Affiliation brought sense of security, attorney says.
Affiliation brought sense of security, attorney says ANT1LLA From IS ell,N.J. "There was a sense of security security through that affiliation with Gramkow," says Timothy Den-nin, Den-nin, Den-nin, a New York lawyer who represents represents the investors. "They felt comfortable with Viscardi because because he was connected with the accounting firm many of them used." According to the suit, Ray Gramko, a partner in the accounting accounting firm, was an assistant professor at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J., and he introduced introduced Viscardi to an academic colleague who taught in Rama-po's Rama-po's Rama-po's English literature department. department. After signing on as Viscardi's client, the English professor, in turn, recommended Viscardi to her brother (who lost money), to her mother (who lost money) and to her sister (who refinanced refinanced her mortgage to raise money she wound up losing) . The more picky among securities securities regulators already have been fretting that newcomers to selling stocks will make the process process of investing for the little guy more perilous than ever. A big problem when professionals professionals switch careers and start selling securities: The "expert" isn't always so expert in his new line of work. "A little knowledge is a dangerous thing," Feigin says. "A great accountant isn't necessarily a great investment adviser." Not even Viscardi denies that he had lots to learn. Viscardi, who says he feels terrible over his clients' losses, emphasizes that he personally invested with his clients in two private placements placements that failed. He even bought the stuff for his parents. Viscardi says it isn't fair to hold him accountable, though. If the investments were unsuitable, he asks, why didn't the investors say something before they failed? The accounting firm now would like to distance itself from Viscardi. A reporter was told by a receptionist that Viscardi "is no longer here." But in a subsequent subsequent conversation, Ted Carnevale, Carnevale, a partner in Gramkow & Carnevale, said that Viscardi "never did" work there. Viscardi says that, although he rented office office space from his accountant friends, the CPA firm was not involved involved in selecting investments, and played no role in providing due diligence on the private placements that now are worthless. worthless. In his March 31, 1997, filing with the Securities and Exchange Exchange Commission as an investment investment adviser, Viscardi says his firm, Financial Alternatives Advisory Corp., "maintains a joint venture relationship with Gramkow & Carnevale, CPAs," and that the principals of the CPA firm have maintained "a professional relationship" with Viscardi since 1981. Gramkow provides various tax and support services to Financial Financial Alternatives' clients, the document continued. Financial advisers, of course, can't be blamed for all their bum picks, but the case of the Dennin clients against Gramkow and Viscardi is an important one because because it illustrates how accountants-turned-brokers accountants-turned-brokers accountants-turned-brokers accountants-turned-brokers accountants-turned-brokers could earn the trust of investors. Ten of the 12 investors had all their meetings with Viscardi at the Gramkow offices, according to a complaint they filed. And Gramkow prepared tax returns for 10 of them, too.