Advisor James Babineaux (Babineaux), currently employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch) has been subject to at least two customer complaints during the course of his career. According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints concern unsuitable investment recommendations and unauthorized trading. In August 2018, a customer alleged Babineux engaged in unauthorized trading from July 26, 2018 through July 27, 2018. Additionally, that same year, another customer alleged that Babineux engaged in unsuitable investment recommendations and unauthorized trading from January 18, 2018 through July 27, 2018. Both matters settled for $1,322.21 and $2,853.93 respectively.
Unauthorized trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior consent from the investor. All brokers, who do not have discretionary authority to trade an account, are under an obligation to first discuss trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b). Under the NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b), a broker is prohibited from trading in a non-discretionary customer account without prior written authorization from the customer. Unauthorized trading is a type of investment fraud because the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has found that disclosures of trades being made are essential and material to an investor. Unauthorized trading is often a gateway violation to other securities violations including churning, unsuitable investments, and excessive use of margin.
Moreover, 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.
Babuneux entered the securities industry in 1985 and has been registered with Merrill Lynch since after his return to the firm in April 2008. Babineux originally worked at Merrill Lynch from 1985 through 1990 after spending six months at Waddell & Reed, Inc. From 1990 through 1992 Babineux was registered Painewebber Incorporated. From 1992 through 1994 Babineux was registered with Charles Schawb & Co., Inc. The BrokerCheck report does not contain any information regarding Babineux’s employment or registration from 1994 through 2008.
Investors who have suffered losses may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of security fraud and unauthorized trades. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.