Securities Industry Commentator by Bill Singer Esq

May 2, 2019
The Texas State Securities Board entered an Emergency Cease and Desist Order against, an unregistered firm accused of cold-calling elderly investors to convince them to liquidate their securities in registered firms and invest in precious metals. Pointedly, the Order references an 80-year-old Dallas woman who was allegedly persuaded to liquidate $850,000 in her retirement accounts and transfer the money to invest with the company. As alleged in part in the TSSB Release:

[M] salespeople are cold-calling potential investors in Texas and elsewhere to try to convince them that their money isn't safe at registered brokers and investment advisers and they should move their funds into precious metals investments.

The majority of's clients are 65 to 90 years old, according to evidence secured by the Enforcement Division of the State Securities Board.
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The firm is also threatening clients who have publicly complained about their purchase of precious metals from On April 17, a law firm representing sent a letter it called a "Pre-Lawsuit Notice" and a "Cease and Desist Demand" to a 75-year-old retired schoolteacher who had publicly complained about rolling over her IRA to invest $65,991 in precious metals from
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Although is telling potential investors it does not charge a fee for the purchase of precious metals, investors are allegedly paying a spread between the retail and wholesale price of the metals. That spread is as high as 33% for transactions involving individual retirement accounts.
During an interview with Andrew Ross Sorkin last year, an audience member asked SEC Chairman Jay Clayton why a cryptosecurity (which is only transferable on a blockchain) needs a transfer agent. Essentially, Clayton's answer was because we need to blame someone for an illegal transfer. Although that answer is consistent with modern ideas of human responsibility, it betrayed a deep ignorance of how blockchain-enabled securities actually work. Until we do a better job reconciling the reality of blockchain technology with our traditional notions of human agency, we won't achieve a coherent theory of how to regulate cryptosecurities.
Edward Williams pled guilty in the United States District Court for the District of Connecticut to one count of bank fraud and one count of aggravated identity theft in connection with his theft of checks and subsequent alteration. Williams' criminal history includes 74 arrests and numerous convictions, including convictions for forgery, larceny and burglary offenses. Williams was sentenced to 54 months in prison plus three years of supervised release. As set forth in part in the DOJ Release:

One victim of this scheme was a Windsor resident who had written a check payable to American Express, mailed the check with his American Express bill, and later discovered that the check had been altered and cashed for $985.30.  Another individual whose identity Williams used to cash this check and commit other crimes was subsequently wrongly arrested by a local police department.

Other victims of this scheme include a West Hartford couple who had left a holiday card containing a $15 check for their newspaper delivery person outside of their mailbox, and later discovered it had been altered and cashed for $870; a West Hartford resident who learned that she had a box of checks she ordered stolen after Williams attempted to cash one of the checks for $400; and an individual who had personal checks stolen from a book he kept at his business, and was subsequently informed that Williams had deposited four of the checks totaling more than $5,000 into a bank account Williams had opened.

In total, between August 2016 and June 2017, Williams, or his co-conspirators, successfully cashed $27,311.35 in fraudulently obtained checks.  He, or others working with him, also attempted to cash $40,861.65 in fraudulently obtained checks.

Stockbroker Barred for Undisclosed Loans from Customers and Conversion. In the Matter of Anselmo Contreras Jr., Respondent (FINRA AWC 2018057254501)
For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Anselmo Contreras Jr. submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Anselmo Contreras Jr. a Bar from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. As set forth in part in the AWC:

In or around March 2016, Contreras recommended to Customer 1, a Firm customer, that he invest in a real estate venture involving the purchase and rehabilitation of a home in foreclosure. Acting on Contreras's recommendation, in April 2016 Customer 1 provided Contreras with a $10,000 cashier's check made payable to Contreras to invest in the venture. 

However, instead of investing Customer l's funds in the real estate venture, Contreras deposited the funds into his personal bank account. Contreras then used the $10,000 he obtained from Customer 1 for his own personal use. 

Contreras converted Customer l's funds without his knowledge or authorization. Although Contreras repaid the funds after Customer 1 filed a complaint with the Firm in October 2017, Contreras's conduct violated FINRA Rules 2150(a) and 2010. 

. . .

In April 2016, Contreras borrowed $10,000 and $20,000 from Customers 2 and 3, respectively. Contreras was the GSR assigned to the Firm accounts of Customers 2 and 3. Contreras used the money he borrowed from Customers 2 and 3 for his own personal use. 

Contreras did not repay the loans from Customers 2 and 3 in full until August 2018. Contreras did not seek or obtain approval from the Firm to borrow money from Customer 2 or 3, in violation of the Firm's policies and procedures and FINRA Rules 3240 and 2010.  

FINRA Member Firm Principal Fined and Suspended Over EmailsIn the Matter of Jamie Bennett, Respondent (FINRA AWC 2015047201702)
For the purpose of proposing a settlement of rule violations alleged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority ("FINRA"), without admitting or denying the findings, prior to a regulatory hearing, and without an adjudication of any issue, Jamie Bennett submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent ("AWC"), which FINRA accepted. In accordance with the terms of the AWC, FINRA imposed upon Jamie Bennett a $5,000 fine and a 30-calendar-day suspension from associating with any FINRA member in any capacity. Bennett was first registered in 2003 and in 2011 he founded Silber Bennett Financial Inc. where he served in various capacities including Director, Chief Executive Officer, Chief Financial Officer, Financial and Operations Principal, and Chief Compliance Officer. Bennett has no prior relevant disciplinary history. As set forth in part in the "Overview" of the AWC:

While assigned responsibility for Silber Bennett's review and retention of email, CCO Bennett failed to ensure that the firm captured, retained and reviewed emails related to firm business, specifically: (1) emails sent or received by a Silber Bennett branch office from October 2013 through June 2015, and (ii) certain business-related emails sent or received by Bennett through his outside email address from January 2014 through November 2015. 

As a result, Bennett violated FINRA Rule 3110 (for conduct on or after December 1, 2014), NASD Rule 3010 (for conduct before December 1, 2014),2and FINRA Rules 4511 and 2010. In addition, Bennett caused the firm to act in contravention of Section 17(a) of the Securities and Exchange Act of 1934 (the "Exchange Act") and Rule 17a-4 promulgated thereunder, and therefore violated FINRA Rule 2010.