Investment Advisory firm Family Endowment Partners and its managing partner Lee Weiss have been ordered to pay a $48 million securities arbitration award to clients for private investments they made in Biosyntec Polska, a company that owned a tobacco company in Poland and purportedly patents a cigarette filter that was supposed to dramatically transform the tobacco industry.
James and Jane Sutow accused the Boston investment advisor and Weiss of making investment recommendations that were not suitable and grossly negligent, selling unregistered securities using material and fraudulent misstatements, and failing to disclose conflicts of interest in the recommendations they made. More than $20 million in investments were recommended by Family Endowment Partners and Weiss to the claimants.
The Sutows invested $9 million in the Polish company over a three-year period. Iman Emami, the head of the group that purchased Biosyntec Polska, was someone Weiss had been acquainted with for a long time. Emami supposedly held the filter patents. The filter was supposed to use rosemary extract to get rid of most of the free radicals found in cigarette smoke. The Sutows also made investments in companies related to the Polish company, including $9.7 million in funds run and crated by the RIA and Weiss. However, none of the investments came with offering documents or information that gave the claimants complete and fair disclosure of material facts.
During testimony, Weiss said that he wasn’t sure what information he did give to the Sutows about the investments because he did not keep a record of the transactions. An expert witness for the Sutows said that Biosyntec was “technically insolvent.”
It was the American Arbitration Association that issued the$48 million award after arbitrator Philip Cottone made the ruling. Cottone found there had been breaches of fiduciary duty
The Suttons are to get $17.4 million award in damages, treble damages of $30 million, and nearly $1 million in legal fees. Their claim sought their damages under the Pennsylvania Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law. Before funding Family Endowment Partners, Weiss worked at Fidelity Investments.
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Money manager must pay $48 million for bad investments, Philly.com, April 21, 2015
Boston RIA hit with $48 million arbitration award, InvestmentNews, April 16, 2015
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