FINRA Bars Broker Clay Hoffman Over Unauthorized Trades

shutterstock_172034843-300x200Broker Clay Hoffman (Hoffman) was recently sanctioned by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in an enforcement action that led to a permanent bar against the broker.  According to BrokerCheck, FINRA found that Hoffman consented to sanctions that he executed discretionary transactions in a customer’s account without prior written authorization from the customer to exercise discretionary trading or approval by his brokerage firm.

The securities lawyers of Gana LLP are also investigating customer complaints against Hoffman.  There have been at least 14 customer complaints against Hoffman, four regulatory actions, and one employment termination for cause in Hoffman’s 14 year career.  The customer complaints against Hoffman allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unauthorized trading, fraud, and breach of fiduciary duty among other claims.

The most recent customer complaint was filed in April 2015 and alleges unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and misrepresentations causing $234,697 in damages.  The claim was settled.

Advisors are not allowed to engage in unauthorized trading.  Such trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior authority from the investor. All brokers are under an obligation to first discuss trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b).  These rules explicitly prohibit brokers from making discretionary trades in a customers’ non-discretionary accounts. The SEC has also found that unauthorized trading to be fraudulent nature because no disclosure could be more important to an investor than to be made aware that a trade will take place.

Hoffman entered the securities industry in January 2001.  From October 2007 until April 2013, Hoffman was associated with Suntrust Investment Services, Inc.  Thereafter, from May 2013 until March 2016, Hoffman was associated with Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. out of the firm’s Brunswick, Georgia office location.

The number of customer complaints against Hoffman 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.

At Gana LLP, our attorneys are experienced representing investors who have suffered securities losses due to the mishandling of their accounts.  Claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA.  Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.