FINRA's Department of Enforcement filed a complaint against former Transamerica Financial Advisors broker Bradley Claus, alleging that from September 2010 through April 2013, Claus participated in unauthorized private securities transactions in an oil and gas venture that quickly stopped paying dividends or funds, costing investors tens of thousands of dollars. The complaint also accused Claus of making material misstatements of fact to a customer regarding a separate investment opportunity.
FINRA's first charge states that while associated with Transamerica (at the time, it was known as World Group Securities, Inc.), Claus solicited a client to invest $15,000 into an oil and gas company that the firm had not approved for sale.
Claus and an oil sales representative allegedly arranged for a Claus client to invest in RJ Oil and Gas Co. LLC by wiring $15,000 to a bank account for the benefit of RJ Oil and Gas, based in Texas. According to the complaint, Claus' client received one $2,000 dividend for the investment, but received no further funds from RJ Oil and Gas Co.
Claus also purportedly solicited another of his customers to invest in RJ Oil and Gas. The proceeding states that after investing $9,000 in RJ Oil and Gas, this second client—who was making his first-ever securities investment—never received any dividends or funds from RJ Oil and Gas Co.
According to Transamerica's records and Claus' own BrokerCheck report, when the firm found out about Claus' RJ Oil and Gas securities transactions, it terminated Claus' employment.
FINRA also charged Claus with soliciting a third client to invest in the security "Southern Hospitality," which Claus described as "a very good opportunity" to invest in a restaurant chain, advising his client that "you would be guaranteed to get a 5% return. Your investment PLUS 5%, OR you can convert to stock at any time."
Enforcement produced as evidence an e-mail in which Claus claimed that Southern Hospitality "is a restaurant chain owned by Justin Timberlake and Ryan Tedder." According to FINRA, this was false as music celebrities Timberlake and Tedder did not own the chain.
Claus also purportedly told his customer that he was investing "some of my personal money, and I don't do that very often." FINRA claims that too was a lie as Claus never invested his own money in Southern Hospitality.
Finally, Enforcement charged Claus with using an unapproved outside e-mail address in violation of firm supervisory procedures, which prohibited the use of third-party e-mail addresses. The complaint states that although Transamerica provided e-mail addresses to employees ending in "tfsconnect.com," Claus solicited securities business using an unauthorized Google e-mail account, which ends in "gmail.com."
The complaint states Claus failed to notify Transamerica (or World Group Securities) of the above solicitations, transactions and communications, and in doing so, violated both firm policies and FINRA rules.
If you have invested with Bradley Claus, in the RJ Oil and Gas Co., Southern Hospitality or with any broker or in any product that has been misrepresented, falsely tied to celebrities, solicited in contravention of firm or industry rules, and have suffered harm to your investments or financial interests—such as failing to receive dividends or any other form of return on your investment when your broker has used language such as "guaranteed"—please call The Law Offices of Jonathan W. Evans & Associates at (800) 699-1881 for investigation and consultation.