The law firm of Oakes & Fosher is presently investigating the possible misconduct of former securities broker Christopher Wendel. According to his publicly available FINRA BrokerCheck report, Christopher Wendel has been the subject of multiple customer disputes in connection with the Woodbridge Group of Companies.
Christopher Wendel operated most recently as an Ohio based securities broker. He worked in the securities industry for twenty-eight years. During his career, he was registered with four different securities firms. He is no longer working as a registered securities broker in any fashion.
- IDS Life Insurance Company (1989-2002)
- American Express Financial Advisors (1989-2002)
- WRP Investments, Inc. (2002-2014)
- SA Stone Wealth Management Inc. (2014-2017)
- In July 2003, a customer alleged that they suffered losses due to Christopher Wendel’s unsuitable investment recommendations. This case was settled for $200,000.
- In May 2013, a customer alleged that Christopher Wendel used a large portion of the customer’s funds to purchase illiquid REITs. It was also alleged that Wendel recommended to the customer that they sell their low cost mutual funds to purchase higher cost mutual funds. The customer alleged that these investments were highly unsuitable based on their investment objectives. This case was settled for $90,000.
- In September 2017, Christopher Wendel was discharged from SA Stone Wealth Management due to allegations of him violating the firm’s policy by selling an unapproved security associated with Woodbridge.
- In February 2018, a customer alleged that Christopher Wendel recommended highly unsuitable investments to them. This case was settled for $67,500 in damages.
- In June 2018, Christopher Wendel was sanctioned by FINRA. The findings in this matter state that he did in fact engage in private securities transactions without notifying, or getting approval from, SA Stone Wealth Management. The findings go on to sate that Wendel solicited investors to purchase promissory notes in the Woodbridge Mortgage Investment Fund, which was a non-registered private offering. Wendel allegedly sold $343,500 worth of promissory notes of this unapproved security to investors while getting more than $10,000 in commissions. During this investigation, Wendel allegedly provided FINRA with a signed declaration that falsely stated he only sold these private securities after he parted ways with SA Stone Wealth Management. He also allegedly testified on the same false declaration during his on-the-record testimony. Due to these alleged actions, Christopher Wendel was barred by FINRA from acting as a securities broker in any fashion.
- In May 2019, a customer alleged that Christopher Wendel recommended unsuitable securities, made material misrepresentations, and omitted material facts–all in connection with Woodbridge. This case is currently pending. The customer is seeking $100,000 in damages.
- In January 2020, a customer alleged that Christopher Wendel managed their accounts negligently, misappropriated their funds, and omitted material information–all in connection with Woodbridge. This case is currently pending. The customer is seeking $103,000 in damages.
The Woodbridge Group of Companies
The Woodbridge Group of Companies, also known simply as Woodbridge, housed various private investment funds. These funds were privately traded investment pools that did not trade on any public securities exchanges. They were also not registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Private investment funds not registered with the SEC are known as private placements. These types of securities are incredibly speculative, illiquid, and accompanied by incredibly high upfront fees that drastically lower investor principals. Because they choose not to register with the SEC, private placements are only supposed to be recommended to what are known as “accredited investors.” These are investors with a minimum net worth of $1 million, or a minimum annual income of $200,000—$300,000 if the investor is married. Securities brokers who recommend private placements to investors who do not qualify as accredited have violated the terms of the offering’s exemption.
Private placements can be incredibly harmful to investors, even when they are legitimate. Private placements that are simply just fronts for fraudulent activity can ruin them completely. The Securities and Exchange Commission described the Woodbridge group of companies as a massive Ponzi scheme. Securities brokers, like Christopher Wendel, solicited investments from their member firm customers until it had raised over $1.2 billion from approximately 8,400 investors. Brokers sold promissory notes to investors claiming that they were backed by mortgages. They also promised these investors incredibly high dividends that ranged from 5 to 8 percent annually meant to be paid out in monthly distributions. In reality, these promissory notes were not backed by mortgages. Woodbridge was not actually lending money to developers and was thus not earning any income through interest payments. Rather the invested funds were actually just being diverted to numerous different LLCs housed under the Woodbridge umbrella. Since no growth was taking place, Woodbridge paid investor dividends through funds coming in through later rounds of investors. This process continued until the entire thing collapsed.
Oakes & Fosher Can Help
Many investors are unaware of the legal recourse available to them after losing money due to securities broker fraud and/or negligence. The truth is that investors who have lost money in this fashion may actually be entitled to damages. Oakes & Fosher dedicates its entire legal practice to helping investors across the nation. If you, or someone you know, have lost money investing with Christopher Wendel, please contact Oakes & Fosher for a free and private consultation. We work on a contingency basis, which means there are no fees charged unless we collect for you.