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Regulators close in on Naples brokerage firm A.S. Goldmen & Co.

Naples Daily News

Several days before New York and Florida agents raided his Port Royal mansion and stock brokerage firm in April, Anthony “Tony” Marchiano discovered an undercover agent had infiltrated his Naples office.

The new guy, a cold caller, was quietly dismissed. Later, Marchiano’s wife told some of the brokers this: Marchiano carries a small device to detect wire taps. The incessant beeps betrayed the agent, a guy who asked too many questions.

For years, state, federal and industry regulators have pursued Marchiano’s A.S. Goldmen & Co. looking for the types of abusive sales practices commonly used by rogue brokers to bilk investors in fraudulent stock manipulation schemes. And scores of A.S. Goldmen customers from all over the country have claims totaling millions of dollars against the 37-year-old Marchiano and his firm.

Only 11 firms — out of 5,400 nationwide — went to arbitration hearings with customers more than A.S. Goldmen in 1997, according to statistics compiled by the newsletter Securities Arbitration Commentator. Accounting for the firm’s comparatively small client base of 30,000, A.S. Goldmen customers were more likely to pursue arbitration than any in the country.

Investor advocates say rogue brokers and the firms they work for operate in an environment that has overwhelmed regulators struggling to ferret out fraud in a market filled with unsophisticated investors. More Americans are investing in securities than ever before, and inflated expectations of returns make many easy prey for stock scam artists, regulators say.

Regulators estimate that so-called microcap fraud — fraud in the lightly traded stocks of small companies — is costing investors $6 billion a year.

And while the states, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the National Association of Securities Dealers have conducted high-profile sweeps in the last two years to crack down, regulators acknowledge that untangling webs of complex financial crimes takes time.

The SEC has been investigating A.S. Goldmen since at least 1995. The regulatory arm of the NASD slapped A.S. Goldmen with $1.2 million in fines and restitution in February for manipulating a 1994 initial public stock offering. Marchiano has appealed the fines and his six-month suspension. One state has effectively blocked A.S. Goldmen from doing business, but a dozen more have actions pending or are investigating or making inquiries.

Marchiano declined, through his attorney, Wilmer Parker, to be interviewed by the Naples Daily News. Parker invited written questions, which the Naples Daily News provided, but later declined on behalf of A.S. Goldmen to respond.

Now, only a handful of brokers remain at A.S. Goldmen’s offices in Naples and Iselin, N.J., and the firm’s financial future looks dark.

Securities attorneys who represent investors fear an all-too- common scenario: By the time investors’ arbitration judgments against A.S. Goldmen come due, there may be nothing to collect. Only a corpse — sucked dry by the principals — may remain of the firm that an SEC report shows saw revenues as high as $53 million in 1995.

A California attorney representing a doctor in an arbitration claim against A.S. Goldmen, said Goldmen is refusing to settle arbitration cases.

In 1997, A.S. Goldmen paid $1.1 million in arbitration claims and settlements, an SEC financial filing for the firm shows. At the first of the year, at least 70 customers had pending arbitration claims against A.S. Goldmen for alleged sales practice violations. Disclosure reports available through Florida’s Division of Securities show Marchiano has at least $3.1 million in pending customer arbitration claims against him.

“In my opinion, a very short conversation would be (to) name the firms worse than A.S. Goldmen,” said Thomas Benson, president of Naples-based StockBroker Analysis, who has analyzed a number of accounts for A.S. Goldmen customers pursing arbitration claims.

But some A.S. Goldmen customers, like New York City actor George Coyne, just give up. Coyne remembers getting a statement from A.S. Goldmen with a near-zero balance several years ago. “They totally and utterly cheated me out of $25,000,” Coyne said. “I’d call up over and over and nobody would take responsibility for the account.”

Coyne said he was told pursuing A.S. Goldmen would cost $10,000. “It looked like I’d be throwing good money after bad.”

Now, Marchiano faces the criminal fraud probe launched by the New York County District Attorney’s office. At the A.S. Goldmen Naples offices at 1100 Fifth Avenue South in April, gun-toting agents took most everything but the personal items on brokers’ desks, brokers say.

Just prior to the raid, A.S. Goldmen was working to raise an initial $10 million in private money for the Stadium Naples golf course development. Regulators who examined the offering for the Naples Daily News for a May 31 article, said the deal showed red flags for potential stock and investment manipulation, which the firm denied. Stadium Naples founder William Rasmussen ended the deal with A.S. Goldmen in June.

One young broker still working for A.S. Goldmen, like many current and former employees, received a letter in July saying he too is a target of the New York criminal investigation.

But, he’s not worried.

He thinks Marchiano is smart. The regulators have had it out for Marchiano for a long time but Marchiano’s kept his firm open in a highly regulated business for 10 years, said the Naples broker, who spoke on condition of anonymity. And the broker is still going to work, pitching stock over the phone to people all over the country.


Vincent Lia is another broker at A.S. Goldmen’s Naples office. Several months before he started at A.S. Goldmen, Lia worked as a clerk at a video shop in Brooklyn. That was three years ago.

Today, the 22-year-old Lia owns a $90,000 condominium in one of Naples’ flamingo pink buildings. He is trusted with people’s life savings.

Many of Marchiano’s brokers are like Lia. Young, often from New York or New Jersey, they have what brokers say Marchiano is looking for: aggressiveness.

They start as cold callers — who telephone people out of the blue — and they’re “sponsored” by a broker while learning the business and preparing for the Series 7 licensing exam, the basic test for stockbrokers.

Many have little or no college training, according to disclosure documents from the NASD. They are waiters, bartenders, landscapers, mechanics, clerks. Some, like 25-year-old John Tripp Sines, who left A.S. Goldmen in July, have criminal records — including theft and criminal trespassing.

Edward Sapienza, 24, took a four-month break from A.S. Goldmen in 1994 while serving weekend jail time for a misdemeanor assault charge in New York. He returned to the firm to work for two more years.

Others, like Vito Randazzo, flunked their securities licensing test multiple times before passing.

In July 1997, NASD barred and fined six A.S. Goldmen brokers suspected of paying impostors to take their qualifying examinations.

“He doesn’t take kids coming out of school. He wants people who are aggressive. He looks for kids who don’t know any better,” said one former broker who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal. “It doesn’t matter if you’re a valet parker or a doorman, he takes you.”

The brokers are drawn by earnings of $5,000 to $50,000 a month and higher, lured by A.S. Goldmen’s World Wide Web page that says earnings of $200,000 to $500,000 a year are typical.

And they are dazzled by what Marchiano, a Brooklyn native, has achieved.

He has the sleekest sports cars, including three Ferraris, a Lamborghini, a Porsche, Aston Martins, BMWs, Mercedes, Corvettes, 20 in all. And his $3.3 million mansion with grand windows that overlook the Gulf of Mexico is located in Naples’ most prestigious neighborhood — Port Royal.

When Marchiano opened his brokerage firm in 1988 at the age of 26, he named it A.S. Goldmen & Co. — initials for him and brother Salvatore, the men who make gold.

And Marchiano commands an army of lawyers — securities lawyers, divorce lawyers, civil lawyers, criminal lawyers.

When his Gordon Drive neighbors complained the tall bushes he had planted next to his house blocked the way to the beach, Marchiano refused to cut them. The neighbors took him to court and the suit has dragged on for more than a year.

Besides having them watch and learn, Marchiano tells the brokers to read “Successful Telephone Selling in the ’90s,” a book with a chapter called “How to Handle Every Objection Ever Made.”

One broker, still working for Marchiano, described how he builds relationships with clients. The broker is a smooth talker who says listening is the most important thing.

On many days, he’ll pitch stock for 12 hours, flipping through the hundreds of white lead cards on which he jots notes.

He’ll make 500 calls in a day.

“We start out here,” said the broker stretching his hands wide. But he listens for personal information like maybe the guy on the other end of the line has a kid who broke an arm.

“I write that on my card. Kid broke arm. Left arm,” the broker said. Next time he calls he says “How’s your kid’s arm?”

He describes Marchiano as a church-going father devoted to the son in his care, as a boss who demands hard work and tolerates no complaints.

He said Marchiano told him never to say anything on the phone that he wouldn’t want played back to him — a sign Marchiano cares about operating within the law, he said. The broker said his clients know the risky nature of the stocks in the start-up companies A.S. Goldmen pushes and they’re willing to gamble.


Robert Anderson, a 55-year-old economist from McLean, Va., trusted his broker at A.S. Goldmen. Anderson considered him smart and charming.

But he believes Adam Townsend told him lies about the potential of a stock called Veritas Music & Entertainment Inc., a small Nashville-based music production company that takes its name from the Latin word for truth.

Over the course of 19 months, Anderson lost more than $86,000 on Veritas, a house stock A.S. Goldmen took to the public market in July 1995.

After repeated complaints about unauthorized trades showing up in his account, Anderson requested his stock certificates to transfer his account to another brokerage firm in November 1996. His requests were ignored.

A month later, Anderson reached A.S. Goldmen supervisor, John Abbey (whose real name is John Diasabeyagunawardena). Anderson says Abbey told him, in effect, we’ve got you’re money and you’ll never get it back.

Anderson threatened to hire a lawyer or call the SEC. “(Abbey) said ‘You don’t know how rough we can be,'” Anderson said. Abbey did not return messages left at A.S. Goldmen, and Townsend could not be reached for comment.

In August 1995 while on vacation training for a marathon in Colorado, Anderson got a call from his frantic wife. A clerk at A.S. Goldmen had called demanding a $20,000 wire transfer to cover a purchase of Veritas stock that Anderson knew nothing about.

Anderson said Townsend told him he had to unload the stock in the account of one of his clients because he couldn’t put it on the market. In September 1995, Anderson said another unauthorized trade of 4,000 shares of Veritas showed up in his account.

Townsend promised that a big order from a mutual fund would soon drive up the price of the stock, Anderson said. Another time, Anderson said Townsend told him Veritas had already sold 500,000 albums. Later, when Anderson called the company, officials there told him they’d sold only 6,000 albums.

“Where (Townsend) made it up, I don’t know. It was completely fictitious.”

Veritas stock opened at $5 in July 1995 and rose to more than $9 per share in September of the same year. But within a year the price had plunged to less than $2 per share. Today, the company trades under the name Imprint Records at around 3 cents per share.

In May 1996, A.S. Goldmen eventually reported customer complaints and dismissed Townsend, who had seven customer complaints alleging unauthorized trading before starting at A.S. Goldmen. He was previously dismissed by two other brokerage firms.

Anderson said pursuing A.S. Goldmen would only make him bitter. He blames himself.

“Maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention. Maybe I was foolish,” Anderson said. “I guess I’ve learned my lesson.”

Bill McBurney, a founding member of an organization called Securities Victims of America Inc., said overwhelmed regulators often blame fraud victims instead of aggressively pursuing brokers who violate securities laws by providing false information, conducting unauthorized trades in customers’ accounts or recommending unsuitable investments.

“A lot of victims haven’t the faintest idea of what happened to them,” McBurney said. “They’re swindled and struck dizzy, and they think they’re the only ones.”


Securities regulators say the fat years in the bull market have created an atmosphere ripe for fraud.

“We’re not a nation of savers anymore, we’re a nation of investors,” said Alabama Securities Commission Director Joseph Borg, who led a coordinated state crackdown last year on mircocap fraud.

Today, regulators estimate that one in three American households invests in securities, up from 17 percent in 1990.

“Investing is still relatively new to most Americans, and those who are looking to steal money go where the money is,” Borg said.

And regulators estimate shady brokers and firms bilk investors for hundreds of millions of dollars each year.

Here’s how regulators say it works: A firm will acquire a large quantity of cheap stock, sometimes for pennies a share, in a small private company in exchange for taking the company to the public market to raise the company money. Key to the brokerage firm’s ability to drive up the price of the stock following an initial public offering is its sales force of seductive brokers.

But public investors fail to realize the stock is often not worth much more than the pennies a share the brokerage firm paid. Brokers will lie to investors about the company and the risks (a securities law violation called a material misrepresentation) and make guarantees of returns.

And the brokers don’t tell customers about the enormous spread between the cost per share to the customer (and what quote machines show) and what the brokerage firm actually paid. During the so-called “pump,” brokers will refuse to sell customers’ shares — a violation of securities laws — to restrict supply and drive the stock up.

And, brokers may also use fictitious accounts to “park” the stock and restrict the supply, or make it appear that the fictitious accounts are trading at higher and higher prices. Some brokers will buy and sell shares in customer accounts at will, a securities law violation called unauthorized trading. Once the stock is driven high enough comes the “dump.” Insiders sell their shares creating an unstoppable price dive that wipes out investors.


The former A.S. Goldmen broker who spoke on condition of anonymity looks back on his time at the firm with regret.

“This company makes its living by taking advantage of people who can’t say no,” the former broker said. “All (managers) want you to do is get people to buy their stock. If you ask questions, they get paranoid. You’re told very little about what you’re selling.”

Brokers get their information second and third hand by listening to what other brokers are telling clients, said the broker, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

And customers who ask for information get press releases or promotional material instead of financial information about the company, the broker said. The brokers’ job is to support the price of the stock by selling it to customers. He said brokers aren’t allowed to recommend stocks that Goldmen isn’t pushing.

“All (managers) wanted to do was hear you yelling and screaming and being enthusiastic,” the former broker said.

And for the most aggressive brokers, the money is good. “I’ve seen guys make $150,000 in one day,” the former broker said.

If brokers aren’t having a good month, then they’re allowed to take a draw. Many brokers are loyal to Marchiano. “They think Tony is some kind of god,” the former broker said.

If a customer wants to sell, brokers will avoid phone calls, the former broker said. And if a customer gets through: “They’ll give you every reason in the world not to sell the stock.”

Many of the customers he’d call had bad experiences with A.S. Goldmen. “Some people would just curse at you and then hang up the phone. All I did was spend time defending the firm.”

He said customers are never put on a “do not call list” — which some states require under consumer protection laws. NASD rules require firms to report customer complaints to the Central Registration Depository.

“If you take (a complaint) into the office they laugh at you,” the former broker said.


James Oliver, a 42-year-old business planner in Greensboro, N.C., bought 300 shares of a stock called Innovative Tech Systems from his A.S. Goldmen broker, Christopher Panza, on July 26, 1994 for $5 a share. A month later, he wanted to sell.

“(Panza) tried to talk me into keeping it and I said no, I want to sell. Finally, he said OK,” Oliver said. But two weeks later he still hadn’t received a confirmation of the trade.

When he tried to reach Panza he could never get through. “He was either in a meeting or out of town or unavailable,” Oliver said. “Sometimes I’d call back two or three times a day.” That went on for four months until Panza finally sold his shares.

“I threatened to sue and it went in one ear and out the other,” Oliver said. Panza, who now works for brokerage firm Joseph Stevens Co. in New York City, has $431,890 in customer arbitration complaints pending against him for alleged misrepresentations, unauthorized trading and churning (excessive trading in a customer’s account). He is also named in another $2 million claim pending against A. S. Goldmen, where he worked for more than four years. Panza could not be reached at Joseph Stevens & Co. in New York City, where a secretary said he’s on vacation for a month.

Dallas resident Alex Daspit said A.S. Goldmen frequently solicited him for business even though he’s asked to be put on a “do not call” list.

“They’re rude and obnoxious,” Daspit said. “They’ve called and called and harassed us. We’ve asked them over and over to stop calling.”

Edwin Hunter, a sales consultant in Woodlands, Texas, remembers what happened when he told an A.S. Goldmen broker with a New York accent no a year ago. “I said, ‘Thank you but no thank you,'” Hunter said.

When Hunter hung up the phone, immediately the broker redialed. Hunter said no, and immediately the phone rang again. “By the third call, he was four-letter foul,” Hunter said. Hunter hung up.

Later, when he returned home that afternoon, an upset Texan had left a message on his voice mail saying he didn’t appreciate such foul language and poor treatment. Hunter said the broker with the New York accent had cursed out another man, used Hunter’s name and left Hunter’s phone number as reprisal.

Jerry Shook, a 51-year-old banker in College Station, Texas, saw his account with A.S. Goldmen peel back from $67,000 in 1994 to less than $4,200 two years later.

“The only reason they called me back was when they wanted more money. I’m sure of that,” Shook said. Shook said he never could get his broker, Charles Principato, a former A.S. Goldmen broker, on the phone.

“Within two or three weeks they let the bottom drop out and I couldn’t get ahold of them,” Shook said. “When things turned sour, they just disappeared.”

“It went from bad to worse in two weeks,” Shook said. “I should have checked them out more than I did. I mean they sent a nice brochure. They had all the marketing material.

“I kick myself for it.” Shook said he doesn’t think it’s worth pursuing. He figures the SEC or arbitrators will say he knew the risks and just lost money. “These guys know how to utilize the rules to protect themselves.”


A.S. Goldmen has a disciplinary record filled with the types of alleged violations regulators call hallmarks of microcap fraud: market manipulation; high-pressure, abusive telephone cold calling of investors; misrepresentations and omissions of facts; unsuitable recommendations for investors; conducting unauthorized trades; and failing to execute trades.

In December 1997, Massachusetts suspended A.S. Goldmen from doing business for five years in that state and ordered the firm to pay $900,000 in refunds to at least 78 customers for fraudulent securities sales. Missouri securities regulators have ordered A.S. Goldmen to stop violating securities laws four separate times.

“They’ve engaged in activities that we would consider consistent with a bucket shop,” said Doug Wilburn, Missouri Commissioner of Securities. A bucket shop is vernacular for an unscrupulous firm.

A.S. Goldmen faces pending actions from Delaware, Maine and Illinois. And securities regulators from New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont are investigating the firm.

A.S. Goldmen has received requests for information from state securities regulators from Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, New Hampshire and New York, a 1997 SEC annual financial report shows. Florida regulators say they don’t want to duplicate other states’ efforts.

In 1996, New Jersey tried to prevent A.S. Goldmen from conducting a public stock offering of Imatec Ltd. based on the company’s poor financial conditions and the New Jersey Security Division’s suspicions that the offering would be manipulated. Goldmen agreed not to sell the securities to New Jersey residents, but the state invoked a New Jersey securities law to prevent A.S. Goldmen from selling the offering to residents outside the state from its Iselin, N.J. office.

A.S. Goldmen sued New Jersey and won based on a constitutional argument that only Congress can regulate interstate commerce. A U.S. District Court judge said the state failed to advance an allegation of fraud against A.S. Goldmen and that the state couldn’t restrict Goldmen’s ability to sell to residents outside its borders.

New Jersey has appealed the decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals. State regulators and the SEC are watching the case, which they say could weaken regulators’ ability to police the industry if Goldmen wins again.

A.S. Goldmen is also the subject of an SEC investigation of alleged sales practice violations, supervision of brokers, and practices related to taking stocks to the market in initial public offerings, a 1997 SEC financial report shows.

The investigation dates back to at least 1995, when Marchiano’s second wife, Christine, was asked to testify about an account at A.S. Goldmen in her name. Christine Marchiano, who is suing her ex-husband in Collier County Circuit Court for civil theft, was surprised to learn from SEC lawyers during her testimony that her account at one point had a balance of more than $300,000, court documents say.

The lawsuit alleges that Marchiano transferred the money from her account — without her knowledge or authorization — less than a month before the couple’s separation agreement on Aug. 17, 1993.

In February 1998, NASD Regulation fined A.S. Goldmen $200,000 and suspended Marchiano from the securities industry for six months. NASD Regulation ordered the firm to pay back $1 million in illicit profits to more than 500 customers in 35 states for manipulating the offering of Innovative Tech Systems. Marchiano denies wrong doing and is appealing the decision he has previously called a “mockery of justice.”

In the appeal of the NASD decision filed May 26, 1998, Marchiano’s lawyers contend that the NASD ignored evidence that showed the market was competitive, that the firm did not engage in manipulative trading practices and that supervisory procedures for brokers were in compliance with NASD rules.

But now, the New York criminal investigation threatens.

This summer, New York County Assistant District Attorney Kevin Suttlehan, who has refused comment on the A.S. Goldmen fraud investigation, visited Naples to build his case. In mid August, Suttlehan sent a letter, obtained by the Naples Daily News, to A.S. Goldmen customers asking them to report:

— statements of false, misleading or inaccurate information;
— pressure to buy high risk securities out of line with their investment goals;
— unauthorized trading in their accounts;
— refusals to execute sell orders, return phone calls, send annual reports or prospectuses, deliver stock certificates, provide account information or respond to complaints;
— execution of an order at a substantially different price or time than expected;
— guarantees or promises of gains or protection against loss;
— representations of “inside” knowledge or “insider” prices.


In the last two years, regulators have focused more attention on microcap fraud and netted dozens of firms.

But regulators say in general fraud and manipulation investigations can take a long time because such probes involve voluminous amounts of money tracing and reconstruction of trading activity.

“It’s not enough to have a few customer complaints,” said Don Saxon, director of Florida’s Division of Securities. “It’s a very intensive paper chase.” And, firms are entitled to due process, Saxon said.

Henry Klehm, chief of enforcement for the SEC’s New York office, said regulators have limited resources.

“We do everything we can to get on these schemes as quickly as we can,” Klehm said. “But the nature of fraud is concealment.”

Alabama Securities Commission Director Borg said often regulators can’t look for fraud until after the fact. “Putting out the fires is getting very old,” Borg said.

There’s another reason why the investigations drag out, Borg said. “The bad guys have a lot more money and hire the better lawyers to slow things down.”

Investor advocate Benson, of StockBroker Analysis, says it’s an embarrassment that the system doesn’t move faster to put rogue firms out of business. “Firms can rape and pillage until they get caught. And then, they just hide behind bankruptcy leaving the wronged investors with no one to sue.”

Meanwhile, investors must seek redress in arbitration proceedings at an industry-sponsored forum — such as the NASD — where investors can expect to win only 54 percent of the time and recoup a quarter of their claims, according to Securities Arbitration Commentator.

Investors agree to settle disputes before a panel of arbitrators — one member from the securities industry and two members neutral –when they open customer accounts with brokerage firms.

Proponents say arbitration is designed to be investor-friendly, and less costly and time consuming than litigation. But critics say industry-sponsored arbitration doesn’t provide a level playing field and customers must know the intricacies of the rules to make sure the selected panel is fair and without conflicts.

“If you work very hard and you’re an experienced securities attorney it can be fair,” said Thomas Grady, a Naples securities attorney. “To the average customer or lawyer, you’ll have your head handed to you.”

Grady, who represents public investors on the national Securities Industry Conference on Arbitration, is a strong proponent of allowing investors to use a neutral forum like the American Arbitration Association.

Naples securities attorney Christopher Vernon, who is pursuing A.S. Goldmen in an arbitration, agrees. “At least you don’t have the perception that you have to go to a brokerage association’s backyard to try your case,” Vernon said.

Paul Dubow, the senior deputy counsel for Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, said he believes industry arbitration forums are fair and have comparable plaintiff wins and recovery rates. “It’s higher than in court,” said Dubow, who is the industry’s representative to the Securities Industry Conference on Arbitration.

But investor attorneys say brokerage firms are making arbitration more like litigation. And for small investors, costs to pursue claims can outweigh recovery amounts.

“There’s a lot of good attorneys out there refusing to take cases,” Vernon said.

Customers with small claims under $10,000 can file an arbitration complaint by mail on their own, a move attorneys say can’t hurt.

But, the odds for investors hoping to recover claims against A.S. Goldmen looks grim.

A 1997 SEC financial report on A.S. Goldmen showed the firm’s revenues down 80 percent from 1995 levels to $10.5 million with losses for the year at $1.7 million. The firm’s auditors expressed substantial doubt about the firm’s ability to continue as a “going concern.” Professional fees, like those for attorneys, were $2.5 million.

Stephen Milbrath, an Orlando-based securities attorney, filed an arbitration claim in May against A.S. Goldmen on behalf of airline pilot Arthur Smith from Fernandina Beach, Fla.

Over a period of three years, Smith lost more than $200,000 on stocks he purchased from brokers at A.S. Goldmen.

The claim asserts that A.S. Goldmen manipulated the market in two of the companies — Innovative Tech Systems Inc. and Wanderlust Interactive Inc. — in which his client bought warrants (tradable options to buy stocks at a fixed price).

The claim also asserts that A.S. Goldmen brokers sold Smith, a novice investor, unsuitable investments in the highly speculative and volatile stocks and warrants of Wanderlust Interactive Inc., Imatec Ltd., Independence Brewing Company, Skylands Park Management Inc. and Imprint Records Inc. — all companies for which Goldmen conducted initial public stock offerings.

“My client didn’t know what he was buying,” Milbrath said. Now, he says his client’s retirement savings are in jeopardy. “We intend to ruthlessly pursue collection.”