The attorneys at Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating BrokerCheck records reports that financial advisor Heather Weber (Weber), currently employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch) has been subject to at least ten customer complaints during the course of her career. According to records kept by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), Weber’s customer complaints alleges that Weber recommended unsuitable investments in options among other allegations of misconduct relating to the handling of their accounts.
In September 2019 a customer complained that Weber violated the securities laws by alleging that Weber engaged in sales practice violations related to unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentations concerning options. The claim alleges $350,000 in damages and is currently pending.
In May 2017 a customer complained that Weber violated the securities laws by alleging that Weber engaged in sales practice violations related to unsuitable investment recommendations and misrepresentation from February 2012 to June 2014. The claim alleged $1,000,000 in damages and settled for $92,500.
There are different risky strategies that can employ options trading. One such strategy is the use of the iron condor, which involves the purchase of multiple uncovered options versus safer covered options. When an option is covered the investor holds an offsetting stock position in the asset underlying the option. The stock position can help offset the risk of the short position of the option. However, with an uncovered option the investor has unmitigated risk. If the underlying stock substantially drops or increases in value for an uncovered position the investor have only two options. Either the investor has to let the options expire and lose the entire investment or buy the stock at a disadvantageous price.
Brokers are required under the securities laws to treat their clients fairly. This obligation includes the duties to disclose material risks of the investments they recommend and to present products, particularly complex or confusing products, in a fair and balanced manner that allows the client to evaluate the recommendation. Another important obligation advisors have is to make only suitable recommendations for investments to the client. There are many investments that are not appropriate for the majority of investors or for certain investors given their risk tolerance, age, and other factors. Advisors should not present these investment options to clients. There are two screens that advisors must employ to determine whether an investment is suitable for a client. First, there must be a reasonable basis for the recommendation – meaning that the product has been investigated and due diligence conducted into the investment’s features, benefits, risks, and other relevant factors. The advisor must conclude that the investment is suitable for at least some investors and some securities may be suitable for no one. Second, the broker then must match the investment as being appropriate for the customer’s specific investment needs and objectives such as the client’s retirement status, long or short term goals, age, disability, income needs, or any other relevant factor.
According to newsources, a study revealed that 7.3% of financial advisors had a customer complaint on their record when records from 2005 to 2015 were examined. Brokers must publicly disclose reportable events on their BrokerCheck reports that include customer complaints, IRS tax liens, judgments, investigations, terminations, and criminal cases. In addition, research has show a disturbing pattern with troublesome brokers where brokers with high numbers of customer complaints are not kicked out of the industry but instead these brokers are sifted to lower quality brokerage firms with loose hiring practices and higher rates of customer complaints. These lower quality firms may average brokers with five times as many complaints as the industry average.
Weber entered the securities industry in 1997. Since March 2006 Weber has been associated with Merrill Lynch out of the firm’s Clearwater, Florida office location.
Investors who have suffered losses are encouraged to contact us at (800) 810-4262 for consultation. At Gana Weinstein LLP, our attorneys are experienced representing investors who have suffered securities losses due to the mishandling of their accounts. Claims may be brought in securities arbitration before FINRA. Our consultations are free of charge and the firm is only compensated if you recover.