Investor Alert – NASAA and SEC Warn about Cryptocurrency Related Investments

On January 4th, the same day I posted about a recent FINRA Investor Alert regarding cryptocurrency, there was a new press release from the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA) with further guidance on the same topic. NASAA’s analysis and warning amounts to this: Initial Coin Offerings (“ICOs”), and all other investment products related to cryptocurrency or the blockchain, pose a threat to investors.

“A NASAA survey of state and provincial securities regulators shows 94 percent believe there is a ‘high risk of fraud’ involving cryptocurrencies. Regulators also were unanimous in their view that more regulation is needed for cryptocurrency to provide greater investor protection.”

The same day, the SEC made a public statement from Chairman Jay Clayton and Commissioners Kara M. Stein and Michael S. Piwowar, in wholehearted agreement with NASAA: “The NASAA release also reminds investors that when they are offered and sold securities they are entitled to the benefits of state and federal securities laws, and that sellers and other market participants must follow these laws. Unfortunately, it is clear that many promoters of ICOs and others participating in the cryptocurrency – related investment markets are not following these laws. The SEC and state securities regulators are pursuing violations, but we again caution you that, if you lose money, there is a substantial risk that our efforts will not result in a recovery of your investment.”

Read More

Tax Reform Now: Five Actions to Consider Before December 31, 2017

Congress officially passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on December 20th. Despite conflicting reports on when President Trump will sign the Act, he will sign it. Here are five last-minute actions you should consider for tax planning before the New Year to minimize your 2017 and 2018 tax liability. This article is the first in a series planned to address the numerous changes to tax law imposed by the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. We strongly recommend you consult with your tax attorneys and tax advisors on the impact of the act on your 2017 taxes and to plan for future years.

Read More

Australian Court Accepts Unsent Text Message as Dead Man’s Will

A court in Queensland, Australia accepted an unsent text message on a dead man’s phone as his valid will. In the text message the married man left everything he had to his brother and nephew before taking his own life. The court allowed the draft text message to act as a valid will because the wording in the text indicated that the man intended it to act as his will.

Formal will requirements in Queensland require that a valid will be in writing and signed by two witnesses, however the law was changed in 2006 to allow informal types of documents to be considered wills. Under the 2006 changes, the Supreme Court of Queensland may recognize a document as being a will if the court is satisfied that the decedent intended the document to be his will even if the document lacked will formalities.

Read More

FINRA Expels New York Stockbroker Hank Mark Werner

On November 8, 2017, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that a broker named Hank Mark Werner of upstate New York had been barred from the securities industry. The headline: “FINRA Hearing Panel Bars Broker for Defrauding Elderly, Blind Customer”.

The pattern of this behavior is outrageous but not all that unusual. It makes a good example of how financial professionals fail their clients.

According to the FINRA news release, Mr. Werner served as the licensed broker for an elderly couple since 1995. The husband died in 2012. Mr. Werner made some 700 trades on “behalf” of his client, a sightless 77-year old recently widowed woman in poor health between October 2012 and December 2015. He ultimately collected $210,000 in commissions. The panel’s decision includes an order of restitution to the widow, a fine, Mr. Werner’s banishment from the industry, and a further fine and censure for his employer – Legend Securities, brokerage firm expelled from the securities industry as of April, 2017.

Read More

Pasieczny Elected to PIABA Board of Directors & Recognized for Outstanding Service

Congratulations to SYK litigator Darlene Pasieczny. Darlene was recently awarded an Outstanding Service Award from the Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA) for 2017, as co-chair of the PIABA Self-Regulatory Organization (SRO) Committee. As well as the award, Darlene was also elected to the PIABA Board of Directors, a position she will serve for a three year term.

Read More

Play it Forward for Houston!

Play it Forward received a call for help from Kelly Wells, former Portlander and current Houston resident, when Kingwood High was flooded by Hurricane Harvey and their music program was completely destroyed. Join us as we answer the call to replace their instruments, raise money and… Play It Forward for Houston!

Read More