Advisor James Babineaux (Babineaux), currently employed by Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith, Inc. (Merrill Lynch) has been subject to at least two customer complaints during the course of his career. According to a BrokerCheck report the customer complaints concern unsuitable investment recommendations and unauthorized trading. In August 2018, a customer alleged Babineux engaged in unauthorized trading from July 26, 2018 through July 27, 2018. Additionally, that same year, another customer alleged that Babineux engaged in unsuitable investment recommendations and unauthorized trading from January 18, 2018 through July 27, 2018. Both matters settled for $1,322.21 and $2,853.93 respectively.
Unauthorized trading occurs when a broker sells securities without the prior consent from the investor. All brokers, who do not have discretionary authority to trade an account, are under an obligation to first discuss trades with the investor before executing them under NYSE Rule 408(a) and FINRA Rules 2510(b). Under the NASD Conduct Rule 2510(b), a broker is prohibited from trading in a non-discretionary customer account without prior written authorization from the customer. Unauthorized trading is a type of investment fraud because the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) has found that disclosures of trades being made are essential and material to an investor. Unauthorized trading is often a gateway violation to other securities violations including churning, unsuitable investments, and excessive use of margin.