Broker Stephen Sullivan Subject to Excessive Trading Complaint

shutterstock_177792281-300x198The securities lawyers of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating broker Stephen Sullivan (Sullivan), currently associated with SW Financial out of Melville, New York.  According to a BrokerCheck report, Sullivan has been subject to at least two customer disputes, one regulatory action, one financial disclosure, and three civil judgements during his career.  According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the customer complaints against Sullivan concern allegations of excessive trading also referred to as churning.

In May 2018 a customer filed a complaint against Sullivan alleging unsuitable transactions, excessive trading, and failure to supervise.  The customer requested $540,618 in damages.  This dispute is still pending.

In February 2016 FINRA found that Sullivan violated NASD Rules 2510(b) and 2010 by exercising discretion in customers’ accounts without obtaining authorization from the customers or approval by his member firm.  Without admitting or denying the allegations, Sullivan consented to the described sanctions and to the entry of the findings.  Sullivan was fined $5,000 and suspended for 10 business days.

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 shown 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.

Sullivan entered the securities industry in 1998.  From December 2016 to November 2017, Sullivan was registered with Newbridge Securities Corporation.  From November 2017 to May 2018, Sullivan was registered with Worden Capital Management LLC.  Since May 2018 Sullivan has been associated with SW Financial out of the firm’s Melville, New York 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.