers. It can even prevent financial exploitation in the first place. Brokers Are Responsible for Compliance  Brokers now must make decisions about whether their clients have the ability to make financial decisions for themselves. This can be difficult and even embarrassing where brokers and clients have worked together for many years. Cognitive abilities of aging people and people with disabilities can change dramatically in short periods of time. Determining if and when a client is at risk of financial exploitation is a very delicate task. The responsibility falls on brokers to understand when transactions are legitimate or not.  Contact a Securities Fraud Attorney If you or a loved one has been financially exploited, you may have a legal right to pursue action against responsible parties. Experience is key in litigating cases like these. We at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., are eager to help you understand your rights. Robert Pearce has many years of experience in the area of securities fraud. He has arbitrated and mediated hundreds of investment-related disputes in his career. Our team of experienced investment loss litigators has recovered over $160 million dollars for well-qualified investors. We help investors nationwide and internationally pursue claims for a variety of investment losses and frauds. Contact us today about a free initial consultation on your...

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How to Report a Ponzi Scheme

Ponzi-like schemes swindle investors out of millions of dollars every year. A common form of investment fraud, a Ponzi scheme occurs when existing investors receive distributions from funds provided by new investors rather than as a result of profits. Because Ponzi schemes can only function as long as new investors are providing funds, the schemes eventually collapse, resulting in significant losses for new and old investors. While Ponzi schemes are illegal, they nevertheless continue to exist. In fact, some sources have noted that in 2020 Ponzi schemes hit their highest levels in a decade.  If you are a victim of a Ponzi scheme, you may be wondering what recourse you have. Fortunately, there are actions you can take. By reporting a Ponzi scheme, you can help hold these fraudsters accountable and prevent other victims from being taken advantage of as well.  Don’t know where to begin? Contact attorney Robert Wayne Pearce today to learn more about how to report a Ponzi scheme and see what our team can do to help.  What Is a Ponzi Scheme? Financial advisors recommend investment strategies to investors based on their investment profile. In many situations, investors seek investments likely to result in returns based on the profitability of the investment. In a Ponzi scheme, investors do receive “returns.” However, these returns are not from the profits of their investment. Rather, the operator of the Ponzi scheme will issue payments to earlier investors from the new investment funds provided by newer investors. Inevitably, Ponzi schemes will run out of new investors who are willing to invest in the scheme. This results in the inability to issue the fraudulent returns to older investors and causes the entire scheme to crumble. In an ideal world, these types of fraudulent schemes would not exist. Unfortunately, however, there is always some risk that you could fall victim to a Ponzi or Ponzi-like scheme. What’s important is that you know where to turn and what steps you can take moving forward.  If you suspect you invested in a Ponzi scheme, consult with an investment lawyer who can explain the steps you should take next. With over 40 years representing investors, attorney Robert Pearce has the knowledge and experience you need to help you fight for your rights and recovery.  Examples of SEC Enforcement Actions Against Ponzi Schemes In April 2021, the SEC charged Los Angeles-based actor Zachary Horwitz and his company, 1inMM Capital, LLC, in connection with a Ponzi scheme that reportedly raised over $690 million from investors.  Horwitz and his company represented to investors that the investment funds would be used to purchase film rights and that the films would then be sold to Netflix or HBO. Horwitz allegedly claimed to have an extensive track record of selling movie rights to Netflix and HBO, despite the fact that he never maintained a business relationship with either company.  1inMM and Horowitz reportedly promised investors returns in excess of 35%. Instead, Horwitz paid early investors with the funds provided by new investors and misappropriated millions of dollars for himself. In January 2020, the SEC charged California-based husband and wife Jeffrey and Paulette Carpoff with orchestrating a nearly billion-dollar Ponzi scheme involving alternative energy tax credits.  The pair reportedly raised approximately $910 million from 17 investors between 2011 and 2018 by offering securities in the form of investment contracts through two solar generator companies, DC Solar Solutions, Inc., and DC Solar Distributions, Inc. The SEC alleged that the couple used at least $160 million of the investors’ funds to fund their lifestyle and used the remaining funds to issue dividends to earlier investors. If you have fallen victim to a Ponzi scheme, know that you are not alone. Reach out to our investment loss attorneys today to get started on the pathway toward recovery.  Indicators of a Ponzi Scheme Ponzi schemes come in many different shapes and sizes. However, there are certain common indicators of a Ponzi scheme that you should be aware of.  Many red flags associated with Ponzi schemes present themselves prior to and during the investment process. Recognition of these characteristics before making your investment can prevent you from suffering serious losses down the road. Common indicators of a Ponzi scheme include: Promises of high returns with little or no risk; Returns that are overly consistent; The sale of unregistered investments; A lack of transparency regarding the investment strategy; Errors or discrepancies on account statements; and Difficulty receiving or cashing out your payments. The presence of red flags such as these may signal the existence of illegal activity. If you experience any of these issues with your investments, a securities lawyer can help you determine if you invested in a Ponzi scheme.  Reporting a Ponzi Scheme Ponzi schemes can cost investors millions of dollars in losses. In an attempt to curb the operation of the fraudulent schemes, the SEC and FBI provide resources for individuals who suspect Ponzi schemes to report the misconduct. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) The FBI provides an electronic tip form to individuals wishing to report federal law violations. Additionally, for internet-based crimes, the FBI offers another way to submit a tip. Because many Ponzi schemes begin and operate online, this might be the best place to report a Ponzi scheme. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) The SEC also provides defrauded investors an avenue to report suspected Ponzi schemes and other fraudulent activities. SEC Ponzi scheme tips can be submitted online directly through the SEC website.  Contact an Investment Loss Attorney Today Losing your valuable and hard-earned money in a fraudulent Ponzi scheme is never easy. If this has happened to you, we want to help. At the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., we have decades of experience helping investment loss victims in need. Firm founder and lead attorney Robert Pearce has recovered funds for over 99% of his investor clients and recovered over $100 million in the last 20 years alone through court litigation, arbitration, and settlements.  Want to know more about...

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Tips for Hiring the Best Structured Product Investment Lawyer

Investment vehicles come in a variety of forms, each with their own benefits and risks. Structured products are one such vehicle. These products can offer a compelling return, but at the cost of increased risk and complexity. If you lost money on a structured product investment, you may be able to file a claim to recover losses with the help of an investment lawyer. What Is a Structured Product? In short, a structured product is a type of security derived from or based on one or more other securities. The defining feature of a structured product, however, is that its return is based on the performance of the underlying asset. Structured products offer a great deal of customization that allows brokers to tailor the risk profile to each individual investor. At the same time, however, they are complicated securities with a level of risk that make them inappropriate for many investors. This complexity makes it more important than ever to make sure you have the best investment lawyer if you lose money on one of these products. Tip #1: Make Sure They Are Familiar with Structured Product Investments As explained above, structured product investments are fairly complex. Your investment lawyer needs to understand that complexity to properly represent you. Even if most investment lawyers are generally familiar with different investment products, a structured product investment lawyer will have additional experience working on cases involving these securities. Tip #2: Make Sure They Understand the Specific Risks of Structured Product Investments As an investor, you’ve no doubt been told many times about the risks involved with particular investments. Your investment lawyer should have the same understanding of those risks. Not only will this allow the lawyer to better understand your particular situation, it also means they will be more familiar with the ways in which a broker may cause you to lose money. For example, making sure your investments are suitable for you is a large part of a broker’s responsibility. Considerations as to the suitability of a structured product generally include: The volatility of the underlying asset; Tax implications based on structured products being considered “contingent payment debt instruments” by the IRS; Limits or caps on the product’s pay-outs; Accurately assessing the price of the product; Lack of an established trading market for structured products; and Loss of principal. Because structured products are so customizable, the specific risks associated with a specific structured product investment may vary. Tip #3: Ask About Their Experience with FINRA Arbitration and Mediation Many brokerage firms require investors to agree to arbitration when they open a brokerage account. While similar to court proceedings, arbitration is somewhat different and requires its own set of skills. At our firm, for example, Robert Wayne Pearce has handled arbitration and mediation before many regulatory authorities, including the Securities and Exchange Commission. In summary, the best investment lawyers will be those with experience in the specific types of proceedings relevant to your case. Tip #4: Ask Them About Their Familiarity with FINRA Rules and Broker Responsibilities The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), administers the set of rules that bind brokers and protect investors. Understanding these rules is just as important for investment lawyers as for brokers. Only with a deep understanding of the FINRA rules can a lawyer provide the most thorough representation to protect your rights. For example, FINRA rules prohibit brokers from “selling away,” a term for selling securities not offered by their brokerage firm. Unfortunately, brokers sometimes offer unapproved securities to their clients. With structured products, the risk can be especially high. Additionally, keep in mind that not all broker violations are obvious. Every investor’s situation is slightly different, and the way in which a broker might harm an investor is highly dependent on the facts of each case. Accordingly, you can’t go wrong by having a lawyer with experience who has handled structured investment loss claims before. Tip #4: Assess Whether You Get Along with Them An often-overlooked part of hiring legal counsel is whether you actually like your lawyer. While there’s nothing wrong with hiring an attorney based on their pedigree, it’s important not to forget that your attorney should also be someone you can work with. As with any other professional service, you shouldn’t have to put up with an attorney you dislike, especially if your case will last a long time. When you’re looking for an investment lawyer, figure out what kind of lawyer you’d like: do you prefer someone who doesn’t bother you unless there’s a major development, or would you rather be kept in the loop with more frequent updates? Do you value a friendly “bedside manner,” or are you ok with stricter professionalism? Tip #5: Ask Them About Previous Experience Handling Similar Cases Structured investment product claims may involve unique or complex issues. An attorney with previous experience handling such claims will be much better equipped to help you recover losses if possible. Tip #6: Find Out Their Track Record of Obtaining Settlements Investment lawyers typically include information about their past settlement awards directly on their website. If they don’t, it’s something you can ask about during your initial consultation. The best structured product investment lawyer will be one with a proven track record of winning cases for clients. Tip #7: Confirm Their Reputation Within the Legal Community As members of a profession with a high ethical standard, a lawyer’s reputation is hugely important. Whatever the size of the firm, it can be useful to vet their reputation like you would with another personal service. State and local bar associations and personal recommendations are a good way to evaluate any attorney. You can also check resources like the Martindale-Hubbell peer rating program, which ranks attorneys based on peer ratings and client reviews. Ready to Hire an Investment Lawyer? The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. is a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent rated firm with more than 40 years of experience representing investors and brokers. If you lost money through a structured...

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FINRA Rule 3270: Outside Business Activities

When you engage a registered investment adviser to manage your money, you want to make sure that nothing will interfere with your securities professional’s duty to you. FINRA Rule 3270, referred to outside business activities, gives transparency to potential conflicts of interest your investment adviser may have.  FINRA Rule 3270 requires your investment advisor to disclose their outside business activities. The purpose of FINRA 3270 is to keep FINRA member firms accountable to you, the client. If you are concerned that your securities professional might have violated certain disclosure rules, a knowledgeable FINRA arbitration lawyer can help you understand your options. FINRA Rule 3270 Requires Disclosure of Outside Business Activities In plain English, FINRA Rule 3270 means that your investment adviser may not engage in any outside business activities unless they have provided proper disclosure to their employer. FINRA rules about outside business activities are an important tool to protect investors. These help you to understand whether your investment adviser is putting your interests first. What Is a FINRA Outside Business Activity? FINRA outside business activities are broadly defined. FINRA Rule 3270 states that they include any paid work performed outside of a securities professional’s employment. This includes: Working as an employee for another company; Working as an independent contractor for another company; Serving as an officer, director, or partner of any outside board or organization; Receiving payment for any outside services; and Having the reasonable expectation of being paid for any outside business activities. This rule only requires an investment advisor to notify his or her employer of FINRA outside business activities. It does not require the investment advisor to do anything beyond provide a notification. Instead, the FINRA member firm makes a determination about what outside business activities are acceptable to the firm and its clients. The firm decides how or if outside business activities should continue to be carried out. Common Examples of FINRA Outside Business Activities Common examples of outside business activities include: Acting as both a financial advisor and a certified public accountant; Sitting on the board of directors of an outside organization, whether or not this activity is paid work; and Advising a start-up company for free but expecting future compensation once the company begins to turn a profit. Your investment advisor needs to report any of these activities to their employer under FINRA 3270.  The examples above are not exhaustive. An investment adviser also needs to report their wedding photography business or snorkel tour side-gig to their employer under the rules. FINRA rules about outside business activities apply to any paid work. Passive Investments Are Not Outside Business Activities While FINRA Rule 3270 casts a wide net, it allows investment advisers to make passive personal investments. Investing in diversified index funds or private securities transactions is not an outside business activity. Investment advisers may also put their personal funds into a blind trust. Blind trusts do not allow people to direct how their money is invested. Other FINRA rules require some disclosure about personal investments to ensure that your broker is being as transparent as possible about their potential conflicts of interest. FINRA Rule 3280 requires disclosure of private securities transactions. Your securities professional must strictly comply with this rule and its requirements. Your brokerage firm should ensure the investment adviser’s compliance with FINRA Rule 3280.  Responsibility of Brokerage Firms to Clients Once an investment advisor makes an outside business activities disclosure, the FINRA member firm must take important action. Each firm typically has its own form for reporting and its own protocol for review.  How Do Firms Determine Whether an Outside Business Activity Is Acceptable? Once a firm receives a disclosure, it needs to decide whether the outside business activities are acceptable. The FINRA member firm reviews all facts surrounding the disclosure. Then the firm answers two key questions to protect investors like you. First, Rule 3270 asks a FINRA member firm to consider all the circumstances surrounding the outside business activities. The review includes assessing the type of outside business, reviewing the time spent on the business, and confirming the type or amount of compensation received. The firm must decide whether outside business activities will interfere with the securities professional’s responsibilities to their employer and/or the firm’s clients. Second, Rule 3270 asks a FINRA member firm to think about whether outside business activities will be viewed by customers or the public as part of the member’s business. This review assesses whether a client would confuse the investment adviser’s outside business activities with their securities business.  How Do Firms Address Outside Business Activities That Conflict with an Advisor’s Duties? If the firm determines that the investment adviser’s outside business activities interfere with their responsibilities to the firm or its clients, then the firm should limit or prohibit the activity. FINRA Rule 3270 also requires firms to maintain a record of compliance. It is the firm’s responsibility to keep records of all outside business activities disclosures and compliance reviews. Brokerage firms are responsible to their clients to ensure that they are providing appropriate and conflict-free service in managing client assets. FINRA member firms must represent that their investment advisers are not engaging in outside business activities that compromise client interests. If you believe that your brokerage firm has failed to hold investment advisers accountable to FINRA Rule 3270 or otherwise adhere to conflict of interest rules, the firm may be liable for investor losses. Now may be the time to file a FINRA complaint against your advisor or broker. Have You Been Harmed by Your Investment Advisor’s Outside Business Activities? If you are an investor with concerns that your investment professional has failed to disclose important information to you, please call The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Our firm has successfully represented individuals harmed by broker and investment advisor negligence or misconduct for over 40 years. Cases involving violations of FINRA rules are complex. Attorney Pearce has the expertise and experience to help you navigate any kind of securities or investment dispute....

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Understanding FINRA Rule 2111: Suitability

As an investor, you may have heard of FINRA Rule 2111, also known as the suitability rule. But what exactly is FINRA 2111? And how does it affect you and your investments?  When you hire a brokerage firm or financial advisor to make transaction or investment strategy recommendations, you expect that they will do so in a manner that is suitable for you and your particular circumstances. Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case. If you have suffered financial losses as a result of unsuitable investment strategies and recommendations by your financial advisor, contact securities law attorney Robert Wayne Pearce today.  An Overview of FINRA Rule 2111 Suitability in investing is an overarching concept that describes whether an individual investment is suitable for a client after consideration of that particular client’s characteristics.  The suitability rule requires financial advisors to have a “reasonable basis” to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for their client. A financial advisor determines the suitability of a particular transaction or investment strategy through learning about the investment profile of his or her customer. Experts interpret FINRA Rule 2111 as requiring financial advisors to make recommendations that are in their customer’s best interests. FINRA outlines situations involving financial advisors violating the suitability rule by placing their interests above the interests of their client, including: Financial advisors who recommend that clients use margin to purchase a larger number of securities to increase commissions;  Brokers who recommend unsuitable securities with high commissions because of pressure from their firm to sell the securities; or A broker who recommends one product over another with the goal of earning more commissions. Unsuitable investment recommendations lead to thousands of dollars in losses for investors every year based on financial advisors recommending products that are illiquid, speculative, and high-risk. If this has happened to you, contact an experienced investment losses attorney today to get started on your case. Suitability Obligations Imposed by FINRA Rule 2111 Rule 2111 consists of three primary obligations: reasonable basis suitability, customer-specific suitability, and quantitative suitability. Reasonable Basis Suitability Reasonable basis suitability mandates that a financial advisor have a reasonable basis, based on reasonable diligence, to believe that a recommendation is suitable for the public at large. This reasonable diligence should provide the financial advisor with a basic understanding of risks and rewards associated with the recommended transaction or investment strategy.  A broker must comprehend the risks and rewards associated with a particular investment. Failure to do so and recommending the investment to a client anyway could result in charges of misrepresenting the investment.  If a broker fails to comply with any of these requirements, the reasonable basis suitability obligation is not met.  Customer-Specific Suitability Customer-specific suitability involves considering specific details about an individual customer to determine whether a transaction or investment strategy is suitable.  A customer’s characteristics that are to be considered during a suitability analysis include: Employment status, Age, Financial situation, Tax status, Experience investing, Investment goals, Risk tolerance, Liquidity needs, and Investment time horizon. The financial advisor should evaluate these characteristics in determining whether the investment or strategy is suitable for that particular customer. Quantitative Suitability The quantitative suitability element evaluates the volume of trades made by a financial advisor.  For a quantitative suitability analysis, transactions made in a customer’s investment account are viewed in the aggregate. The question is whether the investments recommended qualify as a suitable strategy overall, not whether each individual transaction was suitable. The quantitative suitability obligation seeks to prevent financial advisors from making excessive trades in a client’s account solely for the purpose of generating commission fees.  Contact an Investment Loss Attorney Today FINRA 2111 investment loss cases can be particularly complex. That’s why it is important to have an experienced investment loss attorney in your corner.  Since 1980, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., have represented countless investors as they fight for their rights. If you are a victim of broker negligence or misconduct, we want to help. We have recovered over $160 million for well-deserving clients, and we will fight to get you the results you deserve too.  Contact our team today for your free case evaluation, and see what we can do for you.

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FINRA Rule 2010: Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade

FINRA Rule 2010 states that FINRA members must observe “high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade” in the conduct of their business. If you think this rule seems broad, that’s because it is. And unfortunately, FINRA members do not always live up to these high standards prescribed in FINRA Rule 2010. So what do you do if your broker or financial advisor has failed to comply with its obligations under FINRA 2010? Broker misconduct costs investors millions of dollars in investment losses each year. Such losses are often the result of fraud, misrepresentation, or negligent supervision of your account. While such misconduct can result in severe financial ramifications for you, fortunately there are avenues to hold these wrongdoers accountable.  If you suffered losses that you believe are a result of your broker failing to uphold the high standards of commercial honor and equitable principles of trade, contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Discuss your case with an experienced investment loss attorney as soon as possible to see how you may be able to recover.  Overview of Other Notable FINRA Rules Typically, FINRA Rules outline the specific conduct prohibited by the rule itself. For example: FINRA Rule 1122 prohibits FINRA members and other individuals from filing membership or registration information with FINRA that contains incomplete or inaccurate information; FINRA Rule 2111 requires brokers to only recommend investments or investment strategies that are suitable for the client; and FINRA Rule 5270 prohibits the front running of block transactions. So where does FINRA Rule 2010 come into play?   Oftentimes, investors utilize Rule 2010 to address misconduct not described in other FINRA rules. Rule 2010 operates as a catch-all provision to protect investors from financial negligence and other unethical practices by financial advisors and institutions.  What Does Rule 2010 Prohibit? Rule 2010 sanctions brokers for bad faith or unethical “business-related” misconduct. Receiving a sanction under Rule 2010 does not necessarily mean the broker violated the law, even though a securities law violation on its own supports a finding that a broker violated Rule 2010. Conduct deemed unethical or immoral, though not necessarily prohibited by law, authorizes discipline under the rule. Business-Related Requirement FINRA Rule 2010 mandates that the alleged misconduct be business-related to qualify for discipline under this rule. In a 2019 FINRA disciplinary action, a FINRA Hearing Panel explained that the relationship between the FINRA member’s unethical actions and the conduct of his or her securities business do not have to be closely connected. Rather, the Panel implied that Rule 2010 extends to any misconduct that “reflects on the associated person’s capacity to comply with the regulatory requirements of the securities business and to fulfill [his or her] fiduciary duties in handling other people’s money.” Examples of FINRA Rule 2010 Violations Ultimately, every case alleging violation of Rule 2010 requires individual analysis to determine if the misconduct amounts to a violation of the rule. To determine whether the rule was violated, evaluation of both the totality of the circumstances and the context of the misconduct is required. Remember, a Rule 2010 violation occurs even in circumstances when a broker does not commit a violation of state or federal law. Actions considered a violation of Rule 2010 include: Misappropriating funds from clients or an employer; Sharing the confidential information of customers without approval; Forging signatures; Making alterations to important financial documents; Soliciting donations for personal benefit or other unauthorized uses; Misrepresenting financial information to customers; and Refusing to pay attorney fees and other expenses after initiating litigation against a customer. Rule 2010 allegations arise frequently in conjunction with allegations that a broker violated another FINRA Rule. Contact an Investment Loss Attorney to Answer Your Rule 2010 Questions Arguably at the core of securities regulation is FINRA 2010. Without such a rule, FINRA members would have no overarching obligation to conduct their business with such high standards of honor and integrity. Of course, even with Rule 2010 in place, FINRA members will inevitably fall short of these standards. When they do, know you can turn to The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. With more than 40 years of experience representing investors and holding their brokers and financial advisors accountable for misconduct, you can be confident that our team has the knowledge and resources necessary to fight for you.  Attorney Robert Pearce has a strong record of success, recovering funds for more than 99% of his investor clients. To discuss your case and start the process toward compensation, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Excessive Buying and Selling of Securities to Generate Commissions Is Called Churning – Is It Happening to You?

Many people often ask, Is churning illegal? The answer is yes. SEC regulations and FINRA rules prohibit the practice of making excessive purchases or sales of securities in investor accounts for the primary purpose of generating commissions, known as churning. Despite the illegality of churning, FINRA filed 190 arbitration actions for the year of 2020 through the end of December against brokers accused of the practice. If you suffered losses in your investment account as a result of excessive trading, contact a churning fraud lawyer to determine whether you are entitled to recover compensation.  What Is Churning in Finance? Churning, also known as excessive trading, takes on a new meaning in the financial industry that doesn’t have anything to do with butter. Excessive trading occurs when a broker makes multiple trades in a customer’s investment account for the primary purpose of generating high commissions. Churning often results in significant losses for investors. The SEC’s Regulation Best Interest, or Reg BI, establishes a standard of conduct for broker-dealers and their employees when recommending investments to retail customers. Reg BI requires brokers to act in the customer’s best interest and not place his or her own interests ahead of those of the investor. Churning is almost never in the best interest of the investor—even those with aggressive trading strategies. Signs Your Advisor Is Churning in Your Investment Account Churning stocks leads to substantial investor losses, especially in situations where it lasts for a long period of time. Many times, investors fail to recognize the indicators that their broker committed the crime of excessive trading until it is too late. There are a number of cautionary signs to look out for when you fear your financial advisor is excessively trading in your account. Unauthorized Trades Unauthorized trading occurs when a broker trades securities in your investment account without receiving prior authorization. If you have a discretionary investment account, your financial advisor has authorization to make trades in your account without seeking your approval for each transaction; however, your broker is still bound by the best interest standard. Excessive trading can be more difficult to detect with a discretionary account. Numerous unauthorized trades appearing on your account statement is a cause for concern. To recognize these transactions, you should review your account statement on a monthly basis and verify the information provided. If you observe unauthorized trades on your account statement, notify your broker and broker-dealer immediately.  Unusually High Trade Volume A high volume of trading activity in a short period of time can signify churning, especially for investors pursuing a conservative investment strategy. Pay special attention to transactions involving the purchase and sale of the same securities over and over. Attorney Robert Pearce has over 40 years of experience representing clients whose brokers’ misconduct caused financial losses. Mr. Pearce’s extensive experience enables him to recognize indicators of churning immediately and prove the amount of damages you suffered as a result of your broker’s misconduct.  Excessive Commission Fees Unusually high commission fees appearing on your account statement is another indication of excessive trading. If the commission fees jump significantly from one month to the next, or if one segment of your investment portfolio consistently generates higher commissions than any other segment, there is a chance your broker is churning your account. Account statements do not typically include fee amounts charged for each individual transaction. Thus, do not hesitate to contact your broker-dealer to request an explanation of the commissions charged to your account. If you feel you are being charged excessive fees in your investment accounts, contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., to discuss your options.  Contact Our Office Today for a Free Consultation Churning in the financial industry can result in monetary sanctions and even disqualification from the financial industry in extreme cases. The practice involves the manipulation and deception of investors that entrust their brokers to act in their best interest, warranting severe punishment. Robert Wayne Pearce has handled dozens of churning cases and can provide a complete review of your account statements to determine whether excessive trading occurred. Additionally, The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., employs experts that can perform a churning analysis of the trading activity in your account to establish concrete evidence that the practice occurred. We have the experience, expertise, and commitment to obtain the damages you deserve. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

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FINRA Know Your Customer Rule and Investment Suitability—How Does it Apply to You?

FINRA regulates the conduct of brokers in the securities industry to protect investors from suffering losses due to financial advisor misconduct. The agency formulates rules to outline the behavior expected of broker-dealers and financial advisors when dealing with their investment clients. Nevertheless, FINRA receives thousands of customer complaints every year alleging violations of FINRA Rules. FINRA Rule 2090, the Know Your Customer (KYC) rule, and FINRA Rule 2111, the suitability rule, mandate minimum knowledge requirements for brokers when making investment recommendations and commonly appear in these customer complaints.  If you suffered investment losses due to unsuitable investment recommendations, The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., can help you determine if your broker violated one of these rules. Contact our office today for a free consultation. FINRA Rule 2090: Know Your Customer Rule FINRA Rule 2090, or the Know Your Client rule, requires financial advisors to know the “essential facts concerning every customer and concerning the authority of each person acting on behalf of such customer” when opening and maintaining a client investment account. The “essential facts” described in the rule include details that are required to: Service the account effectively; Satisfy any special handling instructions for the account; Understand the authority of anyone acting on the customer’s behalf; and Comply with applicable laws, regulations, and rules. The KYC rule protects clients from investment losses by requiring their financial advisor to learn detailed information about their personal financial circumstances. The rule protects financial advisors by outlining the essential information about customers at the outset of the relationship, prior to any recommendations. Additionally, the financial adviser receives notification of any third parties authorized to act on the customer’s behalf. The Know Your Client rule acts in tandem with the suitability rule, FINRA Rule 2111. The information learned by financial advisors through the KYC requirement factors into the analysis of whether an investment recommendation is suitable.  FINRA Rule 2111: Suitability Alleged violation of investment suitability requirements resulted in 1,220 customer complaints filed with FINRA in 2020 alone, down from 1,580 complaints in 2019. The suitability rule requires financial advisors to have a “reasonable basis” to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for the customer. A financial advisor determines the suitability of a transaction or investment strategy through ascertaining the customer’s investment profile. Factors involved in a suitability analysis include the customer’s: Age, Investment experience, Financial situation, Tax status, Investment goals, Investment time horizon, Liquidity needs, and Risk tolerance. Numerous cases interpret the FINRA suitability rule as requiring financial advisors to make recommendations that are in the best interest of their customers. FINRA outlines situation where financial advisors have violated the suitability rule by placing their interests above the interests of their client, including: A broker who recommends one product over another to receive larger commissions; Financial advisors who recommend that clients use margin to purchase a larger number of securities to increase commissions; and Brokers who recommend speculative securities with high commissions because of pressure from their firm to sell the securities. Any indication that a financial advisor has placed his or her interests ahead of the client’s interest can support a claim for a violation of the suitability rule. Rule 2111 consists of three primary obligations: (1) reasonable basis suitability, (2) customer-specific suitability, and (3) quantitative suitability. Reasonable Basis Suitability Reasonable basis suitability requires a financial advisor to have a reasonable basis to believe, based on reasonable diligence, that a recommendation is suitable for the public at large. A financial advisor’s reasonable diligence should provide him or her with an understanding of risks and rewards associated with the recommended investment or strategy. A failure to comprehend the risks and rewards associated with a particular investment prior to recommending the investment to a client can result in allegations of misrepresentation or fraud. If a broker fails to perform reasonable diligence regarding either component, the financial advisor violates this obligation. Customer-Specific Suitability Customer-specific suitability involves considering the specific details about an individual customer to determine if a transaction or investment strategy is suitable. The financial advisor reviews the details outlined above to determine the suitability of a particular transaction or strategy for each customer. Quantitative Suitability The quantitative suitability element requires financial advisors to recommend transactions that are suitable when viewed as a whole, not only when viewed in isolation. This element aims to prevent financial advisors from making excessive trades in a client’s account solely for the purpose of generating commission fees. Factors such as turnover rate, cost-equity ratio, and use of in-and-out trading indicate that the quantitative suitability obligation was violated. What Constitutes “Reasonable Diligence”  FINRA’s suitability rule requires brokers to exercise “reasonable diligence” in attempting to obtain customer-specific information. The reasonableness of a financial advisor’s effort to obtain such information will depend on the facts and circumstances of each investment relationship. A financial advisor typically relies on the responses provided by the customer in compiling information relevant to the customer’s investment profile. Some situations may prevent a broker from relying exclusively on a customer’s responses, including times when: A financial advisor poses misleading or confusing questions to a degree that the information-gathering process is tainted; The customer exhibits clear signs of diminished capacity; or Red flags exist that indicate the information may be inaccurate. Additionally, the suitability rule requires brokers to consider any other information provided by the customer in connection with investment recommendations.  Hiring an Investment Loss Attorney Violation of FINRA Rules 2090 and 2111 result in significant financial losses for investors every year. If you suffered losses because of unsuitable investment recommendations, you have the right to seek compensation from the parties responsible for your losses.  Cases against brokers and registered investment advisors can be complex for attorneys without experience in securities law.  Robert Wayne Pearce has over 40 years of experience representing investors in disputes against financial advisors and broker dealers. Mr. Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of investment-related disputes involving complex securities and FINRA rule violations. In fact, Mr. Pearce serves...

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What is Financial Elder Abuse: The Signs You Should Look Out For

Growing up, one of the lessons we’re all taught is to respect our elders. Unfortunately, many people fail to take this to heart. Unscrupulous family members and other bad actors often take advantage of senior citizens, especially when it comes to their finances. According to one study, financial elder abuse accounted for roughly 18% of elder abuse reports. However, the actual percentage is likely much higher; only about 1 in 44 financial abuse cases is ever reported. Because many elderly people live off of their investments, the consequences of this type of abuse can be particularly extreme. The best way to protect our elderly family members is to know the signs of financial elder abuse. By recognizing the abuse as soon as possible, we can hopefully prevent irreversible damage to their finances. What Is Elder Financial Abuse? Elder financial abuse is theft or mismanagement of an elderly person’s assets. These may include real estate, bank accounts, or other property that belongs to the elderly person. Because the abuser is often a close family member, or trusted financial advisor, elder financial abuse frequently goes unnoticed. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Sign #1: Unusual Bank Account Activity As they get older, many people grant financial powers of attorney to their spouse or adult children or trusted financial advisors. While this is perfectly normal, it opens up the possibility that the designated person may abuse that power. If you suspect elder financial abuse, pay close attention to the elderly person’s bank accounts and investments in their brokerage accounts. Withdrawals, transfers, or other suspicious activity like new or inactive accounts suddenly becoming active are red flags. The elderly person may be making these transfers themself, but it’s always good to be sure, since it could be for the wrong reasons (like the internet scams discussed below). Keep an eye on their investments as well. An elderly person’s portfolio is typically structured to provide a livable income off interest alone through low-risk investments. Keep an eye out for restructuring of investments to riskier funds or unexplained “cash outs.” Sign #2: Suspicious Internet Activity Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of online scams targeting elderly people. Because elderly people are more trusting and less able to distinguish a scam from a legitimate venture, scammers frequently target them with fake tech support calls and the like. One of the most common online scams involves the scammer posing as a lover, friend, or family member online. After contacting the elderly victim, the scammer then requests money for plane tickets or some kind of emergency. This sign may be impossible to notice without speaking to the potential victim. Be wary if they mention someone new they met online or if you notice suspicious financial activity initiated by the victim. Sign #3: Missing Food or Unpaid Bills Ordinarily, caregivers or family members will make sure that an eldery person’s home is stocked with food and that bills are paid on time. Especially in a world with automatic bill payments, aging parents shouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills on time. A lack of food in the house and unpaid bills are indicators that that money is going elsewhere. Sign #4: Frequent Requests for Money by Someone Close to the Victim If someone makes frequent demands for money, that could be an indicator of financial exploitation. Anyone from neighbors to adult children may try to make frequent requests for money because they know the victim may have a poor memory or may have difficulty saying no.  Keep in mind that elder financial abuse like this is often subtle. Demands may not always be for large amounts of cash; this sign also includes polite requests for small amounts here and there. Over time, however, those “small amounts” can become exploitative. Sign #5: Payment for Unnecessary Services Door-to-door salesmen and “cold callers” may try to a upsell your elderly family member on services they don’t want or need. One common example of door-to-door sales abuse is roof repair or landscaping work. Cold callers barrage elderly at home with the next best investment in gold, silver, diamonds, and the next supposed Apple, Amazon, or Nextflix investment opportunity  to get into before its too late! These scams can take many different forms and may be difficult to spot. Sign #6: Threats or Coercion It may be difficult to imagine, but people may threaten their elderly family members to obtain money. These threats usually do not involve force, but rather things like, “I will put you in a home” or “I will stop visiting you.” If you don’t buy this stock, I’ll never call you again with any investment opportunities.  The abuser may also instruct the victim not to tell anyone what is happening. As a result, you’ll often have to pay close attention to spot this sign of elder financial abuse. Watch for a change in the elderly person’s demeanor or mood, especially around a suspected abuser.  What to Do If You Suspect Elder Financial Abuse If you suspect your loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, there are a couple things you can do. If there is a health emergency, call 911 immediately; calling state adult protective services may also be appropriate in some circumstances. In most cases, your next step should be contacting a financial elder abuse attorney. They can provide legal advice and support to help stop the abuse and may be able to help the victim recover lost assets. Elder Financial Abuse and Financial Fraud Attorneys At the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., we have the experience and resources necessary to properly handle your elder financial abuse claim. We’ve helped hundreds of clients with securities and investment fraud of all kinds and are prepared to give you the professional, dedicated representation you need. Contact us today through our website or by phone at 800-732-2889 for a free consultation.

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Securities Fraud Explained: What You Should Know as an Investor

Investors trust their financial advisors to make important and wise decisions regarding the management of their investment portfolio. Financial advisors hold a position of trust with their clients, and clients expect their advisor to act with the client’s goals in mind. Unfortunately, advisors frequently violate the trust of their clients by committing various forms of securities fraud. It is important to note that suffering losses on your investments, by itself, is not a form of securities fraud. Securities fraud involves the deception of investors or the manipulation of financial markets through illegal methods. If you suffered investment losses but don’t know if you have a claim for securities fraud, our securities fraud lawyers at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., are ready to help. Contact us today to get started on your case. What Is Securities Fraud? Securities fraud, also known as investment fraud and stock fraud, is the deception of investors or the manipulation of financial markets through illegal methods. Investors who suffer losses as a result of securities fraud can seek to recover their losses. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Common Forms of Securities Fraud Securities fraud occurs in multiple different ways, making it even more difficult to recognize. Victims of securities fraud often suffer steep losses as a result of the fraud. Fortunately, victims of securities fraud can seek to recover their losses. So, what is securities fraud? Below are some of the most common forms of securities fraud.  Misrepresentations and Misleading Statements Misrepresentation is the most common type of securities fraud. It involves a false statement about an investment in a company; for example, a company that supposedly has earnings, a revolutionary product, or multi-million dollar contract when it has none of those assets. Misleading statements arise by omission; such as, using the same examples, when the financial advisor fails to tell you the earnings surprise was a one time past event, the revolutionary product can’t be patented, or the multi-million dollar contract is with another company about to file bankruptcy. Undoubtedly, those missing facts would have made all the difference to you in making your investment decision. The fraudster doesn’t care, he/she lies or misleads you to just get you to part with your money so he/she makes a commission. If you relied upon that intentionally false statement or misleading statement and made that investment, you have the right to claim securities fraud under federal and state statutes as well as ordinary common law fraud. But the securities fraud statutes usually have statutory remedies, including, prejudgment interest on the full purchase price from the date of purchase and attorney fees, to fully compensate you for your loss. The only problem with securities fraud statutes is they generally come with short statutes of limitation and so, you need to act fast and file suit quickly to take advantage of them. Ponzi-Like Schemes Ponzi schemes involve promises of high returns with little risk for investors, a staple of many forms of securities fraud. However, instead of issuing returns to investors out of profits, the funds of new investors are paid to early investors. Thus, Ponzi scheme victims receive guarantees of returns regardless of market conditions.  Ponzi schemes fall apart once there are no new investors providing funds. Companies operating Ponzi schemes focus the majority of their efforts into advertising to new investors to keep the scheme afloat.  Well-known financier Bernie Madoff was convicted of running the largest Ponzi scheme in history after evidence showed that Madoff falsified trading reports to indicate clients were earning profits on investments that did not exist. Madoff received a 150-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty. Embezzlement Embezzlement refers to the misappropriation of assets by a person entrusted with those assets. An embezzler possesses the assets lawfully at the outset, but once the assets are used for unintended purposes, embezzlement has occurred.  For example, financial advisors placed in charge of clients’ accounts possess authority to conduct transactions in the accounts, subject to some limitations. A financial advisor who steals assets entrusted to him or her by a client commits embezzlement.  Advance Fee Schemes Advance fee schemes target all kinds of victims and are becoming more prevalent with the rise of internet scams. Con artists operating advance fee schemes require the victim to pay an “advance fee” in anticipation of receiving something—such as a service, a product, or an investment opportunity—of greater value in return. The scheme operator convinces the victim to provide the fee, then subsequently informs the victim that he or she is ineligible for whatever was offered after the fee is paid. The victim is unable to recover the fee that was paid. To avoid suffering losses due to an advance fee scheme, take precautions before conducting business with a company you have never heard of. Providing any payment amount to a person or company you are unfamiliar with is a risky practice. When in doubt, speak to an experienced securities fraud attorney to determine whether the investment opportunity is fraudulent.  Pump and Dump Fraud A pump and dump scheme, also referred to as market manipulation, occurs when a group of fraudsters post content on the internet enticing investors to purchase a stock as soon as possible.  The fraudsters claim to have insider information regarding the product that will result in a jump in the share price of the stock. The fraudsters post content in multiple forums in an attempt to entice as many new investors as possible. Once investors purchase shares of the stock, the fraudsters sell their shares, resulting in a dramatic dip in the share price. New investors, lacking awareness of any fraudulent conduct, suffer the losses.  Pump and dump schemes began primarily through cold calling. However, the internet and social media provide fraudsters a more efficient way to attempt the scheme. Insider Trading Insider trading involves the use of “non-public, material information” to buy or sell stocks. Non-public material information includes any information that could substantially impact an investor’s decision...

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