A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel ruled that Citigroup Inc. (Citigroup) must pay $3.1 million to a Florida couple who alleged that their financial advisor, Scott King (King), solicited them to invest in real estate developments. The case was filed by Dr. Nasirdin Madhany and his wife, Zeenat Madhany, alleging negligent supervision, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, and breach of contract. The panel’s decision represents an important win for consumers and refutation of common arguments employed by the industry to avoid responsibility for their employee’s wrongful conduct.
The case involved a typical, and all too common, “selling away” scenario. Selling away occurs where a broker sells securities to customers that are not approved by the brokerage firm. Selling away investments represent a substantial risk to the investing public because brokerage firms do not record the transactions on their books and records and do not supervise the activity to ensure that the investment is appropriate for the customer.
Brokerage firms usually defend selling away cases by arguing that they were not aware of the securities transactions and therefore cannot be found liable. Firms also argue that they do not know the broker’s customer because in many cases the investor does not have a brokerage account with the firm. Therefore, the firm argues that it cannot be responsible for investment losses occurring to investors they do not know and away from the firm.