Our firm has been tracking the developments related to Thomas Buck’s termination from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merrill Lynch), now known as Bank of America, NA (Bank of America) under highly unusual circumstances. (See Top Merrill Lynch Broker Thomas Buck Terminated Under Unusual Circumstances; Update On Broker Thomas Buck Investigation). Now, according to records kept by FINRA, Buck has accepted a bar from the securities industry.
Buck’s downfall played out quickly. Buck was terminated from Merrill Lynch on March 6, 2015, shocking colleagues. At the time of his termination there was only one customer complaint against Buck steaming from a dispute in 2006. Now, over the past four months customers have filed 11 additional complaints against him. All of the complaints have similar allegations against Buck in that the customers allege that during a time period Buck engage in unauthorized trades in corporate debt and equities. Several of the complaints allege excessive trading and misrepresentations.
Buck’s team managed nearly $1.5 billion in investor assets and was one of the Merrill Lynch’s largest producers. According to FINRA, Buck engaged in misrepresentations and other misconduct in the handling of customer accounts. FINRA alleged that beginning by at least 2009, Buck used unethical and improper business practices to generate increased commissions and enhance his status as a top-producing broker. According to FINRA, Buck held customer assets in commission-based accounts instead of fee-based accounts for the sole purpose of generating higher revenues even though he knew that some customers would have paid substantially lower fees by using fee-based accounts. In fact, FINRA goes on to allege that Buck misled customers about the relative costs of fee-based or commission-based trading for their accounts. In addition to these claims FINRA alleged that Buck exercised discretion in customer accounts without written or oral authorization, and made unauthorized trades in certain accounts.