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June 3, 2013

Commonwealth of Massachusetts Recovers Over $11 Million for Victims of Unsuitable REIT Sales

The Financial Regulator for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts recently announced a settlement with five brokerage firms--Ameriprise Financial Services, Commonwealth Financial Services, Lincoln Financial Advisors, Securities America and Royal Alliance Associates--over the unsuitable sale of a particularly risky real estate investment trust referred to as a "non-traded REIT" due to the fact that this type of REIT has limited liquidity and cannot be freely sold on the open market. See related blog post: Investors Beware: Non-Listed REITs


  • Inland Real Estate Trust, Inc.

  • Inland Western Real Estate Trust, Inc.

  • Inland American Real Estate Trust, Inc.

  • Inland Diversified Real Estate Trust, Inc.


Massachusetts imposes more stringent requirements on the sale of non-traded REITs to its residents and prohibits any investment exceeding 10% of the individual's liquid net worth. In addition to giving restitution to Massachusetts investors, the firms were required to pay administrative fines ranging from $400,000 to $25,000. According to the Secretary of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, over $11 million will be returned to Massachusetts investors.

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Disclosure: The Alcala Law Firm routinely represents clients who have pursued claims against their financial advisors for losses associated with non-traded REITS.

February 14, 2012

SEC Charges Southern California Stockbroker With Securities Fraud and Misappropriating Over $3 Million in Client Funds

sec crest.bin.jpgOn February 14, 2012, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint against Brenda Esbach of Tustin, California charging her with numerous securities fraud violations. The activity in question began while Brenda Esbach was employed as an investment advisor with Ameriprise Financial Services and continued after she left Ameriprise and began working with Aventine Investment Services, Inc. and Purshe Kaplan Sterling Investments.

The SEC's complaint alleges that, instead of making investments as directed by her clients, Esbach misappropriated the funds using them to pay personal and business expenses, including private school tuition and trips to Las Vegas. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Esbach agreed to provide restitution to her victims in the amount of $2,561,873.

Esbach, who has also been the subject of several investor lawsuits and securities arbitration claims, is awaiting sentencing in a related Federal prosecution where she entered a guilty plea to one count of mail fraud and one count of money laundering back in September 2011.

December 4, 2009

Medical Capital Holdings & Provident Asset Management Securities Fraud Update

Since my last two blog postings about the Medical Capital securities class action lawsuits pending in California, I have heard from several investors that were defrauded into purchasing not only Medical Capital Holdings, but also Provident Asset Management. Brokers who recommended either one of these private placement investments have a lot of explaining to do. Before recommending any investment, brokers have a fiduciary duty to exercise due diligence in determining whether an investment is appropriate and suitable for their customer. Defrauded investors interested in recouping their investment losses should consider all of their legal options, including the filing of a securities arbitration claim against their stockbroker or investment advisor that recommended the investment.

Below is a brief overview of the Provident Asset Management and Medical Capital securities fraud matters.

Provident Asset Management

Thumbnail image for provident.jpgOn July 1, 2009, the SEC charged Provident Royalties LLC, Provident Asset management, and its founders with securities fraud for running what is alleged to be a $485 million Ponzi scheme involving at least 7,700 investors. The complaint also names as defendants numerous entities through which Provident raised funds: Provident Energy 1, LLP; Provident Energy 2, LLP; Provident Energy 3, LLP; Shale Royalties II, Inc.; Shale Royalties 3, LLC; Shale Royalties 4, LLC; Shale Royalties 5, LLC; Shale Royalties 6, LLC; Shale Royalties 7, LLC; Shale Royalties 8, LLC; Shale Royalties 9, LLC; Shale Royalties 10, LLC; Shale Royalties 11, LLC; Shale Royalties 12, LLC; Shale Royalties 13, LLC; Shale Royalties 14; LLC Shale Royalties 15, LLC; Shale Royalties 16, LLC; Shale Royalties 17, LLC; Shale Royalties 18, LLC; Shale Royalties 19, LLC; and Shale Royalties 20, LLC.

In addition, a consolidated securities class action is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas against brokerage firms Next Financial Group, Inc.; QA3 Financial Corp. and Securities America, Inc. for their role in recommending these investments to their brokerage clients. Customers who were defrauded by these firms can participate in the class action or, in the alternative, pursue their own independent securities arbitration claim.

Medical Capital Holdings

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for medcap.jpgOn September 18, 2009, a class action lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California against the following brokerage firms Securities America, Inc., Ameriprise Financial, Inc., CapWest Securities, Inc, and Cullum & Burks Securities, Inc on behalf of investors that invested in Medical Capital Notes issued by Medical Provider Financial Corp. III, IV, V and/or VI.

On November 13, 2009, a separate class action lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California against National Securities Corporation for their involvement in recommending Medical Capital Notes to their customers.

There are also many other brokerage firms who aggressively sold Medical Capital Notes and Provident/Shale interests to their customers who were omitted from the various class action lawsuits, including some large brokerage firms and smaller regional firms. In addition to the class action defendants discussed above, I have heard from investors who invested in Medical Capital through brokers working with Okoboji Financial Services, Redwine Securities and others that are still being reviewed.

Related Blog Posts:

Medical Capital Class Action or Arbitration: Investors Should Consider Their Options

Is Mass-Arbitration in the Client's Best Interest?

Are Securities Arbitration Cases More Financially Rewarding for Investors than Class Actions?

October 5, 2009

FINRA Dispute Resolution Expands Pilot Program for Securities Arbitration Panels

Here is a bit of good news for investors with securities arbitration claims against 14 of the largest brokerage firms, including Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney and Wells Fargo. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has agreed to extend its year-old pilot program established to give investors the option to request an arbitration panel composed entirely of arbitrators that are not affiliated with the securities industry. Currently, a 3-person arbitration panel must include one industry arbitrator and two public arbitrators. The pilot program was created in response to criticism over whether an industry arbitrator, such as a stockbroker or branch manager, can act impartially when a customer is complaining about securities fraud or account mismanagement by their broker. I've participated in arbitrations with both good and bad industry arbitrators. The trouble is, allowing an industry arbitrator to sit on a panel gives the appearance of bias and takes away from the legitimacy of the proceedings. That should be reason enough to dump the industry arbitrator. My California securities law firm is in favor of the pilot program and we have been actively encouraging clients to participate whenever possible.

The brokerage firms who have agreed to participate in the pilot program are:

Ameriprise Financial Services
Charles Schwab
Chase Investment Services
Citigroup Global Markets
Edward Jones
Fidelity Brokerage Services
LPL Financial
Merrill Lynch
Morgan Stanley Smith Barney
Oppenheimer
Raymond James
TD Ameritrade
UBS Financial Services
Wells Fargo Advisors / Wachovia Securities

Each of the above firms has committed to participate in a limited number of cases under the program on a first come, first served basis. The pilot program will end on October 5, 2010. Since the average arbitration hearing takes 14 ½ months to conclude, most cases in the pilot program have not gone to hearing yet. FINRA plans to compare the results of the pilot program cases with non-pilot cases. Of the 396 arbitration cases that have been decided this year, only 139 (45%) recovered anything at all. Hopefully, the arbitration award results for cases in the pilot program will be much better. If the pilot program results in more awards in favor of customers, will the brokerage industry lobby to keep the industry arbitrator? Let's hope not.

September 21, 2009

Medical Capital Class Action or Arbitration: Investors Should Consider Their Options

Investors Have Choice to Make Regarding Medical Capital Corporation Fraud Recovery

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for medcap.jpgA class action lawsuit was filed in the Central District of California on September 18, 2009, against brokerage firms Cullum & Burks Securities, Inc., Securities America, Inc., Ameriprise Financial, Inc., and CapWest Securities, Inc., on behalf of investors who purchased so called "Medical Capital Notes" issued by Medical Provider Financial Corp. III, IV, V and/or VI on or after September 18, 2006.

The class action alleges that the defendant brokerage firms made materially false and misleading representations in the sale of the sale of the Medical Capital Notes. This class action has not yet been certified by the court. If the class is certified, the parties will be required to submit a proposed timeline for class members that want to opt out of the class action. Class members that elect to opt out can file a claim for their Medical Capital losses with FINRA. For more information about opting out of a class action and submitting an arbitration claim, please see our blog posting: Securities Arbitration vs. Class Actions: Consider Your Options. Investors who purchased Medical Capital Notes from brokerage firms that were not named as defendants are currently not included in the class action. If you believe you have a meritorious securities claim, speak with a securities attorney to discuss your rights and the advisability of opting out based on your individual circumstances.

Related Blog Post:

Is Mass-Arbitration in the Client's Best Interest?

Are Securities Arbitration Cases More Financially Rewarding for Investors than Class Actions?