The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) barred former Cetera Advisors LLC (Cetera) broker Bruce Sabourin (Sabourin) after the broker failed to respond to a letter from the regulator requesting information. While the BrokerCheck records kept by FINRA do not disclose the nature of the regulatory inquiry, in May 2014, Sabourin was terminated by Cetera for cause stating that the broker was terminated for excessive trading in client accounts and potential exercise of discretionary authority without written authorization.
According to the BrokerCheck records Sabourin has been the subject of at least four customer complaints, one employment separation, one regulatory action, and one criminal matter. The customer complaints against Sabourin allege a number of securities law violations including that the broker made unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, and churning (excessive trading) among other claims.
Sabourin entered the securities industry in 1994. From August 2001, until September 2009, Sabourin was associated with Investors Capital Corp. Thereafter, from September 2009, until February 2011, Sabourin was registered as a broker with MetLife Securities Inc. Thereafter, Sabourin was associated with Sterne Agee Financial Services, Inc. from February 2011, until December 2012. Finally, Sabourin was associated with Cetera from November 2012, until May 2014.
All advisers have a fundamental responsibility to deal fairly with investors including making suitable investment recommendations. Many of the claims against Sabourin involving claims of unauthorized trading, churning, and excessive trading.
Advisors are not allowed to engage in unauthorized trading. Such trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior authority from the investor. The broker must first discuss all 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.
Unauthorized trading often accompanies claims of churning, or investment trading activity in the client’s account serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is transacted to profit the broker. The elements to establish a churning claim, which is considered a species of securities fraud, 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.
The number of complaints and regulatory actions against Sabourin 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.
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.