Securities & Investment Fraud Lawyers
Since its inception in March 2005, Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. has dedicated its practice to representing investors in lawsuits and arbitration claims against brokers, financial advisors, investment advisors, and the companies they work for. Our Chicago investment fraud attorneys offer their clients a combined 35 years of experience fighting for investor rights from offices in Chicago, Illinois and suburban Barrington, Illinois and Downers Grove, Illinois. We have represented investors in FINRA arbitration claims and investment lawsuits from every state and territory, in addition to representing investors from several countries. The attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices have dedicated their life’s work to representing investors who have been cheated or defrauded by those professionals they trusted with their hard-earned money and retirement savings, recovering in excess of $50 million for investors over the years.
Our track record speaks for itself. We have successfully prosecuted well over a thousand FINRA arbitration cases and lawsuits on behalf of defrauded investors. The scope of these cases varies widely. Whether you lost money because your financial advisor or broker invested too much of your money in volatile stocks or mutual funds, or you are a victim in a criminal Ponzi scheme, you have legal rights that deserve to be enforced. You also deserve to be compensated for the investment losses you sustained to put you back in the position you were in prior to your financial advisor’s negligent or fraudulent advice. For most of our clients, the money they turn over to their investment advisor or broker constitutes the majority, if not all, of their retirement savingsa nest egg that took decades of discipline and hard work to build. Investors trust that their brokers and financial advisors will act in their best interest, follow instructions, and listen so that they understand their individual needs. The types of investor cases vary widely depending on the nature of the relationship, the conduct, and the types of investments at issue.Losses in Alternative Investments
There are too many Financial Advisors and companies they work for that have one core interest in mind: generating revenue from your investment accounts. These advisors adhere to the company line and will peddle investments that may be unsuitable or high risk just because they pay higher commissions and fees. These sorts of investments are generically referred to as alternative investments. These include Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) and oil and gas limited partnerships, or MLPs. Your advisor may sell alternative investments to you under the guise that your portfolio benefits from broader diversification, like Business Development Corporations (BDCs) or other private placements investments. Our Chicago investment fraud attorneys have years of experience prosecuting cases involving alternative investments.Losses in Annuities or Insurance Products
Another favorite amongst financial advisors prioritizing revenue over clients’ best interests are variable annuities and other life insurance products. Variable annuities have caused untold harm to investors over the years. These extremely complicated insurance products are rarely suitable for investors and pay the financial advisor and insurance company fees on multiple levels. Almost all variable annuities include a steep surrender charge, usually decreasing year-to-year, starting as high as 10% and lasting upwards of ten years. Once an investor puts her money into a variable annuity, in order to get that money back, you have to pay the insurance company a penalty for accessing your money. On a yearly basis, annuities charge anywhere between 2% and 3% of your money in various fees and charges. The Financial Advisor also gets paid a handsome commission by the insurance company to sell annuities. And frequently, annuities are sold to investors in an IRA, which is incredibly unsuitable. Our investment fraud attorneys located in Chicago have spent years prosecuting annuity and insurance product cases.Losses due to Churning, Excessive Trading, and Margin Abuse
Financial Advisors also increase revenue by trading your account which generates commissions. Excessive trading or churning and abusing margin can result in catastrophic losses for investment accounts. If your broker is frequently trading your accounts buying and selling stocks, it is likely your advisor is market timing. High levels of trading also create a huge drag on your account. If the trading and margin interest result in commissions and fees of even10% per year, in order for your account to perform better than the overall market, it has to almost match the historical rate of return of the S&P 500 just to break even. This cost-to-equity ratio is just one metric used to determine whether the trading in an account is excessive. The other core metric used to determine whether trading is excessive is the turnover rate, which is the total dollar amount of purchases made in your account divided by the average capital investment on an annualized basis. Our Chicago based investment fraud lawyers have prosecuted hundreds of cases involving churning, excessive trading, or margin abuse.Losses due to Negligence or Misrepresentations
Many investors suffer losses in their accounts because their financial advisor fails to adhere to fundamental investment tenets of asset allocation and diversification. By exposing too much of your money to one type of security, like common stocks for example, your advisor is failing to perform a basic duty well known to all financial advisors. Also, lack of diversification inside of an asset class can cause serious harm to investor accounts. If your advisor overconcentrates your account in a specific industry sector like bank or financial stocks, or oil and gas stocks, you are being overexposed to one sector of the market, which can result in serious investment losses. Financial advisors are licensed professionals who must pass exams and undergo yearly training to maintain those licenses. Proper asset allocation and diversification is a fundamental cornerstone of investment advice and advisors have a duty to adhere to these standards. Our Chicago investment fraud attorneys offer representation nationwide to evaluate the conduct of your financial advisor and prosecute them for their misdeeds with your hard earned money.Losses due to Fraud and Ponzi Schemes
Often times investors are victims of fraudulent scams and Ponzi Schemes. These schemes sometimes take shape in the offices of trusted, licensed, and supervised financial advisors. When a financial advisor recommends an investment in a side business, or some new start-up company, this is referred to in the securities industry as selling away. In many instances, the advisors sells-away in plain sight, holds meetings about his scam in his office, uses firm email to communicate about his selling away, and sometimes even creates fake statements to lull investors into believing the investments being offered are legitimate. These schemes devastate thousands of investors every year. Brokerage firms can be liable for Ponzi schemes or other acts of fraud perpetrated by their financial advisors because these firms have a duty to reasonable supervise the conduct and affairs of their representatives. Our investment fraud lawyers in Chicago can help you recover money lost in Ponzi schemes.Recover Investment Losses Through Arbitration
If you have suffered financial losses because of the negligence or fraud of your financial advisor or broker through unsuitable investment recommendations, over-concentration, churning, misrepresenting risks, conversion or selling away, you have legal rights and options to pursue recovery of those losses. The first option most investors have is to pursue a claim in arbitration through FINRA. Few people realize it, but buried deep in the fine print of your brokerage or investment account application or agreement is a binding arbitration clause. By signing up and agreeing to do business with a brokerage firm like Merrill Lynch or Morgan Stanley, investors waive their right to file suit in a court of law. Instead, if an investor wants to pursue damages against his brokerage firm, it can only be accomplished by filing a claim through FINRA Dispute Resolution. Our firm has handled close to 1,200 FINRA arbitration claims and we have unique, wide-ranging experience with every procedural step in this process, from filing a properly drafted Statement of Claim, to having an in-depth knowledge of the arbitrator pool based on years of intelligence and experience appearing before these arbitrators. We also understand the discovery process in FINRA Arbitration, which is almost exclusively limited to document exchange. If you don’t know what documents to ask for from the brokerage firm, you will not get the results you deserve. Few firms nationwide have collectively tried more FINRA arbitration cases than Stoltmann Law Offices. While arbitration hearings are similar in some respects to trials in court there are major differences that make an experienced law firm in the securities field crucial. Our vast experience of our Chicago-based investment fraud lawyers in this arena over the years has resulted in our clients collectively receiving millions of dollars in settlements and FINRA arbitration awards.
If you are a client of a registered investment advisor or RIA, chances are, you signed an agreement that contains an arbitration clause, but not for FINRA. Rather, the arbitration forum will most likely be either the American Arbitration Association (AAA) or the Judicial Arbitration Mediation Service (JAMS). The attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices have filed hundreds of cases for investors over the years in AAA, JAMS, and the Hong Kong International Arbitration Centre (HKIAC). Each different forum has its own unique set of procedural rules, quirks, and mechanisms that navigating can be difficult for attorneys that don’t share our experiences. If you do not know if you signed an arbitration agreement we will figure that out for you.
There is a chance your case does not need to be filed in arbitration anywhere and you will need to go to court to enforce your rights. The attorneys at Stoltmann Law Offices have litigated hundreds of cases in both state and federal court. Our representation of clients in court includes class actions claims against banks and brokerage firms for their roles in facilitating Ponzi schemes or in promoting and selling private offerings that went bust only months after selling the investments to their investor clients.Class Action and Business Litigation
In the last few years, Stoltmann Law Offices has expanded the scope of its practice area and now has a dedicated team of attorneys who handle litigation on a nationwide scale. From class action work to representing hundreds of former students defrauded by their for-profit universities, to handling business break-ups and contentious partnership disputes, Stoltmann Law Offices has the breadth of experience in all arenas to maximize recovery for our clients.
Stoltmann Law Offices offers an array of fee structures for clients depending on the case. If it is an investor case, we understand clients who are recent victims of negligent investment advice or fraud typically do not have the means to pay an attorney on an hourly or retainer basis. In those circumstances we offer representation on a pure contingency fee basis, meaning if we do not recover money for our client, we do not get paid.
Stoltmann Law Offices, P.C. prides itself on aggressively prosecuting investment fraud across the country. Our team of lawyers has decades of experience fighting for investor rights in every forum. We use a hands-on approach with our clients and pride ourselves on being extremely diligent communicators. We understand most of our clients have been victimized once by someone they trusted, so we strive to create and maintain a relationship worthy of our clients’ trust and confidence. If you have any issues with your investments, retirement accounts, IRAs, brokerage accounts, financial advisors, or, if you have a business dispute or need more general guidance with litigation, please contact our firm today. We offer services nationwide, including in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle, Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Las Vegas, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Phoenix, Minneapolis, St. Louis, Indianapolis, San Francisco, Denver, New Orleans, and Boston.