According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker James Ham (Ham) has been the subject of at least two customer complaints, one financial matter, three regulatory events, two employment separations, and one judgement/lien. Recently, FINRA barred the broker for failing to cooperate in the agencies investigation into allegations that a customer of Ham’s deposited of approximately $170,000 into Ham’s undisclosed outside business. Such activities are referred to as “selling away” in the industry. The customer complaints against Ham allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments concerning variable annuities among other claims.
Ham entered the securities industry in 1988. From March 2006, until October 2014, Ham was registered with First Independent Financial Services (First Independent). Upon termination from First Independent the firm filed a Uniform Termination form (Form U5) stating that the reason for the firm’s termination of Ham was due to allegations by the firm that Ham executed discretionary transactions in a variable annuity owned by customers without obtain authorization from the customers or the firm to make such trades.
The latest FINRA investigation is not the only action the regulatory took against Ham. In October 2014, Ham entered into another consent order with FINRA concerning the reasons for his termination from First Independent, namely that he made discretionary trades in the variable annuity accounts of his customers without authorization. That consent order resulted in a 60 day suspension and a $5,000 fine. However, it appears FINRA was not paid the fine and the agency brought a second action against Ham. At some point FINRA then began to investigate the outside business activity that ultimately resulted in Ham being ousted from the industry.
It is important for investors to know that all advisers have an obligation and responsibility to deal fairly with investors including making suitable investment recommendations. In order to make suitable recommendations the broker must have a reasonable basis for recommending the product or security based upon the broker’s investigation of the investments properties including its benefits, risks, tax consequences, and other relevant factors. In addition, the broker must also understand the customer’s specific investment objectives to determine whether or not the specific product or security being recommended is appropriate for the customer based upon their needs.
The number of complaints and regulatory actions against Ham is relatively large by industry standards. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Brokers must disclose different types of events, not necessarily all of which are customer complaints. These disclosures can include IRS tax liens, judgments, and even criminal matters. In Ham’s case he has a number of financial matters disclosed including one bankruptcy, and a tax judgment totaling over $280,000. Such financial matters may lead a broker to seek funds by providing client’s improper advice.
Investors who have suffered losses may be able recover their losses through securities arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases where their broker has acted inappropriately. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.