According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Stephen Murray (Murray) has been subject to seven customer complaints, two financial disclosures or tax liens, and one regulatory action. Murray was formerly employed by Raymond James & Associates, Inc. (Raymond James) prior to his bar from the financial industry. Many of the customer complaints against Murray concern allegations of high frequency trading activity also referred to as churning, unauthorized trading, and unsuitable investments.
In May 2018 FINRA barred Murray after he failed to respond to FINRA’s requests for documents and information concerning his activities.
In May 2017 a customer filed a complaint alleging churning unauthorized trading, negligence, and breach of fiduciary duty. The claim alleged $100,000 in damages and settled.
In addition, Murray has two financial disclosures concerning debts and tax liens. This information has been found to be material for investors to have because an advisor who cannot manage his own finances is a relevant factor for investors to consider. In addition, a broker in financial distress may be influenced to recommend high commission products or strategies.
When brokers engage in excessive trading, sometimes referred to as churning, the broker will typical 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.
According to newsources, a study revealed that 7.3% of financial advisors had a customer complaint on their record when records from 2005 to 2015 were examined. Brokers must publicly disclose reportable events on their BrokerCheck reports that include customer complaints, IRS tax liens, judgments, investigations, terminations, and criminal cases. In addition, research has show a disturbing pattern with troublesome brokers where brokers with high numbers of customer complaints are not kicked out of the industry but instead these brokers are sifted to lower quality brokerage firms with loose hiring practices and higher rates of customer complaints. These lower quality firms may average brokers with five times as many complaints as the industry average.
Murray entered the securities industry in 1973. From June 2010 until February 2013, Murray was registered with Morgan Keegan & Company, Inc. From February 2013 until February 2018 Murray was registered with Raymond James out of the firm’s Palm Beach Gardens, Florida office location.
At Gana Weinstein LLP, our attorneys are experienced representing investors who have suffered securities losses due to excessive trading and churning violations. Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. Claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.