Vernon Litigation and Attorney Kristian Kraszewski recently filed back-to-back cases on behalf of two different Southwest Florida widows who were sold high-risk alternative investments.
The first case was filed on behalf of an 87-year-old widow who was looking for safe investments for her grandchildren’s college education. Instead, a Southwest Florida “investment professional” registered with United Planners Financial Services of America sold her high-risk alternative investments that have not only suffered losses but cannot be sold without devastating losses. Had the advisor simply purchased low-cost ETFs or index funds, the investor would have more than doubled her money with less risk than the following speculative alternatives that were recommended: GPB, FS Credit, Genesis VIII, ARC Global, KBS, SEIF, and ATEL.
The second case that was filed also involves speculative alternative investment recommendations to a Southwest Florida widow. The investor was looking for safe income investments that would not jeopardize her investment principal. Marc Korsch, who was registered with Centaurus Financial at the time of the recommendations, instead recommended high-risk non-traded REITs known as the MVP Parking REIT and Strategic Storage Trust. These recommendations generated exorbitant commissions and failed to provide our client with the safety and security she sought for her retirement nest egg. According to FINRA’s Brokercheck CRD system, Mr. Korsch has 9 reportable disclosures on his record and has worked for 6 brokerage firms in 11 years.
FINRA has specifically reminded firms such as United Planners and Centaurus in Notice to Members 03-71 that:
Given the complex nature of NCIs [Non-Conventional Investments aka Alternative Investments] and the potential for customer harm or confusion, members are cautioned to ensure that their sales conduct procedures fully and accurately address any of the special circumstances presented by the sale of NCIs. Additionally, FINRA is concerned that investors, particularly retail investors, may not fully understand the risks associated with these products.
FINRA went on to remind members offering Non-Conventional Investments such as REITs and other alternatives of their obligations to: “(1) conduct adequate due diligence to understand the features of the product; (2) perform a reasonable-basis suitability analysis; (3) perform customer-specific suitability analysis in connection with any recommended transactions; (4) provide a balanced disclosure of both the risks and rewards associated with the particular product, especially when selling to retail investors; (5) implement appropriate internal controls; and (6) train registered persons regarding the features, risks, and suitability of these products.”