Articles Tagged with reasonable basis suitability

shutterstock_128655458-300x200Our law firm, Gana Weinstein LLP, is investigating claims made by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) against broker James Vernon Regier (Regier), formerly associated with Summit Brokerage Services, Inc. The customer complaints allege that Regier engaged in securities law violations, including making unsuitable investments in clients’ accounts. The most recent complaint filed in July 2016 alleges that between 2010 and 2015, Regier engaged in unsuitable trading in a customer’s account by recommending purchases of publicly traded shares of United Development Funding IV (UDF). The complaint is currently pending. In April 2016, another investor filed a complaint and alleged unsuitable activity occurring in the investor’s account from April 2015 – March 2016, causing damages of greater than $5,000.00. That complaint is also currently pending. In January 2012, a customer filed a complaint alleging unsuitable trading activity in 2008. The claim was settled for $104,191.00.

Regier first became associated with FINRA in 2002. Below are the firms that Regier has been employed by and registered with throughout his career:

  • Washington Square Securities, Inc. (January 2002 – August 2002)

shutterstock_115937266According to UBS’ second quarter earnings report, the bank is now looking at over $600 million in claims brought by Puerto Rico investors, who have suffered significant losses related to their investments in closed-end bond funds. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) has been inundated with a plethora of claims in connection with the closed-end UBS Puerto Rico Bond Funds. Investors are looking to be made whole after they purportedly received misleading information regarding these investments. While the majority of the claims were filed against UBS Financial Services of Puerto, other firms, including Merrill Lynch, Banco Popular, Santander Securities, and Oriental Financial Services have also been named as Respondents in many of the claims.

UBS recognizes the perilous situation that it now faces with respect to these claims, explaining, “declines in the market prices of Puerto Rico municipal bonds and of UBS Puerto Rico sole-managed and co-managed closed-end funds since August 2013 have led to multiple regulatory inquiries, as well as customer complaints and arbitrations with aggregate claimed damages exceeding [$]600 million filed by clients in Puerto Rico who own those securities.”

Some of the claims that UBS face, including clients represented by our firm, include allegations of unsuitability, over-concentration, fraud, and breach of contract among others. FINRA and the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board require broker dealers to have a reasonable basis to support the suitability of their recommendations to customers. Legal representatives for many claimants have said that the UBS employees prioritized commissions when they sold the closed-end bond funds to Puerto Rican investors, who were not economically equipped to make those investments.

Most investors know that their financial advisor cannot misrepresent the risks and rewards of investments.  However, many investors do not realize that all brokers have an obligation to deal fairly with investors by only recommending suitable investments or investment strategies.  All sales efforts are judged by the ethical standards of Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) that sets industry wide investment standards.  The “suitability rule” contains three primary obligations: reasonable-basis, customer-specific, and quantitative suitability.

Reasonable-basis suitability means that the broker must believe, based on appropriate research and due diligence, that the product or strategy being recommended is suitable for at least some investors.  Thus, FINRA recognizes that there are some investment products and strategies that are so risky and likely to fail that they would be inappropriate for all investors.  Other investments may contain risks characteristics that are only appropriate for a very small group of investors or for specialized purposes.

Customer-specific suitability requires the broker to believe that the recommended investment strategy is suitable for that particular customer. The advisor must take into consideration the customer’s risk tolerance, investment objectives, age, financial circumstances, other investment holdings, experience, and other information provided to the broker.

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