According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) former advisor Christopher Hibbard (Hibbard), formerly associated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) in Louisville, Kentucky was terminated for cause by Merrill Lynch in January 2018 after the firm made allegations that Hibbard engaged in conduct including unauthorized transactions and theft. Thereafter, in February 2018 Hibbard was barred by FINRA for failing to respond to the regulatory requests for information. In April 2018 it was disclosed that an investigation of Hibbards activities had been opened by the United States Attorney’s Office, Western District of Kentucky. The investigation involves the unauthorized use of client funds by Hibbard during his employment with Merrill Lynch. In addition, eight customers have brought complaints against Hibbard alleging misappropriation of funds.
The allegations concerning conversion are often accompanied by claims of engaging in outside business activtiies and private securities transactions – a practice known in the industry as “selling away” – a serious violation of the securities laws.
In the industry the term selling away refers to when a financial advisor solicits investments in companies, promissory notes, or other securities that are not pre-approved by the broker’s affiliated firm. When advisors convert or misappropriate funds they often created businesses or other vechicles to serve as a cover for the theft of funds. Firm attempt to disclaim liability for the theft of funds by their brokers by claiming ignorance of their advisor’s activities. However, federal securities laws and the FINRA rules require firms to monitor and supervise its employees in order to detect and prevent brokers from offering investments in this fashion. In order to properly supervise their brokers each firm is required to have procedures in order to monitor the activities of each advisor’s activities and interaction with the public. Selling away misconduct often occurs where brokerage firms either fail to put in place a reasonable supervisory system or fail to actually implement that system. Supervisory failures allow brokers to engage in unsupervised misconduct that can include all manner improper conduct including selling away.
In cases of selling away the investor is unaware that the advisor’s investments are improper. In many of these cases the investor will not learn that the broker’s activities were wrongful until after the investment scheme is publicized, the broker is fired or charged by law enforcement, or stops returning client calls altogether.
Hibbard entered the securities industry in 1999. From July 2010 until January 2018 Hibbard was associated with Merrill Lynch out of the firm’s Louisville, Kentucky office location.
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. Investors may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases of selling away and brokerage firms failure to supervise their representatives. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.