The securities fraud lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) against broker John Tinnelly (Tinnelly). According to BrokerCheck records Tinnelly has been the subject of at least ten customer complaints and one regulatory action. The customer complaints against Tinnelly allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.
The most recent complaint was filed in April 2015 and alleged churning, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, breach of contract from July 2010 until November 2012 causing $168,924 in damages. The complaint settled with no contribution by the broker. In March 2015, another customer complaint alleged churning, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, breach of contract from February 2010 until March 2011 causing $118,375 in damages. The complaint is currently pending.
When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical trade in and out of securities, sometimes even the same stock, many times over a short period of time. Often times the account will completely “turnover” every month with different securities. This type of investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is engaged in only to profit the broker through the generation of commissions created by the trades. Churning is considered a species of securities fraud. The elements of the claim are excessive transactions of securities, broker control over the account, and intent to defraud the investor by obtaining unlawful commissions. A similar claim, excessive trading, under FINRA’s suitability rule involves just the first two elements. Certain commonly used measures and ratios used to determine churning help evaluate a churning claim. These ratios look at how frequently the account is turned over plus whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably profit from the activity.