Advisor Christopher Hellman Accused of Misappropriating Client Funds

shutterstock_143685652-300x300According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Christopher Hellman (Hellman), formerly associated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) in December 2018, was sanctioned and barred from the securities industry by FINRA over accusations of potentially selling unapproved products.

In December 2018 FINRA alleged that Hellman consented to the sanction and to the entry of findings that he failed to provide FINRA with requested documents and information during its investigation.  FINRA found that Merrill Lynch terminated Hellman’s registration for conduct including failure to adhere to firm standards regarding selling away and failure to fully disclose participation in outside business activities.

The providing of loans, misappropriating funds through false pretenses, or selling of notes and other investments outside of a brokerage firm constitutes impermissible private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away”.

At this time it is unclear the nature and scope of Hellman’s activities.  Hellman’s disclosures do not include any outside business activities (OBAs) disclosures.

In the industry the term selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm.  However, even though when these incidents occur the brokerage firm claims ignorance of their advisor’s activities the firm is obligated under the FINRA rules to properly monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion.  In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public.  Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system.  Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.

In cases of selling away the investor is unaware that the advisor’s investments are improper.  In many of these cases the investor will not learn that the broker’s activities were wrongful until after the investment scheme is publicized, the broker is fired or charged by law enforcement, or stops returning client calls altogether.

Hellman entered the securities industry in 2016.  From January 2016 through August 2016 Hellman was associated with FMS Bonds, Inc.  Finally, from September 2016 until October 2018 Hellman was associated with Merrill Lynch out of the firm’s Boca Raton, Florida office location.

Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. Investors may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration.  The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of selling away and brokerage firms failure to supervise their representatives.  Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.