James Noto’s Variable Annuity Sales Practices Lead to Customer Disputes

shutterstock_94127350The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are investigating customer complaints filed with The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker James Noto (Noto). According to BrokerCheck records Noto is subject to at least one regulatory sanction and seven customer complaints. The customer complaints against Noto allege securities law violations that claim unsuitable investments and lack of due diligence among other claims.  Many of the more recent claims involve the sale of Variable Annuity products.

The most recent complaint was filed in March 2016, and alleged that James Noto, while employed at Summit Brokerage Services (Summit), recommended an unsuitable investment in a variable annuity.  In 2015, another customer filed a complaint alleging that Noto made unsuitable investment recommendations.

Variable annuities are complex financial and insurance products.  In fact, recently the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) released a publication entitled: Variable Annuities: What You Should Know encouraging investors to ask questions about the variable annuity before investing.  Essentially, a variable annuity is a contract with an insurance company under which the insurer agrees to make periodic payments to you.  The investor chooses the investments made in the annuity and value of your variable annuity will vary depending on the performance of the investment options chosen.  The primary benefits of variable annuities are the death benefit and tax deferment of investment gains.

However, the benefits of variable annuities are often outweighed by the terms of the contract that include exorbitant expenses such as surrender charges, mortality and expense charges, management fees, market-related risks, and rider costs.

Noto entered the securities industry in 1982.  Since 2005 Noto has been registered with Summit out of the firm’s Trinity, Florida office location.

The number of customer complaints against Noto 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.

The investment lawyers at Gana LLP represent investors who have suffered investment 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.