exclamation point on an orange circleJPMorgan Chase & Co.’s broker-dealer subsidiary, J.P. Morgan Securities LLC (JPMS), agreed to pay a $125 million penalty and acknowledged that it failed to preserve written communications as required by federal securities laws. The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) press release announcing the charges and penalty is available here SEC.gov | JPMorgan Admits to Widespread Recordkeeping Failures and Agrees to Pay $125 Million Penalty to Resolve SEC Charges

According to the SEC, from January 2018 through November 2020, JPMS admitted that its employees communicated about securities-related matters on personal devices using texts, WhatsApp, and personal email accounts. The federal securities laws, including Section 17(a) of the Exchange Act and Rules 17a-4(b)(4) and 17a-4(j), require broker-dealers to preserve these records.  JPMS did not. 

JPMS’ failure to adhere to recordkeeping requirements was widespread and not hidden. The SEC’s order explains, “To the contrary, supervisors – i.e., the very people responsible for supervising employees to prevent this misconduct – routinely communicated using their personal devices. In fact, dozens of managing directors across the firm and senior supervisors responsible for implementing JPMorgan’s policies and procedures, and for overseeing employees’ compliance with those policies and procedures, themselves failed to comply with firm policies by communicating using non-firm approved methods on their personal devices about the firm’s securities business.”  JPMS’ failure to reasonably supervise employees violated Section 15(b)(4)(E) of the Exchange Act.

Perhaps not surprising to lawyers who represent investors in cases against broker-dealers and others in the financial industry, the SEC’s order goes on to explain that in responding to “documents and records requests in numerous Commission investigations…JPMorgan frequently did not search for records” on employees’ personal devices.

A recent Wall Street Journal article, A Couple Stored IRA Gold at Home.  They Owe the IRS More than $300,000, is a reminder about what can be complex rules for using an IRA to invest in esoteric assets, such as gold, silver, platinum, and other precious metals. Precious metals tax avoidance strategies and investment scams proliferate on the internet and social media. These scams are so common that the Commodity Future Trading Commission published a fraud advisory. According to the California Department of Financial Protection & Innovation, Department of Business Oversight Sues to Stop $185 Million Coins Scam that Targeted Senior Citizens | The Department of Financial Protection and Innovation, for example, the business behind metals.com targeted senior citizens through advertisements on conservative media and websites. Metals.com, according to the state, used fear tactics to pressure seniors to purchase overpriced coins through self-directed IRAs. The promotion of self-directed IRAs to hold esoteric or alternative investments is common in precious metals investing scams. These scams often combine bad tax advice with bad investment advice. They also often charge high fees, which in some cases are not disclosed. In some instances, the people and entities behind the investments are unlicensed. The Wall Street Journal article makes it clear that an investor considering using an IRA to invest in precious metals would be wise to obtain professional advice.

person swimming signThe U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California announced the arrest and indictment of Matthew Piercey in connection with a fraud and Ponzi investment scheme involving Family Wealth Legacy and Zolla. Mr. Piercey is alleged to have raised approximately $35 million from investors between 2015 and 2020. In an unusual twist on investment fraud cases, Mr. Piercey allegedly fled in a vehicle from law enforcement when they attempted to arrest them. The chase ended at a lake where witnesses saw Mr. Piercey take something from his truck before swimming into the water. The Sacramento Bee reported that Mr. Piercey remained in the lake for approximately 25 minutes, using a submersible sea scooter to move around underwater. 

The indictment, describing the fraud and Ponzi scheme in detail, is available here.