Foreigners who put money into American enterprises in exchange for green cards through the federal EB-5 visa program have enjoyed the same protections from scammers that safeguard other investors.

But last year’s clarified rules for soliciting and collecting cash from EB-5 investors gave Trevor Saliba, founder of Beverly Hills investment bank NMS Capital, the idea for a new line of business: acting as a broker-dealer and investment bank for EB-5 projects.

Saliba said that being a licensed dealer presents lots of opportunity as these investments continue to pour into the United States.

“A lot of people who get involved in this, they’re paid fees for soliciting investments,” he said. “If you’re earning a fee and you’re not a licensed broker-dealer, you could get in trouble.”

Both the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, or Finra, clarified their regulations last year. SEC officials said firms that solicit investment through the EB-5 program must be registered broker-dealers; Finra said firms must do the same kind of due diligence on an EB-5 investment as on any other before pitching them to investors – for starters, making sure the business or project to be funded by the investment isn’t a sham.

NMS announced its first EB-5 deal last week, saying it’s been hired as a financial adviser to a fund that will invest in a Mid-Wilshire hotel. The firm is providing due-diligence services on behalf of the foreign investors.

Saliba said he wanted to do more such deals by connecting developers with potential EB-5 investors by using his contacts in Asia and the construction world.

Saliba is the grandson of the late Naseeb Saliba, former partner of construction magnate Ron Tutor. Before founding NMS, he was a managing director of a British hedge fund with offices in Hong Kong.

Bigger Wallet

Pasadena’s Wallaby Financial Inc. aims to help consumers get the most out of credit card reward programs. Its smartphone app recommends the best card for each purchase by combing through the fine print of credit card rewards programs, allowing people to get more cash back with this card at the grocery store, more airline miles with that card at the gas station.

Now the financial technology company is teaming up with, a credit card-tracking website, hoping to increase the number of people using Wallaby’s service.

Wallaby and created an online tool, the TPG Maximizer, designed to recommend credit card offers to people based on spending habits, credit history and preferences, such as whether they want airline miles, cash back or other rewards. It’s similar to a tool Wallaby offers on its site, but that one asks users to provide bank account information, the TPG Maximizer doesn’t.

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