TAG | promissory notes
Daniel A. Contreras (CRD #4151950, Registered Principal, Ontario, California) submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which he was barred from association with any FINRA member in any capacity. Without admitting or denying the findings, Contreras consented to the described sanction and to the entry of findings that he engaged in private securities transactions by recommending that customers invest in promissory notes, which were not approved investments of his member firm.
The FINRA findings stated that Contreras failed to provide written notice to his firm describing in detail the proposed transactions and his proposed role therein, and stating whether he had received, or might receive, selling compensation in connection with the transactions.
The findings also stated that the company that issued the promissory notes filed for Chapter 13 Bankruptcy, and all of Contreras’ customers lost their entire investment. The findings also included that Contreras borrowed approximately $65,000 from his customers, contrary to his firm’s written procedures prohibiting registered representatives from borrowing money or securities from any prospects or customers, including non-firm prospects/customers, and Contreras failed to pay back the money he borrowed.
This information was obtained on FINRA’s website.
If you have been a victim of these alleged fraudulent schemes of Daniel A. Contreras, call a Securities Arbitration Lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
broker borrowing money from customer · broker taking personal loans from customers · broker theft · broker theft from customers · Daniel A Contreras · Daniel Contreras · elder abuse · elder abuse awareness · elder abuse in investments · Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · finra securities arbitration · fort lauderdale securities fraud lawyer · fort lauderdale securities lawyer · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · investment fraud · promissory note fraud · promissory notes · securities arbitraton lawyer · securities fraud · Soreide Law Group PLLC · stock broker fraud · Stock fraud lawyer · stock loss · stockbroker misconduct · sue my stockbroker · targeting elderly investors · unauthorized trades
The following article appeared on the SEC’s website on March 30, 2011. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“Commission”) announced that the Honorable Thomas W. Phillips, United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Tennessee, entered a judgment against LandOak Securities, LLC (“LandOak Securities”) and Patrick L. Martin (“Martin”). The judgment restrained and enjoined LandOak Securities and Martin from future violations of Sections 204, 206(1),(2) and(4), and 207 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) [15 U.S.C. §§ 80b-4, b-6(1), (2) & (4), and 80b-7] and Rule 206(4)-2 and 204-2 thereunder [17 C.F.R. §§ 275.206(4)-2 and 275.204-2]. LandOak Securities and Martin also were ordered to pay disgorgement in the amount of $880,512.16, plus prejudgment interest thereon in the amount of $111,628.38. The judgment further provides that if the parties cannot agree on whether a civil penalty should be imposed or the amount of any such civil penalty, the Commission may file a motion requesting that the Court determine the civil penalty and for purposes of that motion, the allegations of the Commission’s Complaint shall be deemed true. LandOak Securities and Martin consented to the entry of the order without admitting or denying the allegations of the Commission’s Complaint.
The SEC article goes on to say that the Complaint, filed on May 22, 2008, alleged that between July 1997 and July 1998, Martin and his co-defendant Michael A. Atkins (“Atkins”) offered and sold to investors approximately $3.6 million in promissory notes and membership interests in LandOak Mortgage, LLC (“LandOak Mortgage”), a Tennessee entity they founded and controlled. According to the Complaint, thirteen of the approximately thirty-five investors in LandOak Mortgage were also LandOak Securities advisory clients, who together invested a total of $1.8 million in LandOak Mortgage. As represented to investors at the time of the offering, LandOak Mortgage loaned the raised funds to LandOak Development, LLC (“LandOak Development”), another Tennessee entity partly owned by Martin and Atkins. According to the Complaint, LandOak Development used the funds to purchase and develop commercial property, but when LandOak Development repaid those funds, Martin and Atkins misappropriated over $2.8 million of funds due to LandOak Mortgage investors. In July 2002, Martin and Atkins misappropriated over $1.5 million from LandOak Mortgage’s bank account and diverted the funds to Atmospheric Glow Technologies, Inc. (“AGT”), a public company in which each owned a substantial interest and were both members of its board of directors. Further, the Complaint alleged that Martin and LandOak Securities made false statements in LandOak Securities’ Commission filings and failed to maintain certain required advisory books and records.
Call a Securities Arbitration Lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
AGT · Atmospheric Glow Technologies · broker theft from customers · false statements by brokers · Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · finra lawyer · finra securities arbitration · finra securities arbitration lawyer · fort lauderdale securities fraud lawyer · fort lauderdale securities lawyer · fraud · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · investment fraud · Land Oak Mortgage · Land Oak Securities · LandOak Development · LandOak Development LLC · LandOak Mortgage LLC · LandOak Securities · LandOak Securities LLC · Michael A Atkins · Michael Atkins LandOak Securities · misappropriation · misappropriation of funds by broker · misappropriation of funds by LandOak · Patrick L Martin · Patrick Martin LandOak · promissory notes · sale of phony promissory notes · sale of promissory notes and membership in LandOak Mortgage · SEC · Securities and Exchange Commission · securities arbitraton lawyer · securities fraud lawyer · Soreide Law Group PLLC · stock broker fraud · Stock fraud lawyer · stock loss · Tennessee LandOak
Comments off · Posted by admin in FINRA
In a March 28th., 2011 article in InvestmentNews.com by Darla Mercado, Ms. Mercado writes that the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday slapped an adviser and radio personality know as “The MoneyMan” with fraud charges after his firm encouraged clients to invest in promissory notes linked to a company with which he associated.
According to the article, Daniel Frishberg, chief executive and principal of Daniel Frishberg Financial Services Inc., allegedly gave one of the firm’s representatives, Albert Kaleta, authorization to recommend that clients purchase promissory notes from Business Radio Networks LP, an affiliate of Mr. Frishberg’s firm, according to the SEC’s complaint. Both Mr. Kaleta and Mr. Frishberg were officers of Business Radio Networks, also known as BizRadio, and collected salaries from the company, a fact that wasn’t sufficiently disclosed to the promissory note investors, the SEC claimed.
Mr. Frishberg hosted his own radio show, The MoneyMan Report, through Houston-based BizRadio, according to the complaint.
Ms. Mercdo writes that between April 2008 and September 2009, the offering raised some $5.5 million in proceeds, but Mr. Frishberg failed to ensure that clients knew of BizRadio’s poor financial condition, as well as the conflicts of interest, the agency claimed. He also allegedly selected Mr. Kaleta to recommend the notes despite complaints about Mr. Kaleta’s honesty in sales presentations for other investments, the SEC alleged.
Then, from 2007 through 2009, Mr. Kaleta sold at least $10 million in promissory notes issued by a company he owned called Kaleta Capital Management to clients of Mr. Frishberg’s firm, according to the SEC. Mr. Kaleta didn’t provide the investors with any offering materials, the SEC alleged. Instead, he verbally explained to them that Kaleta Capital would use the proceeds to make short-term loans to small businesses, that the firm would perform due diligence on its borrowers and that it would charge 12% to 14% annual interest on the loans, according to the agency. However, Kaleta Capital also was in poor financial condition, making the promissory notes unsuitable, according to the SEC.
The InvestmentNews.com article goes on to say that in 2009, the SEC entered a judgment against Mr. Kaleta and his firm, ordering them to pay disgorgement, plus interest and penalties, and appointed a receiver to take possession of Kaleta Capital. Similarly, Mr. Frishberg’s firm and Business Radio have been placed under receivership.
It was noted that Mr. Frishberg has been accused of fraud and of aiding and abetting Mr. Kaleta. Mr. Frishberg has agreed to settle the SEC’s charges with a $65,000 penalty and has been barred from associating with any investment adviser.
If you feel you have been an alleged victim of ”The Money Man,” Daniel Frishberg, or Albert Kaleta, or any of their related businesses, please call a Securities Arbitration Lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
"The Money Man" · Albert Kaleta · bad business advice on the radio · BizRadio · broker theft from customers · Business Radio · Business Radio Networkds LP · Daniel Frishberg · Daniel Frishberg Financial Services Inc · Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · finra securities arbitration · fort lauderdale securities fraud lawyer · fort lauderdale securities lawyer · fraud · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · investment fraud · Kaleta Capital Management · phony investments from radio personality · promissory note fraud · promissory notes · radio business and investing personalities · radio personality the money man · sale of phony promissory notes · SEC · Securities and Exchange Commission · securities arbitraton lawyer · securities fraud lawyer · short-term loans to small businesses · Soreide Law Group PLLC · Stock fraud lawyer · targeting elderly investors · The MoneyMan · The MoneyMan Report
Julie Sheau Lin Ting (CRD # 1683235, Registered Representative, Monterey Park, California) submitted a Letter of Acceptance, Waiver and Consent in which she was suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for 12 months. In light of Ting’s financial status, no monetary sanction was imposed. Without admitting or denying the findings, Ting consented to the described sanction and to the entry of findings that she participated in private securities transactions without prior written notice to, or written permission from, her member firm to engage in the transactions, for which she received compensation. The findings stated that Ting referred investors, some of whom were her firm’s customers, to entities from which some of these investors purchased securities in the form of promissory notes and stock. The findings also stated that Ting received approximately $259,958 as compensation for her referrals of investors.
This information is available on the FINRA website’s Disciplinary Actions.
If you have been a victim of the alleged fraudulent schemes of Julie Sheau Lin Ting, or a similar situation, call a Securities Arbitration Lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · FINRA arbitration · finra lawyer · finra securities arbitration · Florida Securities Lawyer · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · illegal referrals from stockbrokers · investment fraud · Julie Sheau Lin Ting · Julie Ting · promissory note fraud · promissory notes · securities arbitraton lawyer · securities for stocks · securities fraud lawyer · securities in the form of promissory notes · Soreide Law Group PLLC · Stock fraud lawyer · stockbroker misconduct
It is well known that the greatest-yielding investments usually carry the highest levels of risk. One high yielding interest-paying investment is the promissory note. The notes are means by which companies raise capital. Legitimate promissory notes are marketed to sophisticated or corporate investors that have the resources to research thoroughly the companies issuing the notes. They then determine whether the issuers have the capacity to pay the promised interest and principal.
Promissory notes can be a good investment for sophisticated or corporate investors. These notes provide a reasonable reward for those who are willing to accept the risk. However, promissory notes that are marketed to the general public often turn out to be scams. Even legitimate notes carry some risk that the issuers may not be able to meet their obligations.
There have been many instances of unscrupulous individuals pushing bogus promissory notes. They’re being sold as instruments that guarantee above-market, fixed interest rates, while safeguarding their principal. While fraudulent promissory notes appear to give investors the two things they desire most — higher returns and safety — they may not be worth the paper they’re printed on. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Fraud Can Cost Some Investors Their Life Savings
Here are two unfortunate examples of how investors lost their money:
Fraud. Investors in Georgia lost more than $2.5 million after purchasing promissory notes that, according to the salespersons promoting the product to earn high commissions, would pay for new ambulances for a start-up company. The investors were told that their investments were “risk free.” After the ambulances were purchased, they would be leased to pay back the money the company borrowed. The ambulances would also be used as collateral for each investor’s promissory note. But the company never purchased the ambulances with the money it received. Instead, it pledged the same fictitious ambulance as collateral.
Business Risk. At least 100 investors nationwide invested more than $4 million in promissory notes that promised to pay an interest rate of 13 percent over nine months. The funds were for a company selling premium coffee at drive-through kiosks. Savvy, slick marketing materials hyped the company and its products. The promissory notes were sold by individuals who were neither registered or licensed to sell securities. The company collapsed, defaulting on its notes. Investors lost all of their principal, including $200,000 in life savings of an Oregon resident.
In both cases, the notes were sold by unregistered salespersons. The law requires that anyone selling securities must be registered or licensed. (Some states require licensing while others require registration.) That’s why you should verify the registration or license of the person who wants you to invest with them.
How Does a Promissory Note Work?
The legitimate promissory notes are a form of debt that is similar to a loan or even an IOU. Companies issue these notes to finance any aspect of their business, from launching new products to repaying more expensive debt. In return for the loan, companies agree to pay investors a fixed return over a set period of time.
Even legitimate promissory notes are not risk-free. These notes are only as sound as the companies or projects they’re financing. Promising, smart public companies can stumble because of competition, bad management decisions, or unfavorable market conditions. If a company’s financial health weakens suddenly, it may not be able to pay interest and principal to investors.
Who Can Sell Promissory Notes?
The salespeople who market promissory notes include securities brokers, insurance agents, financial planners, and investment advisers. Since promissory notes are usually securities, they must be sold by salespeople who have the appropriate securities license or registration.
Do Promissory Notes Need To Be Registered?
Most promissory notes must be registered as securities with the SEC and the states in which they’re being sold. But remember that some promissory notes, such as those that have nine-month or shorter terms, may be “exempt.” That means that they don’t have to be registered. Since these notes fly under the radar screen of securities regulatory review, they have been the major source of investor complaints and fraudulent activity.
Registration is important because the process generally involves what is known as “due diligence.” In short, that means that financial professionals, including lawyers and accountants, have looked into the notes and companies behind the notes. While due diligence does not guarantee that you will be repaid, it means that you are much more likely to be given accurate information that will help you make an informed decision.
How Promissory Note Scams Work
Promissory notes have become a vehicle for fraud primarily because there is a growing investor appetite for above-market interest rates with little risk. The sellers of bogus notes promise high, fixed-rate returns — ranging as high as 15 percent to 20 percent — coupled with “guaranteed safety.” They market these notes to individual investors, hoping to lure buyers who won’t ask how such a high-yield investment could carry such low risk.
In a far-reaching regulatory crackdown on the fraudulent sales of promissory notes in mid-2000, securities regulators nationwide brought 370 actions against firms that defrauded more than 4,500 investors out of $170 million. It’s important to remember that in many of these cases, investors won’t get their money back because the fraudsters have already spent it.
In one case, promoters of fraudulent promissory notes said the funds were earmarked for projects that ranged from the digging of sandpits to developing resorts in the Caribbean, but the investors’ dollars were used instead to finance the high-flying lifestyles of the individuals behind the issuers and to pay high commissions.
Some Telltale Signs of Promissory Note Fraud
What are the red flags you should look for when being offered a promissory note investment?
Here’s a list:
“Insured” or “guaranteed” returns. To create a false sense of safety, the sellers of these notes may say they “insure” the payment of interest and principal, using either nonexistent insurers or those that reside offshore and may not be legitimate or registered to offer insurance within the United States.
“Risk-free” notes. Your risk with promissory notes is that the issuing company will not be able to make principal and interest payments. Since risk and reward are intrinsically related, it pays to remember that there is no such thing as a low-risk, high-reward investment.
A start-up’s notes that are labeled “prime quality.” In the securities industry, prime quality investments require that a company have an established history of operations and earnings. So if the company issuing the so-called “prime” notes is a start-up or new company, steer clear.
Short-term notes. Notes with a nine-month term may be exempt from securities registration.
The promise of above-market returns. Returns that are higher than those of similar investments should raise questions.
Notes from a stranger. A call or visit from a stranger hawking promissory notes is usually a good sign that the investment is fraudulent. But, remember, too, that only an investment professional familiar with your financial situation is in a position to determine if this investment is appropriate for you.
Steer clear of nine-month promissory notes.These short-term notes, which are sometimes exempt from securities registration, have been the source of most – but not all – of the fraudulent activity unearthed by securities regulators in the promissory note area. Since these notes are sometimes exempt from registration, you might not be entitled to some of the redress that the securities laws or regulators provide.
Buy only from licensed or registered securities brokers. Insurance agents, financial planners, and investment advisers cannot sell securities – including promissory notes – without a securities license or registration. You should make sure the broker selling the note is registered or licensed by contacting your state securities regulator or the Public Disclosure Program of NASD Regulation. Call 800-289-9999 or log on to www.nasdr.com and click on “About Your Broker” to verify a broker’s license or registration and obtain a background report on the broker detailing any existing legal or regulatory problems.
Ask yourself: Does this investment make sense for me? Before making any investment, determine what you are looking for and whether it fits into your portfolio. Investigate before you invest. And don’t forget to consider the risk-reward ratio the investment is offering – a higher yield generally means higher risk. Then comparison-shop. Look for similar or nearly as high returns with less risk whenever possible.
Fully research each opportunity.Check with your state securities regulator or the SEC’s EDGAR database (www.sec.gov) to determine if a promissory note is properly registered – or whether it’s exempt from registration. To find your state regulator, check with the North American Securities Administrators Association (www.nasaa.org). If you suspect that your investment is a fraud, be sure to alert your state regulators or the SEC.
This information comes from the SEC’s website.
Call a Securities arbitration lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.
broker · Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · finra securities arbitration · Florida Securities Lawyer · Ft. Lauderdale fraud attorney · Ft. Lauderdale fraud Lawyer · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · guaranteed returns · insured returns · investment fraud · licensed securities brokers · NASAA. · North American Securities Administrators Association · promissory note fraud · promissory notes · risk-free notes · SEC · SEC's EDGAR database · Securities and Exchange Commission · securities arbitration · securities license · short-term notes · short-term promissory notes · Stock fraud lawyer · stockbroker misconduct · unregistered salesperson · unregistered security
Soreide Law Group is representing individuals who purchased Florida Capital, LLC promissory notes from their stock broker or financial advisors.
A promissory note, or commonly as just a “note”, is a negotiable instrument, wherein one party (the maker or issuer) makes an unconditional promise in writing to pay a sum of money to the other (the payee), either at a fixed or determinable future time or on demand of the payee, under specific terms. In the United States, a promissory note that meets certain conditions is a negotiable instrument regulated by article 3 of the UniformCommercial Code. Negotiable promissory notes are used extensively in combination with mortgages in the financing of real estate transactions. Promissory notes, or commercial papers, are also issued to provide capital to businesses. However, Promissory Notes act as a source of Finance to the company’s creditors.
If you were sold alleged fraudulent promissory notes by Florida Capital, LLC, or the brokers involved, call a Securities arbitration lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA and the NFA.
Financial Industry Regulatory Authority · FINRA · FINRA arbitration · finra lawyer · finra securities arbitration · Florida Capital · Florida Capital LLC · Florida Securities Lawyer · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · investment fraud · negotiable promissory notes · promissory notes · sale of phony promissory notes · SEC · Securities and Exchange Commission · securities arbitration · securities fraud · Stock fraud lawyer · stockbroker misconduct · unauthorized trades
Comments off · Posted by admin in FINRA
Washington, D.C., — It was announced Sept. 2, 2010 on the SEC’s website that the Securities and Exchange Commission charged a Branchburg, N.J.-based investment adviser and three of her firms with operating a multi-million dollar offering fraud involving the sale of phony promissory notes to investors, many of whom are retired or unsophisticated in investments.
Sandra Venetis, alleged by the SEC, told some investors that the promissory notes were guaranteed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and would earn interest of approximately 6 to 11 percent per year that would be tax-free due to a loophole in the tax code. She also told investors that she would use their money to fund loans to doctors that would be backed by Medicare reimbursement payments to those doctors. Instead of making investments, Venetis looted investor funds to pay business debts and personal expenses accrued from international travel, gambling, and home mortgages and property taxes. She also funneled cash to her relatives.
Sandra Venetis and the entities have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges and consent to a court order that freezes their assets and requires monetary payments including financial penalties to be determined at a later date. Venetis also agreed to an SEC administrative action that bars her from future association with any investment adviser or broker-dealer.
“Venetis abused her position of trust to target older investors who were the most vulnerable to her egregious lies and misrepresentations,” said Bruce Karpati, Co-Chief of the SEC’s Asset Management Unit. “The SEC’s enforcement action and the settlement reached ensure that she will never work in the securities industry again.”
The SEC alleges that the representations made by Venetis to investors were entirely false and the promissory notes and other offerings were unsupported by any investments, assets, or related revenues. Venetis simply fabricated the names and signatures of “doctors” or forged signatures of other people she claimed were recipients of the loans. Venetis concealed from investors that she used their funds to pay her home mortgage and property taxes, purchase a home for her daughter, finance improvements on a home owned by her brother, pay her own gambling debts, and pay for trips to such destinations as Alaska, Italy, France, India, and the Caribbean.
According to the SEC’s complaint filed in federal court in New Jersey, Venetis and the three entities that she founded, owned, or controlled have obtained at least $11 million from investors since approximately 1997. Systematic Financial Associates Inc. is an investment adviser, Systematic Financial Services LLC is an accounting and tax preparation firm, and Systematic Financial Services Inc. is an entity Venetis created to conduct the fraudulent offerings. Venetis, acting on behalf of the three entities, solicited and obtained funds from clients and others to invest in promissory notes, fixed income investments, or other side investments.
The SEC’s complaint charges Venetis, Systematic Financial Associates, Inc., Systematic Financial Services, LLC, and Systematic Financial Services, Inc. with unregistered sales of securities in violation of the Securities Act of 1933 and with violations of the antifraud provisions of the Securities Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. The SEC also charged Venetis and Systematic Financial Associates, Inc. with violations of the antifraud provisions of the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. In addition, the SEC’s complaint names three relief defendants for the purposes of recovering investor assets now in their possession: Jennifer Venetis (Venetis’s daughter); Kevin Persley (Venetis’s brother); and Venetis LLC (an entity owned and controlled by Venetis).
Sandra Venetis and the entities have agreed to settle the SEC’s charges and have consented to all of the relief that the SEC seeks in its complaint, including the entry of a court order enjoining them from future violations of the above provisions of the securities laws, ordering the payment of disgorgement of ill-gotten gains with prejudgment interest, financial penalties, an asset freeze, accountings, and the appointment of an independent monitor.
It was noted that the settlement will defer the determination of the amount of the monetary relief to a later date. The settlement is not final until approved by the Venetis and Systematic Financial Associates Inc. also agreed to settle related administrative actions by the Commission that will bar Venetis from association with any investment adviser or broker or dealer, and revoke the registration of the firm.
This information was obtained from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission’s website.
If you are a victim of the alleged fraudulent schemes of Sandra Venetis or Systematic Financial Associates Inc., Systematic Financial Services LLC, or Systematic Financial Services Inc., call a FINRA Securities arbitration lawyer for a free consultation on how to recover your losses. To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.stockmarketlawsuit.com. Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA and the NFA.
finra securities arbitration · fixed income investments · Florida Securities Lawyer · fraud · Ft. Lauderdale Securities Lawyer · investment fraud · promissory notes · sale of phony promissory notes · Sandra Venetis · Sandra Venetis Branchburg NJ · SEC · Securities and Exchange Commission · securities fraud · Stock fraud lawyer · stockbroker misconduct · Systematic Financial Associates Inc · Systematic Financial Services Inc · Systematic Financial Services LLC · target older investors · Venetis LLC