Broker Investigation: Churning Claims Against Mark Kaplan

shutterstock_188269637According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Mark Kaplan (Kaplan) has been the subject of at least four customer complaints and one termination. The customer complaints against Kaplan allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, churning (excessive trading), unauthorized trading, breach of fiduciary duty, misrepresentations and false statements, among other claims

Kaplan entered the securities industry in 1989. From September 2005, until June 2009, Kaplan was registered with Citigroup Global Markets Inc. (Citigroup). From June 2009, until April 2011, Kaplan was associated with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney (Morgan Stanley). In March 2011, Morgan Stanley filed a notice of Termination Form U-5 stating that Kaplan was discharged because of a customer complaint that was made against Kaplan. The firm also stated that it had other concerns regarding activity in client accounts. In response, Kaplan stated that the allegations by Morgan Stanley were unfounded and that the firm had approved all of the activity in client accounts. Since March 2011, Kaplan has been associated with Vanderbilt Securities, LLC.

All advisers have a fundamental responsibility to deal fairly with investors including making suitable investment recommendations. Many of the claims against Kaplan involving claims of churning and excessive trading. When brokers engage in churning the investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is transacted to profit the broker through the generation of commission payments. The elements to establish a churning claim, which is considered a species of securities fraud, 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.

The number of complaints and regulatory actions against Kaplan is relatively large by industry standards. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Brokers must disclose different types of events, not necessarily all of which are customer complaints. These disclosures can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters.

Investors who have suffered losses may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases where their broker has acted inappropriately. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.