FINRA Investigates Broker Brent Porges Over Supervision and Churning

shutterstock_173809013According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Brent Porges (Porges) has been the subject of at least four customer complaints, six judgements or liens, and one regulatory investigation. The Customer complaints against Porges alleges securities law violations that claim churning and excessive trading, unsuitable investments, securities fraud, and excessive commissions among other claims. The most recent complaint filed alleges losses of $900,000. In addition, in May 2015, a customer was awarded $338,454 in an arbitration claim including Porges where the panel assessed $107,944 against Porges and others jointly and severally and also a finding of punitive damages against Porges and others jointly and severally under New York law.

In addition to customer complaints Porges is subject to numerous liens including a $7,500 tax lien in March 2015, a $9,000 tax lien in February 2014, a $64,000 tax lien in August 2013, a $5,200 tax lien in December 2012, among other liens. Tax liens and judgements are often a sign that the broker cannot manage their own personal finances and may be tempted to recommend high commission products or strategies to clients in order to satisfy debts.

Finally, the brokercheck record also states that on September 29, 2015, FINRA initiated an investigation into Porges conduct. The investigation relates to false statements and testimony, violations of FINRA’s supervisory rules and churning.

Porges entered the securities industry in 2000. Since 2008, Porges has been associated with several firms including Pointe Capital, Inc. until November 2008, New Castle Financial Services LLC from January 2009 until September 2009, Brookstone Securities, Inc. from August 2009 until January 2010, Prestige Financial Center, Inc. from December 2009, until April 2010, and Rockwell Global Capital LLC from May 2010, until July 2010. Since January 2012, Porges has been associated with Craig Scott Capital, LLC.

Churning is investment trading activity in the client’s account that serves no reasonable purpose for the investor and is transacted solely 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 customer complaints against Porges is high relative to his peers. According to InvestmentNews, only about 12% of financial advisors have any type of disclosure event on their records. Brokers must publicly disclose certain types of reportable events on their CRD including but not limited to customer complaints. In addition to disclosing client disputes brokers must divulge IRS tax liens, judgments, and criminal matters. However, FINRA’s records are not always complete according to a Wall Street Journal story that checked with 26 state regulators and found that at least 38,400 brokers had regulatory or financial red flags such as a personal bankruptcy that showed up in state records but not on BrokerCheck. More disturbing is the fact that 19,000 out of those 38,400 brokers had spotless BrokerCheck records.

Gana Weinstein LLP represents investors who have suffered investment losses due to broker wrongdoing, such as churning and unsuitable investments. The majority of these claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.

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