According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker David Wolk (Wolk) has been the subject of an astonishing 13 customer complaints, 3 regulatory matters, one criminal matter, and 6 judgments and liens over the course of his career. Customers have filed complaints against Wolk alleging securities law violations that focus on churning and excessive trading. In addition to the churning claims, customers have complained of unsuitable investments, negligence, fraud, unauthorized trading, and misrepresentations, among other claims. In total the customer complaints allege several million dollars in damages.
The latest FINRA complaint (Disciplinary Proceeding No. 2012033981601) alleges that from November 2003, through January 2014, while Wolk was associated with Woodstock Financial Group, Inc. (Woodstock), Wolk was subject to six tax liens totaling over $810,000 and a state tax levy for $106,871.02. FINRA alleges that Respondent willfully failed to timely update his Form U4 to disclose these matters within FINRA’s 30-day reporting deadline. In addition, FINRA alleged that Respondent made a false attestation to Woodstock on an annual compliance questionnaire failing to disclose the liens. The latest FINRA complaint is only one of three total FINRA complaints. In October 2014, Wolk faied to pay fines associated with another FINRA matter. In August 2014, Wolk consented to FINRA’s findings that he attempted to settle a customer complaint without notifying his firm.
Wolk entered the securities industry in 1998. From February 2003 until September 2014, Wolk was associated with Woodstock out of the firm’s Garden City, New York office.
Churning is investment trading activity in the client’s account that serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is transacted solely to profit the broker. 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 customer complaints against Wolk is high relative to his peers. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Brokers must publicly disclose certain types of reportable events on their CRD including but not limited to customer complaints. In addition to disclosing client disputes brokers must divulge IRS tax liens, judgments, and criminal matters. However, FINRA’s records are not always complete according to a Wall Street Journal story that checked with 26 state regulators and found that at least 38,400 brokers had regulatory or financial red flags such as a personal bankruptcy that showed up in state records but not on BrokerCheck. More disturbing is the fact that 19,000 out of those 38,400 brokers had spotless BrokerCheck records.
Investors who have suffered investment losses due to broker misconduct may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana LLP are experienced in representing investors concerning securities violations. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.