According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor Michael Pepe (Pepe), currently employed by Ameriprise Financial Services, Inc. (Ameriprise) has been subject to six customer complaints, one criminal matter, and one tax lien in his career. According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), many of the complaints against Pepe concern allegations of unsuitable investments.
In August 2018, Pepe disclosed a tax lien of $34,439. 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.
In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint alleging that Pepe engaged in unauthorized trading in unsuitable securities. It was further alleged that had he been suitably invested, he would have generated a profit of approximately $750,000 under a well-managed portfolio damages analysis. The complaint is currently pending.
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.
Pepe entered the securities industry in 1983. March 2010 until August 2015 Pepe was associated with JHS Capital Advisors, LLC. Since August 2018 Pepe has been registered with Amerirpirse out of the firm’s Tampa, Florida 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.