Advisor and broker Ralph Byer (Byer), currently employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch), has a substantial complaint history. Byer has been subject to at least seven customer complaints during the course of his career. According to a BrokerCheck report, the majority of his customer complaints (four out of seven) concern unsuitable investment recommendations.
In June 2018, a customer alleged Byer engaged making unsuitable investment recommendations and excessive trading from 1990 until 2018. Ultimately this matter settled for $565,000.00. Additionally, from 2001 through 2009, three other known customer complaints were brought against Byer for making unsuitable investments. Moreover, in 1999, a customer alleged Byer engaged in churning. That matter ultimately settled in favor of the client for $22,500.00.
Advisors have an obligation to make only suitable recommendations for investments to the client. There are many investments that are not appropriate for the majority of investors or for certain investors given their risk tolerance, age, and other factors. Advisors should not present these investment options to clients. There are two screens that advisors must employ to determine whether an investment is suitable for a client. First, there must be a reasonable basis for the recommendation – meaning that the product has been investigated and due diligence conducted into the investment’s features, benefits, risks, and other relevant factors. The advisor must conclude that the investment is suitable for at least some investors and some securities may be suitable for no one. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short-term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.
When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typically 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
Byer entered the securities industry in 1982 and has been registered with Merrill Lynch his entire career.
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. At Gana Weinstein 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.