Articles Posted in Provident Royalties

Wedbush Morgan broker Bambi Holzer, whose employment background is filled with customer complaints for the sale of variable annuities, is now facing new complaints for the sale of Provident Shale Royalties private placement investments. Provident has been accused of being a Ponzi scheme by the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Both private placements and variable annuities products are high commission products, which raises concern whether brokers are recommending these products in the best interests of their clients, or whether the brokers are putting ahead their own financial interests. Provident private placements paid commissions of approximately 6% to 10%, which significantly exceeds commissions earned on more traditional investment products.

Ms. Holzer is currently a registered representative of Wedbush Morgan Securities, Inc. and Sequoia Securities Corp. According to her website, she has appeared on several network television shows such as the Today Show, NBC, CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg and has authored numerous retirement planning and investment books. However, it is not mentioned on Ms. Holzer’s website that her employment record reflects 42 settled customer disputes, violations of firm policy at other brokerage firms and regulatory suspension and fines based on her misconduct (according to FINRA BrokerCheck).
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Today the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) announced that it has expelled Provident Asset Management, LLC, the affiliate broker-dealer of Provident Shale Royalties that marketed the fraudulent Ponzi scheme private placement investments.

FINRA proclaims it is actively investigating other broker-dealers involved in the sale of Provident and other private placement interests. FINRA is looking at firms’ compliance with suitability, supervision and advertising rules, as well as potential instances of fraud.

“While the private placement market is an important source of capital for many companies, the market is also one in which investors have been subject to unsuitable or abusive sales tactics,” stated Susan L. Merrill, FINRA Executive Vice President and Chief of Enforcement.
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According to a recent Associated Press (AP) analysis, more than 150 Ponzi schemes collapsed in 2009, compared with about 40 in 2008. In other words, nearly four times as many Ponzi schemes imploded in 2009 than in 2008. The AP’s analysis included criminal cases at all U.S. attorney’s offices and the FBI, as well as criminal and civil actions taken by state prosecutors and regulators at both the federal and state level.

In 2009, tens of thousands of investors lost more than $16.5 billion in these investment scams, including the life savings of many people.

The Securities and Exchange Commission describes a Ponzi Scheme as a type of illegal pyramid scheme named for Charles Ponzi, who duped thousands of New England residents into investing in a postage stamp speculation scheme back in the 1920s. Money from new investors is used to pay off earlier investors until the whole scheme collapses. Often there is no “investment” occurring – money is simply being shifted from one person to another, with the initiator of the investment scheme skimming money off the top.

Provident Royalties and Medical Capital securities were both offered under Regulation D of the Securities Act (or Reg D). Reg D contains exemptions from the registration requirements, allowing some issuer companies to offer and sell their securities without having to register the securities with the SEC.

Because securities offered under Reg D are not registered with the SEC, the transparency of these companies is limited. Broker-dealers must engage in the due diligence process to determine the validity of the offering, the issuer’s operations and suitability of the investments for their clients. Some broker-dealers engage an outside due diligence firm, whereas others perform their own due diligence, or a combination of both.

Many of the broker-dealers that sold Provident Royalties and Medical Capital securities “relied” on reports prepared by outside diligence firms and actually collected a due diligence fee for allegedly reviewing these reports. The problem with relying on such reports, however, are two-fold: 1) the firms preparing the reports are typically paid by the issuer, posing a conflict of interest and 2) the due diligence firms tend to produce only the most rudimentary information, providing only a brief overview of the issuers and their finances.