Articles Tagged with discretionary trading

shutterstock_95643673According to the BrokerCheck records kept by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) broker Timothy Wynne (Wynne) has been the subject of at least 5 customer complaints. The customer complaints against Wynne allege securities law violations that claim churning and excessive trading, unsuitable investments, unauthorized trading, fraud, misrepresentations, and discretionary trading among other claims. The most recent complaint was filed in October 2014, and alleged $500,000 in losses due to churning and excessive commission charges from February 2012 through October 2014. Another complaint filed in July 2014, alleged over $3.3 million in damages caused by unsuitable discretionary trading. Another complaint also filed in July 2014 alleged unsuitable investments in Monticello MN Telecommunication municipal bonds.

Wynne entered the securities industry in 1986. From January 2002, until February 2012, Wynne was associated with with Oppenheimer & Co. Inc. Presently, Wynne is associated with Feltl & Company out of the firm’s Minneapolis, Minnesota branch office location.

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.

shutterstock_93851422The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) fined and suspended broker Douglas Dannhardt (Dannhardt) concerning allegations that between January 2010, and December 2011 Dannhardt engaged in several different violations of the industry’s rules including: 1( excessive and unsuitable trading in three IRA accounts (also known as churning); 2) improperly exercising discretion in these three accounts by executing transactions days and weeks after obtaining customer approval; 3) accepting trade orders for a customer’s account from a third party without written authorization.

Dannhardt became associated with a FINRA firm in 1984. From March 1995 through December 2013, Dannhardt was employed by Prospera Financial Services. Inc, (Prospera). The firm filed a Form U5 for Dannhardt as a result of his voluntary resignation from the firm.

Under the FINRA rules excessive trading occurs when: (1) a broker exercises control over a customer’s account: and (2) the amount of trading activity in that account is inconsistent with the customer’s investment objectives, financial situation, and needs. This conduct violates FINRA’s suitability standards. When making such a determination FINRA looks to see if the trading in an account can becomes so quantitatively unsuitable by unreasonably raising the costs associated with the investment strategy to the point where the additional risk in order to generate the return is not offset by those costs.

shutterstock_186471755The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) recently sanctioned broker Tory Duggins (Duggins) concerning allegations that between November 2011 through May 2012, Duggins exercised discretionary power in two customer accounts by making 17 transactions without obtaining prior written authorization from the customers. Under NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) Duggins was required to provide written authorization to his firm in order to engage in discretionary trading activity. In addition, FINRA alleged that Duggins made false statements on a member firm semi-annual compliance questionnaire concerning his exercise of time and price discretion in customer accounts.

Duggins entered the securities industry in July 2002. Since that time Duggins has been associated with a total of nine different brokerage firms. Most recently from October 2008 through December 2012 Duggins was associated with vFinance Investments, Inc. (vFinane). Thereafter, Duggins was associated with National Securities Corporation (National Securities) until January 2014. Currently, Duggins is associated with Avenir Financial Group.

In addition to FINRA’s claims, Duggins public disclosures reveal that Duggins has been subject to multiple tax liens totaling over $300,000. Often times such extensive debts influence brokers to engage in excessive trading and churning in order to generate commissions to pay down personal debts. Often times, authorized trading goes hand and hand with churning. In Duggins’ case, three customers have brought complaints against the broker alleging excessive trading designed to generate commissions for the broker.

shutterstock_115937266The attorneys of the law offices of Gana Weinstein LLP are investigating a series of recently filed complaints against broker John Quintero (Quintero) who is currently a registered representative with Transamerica Financial Advisors.  In January 2014, an investor filed a complaint alleging that Quintero misrepresented the premiums paid on a variable universal life insurance policy (VUL). Specifically, the customer claimed that Quintero stated that the premiums paid would be a tax differed investments and that further the sub-account investments were unsuitable.

VULs are complex insurance and investment products that investors must fully understand prior to investing. One feature of a VUL policy is that the investor can allocate a portion of his premium payments to a separate sub-account to invest and grow through mostly mutual fund investments. Monthly charges are assessed for the life insurance policy including a cost of insurance charge and administrative fees all of which are deducted from the policy’s cash value. The investor can suffer losses are receive gains based upon the performance of the sub-account investments. However, the VUL policy can terminate or lapses if at any time the net cash surrender value is insufficient to pay the monthly cost deductions. Upon termination of the policy, the remaining cash value becomes worthless.

Given the costs and premiums involved in purchasing VULs, brokers must be careful to ensure that the recommendation to invest in VULs is suitable for the client. In some cases, investors do not realize the huge expense of these policies and have no way to continue to cover the premiums. When this happens the policy could lapse over time.

shutterstock_71240The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned broker Richard Lewis (Lewis) concerning allegations that Lewis exercised discretion in a customer’s account without obtaining prior written authorization from the customer. FINRA found that his conduct violated NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.

Lewis first became registered with FINRA firm in 1989. Since then, he has been associated with several firms and from December 2010, to March 2013, Lewis was associated with LPL Financial LLC (LPL). Currently, Lewis is associated with J.W. Cole Financial, Inc.

FINRA alleged that from April 2012, to February 2013, while Lewis was associated with LPL, he effected approximately 81 discretionary transactions in the securities account of a customer without obtaining prior written authorization and without LP accepting the account in writing as discretionary.

shutterstock_175000886The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) sanctioned and barred financial advisor Matthew Davis (Davis) concerning allegations that in connection with a FINRA investigation into allegations of misconduct in several customer accounts, FINRA staff scheduled Davis’ on-the-record (OTR) testimony and Davis failed to appear for the scheduled testimony and informed the agency that he would not appear at another time.

Davis was associated with Beneficial Investment Services, Inc. from November 2008, through April 2010. Thereafter, Davis was associated with OneAmerica Securities, Inc. (OneAmerica) from April 2010, through July 2013. He is not currently associated with a FINRA member.

FlNRA alleged that its staff requested that Davis appear and provide testimony on March 24, 2014, regarding allegations that Davis engaged in misconduct in several customer accounts. The allegations of misconduct included claims of conversion, misrepresentation of customer holdings and account value, forgery, discretionary unauthorized trading, attempts to settle a customer complaint without the firm’s knowledge, and unsuitable investment recommendations. Through Davis’ counsel, FINRA was informed that he would not appear for testimony.

Broker Paul A. Thomas (Thomas) formerly with Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp. (Lincoln Financial) was suspended by The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) over allegations that Thomas engaged in unauthorized and/or improper discretionary penny stock trading, engaged in unsuitable penny stock trading, and mismarked the trade tickets for penny stock transactions as unsolicited, when they were solicited trades.

Thomas has been in the securities industry since 2000 and was employed by Lincoln Financial as a registered representative through his termination on October 14, 2011.  Thomas has approximately 15 customer disputes filed against him.  The vast majority of these disputes involve allegations concerning improper penny stock trading.

A “penny stock” is a security issued by a small or micro-cap company having less than $100 million in market capitalization. Penny stocks typically trade at less than $5 per share and are generally quoted on over-the-counter exchanges such as on the OTC Bulletin Board.  The risks of penny stocks include the fact that they may trade infrequently. Thus, it is often difficult to liquidate a penny stock holding once acquired and at the time the investor wants to.  Second, it is often difficult to find accurate quotes for penny stocks.  Consequently, penny stocks often fluctuate wildly day-to-day and investors may lose their whole investment.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) suspended broker James Glenn Tallant (Tallant) for three months and fined him $15,000 including the disgorgement of $8,560.44 in commissions.  FINRA alleged that Tallant exercised discretionary trading authority without written authorization in four securities accounts in violation of NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b) and FINRA Rule 2010.  In addition, FINRA found that Tallant engaged in excessive trading and quantitatively unsuitable in violation of NASD Conduct Rule 2310 and IM-2310-2.

Tallant has been a registered representative with Morgan Stanley from 2005 through July 2013.  FINRA alleged that Tallant’s securities violations involved a 49 years old woman, divorced, and with two children.  The client owned and operated a women’s boutique clothing store and had an annual income of approximately $140,000 and an estimated net worth of approximately $300,000.

The client’s IRA account investment objectives capital appreciation and aggressive income.  FINRA found that between March 2009, and March 2010, Tallant executed 39 purchase and sale securities transactions in the client’s individual account amounting to $147,366.50 with gross commissions totaling $8,739.56. In the client’s three other accounts Tallant’s trading totaled between $99,000 and $261,000 over the same time period.  In 2009 alone, Tallant’s total gross commissions were $200,927.

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