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Ponzi Schemes Recommended by Stockbrokers—How Can Firms Miss Them?

Do brokerage firms knowingly turn a blind eye and a deaf ear to the Ponzi schemes recommended by their brokers, or are there instances where brokers really are successful in hiding these schemes from even the most vigilant financial firms? Not surprisingly, the answer is “yes” to both questions. However, it should come as a surprise because firms really don’t have any upside when their brokers participate in outside business activities or private securities transactions. Pursuant to Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Rules 3030 and 3040, brokers are required to notify their firms of any outside business or investment opportunity they get involved in, and with regard to the investment opportunities, the brokerage firm is required to supervise the scheme just as if it was branded and endorsed by the firm. When firms don’t properly supervise these outside securities transactions, they can be held financially responsible for the victims’ losses.

According to the United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) it filed 60 enforcement cases that involved Ponzi schemes, with some of the most notable being Bernie Madoff and Sir Robert Allen Stanford who made off with an alleged $50 Billion and $7 Billion, respectively. But one thing is certain, given the heyday of the last bull market and no doubt the lifestyles built by these con men and even well intending stockbrokers, there will be more PONZI schemes in the news.

For those that find themselves victims of PONZI schemes, more troubling may be the fact that the regulators such as the United States Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and various states securities regulators may have received advanced warning in these schemes, but slow to act. Many of these regulatory bodies and their employees have found themselves the target of accusations that they simply turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to obvious warning signs, and in some instances actual knowledge of the wrongdoing. While the regulators are becoming more and more zealous in their enforcement efforts, they rarely recover an individual victim’s losses.

So what’s an investor to do? Better to be vigilant before investing, than a vigilante after the money is gone. The SEC offers investors some obvious best practices and warning signs to try and avoid investing in a PONZI scheme. However, even some of the most savvy investors remain blindly trusting of a polished con man. Recoveries are usually fractions of the amount invested and are often confined to the efforts of a Receiver appointed by the Federal Courts. However, when a FINRA registered stockbroker or SEC registered investment adviser is involved, victims stand a much better chance of recovering their lost funds through an arbitration or a lawsuit against the broker or adviser’s brokerage firm for violations of FINRA Rules 3030 or 3040, and also under claims that the firm failed to adequately supervise the broker who promoted the scheme. If you find yourself in that situation, be sure to interview and hire attorneys that are competent in the area of arbitrating claims against Wall Street brokerage firms.

Bryan Forman’s Comment: More and more Ponzi schemes are showing up, and brokerage firms that turned the proverbial blind eye and deaf ear to their brokers’ involvement in these schemes will pay the price for inadequate supervisory oversight.

To learn more about PONZI schemes and how to recover when you have lost money, visit a competent securities fraud and arbitration attorney.