The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) in an acceptance, waiver, and consent action (AWC) sanctioned brokerage firm Genworth Financial Securities Corporation (Genworth) n/k/a Cetera Financial Specialists, LLC (Cetera) concerning allegations that from July 2009, through June 2012, the firm failed to establish a supervisory system and enforce written supervisory procedures designed to identify and prevent unsuitable excessive trading and the churning of customer funds.
FINRA alleged that although Genworth’s written supervisory procedures explicitly provided for the monthly review of an Active Account Report, no such report actually existed. Further, FINRA found that Genworth had no other systems in place that would monitor active accounts for excessive trading. According to FINRA, the firm’s failure to have systems in place and the failure to enforce written supervisory procedures allowed at least one registered representative to churn a customer’s account in violation of anti-fraud rules.
Churning is considered a type of securities fraud because the broker places his own interests ahead of his customer and induces transactions in the customer’s account that are excessive in size and frequency in order to generate commissions for himself. In order to show that churning took place an investor must demonstrate that the broker exercised control over the account, that the broker engaged in excessive trading considering the objectives and nature of the account, and that the broker acted with intent.
Control can be shown through various factors including whether the transactions are made at the broker’s discretion and the relationship between the broker and the customer. Two metrics commonly used to measure excessive trading include the account’s “annualized turnover ratio” and its “cost to equity ratio.” Both courts and the SEC have consistently held that turnover ratios between three and five can trigger liability for excessive trading.
Investors who have suffered losses through excessive trading and churning may be able recover their losses through arbitration. The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are experienced in representing investors in cases where brokerage firms fail to supervise their representatives trading in client accounts. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.