Private-placement sales in Provident Royalties LLC have come back to haunt many once-successful broker/dealers. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) charged Provident with civil fraud last summer, accusing the company and various top executives of operating a $485 million Ponzi scheme allegedly involving phony oil and gas securities.
Fifty broker/dealers that sold private placements in Provident are now being sued by Provident’s trustee, Milo H. Segner Jr. At the same time, hundreds of investors have filed arbitration claims with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA).
As reported July 11 by Investment News, many broker/dealers facing Provident-related lawsuits appear to have dangerously low net-capital positions – a fact that could put them in peril if they eventually pay out large legal claims over soured Provident deals.
“Broker-dealers facing millions of dollars in lawsuits could be in a world of hurt,” said Carrie Wisniewski, president of B/D Compliance Associates, in the Investment News article. “It’s a big problem,” she said.
One of the broker/dealers named in the trustee’s June 21 lawsuit is Capital Financial Services. It had only $390,000 in excess net capital at the end of 2009. The firm also has at least nine pending arbitration claims against its president, Brian Boppre, totaling $10.8 million in damages.
Next Financial Group also is a big seller of Provident private placements. It had $3.1 million in excess net capital at the end of last year, including $1.1 million reserved to pay contingent legal liabilities, according to Investment News.
Violation of the SEC’s net-capital requirement can signal the end of a broker/dealer. The Provident case – and the resulting legal claims it produced – has pushed many broker/dealers to the breaking point. Okoboji Financial Services, the fifth-largest seller of the Provident private placements, said in May it was closing up shop. Okoboji reportedly had excess net capital of $32,048 at the end of 2009, but made no provisions for legal liabilities.
GunnAllen Financial got caught up in a similar situation. A leading seller of investment deals in Provident Royalties, the broker/dealer closed in March when its available capital fell below the amount needed to adhere to industry rules. At least 10 other firms that sold private placements in Provident Royalties, as well as in Medical Capital Holdings, have shuttered recently because of net-capital issues.
If you are a retail or institutional investor and sustained investment losses related to Provident Royalties, contact our securities fraud team. We can evaluate your situation to determine if you have a claim.