The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority Friday morning said it is seeking a Temporary Cease and Desist Order against a San Antonio brokerage that allegedly is operating a "boiler room" designed to raise money for oil and gas ventures its president runs.
If granted, the order would halt any "fraudulent and illegal sales" activities by Pinnacle Partners Financial Corporation and its president, Brian K. Alfaro, that attempt to raise money for eight unregistered private placements in oil and gas ventures. Alfaro Oil and Gas and Pinnacle are listed on the Web and in a FINRA directory, respectively, as operating out of suite 2101 and 2103 the same office building in San Antonio.
FINRA said it is seeking the order because it believes "customer harm and depletion of customer assets will likely continue before a formal disciplinary proceeding against Pinnacle and Alfaro can be completed."
Alfaro was not in at 1 p.m. Eastern, when his office was contacted Friday.
FINRA alleges that Alfaro and Pinnacle have operated a "boiler room" since 2008, where 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, the regulatory body for the broker industry said. Through the boiler room Alfaro and Pinnacle have raised more than $10 million from more than 100 investors "for offerings that are alleged to materially misrepresent or omit material facts."
Alfaro has collected funds from investors for drilling and testing of wells, and then spending those funds for unrelated business and personal expenses, FINRA said.
A San Antonio news site reported that Pinnacle lawyer Katherine N. Binkley disputed FINRA's allegations and denied that the firm sells fraudulent securities or operates a boiler room.
“We deny any wrongdoing and we plan to defend the firm through the administrative hearing process provided by FINRA,” Binkley said in a statement carried on MySanAntonio.com. “The allegations stem from a disgruntled (former) employee who contacted various regulatory agencies and investors in an effort to incite distrust and harm Mr. Alfaro personally.”
The Securities and Exchange Commission, meanwhile, is conducting its own examination, Alfaro acknowledged in an interview with the site. And lawyers for a Kansas woman who filed a federal lawsuit claiming she lost $1 million buying interests in oil and gas wells from Alfaro say they're meeting Friday with the Office of the Kansas Securities Commissioner about the matter.
FINRA's complaint follows by about two months an emergency cease-and-desist order issued against Alfaro, Pinnacle and another firm, Alfaro Oil & Gas LLC, by the Texas State Securities Board in September. Alfaro is contesting the order, but no hearing date has been set, the site said.
Alfaro said his firms had offerings on wells in Normanna (75 miles southeast of San Antonio), Victoria and in Louisiana.
He did not offhand have details on the locations of other wells mentioned in the complaint.
“We deny omitting facts to our investors,” Binkley said. “Our offering books are full disclosure and are clearly marked as high-risk investments to accredited, sophisticated investors.”