A Senior Citizen Scam “-” Michael Lieberman at 866-883-2294 who claims to be from a law firm.

I am not the only lawyer in my family.  My sister, Andrea, is a bankruptcy lawyer in New Jersey.  My dad is a retired lawyer after having practiced 40 years with one firm in Pennsylvania.  I have three other members of the extended family who are lawyers in Florida.  But this post is about my dad.

He’s been getting phone calls from an outfit claiming that they have to serve papers on him.  They have left him messages to call them.  The last message was from a Michael Lieberman (probably not his real name) from a law firm somewhere in the United States (I guess).  Dad smelled a rat and was ignoring them.  I called the number “Michael Lieberman” left 866-883-2294.  A woman answered the phone.

I identified myself as a lawyer and asked to speak to Michael Lieberman.  I was told he was “in court.”  I asked where I was calling.  I was told “Washington.”  I asked if it was the State of Washington or the District of Columbia.  There was a pause, then she said the state.  I asked if she was in Seattle and she hesitantly agreed that she was there.  (I’m skeptical, by the way)  I asked for the name of the law firm.  She said “Feldman & Feldman”  Ah-ha, I thought, now we’re on to something.  So while I was talking to this woman, I went to Google and looked for Feldman & Feldman in Washington.

Surprise! No Feldman & Feldman in Washington state.  No Michael Lieberman in Washington state. She “brought up” my dad’s account.  She had the last four digits of his Social Security number.  I asked for the specifics.  She said that he owed HSBC some money and that he could pay it or they would “serve him with a judgment.”  I told her that he hasn’t had an account with HSBC and before they could “serve hims with a judgment” they would need to serve him and prove that he owed the money.  (They would also have to go through me, which she may have figured out.) I explained to her that it was not that simple.  And since she was in “Washington” it wasn’t going to happen overnight.  We got “disconnected.”

I called back.  I tried to resume the conversation.  We got “disconnected” again.  I was starting to feel like she didn’t want to talk to me any more.

I called again.  This time I was sent to voice mail.  I can’t remember if I left a message.

So, “Michael Lieberman” from Feldman & Feldman in Seattle, Washington, if you’re out there and reading this blog.  Call me.  We should talk.

And if you get a call from Michael Lieberman who leaves the number 866-883-2294, tell him I’m waiting for a call back.  I won’t be holding my breath.

That’s the view of one “fraud-fighting” lawyer in Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin (and not Elliot Ness).

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Ex-Newbridge Securities Broker Sentenced to Six Years in Prison “-” No Surprise Here.

The Palm Beach Post reports that Brent Deviney had a gambling addiction.  He blames that gambling addiction for the theft of funds from his in-laws.  If anyone had looked at Deviney’s record with any sort of jaundiced eye, they would have realized that he was a ticking bomb waiting to go off.

For all the brouhaha about the FINRA Brokercheck system, this case pretty much confirms that Brokercheck does not help people avoid bad brokers.  Prior to his problems at Newbridge, he was accused of forging customer names on account documents so that he could become the servicing broker on annuity accounts.  The State of Florida delayed his registration for 3 months, fined him $5,000 and put him on a supervision agreement for 2 years.  FINRA suspended his license for 6 months (but gave him credit for the 3 months that Florida meted out) and fined him the same $5,000 that Florida did.  In fact, FINRA gave him full credit for the money paid to Florida.  But he managed to stay in the business because a firm was willing to hire him.

Fast forward a couple of years and, SURPRISE!, he’s stealing money from his in-laws and his wife’s IRA.  He was also the subject of a million dollar arbitration award, but that was after he was fired.  Based on the description of the claims, it appears that at least some of the money he stole from his wife came from a Merrill Lynch account.  His wife and his mother-in-law’s estate both obtained awards against him.

Society will get its revenge.  This miscreant will be put away for 6 years starting in a couple of weeks.  That will give him plenty of time to think about what went wrong here.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin

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Wait. There are corrupt public officials? SEC enjoins a municipal bond offering.

This is unbelievable. The city of Harvey (named after the invisible rabbit?), Illinois, is the subject of an injunction order obtained by the SEC which alleges that its offering documents are fraudulent. I don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s see — according to the SEC press release a prior offering was to fund a Holiday Inn. Huh? Even worse, the funds were diverted from the Holiday Inn just so the town could pay its bills. From the press release – “According to news reports, the proposed Holiday Inn hotel and conference center stands as a decrepit shell. The hotel’s façade has many holes in it, and the interior of the hotel appears gutted in places with dangling wires and exposed studs.” Yeah, but in season I’ll bet they get at least $100 a night for a room. Is there even a “season” in Harvey?

I tried to locate said Holiday Inn, which was to be a refurbished Ramada Inn, and I couldn’t find it on Google Maps.  But Harvey, at least near the Interstate, looks like a depressing place.  A Holiday Inn might have been a step up.  The Chicago Tribune writes “The Tribune revealed in July the failed deal to redevelop the aging former Ramada Inn off Halsted Street, which sits near Interstate 80 adjacent to a strip club.”

After I read the article, I found the hotel — the giveaway was that it was next to a strip club.  You can see the depressing picture here and click on Street View.

But there’s more. The comptroller of the town allegedly pocketed $269,000 derived from the $1.7 million in bond proceeds. A corrupt politician? Can’t be.

So the SEC decided that enough was enough. They swooped in and stopped the offering, alleging that the current offering contained misstatements about the use of the proceeds. The city didn’t include that the comptroller was going to take 15% for himself? I guess that might have hurt the offering’s prospects. The comptroller, by the way, has agreed not to make any “extraordinary” expenditures. At least he wasn’t using the funds for a nooner at the Holiday Inn given its state of affairs.

You can’t make this stuff up.

That’s the view of one bemused Lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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Coastal Equities Cold Calls Again. Welcome Back.

A New York number rang up. It was “Clark” from Coastal Equities. Coastal Equities has called me before and I’ve asked them to not call me again.

I asked “Clark” for his last name. He told me it was “Pennington”. So “Clark Pennington,” who sounded very young on the phone, was trying to find out if he could call me in the future with their “Single Best Idea.” I’m sure that idea would have been entertaining. But, as those who read this blog know, I don’t do business with cold callers. More importantly, I don’t do business with people whose registration status I can’t determine.

When I was talking to “Clark” he started to profile me, asking me if I was an aggressive investor. That is a registered representative’s job. “Clark” does not appear to have that registration. I may be wrong.

I went to FINRA’s Brokercheck website and entered “Pennington” for the name and “Coastal Equities” for the firm name. Nothing.

So I simply entered “Pennington” (figuring how many could there be?) to see if there was even a person with the name “Clark Pennington” in the FINRA database. Nope. Not at least with “Clark” as the first name and “Pennington” as the last name. “Clark’s” pitch was that they are a boutique Wall Street investment bank. Well, their HQ is on Orange Street in Wilmington, Delaware. Maybe I didn’t understand him correctly.

So now I’m wondering if they play a game like the “porn star name” game where you take the name of the street you grew up on and some town that has some relationship to your life. That becomes your porn star name. So maybe “Clark” grew up on Clark Street, somewhere. There isn’t a Clark Street in Pennington, New Jersey. There is a Clark, New Jersey, however. So maybe this is a twist on the game. (He probably thought I was some dumb Floridian with no knowledge of New Jersey geography. I grew up near Pennington, New Jersey) So “Clark Pennington” it is. Your cold-caller name. Now all we need is the Harry Potter “sorting hat” or John Belushi from Animal House to dole out the name.

It’s a shame that some young people (This makes me old saying this) are indoctrinated into this business by being convinced that smiling and dialing, using a phony name, is the way to be successful. It’s not.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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Dobin Law Group interviewed on VOIP use.

Well, it didn’t involve lights and cameras, more like an informative email exchange. Our VOIP provider, OnSip, asked me a few questions and turned it into a blog post here.

I did receive my first web- based call yesterday. It would have been more exciting if I had been here to answer it. But I was running late and missed the call. Still, it was cool to know that someone used it.

VOIP is certainly the wave of the near future. At least until they embed phones in our hand or head. And now it’s beginning to look like my embedded fax machine joke won’t be imitated in real life. Oh well.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida. I’m Marc Dobin.

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SEC stops pension administrator but 22 million dollars are missing.

This makes me angry and sad at the same time.  The SEC announced that it has shut down American Pension Services, a pension administrator in Utah.

The principal of APS was investing customer money in stuff that he shouldn’t have.  These are retirement funds!  I’m mad because this guy clearly didn’t care what he was doing to people.  I’m sad because the victims will really be hurt.

I sit as the chairperson of the Police Pension Fund for the Town of Jupiter.  It is worth over $50 million dollars.  First of all, it wouldn’t be smart for anyone to steal from cops, they are armed after all (kidding).  But it is a very serious business.  I just can’t imagine someone who has been entrusted with people’s retirement funds to do this.  It’s unconscionable.  There’s a special place in hell for these kinds of people.

The problem for me is, what is the solution?  Do I tell people to only deal with large brokerage firms?  Sometimes they can be a bad choice, too.  A few years ago, a major broker-dealer entered into a settlement with a regulator because of activities in its pension advisory service.  But if you go to a small operation, you run the risk that internal controls are non-existent and your money disappears.

The cure, I think, is vigilance and skepticism.  Nothing is as good as it seems.  And if you don’t get a good explanation, leave.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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A Cold Caller Follows the Rules. News at 11.

I received a call from Steve at Coastal Equities.  It was a New York number.  I was so shocked that he was polite that I forgot to get his last name.

He started into his script about “investment-grade” and I thought “here it comes.”  Then he tried to sell me a Verizon corporate bond.  I just about fell out of my chair.

He didn’t lie to me.  He didn’t oversell the product.  But I wasn’t interested.  We parted ways without any shouting or hurt feelings.  I think.

That’s how it’s done, folks.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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My job was crappy this week. Literally.

I have had a variety of things left on my doorstep over the course of my career.  But Monday’s “present” took the cake.  (Maybe that’s a bad expression in this case).

I was minding my own business when a client texted me that “someone or something defecated outside your door.”  That’s a sentence I never considered I would receive.  I finished my workout (after all, where is that crap going to go?) and went to the office.  The smell in the hallway was unpleasant, to say the least.  It was worse in my office.

The building did its best to clean up the mess.  I took pictures (email me if you want them) and called the police in case there was a serial crapper out there.  One officer, with his trained nose, said it was “definitely human.”  Or, under the circumstances, subhuman.

The mess has been cleaned up.  I don’t have video, so we won’t know who relieved themselves on my office threshold.  So, that was the crappy start to my week.  If the culprit has suffered some ill fate, I would then have a “crap-eating grin”.  I’m pretty sure the quantity was limited to one human.

That’s the crap-filled view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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FINRA Dispute Resolution Statistics Show No Advantage To All-Public Panel

I keep waiting to be wrong.  In fact, there are many instances where I am wrong.  But I don’t think I am in this instance.

FINRA has released its latest arbitration statistics and the hand-wringing and stat-twisting from the Claimants’ bar will likely continue unabated.

But the numbers are the numbers and here’s what we know through the end of March 2014.  The “win” percentage of all-public panels so far in 2014 was 33%.  The “win” percentage of majority-public panels was 43%.  Isn’t that a surprise?  So, again I ask – What was the purpose of this change?  It’s like the placebo portion of the test is getting healthier than the patients taking the test medication.

Worse still, the numbers have flipped.  If we include all of 2013 and the first three months of 2014, the all-public panels are at 42% and the majority-public panels are at 44%.  And the numbers are trending up, not down.

So I ask again – Why did we do this?  Will the Claimants’ bar now allege that even the all-public panels, devoid of any industry panelist influence, are still biased against claimants?  Or is it, as I have thought all along, that crappy cases go to hearing and the Claimants’ bar thinks, apparently without basis, that an all-public panel will be comfortable with wool over its eyes.

That’s the admittedly smug view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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Reflecting on Three Mile Island – 35 years later.

I was in my second semester as a freshman at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, PA.  We had returned from Spring Break on Sunday.  We started hearing about environmental issues on the radio starting around Wednesday.  Then we found out there was a problem with a nuclear reactor about 30 miles to the West.

By Friday, we were told that we were being sent home for a couple days.  We were told that it was not a safety concern, but precautionary.  But the rumors flew.  One was that F&M was going to be used as an evacuation area.

I remembered that there was a girl down the hall whose family lived in Middletown, where Three Mile Island was located.  She couldn’t get through on the phones (three years before cell phones).  I tried to call home.  My first call clicked about 6 times then died.  The second time I ended up talking to an operator with a Southern accent.

I packed up and went home, five days after I had returned.  Some students thought they’d hang out and, dare I say it, abuse their bodies with alcohol and other substances (They’re lawyers and doctors now).  But the campus was going to be closed.

We were told to call on Monday to find out when to return.  The school remained closed the entire week for “Radiation Vacation” or the shorter “Nuke Break.”  I actually went to see The China Syndrome with a girl I dated off and on.  There’s a point in the movie where one of the characters says something to the effect of “If the reactor melts down, it could go all the way to China” which is how the move got its name.

This incident prompted a lot of discussion about nuclear power and energy policies in general.  Guess what?  I don’t think much has changed.  But when I was driving to Orlando this week, I got to thinking about Radiation Vacation.  I wonder how much longer we’ll be able to drive around in our personal transportation vehicles before we run out of fermenting dinosaurs and plants that power our cars.  Could Elon Musk be onto something?  Maybe I need to buy a Tesla after all.

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