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Investors Fight Brokers From Cetera, Wells Fargo Over Big Energy Losses

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Investors are not happy with low oil prices, and a growing number of them are reaching out to attorneys to take action against their advisors.

On Tuesday, the Soreide Law Group filed an arbitration claim against a Wells Fargo advisor in Ohio, John B. Leonard, for selling a retiree large positions in energy-related master limited partnerships. The lawyers say these investments cost the client $150,000, or 60% of her retirement savings.

Separately, the group is representing several clients who have filed claims against a registered rep affiliated with Cetera Advisors and against the broker-dealer over energy investments. And it expects to file more claims this year.

“We have filed 25 cases related to energy investments and want to recover [funds] for investors who lost money, particularly those in large, concentrated positions,” said attorney Lars Soreide in an interview with ThinkAdvisor.

“There will definitely be more cases filed. By the end of year, the number could be 40 to 50,” he explained.

The filings show that investors are asking for nearly $5.8 million to cover damages tied to breach of fiduciary duty, negligence and other charges, according to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority BrokerCheck disclosures for the Cetera-affiliated advisor George C. Merhoff Jr.

“With low interest rates, advisors been recommending [investments] with higher yields and have not been giving enough regard to the underlying securities,” the attorney said. “These are highly concentrated positions for retirees, who cannot afford to lose the principal, and are generally inappropriate investments.”

Cetera responded that “we are in the process of reviewing and responding to the legal action directed towards our firm.

“With respect to the action directed towards the independent contractor financial advisor named in this, we expect our affiliated financial advisors to adhere to the highest ethical and professional standards, and we are closely reviewing this matter to determine appropriate next steps. Beyond that, as a matter of policy, we do not publicly discuss such legal matters.”

Wells Fargo declined to comment on the matter.

“Lot of brokers were selling these [energy] shares without their firm telling them to,” said Soreide.

But in some cases, large firms – that were also making loans to energy companies – were recommending these investments through their advisors, “which seems like a conflict of interest,” he adds.


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