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Paris Lewis (CRD#: 2335964) has been terminated from his role as a broker with NYLife Securities LLC, according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on March 3, 2020.

What happened to lead to Paris Lewis’s termination? On December 22, 2019, NYLife Securities terminated Paris Lewis after the firm found that he violated company policy by borrowing money from a customer. How did the brokerage firm become aware of Paris Lewis’s alleged misconduct? The firm received a verbal customer complaint.

This is not the first time that Paris Lewis has been discharged from a firm. On February 26, 2015, MetLife discharged Paris Lewis after the firm found that he did not follow firm policy regarding outside business activities. Per FINRA rules, brokers must receive written approval from their firms before engaging in outside business activities, including private securities transactions.

Andy Grant (CRD#: 2709882), a registered representative with Laidlaw & Company (UK) Ltd. in Melville, NY (CRD#: 119037), has been suspended from the securities industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on February 21, 2020.

What happened to lead to Andy Grant’s suspension from the securities industry? On January 17, 2020, Andy Grant entered into an Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent agreement with FINRA in which he consented to the entry of findings that he made discretionary trades in customer accounts without customer authorization. Andy Grant also consented to FINRA’s sanction: a 15-day suspension. The suspension will last from February 18, 2020 to March 9, 2020. FINRA also fined Andy Grant $5,000. A copy of Andy Grant’s AWC can be viewed here.

What does it mean to exercise discretion without authorization? Unauthorized trading happens when a broker trades within a non-discretionary account without letting their client know. Did your broker inform you before every trade they made in your portfolio? Did you recognize every trade listed on the monthly or quarterly statements your brokerage firm sent to you? If not, your broker may have exercised discretion without the proper approval, which is a violation of FINRA Rule 2010.

Johnny Guan (CRD#: 5711977), a registered representative with Aegis Capital Corp. (CRD#: 15007) in Red Bank, New Jersey, is currently involved in a pending customer dispute in which a client alleges that he recommended unsuitable investments, overconcentrated their portfolio, made unauthorized transactions, and breached his fiduciary duty (putting his interests ahead of the client’s), according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on February 4, 2020.

Johnny Guan
This is not the only disclosure on Johnny Guan’s BrokerCheck record. On April 15, 2016, he became involved in a customer dispute in which a customer alleged that the broker recommended unsuitable investments, misrepresented investments, and engaged in negligence. The client originally requested $40,000 in damages; the dispute settled for $7,200.

Over his 10-year career in the securities industry, Johnny Guan has worked for three brokerage firms. In addition to his current role at Aegis Capital Corp., he has also worked for National Securities Corporation (CRD#: 7569) and Newbridge Securities Corporation (CRD#: 104065).

Jerry Wells (CRD#: 1015358), a registered representative with Sagepoint Financial, Inc. (CRD#: 133763) in Rochester, New York, has been suspended from the securities industry by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on January 22, 2020.

Jerry Wells
On December 4, 2019, Jerry Wells entered into an Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent (AWC) with FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, consenting to FINRA’s findings that he “falsely represented that variable annuities purchases were not variable annuities replacements.” FINRA found that he submitted variable annuity applications that falsely stated that the recommended variable annuities would not alter or replace any existing variable annuities. However, Wells knew that proceeds from other variable annuities were funding the recommended variable annuities. He also caused his firm to maintain inaccurate books and records by failing to complete the proper replacement forms. As a result, FINRA suspended Jerry Wells from the securities industry from January 6, 2020 to March 5, 2020. A copy of Jerry Wells’s AWC can be viewed here.

This is not the first time Jerry Wells has come under fire for potential misconduct related to variable annuities. On April 7, 2008, a client filed a customer complaint against Jerry Wells, alleging that a variable annuity she purchased in December 2007 was not suitable because of a seven-year surrender charge. The matter was settled for $7,860.62.

Bart BohrerBart Bohrer (CRD#: 4315654), a registered representative with Calton & Associates, Inc. (CRD#: 20999) in Tampa, Florida, is currently involved in three pending customer disputes totalling over $900,000, according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on January 17, 2020.

On March 4, 2019, a client alleged that Bart Bohrer violated the Minnesota Securities Act and violated federal securities laws. The client is seeking $445,000 and the dispute is pending.

On November 28, 2019, a client alleged that Bart Bohrer violated federal securities laws, breached his contract, and breached his fiduciary duty. The client is requesting $5,000 in damages and the matter is pending.

Moe Azizi (CRD#: 2154719), a broker with Centaurus Financial, is currently involved in a customer dispute over unsuitable investments, according to his BrokerCheck report accessed on October 24, 2019. If your broker recommended securities that were not suitable given your investment goals, you may have a suitability claim and might benefit from seeking the counsel of the securities attorneys of Fitapelli Kurta.

Moe Azizi
On September 20, 2019, clients alleged that Moe Azizi “facilitated unsuitable, high-risk and illiquid investments.” Illiquid investments cannot be sold and are unsuitable for investors who would like easy access to cash. Unscrupulous brokers, however, may convince investors to invest in illiquid investments because of the high commissions they generate for themselves. On October 15, 2018, a customer alleged that their financial advisor, Moe Azizi, “recommended unsuitable investments.”

Moe Azizi is no stranger to the securities industry. Over his 28-year career in the securities industry, Moe Azizi has worked for six broker-dealers. In addition to his current position with Centaurus Financial, Inc. (CRD#: 30833) in San Jose, California, he has worked for five other broker-dealers:

Joseph Pratt (CRD#: 719416), formerly a registered representative with Stifel, Nicolaus & Company, Incorporated (CRD#: 793), has been barred by FINRA for alleged insider trading, according to his BrokerCheck report accessed on October 23, 2019.

On September 5, 2019, Joseph Pratt entered into an AWC in which he consented to the findings that he “obtained confidential information that he received from insiders at a public biopharmaceutical company, and misused the confidential information by communicating it to several of his member firm’s customers.” An AWC is a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver, and Consent in which a broker accepts the allegations against them without admitting or denying them, and in which a broker waives their right to appeal the decision. For more information about AWCs, please see our article “What is FINRA AWC?”

Joseph Pratt also “sold away” from his member firm by selling private securities, convincing individuals (including his firm’s customers) to invest a total of $436,000. This is a violation of FINRA Rule 2010. He consented to a bar from the securities industry. On September 24, 2019, FINRA accepted the AWC.

Richard PittmanRichard Pittman (CRD#: 2845145), a registered representative with Cetera Advisors LLC in Memphis, Tennessee, is currently involved in a pending customer dispute in which a client alleges that Richard Pittman recommended unsuitable investments in 2008, according to his BrokerCheck record accessed on October 23, 2019. The investments in question involve oil and gas, as well as limited partnerships (in which an investor’s liability is limited to the amount they invested in a given business venture). The client, who filed the complaint on September 24, 2019, is seeking $150,000 in damages; the matter is pending.

This is not the only instance in which a client has alleged that Richard Pittman recommended unsuitable investments in 2008. The other three disclosures on Richard Pittman’s BrokerCheck involve the same allegations. On October 19, 2016, another client sued Richard Pittman for $200,000. The matter was ultimately settled for $75,000. On August 9, 2018, a client filed a complaint against Richard Pittman, requesting $736,000 in damages. The dispute was settled for $95,000. Just three months later, on October 31, 2018, a client sought $200,000 in damages, and the matter was settled for $75,000. All the investments involved oil and gas, as well as real estate. Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) are illiquid and are not suitable for investors who want to be able to easily convert their assets to cash should the need arise.

What does Richard Pittman have to say in response to these allegations? According to his Broker Comment, he “asserts that the investments were suitable at the point of sale, when suitability is determined. Later performance does not and cannot affect the initial suitability determination. Matter settled by the prior BD as a business decision.” Registered representatives have a responsibility to recommend suitable investments to their clients, considering their risk tolerance, long-term goals, and need for liquidity, along with other factors. If the recommended investments later performed such that a client lost a significant amount of money, it is possible that the registered representative placed the client in investments that were too risky given their unique goals and needs.

Kevin Fretz
Kevin Fretz (CRD#: 4128808), a former registered representative with LPL Financial LLC (CRD#: 6413), was terminated from his job on September 12, 2019. According to his BrokerCheck report accessed on October 28, 2019, “Representative maintained blank customer signed forms, failed to report customer complaints and failed to follow customer instructions to deposit funds to investments.” This is not the only disclosure on Kevin Fretz’s BrokerCheck report. On August 27, 2019, a customer alleged that Kevin Fretz engaged in forgery and misrepresented investment recommendations.

Why would a broker keep forms pre-signed by customers? While brokers might ask clients to pre-sign sign forms as a “matter of convenience,” clients should never agree to this because unscrupulous brokers can take advantage of the situation. Blank forms pre-signed by clients can end up as “blank checks” for brokers to facilitate whatever transactions they want, regardless of your best interests. If you later dispute a transaction, your stamp of approval will be on the form, making an unwanted transaction that much harder to contest.

Over his 19-year career in the securities industry, he has worked for six firms, three of which have had their registration status terminated by the SEC:

Yvonne SilgueroYvonne Silguero (CRD#: 3211495), a registered representative with LPL Financial LLC in McAllen, Texas and Brownsville, Texas, is currently involved in a $500,000 dispute over misrepresentation, according to her BrokerCheck report accessed on October 2, 2019. A client, who filed a complaint on August 9, 2019, alleges that Yvonne Silguero engaged in “negligence, gross negligence, misrepresentation, omission of material facts, breach of fiduciary duty through failure to supervise, and breach of contract” from July 2014 to October 2018.

Yvonne Silguero is also currently involved in a second customer dispute. Filing a complaint on April 12, 2017, a customer alleged that he was sold “unsuitable products for which he was not eligible.”

Yvonne Silguero has enjoyed a 20-year career in the securities industry. Before joining LPL Financial LLC (CRD#: 6413) in 2008, Yvonne Silguero worked for Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. (CRD#: 6694) in Pharr, Texas.

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