According to BrokerCheck records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) advisor Frank Zito (Zito), formerly associated with Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) in Ridgeland, Mississippi and currently registered with Coker & Palmer was terminated concerning allegations that Zito engaged in conduct such as failure to adhere to firm standards regarding selling away and failure to fully disclose participation in an outside business activity. A month earlier in May 2018 a customer filed a complaint against Zito alleging that the broker made unsuitable recommendations and sold unapproved products from 2013 through January 2018. The complaint is currently pending and alleges $571,000 in damages.
At this time, the claims against Zito are unclear as to the exact nature and extent of the unapproved product sale activity. Zito has outside business disclosures including timber purchasing from timber management firm.
It is possible that this activity is related to the alleged Ponzi Scheme orchestrated by Arthur Adams (Adams) and Madison Timber Properties LLC (Madison Timber) by The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The complaint against Adams and Madison Timber was unsealed on May 1, 2018 Mississippi federal court and revealed the SEC’s fraud charges against the Mississippi company and its principal who has been accused of stealing from at least 150 investors in a $85 million Ponzi scheme. Adams and Madison Timber agreed to a permanent injunction, an asset freeze, and expedited discovery.
The allegations against Zito conform to 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. Sometimes those investments have some legitimacy but often times these types of investments can end up being Ponzi schemes or the advisor can be engaging in the conversion of funds. When advisors convert or misappropriate funds they often created businesses or other vehicles to serve as a cover for the theft of funds. 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.
Zito entered the securities industry in 1996. From March 2010 until July 2018 Zito had been associated with Merrill Lynch out of the firm’s Ridgeland, Mississippi 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.