Friday, December 3, 2010
George Smaragdis (202) 728-8988
WASHINGTON — FINRA announced today that it has filed a notice seeking a Temporary Cease and Desist Order (TCDO) against San Antonio-based brokerage Pinnacle Partners Financial Corporation and its President, Brian K. Alfaro. The TCDO would halt allegedly fraudulent and illegal sales activities at the firm relating to eight unregistered private placement offerings selling interests in oil and gas joint ventures. FINRA is seeking the order based on belief that customer harm and depletion of customer assets will likely continue before a formal disciplinary proceeding against Pinnacle and Alfaro can be completed.
In its related underlying complaint against Pinnacle Partners and Alfaro, FINRA alleges that from August 2008 to the present Alfaro and Pinnacle have operated a "boiler room" in which numerous brokers place thousands of cold calls every week to solicit investments in Alfaro's oil and gas drilling joint ventures. The operators of the ventures are entities owned or controlled by Alfaro. Through the boiler room Alfaro and Pinnacle have raised more than $10 million from over 100 investors for offerings that are alleged to materially misrepresent or omit material facts. In addition, FINRA charges Alfaro with misusing customer funds by collecting funds from investors for drilling and testing of wells, and then spending those funds for unrelated business and personal expenses.
FINRA also charges that Pinnacle and Alfaro provided investors with investment summaries for eight separate oil and gas offerings that included numerous misrepresentations and omissions including grossly inflated natural gas prices, projected natural gas reserves, estimated gross returns and estimated monthly cash flows.
FINRA has also charged Pinnacle and Alfaro with the sale of unregistered securities; the destruction of documents and the maintenance of inaccurate books and records; and the failure to report numerous customer complaints.
Under FINRA rules, a hearing shall be conducted not later than 15 days after service of the notice and filing that initiates the temporary cease and desist proceeding, unless extended, and the Hearing Panel shall issue a decision not later than 10 days after receipt of the hearing transcript. If the temporary cease and desist order is granted, it will generally remain in effect until the underlying disciplinary action against the firm for this misconduct has been resolved. FINRA may seek to suspend or expel a firm for violating a TCDO.
As to the related underlying complaint, under FINRA rules, the individuals and firms named in a complaint can file a response and request a hearing before a FINRA disciplinary panel. Possible sanctions include a fine, an order to pay restitution, censure, suspension, or bar from the securities industry.
Investors can obtain more information about, and the disciplinary record of, any FINRA-registered broker or brokerage firm by using FINRA's BrokerCheck. FINRA makes BrokerCheck available at no charge. In 2009, members of the public used this service to conduct 18.5 million reviews of broker or firm records. Investors can access BrokerCheck at www.finra.org/brokercheck or by calling (800) 289-9999.
FINRA, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, is the largest independent regulator for all securities firms doing business in the United States. FINRA is dedicated to investor protection and market integrity through effective and efficient regulation and complementary compliance and technology-based services. FINRA touches virtually every aspect of the securities business - from registering and educating all industry participants to examining securities firms, writing and enforcing rules and the federal securities laws, informing and educating the investing public, providing trade reporting and other industry utilities, and administering the largest dispute resolution forum for investors and registered firms. For more information, please visit www.finra.org.