Broker Investigation: Churning Complaints Against Broker Nathaniel Clay

shutterstock_140321293The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating a customer complaint filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker Nathaniel Clay (Clay).  According to BrokerCheck records Clay has been subject to at least six customer complaint and one employment termination for cause.  The customer complaints against Clay allege securities law violations that including unsuitable investments, churning, excessive trading, and unauthorized trading among other claims.

The most recent complaint was filed in December 2015 alleging $513,218 in damage stemming from unauthorized trading, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and misrepresentations.  The complaint is still pending.

Clay’s former brokerage firm National Securities Corporation (National Securities) was recently featured in a study ranking brokerage firms by incidents of misconduct.  According to a study conducted by the Securities Litigation and Consulting Group entitled “How Widespread and Predictable is Stock Broker Misconduct?” the incidents of investor harm at National Securities is extraordinarily high.  The study ranked National Securities as the third worst brokerage firm finding that brokers at the firm had over a 31% misconduct rate.  The study stated that investors should stay away from National Securities “Given their coworkers’ disclosure record as of 2014, 83.7% of the brokers at these six firms would be in the highest risk quintile as defined in the FINRA study and should be avoided by investors. The BrokerCheck reports for most of the brokers at these six firms should prominently display a skull and crossbones warning.”

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.

The number of events listed on Clay Brokercheck 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.

Clay entered the securities industry in 2002.  From July 2008 through November 2015, Clay was associated with National Securities.  Since November 2015, Clay has been associated with brokerage firm Laidlaw & Company (UK) LTD out of the firm’s New York, New York office location.

The investment fraud attorneys at Gana LLP represent investors who have suffered securities losses due to the mishandling of their accounts.  The majority of these claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA.  Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.