Advisor William Baum Subject to Multiple Customer Disputes

shutterstock_92699377-300x285The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor William Baum (Baum), currently employed by Great American Investors, Inc. (Great American) was has been subject to at least eight customer complaints and one regulatory action during the course of his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Baum’s customer complaint alleges that Baum recommended unsuitable investments among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.

In July 2017 FINRA brought a regulatory action against Baum that he settled consenting to findings that he sent 58 text messages relating to his securities business – including messages about investment strategies and specific securities – to sixteen customers over the course of a year. FINRA found that Baum prevented his member firm from supervising those communications, violated the firm’s policy about business correspondence, and contradicted his attestation that he would use his firm’s email system for all business correspondence and retain all correspondence with customers for the firm’s review.

In September 2019 a customer complained that Baum violated the securities laws by alleging that Baum engaged in sales practice violations over the period of 2014 through 2017 by failing to recommend appropriate investments, disclose all conflicts of interest and fully inform claimants about the associated risks. The claim alleges $87,000 in damages and the case settled for $20,000.

Brokers are required under the securities laws to treat their clients fairly.  This obligation includes the duties to disclose material risks of the investments they recommend and to present products, particularly complex or confusing products, in a fair and balanced manner that allows the client to evaluate the recommendation.  Another important obligation advisors have is 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.

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.

Baum entered the securities industry in 1986.  Since December 2001 Baum has been registered with Great American out of the firm’s Overland Park, Kansas office location.

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.