The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned broker Timothy O’Brien (O’Brien) alleging that O’Brien exercised discretion in two customers’ accounts without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers. O’Brien is associated with brokerage firm Felt & Company.
The FINRA rules provide that registered representatives shall not exercise discretionary power in a customer’s account unless the customer has given prior written authorization to a stated broker and the account has been accepted by the member on that basis. FINRA found that O’Brien was the registered representative for two Felt customers. FINRA determined that in handling the customers’ accounts O’Brien periodically discussed trading strategies with these two customers. However, FINRA alleged that these customers did not give O’Brien written authorization to exercise discretion in their accounts nor did Felt approve these accounts as discretionary accounts. From July 2012, through February 2013, FINRA found that O’Brien used discretion to execute approximately 171 transactions in these customers’ accounts.
Often times unauthorized discretionary trading goes hand and hand with churning, trading that broker engages in solely to generate commissions at the client’s expense. In order to establish a churning claim the investor must show that the trading was first excessive and second that the broker had control over the investment strategy. 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 and whether or not the expenses incurred in the account made it unreasonable that the investor could reasonably be expected to profit from the activity.
Investors who have suffered losses through their broker’s investment recommendations may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of unauthorized trading, churning, and unsuitable investments. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.