According to BrokerCheck records financial advisor John Neely (Neely), currently employed by St. Bernard Financial Services, Inc. (St. Bernard Financial) has been subject to at least one customer complaint, three regulatory actions, and one employment termination for cause. According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Neely has been accused by FINRA of engaging in unauthorized trading in client accounts.
In November 2018 FINRA settled a regulatory action against Neely stating that Neely consented to sanctions and findings that he exercised discretion in effecting hundreds of transactions in two customers’ brokerage accounts without obtaining written approval from the customers to do so. FINRA also found that the customers verbally authorized Neely to exercise discretion in their accounts but that Neely never sought his firm’s approval to service either customer’s accounts on a discretionary basis. In addition, according to FINRA Neely’s firm prohibited the use of discretion in brokerage accounts altogether.
In September 2018 Neely’s then employer Berthel, Fisher & Company Financial Services, Inc. (Berthel Fisher) terminated Neely stating that he failed to respond to an inquiry from the compliance department.
Advisors are not allowed to engage in unauthorized trading. Such trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior authority from the investor. All brokers are under an obligation to first discuss trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b). These rules explicitly prohibit brokers from making discretionary trades in a customers’ non-discretionary accounts. The SEC has also found that unauthorized trading to be fraudulent nature because no disclosure could be more important to an investor than to be made aware that a trade will take place.
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.
Neely entered the securities industry in 1979. From August 2009 until September 2018 Neely was registered with Berthel Fisher. Since March 2019 Neely has been associated with St. Bernard Financial out of the firm’s Russellville, Arkansas 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.