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Investors With “Blown-Out” Securities-Backed Credit Line and Margin Accounts: How do You Recover Your Investment Losses?

If you are reading this article, we are guessing you had a bad experience recently in either a securities-backed line of credit (“SBL”) or margin account that suffered margin calls and was liquidated without notice, causing you to realize losses. Ordinarily, investors with margin calls receive 3 to 5 days to meet them; and if that happened, the value of the securities in your account might have increased within that period and the firm might have erased the margin call and might not have liquidated your account. If you are an investor who has experienced margin calls in the past, and that is your only complaint then, read no further because when you signed the account agreement with the brokerage firm you chose to do business with, you probably gave it the right to liquidate all of the securities in your account at any time without notice. On the other hand, if you are an investor with little experience or one with a modest financial condition who was talked into opening a securities-backed line of credit account without being advised of the true nature, mechanics, and/or risks of opening such an account, then you should call us now! Alternatively, if you are an investor who needed to withdraw money for a house or to pay for your taxes or child’s education but was talked into holding a risky or concentrated portfolio of stocks and/or junk bonds in a pledged collateral account for a credit-line or a margin account, then we can probably help you recover your investment losses as well. The key to a successful recovery of your investment loss is not to focus on the brokerage firm’s liquidation of the securities in your account without notice. Instead, the focus on your case should be on what you were told and whether the recommendation was suitable for you before you opened the account and suffered the liquidation.

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Regulation Best Interest (Reg. BI): Better But Not the Best!

Finally, ten years after the Dodd Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010 (Dodd-Frank) was enacted to bring about sweeping changes to the securities industry, the best regulation the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (“SEC”) could pass, SEC Regulation Best Interest, is now the law governing broker-dealers giving investment advice to retail customers. Although the SEC had the authority to impose a uniform and expansive “Fiduciary Duty” standard throughout the country upon broker-dealers and investment advisors, it yielded to the stock brokerage industry demands and enacted Regulation Best Interest (“Reg. BI”), which is better than the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”) “Suitability Rule,” but not the best that it could have been done to protect investors. Last month FINRA amended its Suitability Rule to conform with SEC Reg. BI and made it clear that stockbrokers now uniformly have duties related to disclosure, care, conflicts and compliance, which are equivalent to the common law “fiduciary duty” standard when making recommendations to retail customers. See, FINRA Regulatory Notice 20-18. 1

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FINRA Arbitration: What To Expect And Why You Should Choose Our Law Firm

If you are reading this article, you are probably an investor who has lost a substantial amount of money, Googled “FINRA Arbitration Lawyer,” clicked on a number of attorney websites, and maybe even spoken with a so-called “Securities Arbitration Lawyer” who told you after a five minute telephone call that “you have a great case;” “you need to sign a retainer agreement on a ‘contingency fee’ basis;” and “you need to act now because the statute of limitations is going to run.”

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A Stockbroker’s Introduction to FINRA Examinations and Investigations

Brokers and financial advisors oftentimes do not understand what their responsibilities and obligations are and what may result from a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) examination or investigation. Many brokers do not even know the role that FINRA plays within the industry. This may be due to the fact that FINRA, a self-regulatory organization, is not a government entity and cannot sentence financial professionals to jail time for violation of industry rules and regulations. Nevertheless, all broker-dealers doing business with members of the public must register with FINRA. As registered members, broker-dealers, and the brokers working for them, have agreed to abide by industry rules and regulations, which include FINRA rules.

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Understanding FINRA Rule 2111: Suitability

As an investor, you may have heard of FINRA Rule 2111, also known as the suitability rule. But what exactly is FINRA 2111? And how does it affect you and your investments?  When you hire a brokerage firm or financial advisor to make transaction or investment strategy recommendations, you expect that they will do so in a manner that is suitable for you and your particular circumstances. Unfortunately, however, this is not always the case. If you have suffered financial losses as a result of unsuitable investment strategies and recommendations by your financial advisor, contact securities law attorney Robert Wayne Pearce today.  An Overview of FINRA Rule 2111 Suitability in investing is an overarching concept that describes whether an individual investment is suitable for a client after consideration of that particular client’s characteristics.  The suitability rule requires financial advisors to have a “reasonable basis” to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for their client. A financial advisor determines the suitability of a particular transaction or investment strategy through learning about the investment profile of his or her customer. Experts interpret FINRA Rule 2111 as requiring financial advisors to make recommendations that are in their customer’s best interests. FINRA outlines situations involving financial advisors violating the suitability rule by placing their interests above the interests of their client, including: Financial advisors who recommend that clients use margin to purchase a larger number of securities to increase commissions;  Brokers who recommend unsuitable securities with high commissions because of pressure from their firm to sell the securities; or A broker who recommends one product over another with the goal of earning more commissions. Unsuitable investment recommendations lead to thousands of dollars in losses for investors every year based on financial advisors recommending products that are illiquid, speculative, and high-risk. If this has happened to you, contact an experienced investment losses attorney today to get started on your case. Suitability Obligations Imposed by FINRA Rule 2111 Rule 2111 consists of three primary obligations: reasonable basis suitability, customer-specific suitability, and quantitative suitability. Reasonable Basis Suitability Reasonable basis suitability mandates that a financial advisor have a reasonable basis, based on reasonable diligence, to believe that a recommendation is suitable for the public at large. This reasonable diligence should provide the financial advisor with a basic understanding of risks and rewards associated with the recommended transaction or investment strategy.  A broker must comprehend the risks and rewards associated with a particular investment. Failure to do so and recommending the investment to a client anyway could result in charges of misrepresenting the investment.  If a broker fails to comply with any of these requirements, the reasonable basis suitability obligation is not met.  Customer-Specific Suitability Customer-specific suitability involves considering specific details about an individual customer to determine whether a transaction or investment strategy is suitable.  A customer’s characteristics that are to be considered during a suitability analysis include: Employment status, Age, Financial situation, Tax status, Experience investing, Investment goals, Risk tolerance, Liquidity needs, and Investment time horizon. The financial advisor should evaluate these characteristics in determining whether the investment or strategy is suitable for that particular customer. Quantitative Suitability The quantitative suitability element evaluates the volume of trades made by a financial advisor.  For a quantitative suitability analysis, transactions made in a customer’s investment account are viewed in the aggregate. The question is whether the investments recommended qualify as a suitable strategy overall, not whether each individual transaction was suitable. The quantitative suitability obligation seeks to prevent financial advisors from making excessive trades in a client’s account solely for the purpose of generating commission fees.  Contact an Investment Loss Attorney Today FINRA 2111 investment loss cases can be particularly complex. That’s why it is important to have an experienced investment loss attorney in your corner.  Since 1980, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., have represented countless investors as they fight for their rights. If you are a victim of broker negligence or misconduct, we want to help. We have recovered over $140 million for well-deserving clients, and we will fight to get you the results you deserve too.  Contact our team today for your free case evaluation, and see what we can do for you.

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FINRA Rule 2010: Standards of Commercial Honor and Principles of Trade

FINRA Rule 2010 states that FINRA members must observe “high standards of commercial honor and just and equitable principles of trade” in the conduct of their business. If you think this rule seems broad, that’s because it is. And unfortunately, FINRA members do not always live up to these high standards prescribed in FINRA Rule 2010. So what do you do if your broker or financial advisor has failed to comply with its obligations under FINRA 2010? Broker misconduct costs investors millions of dollars in investment losses each year. Such losses are often the result of fraud, misrepresentation, or negligent supervision of your account. While such misconduct can result in severe financial ramifications for you, fortunately there are avenues to hold these wrongdoers accountable.  If you suffered losses that you believe are a result of your broker failing to uphold the high standards of commercial honor and equitable principles of trade, contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Discuss your case with an experienced investment loss attorney as soon as possible to see how you may be able to recover.  Overview of Other Notable FINRA Rules Typically, FINRA Rules outline the specific conduct prohibited by the rule itself. For example: FINRA Rule 1122 prohibits FINRA members and other individuals from filing membership or registration information with FINRA that contains incomplete or inaccurate information; FINRA Rule 2111 requires brokers to only recommend investments or investment strategies that are suitable for the client; and FINRA Rule 5270 prohibits the front running of block transactions. So where does FINRA Rule 2010 come into play?   Oftentimes, investors utilize Rule 2010 to address misconduct not described in other FINRA rules. Rule 2010 operates as a catch-all provision to protect investors from financial negligence and other unethical practices by financial advisors and institutions.  What Does Rule 2010 Prohibit? Rule 2010 sanctions brokers for bad faith or unethical “business-related” misconduct. Receiving a sanction under Rule 2010 does not necessarily mean the broker violated the law, even though a securities law violation on its own supports a finding that a broker violated Rule 2010. Conduct deemed unethical or immoral, though not necessarily prohibited by law, authorizes discipline under the rule. Business-Related Requirement FINRA Rule 2010 mandates that the alleged misconduct be business-related to qualify for discipline under this rule. In a 2019 FINRA disciplinary action, a FINRA Hearing Panel explained that the relationship between the FINRA member’s unethical actions and the conduct of his or her securities business do not have to be closely connected. Rather, the Panel implied that Rule 2010 extends to any misconduct that “reflects on the associated person’s capacity to comply with the regulatory requirements of the securities business and to fulfill [his or her] fiduciary duties in handling other people’s money.” Examples of FINRA Rule 2010 Violations Ultimately, every case alleging violation of Rule 2010 requires individual analysis to determine if the misconduct amounts to a violation of the rule. To determine whether the rule was violated, evaluation of both the totality of the circumstances and the context of the misconduct is required. Remember, a Rule 2010 violation occurs even in circumstances when a broker does not commit a violation of state or federal law. Actions considered a violation of Rule 2010 include: Misappropriating funds from clients or an employer; Sharing the confidential information of customers without approval; Forging signatures; Making alterations to important financial documents; Soliciting donations for personal benefit or other unauthorized uses; Misrepresenting financial information to customers; and Refusing to pay attorney fees and other expenses after initiating litigation against a customer. Rule 2010 allegations arise frequently in conjunction with allegations that a broker violated another FINRA Rule. Contact an Investment Loss Attorney to Answer Your Rule 2010 Questions Arguably at the core of securities regulation is FINRA 2010. Without such a rule, FINRA members would have no overarching obligation to conduct their business with such high standards of honor and integrity. Of course, even with Rule 2010 in place, FINRA members will inevitably fall short of these standards. When they do, know you can turn to The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. With more than 40 years of experience representing investors and holding their brokers and financial advisors accountable for misconduct, you can be confident that our team has the knowledge and resources necessary to fight for you.  Attorney Robert Pearce has a strong record of success, recovering funds for more than 99% of his investor clients. To discuss your case and start the process toward compensation, contact us today for a free case evaluation.

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Excessive Buying and Selling of Securities to Generate Commissions Is Called Churning – Is It Happening to You?

Many people often ask, Is churning illegal? The answer is yes. SEC regulations and FINRA rules prohibit the practice of making excessive purchases or sales of securities in investor accounts for the primary purpose of generating commissions, known as churning. Despite the illegality of churning, FINRA filed 190 arbitration actions for the year of 2020 through the end of December against brokers accused of the practice. If you suffered losses in your investment account as a result of excessive trading, contact a churning fraud lawyer to determine whether you are entitled to recover compensation.  What Is Churning in Finance? Churning, also known as excessive trading, takes on a new meaning in the financial industry that doesn’t have anything to do with butter. Excessive trading occurs when a broker makes multiple trades in a customer’s investment account for the primary purpose of generating high commissions. Churning often results in significant losses for investors. The SEC’s Regulation Best Interest, or Reg BI, establishes a standard of conduct for broker-dealers and their employees when recommending investments to retail customers. Reg BI requires brokers to act in the customer’s best interest and not place his or her own interests ahead of those of the investor. Churning is almost never in the best interest of the investor—even those with aggressive trading strategies. Signs Your Advisor Is Churning in Your Investment Account Churning stocks leads to substantial investor losses, especially in situations where it lasts for a long period of time. Many times, investors fail to recognize the indicators that their broker committed the crime of excessive trading until it is too late. There are a number of cautionary signs to look out for when you fear your financial advisor is excessively trading in your account. Unauthorized Trades Unauthorized trading occurs when a broker trades securities in your investment account without receiving prior authorization. If you have a discretionary investment account, your financial advisor has authorization to make trades in your account without seeking your approval for each transaction; however, your broker is still bound by the best interest standard. Excessive trading can be more difficult to detect with a discretionary account. Numerous unauthorized trades appearing on your account statement is a cause for concern. To recognize these transactions, you should review your account statement on a monthly basis and verify the information provided. If you observe unauthorized trades on your account statement, notify your broker and broker-dealer immediately.  Unusually High Trade Volume A high volume of trading activity in a short period of time can signify churning, especially for investors pursuing a conservative investment strategy. Pay special attention to transactions involving the purchase and sale of the same securities over and over. Attorney Robert Pearce has over 40 years of experience representing clients whose brokers’ misconduct caused financial losses. Mr. Pearce’s extensive experience enables him to recognize indicators of churning immediately and prove the amount of damages you suffered as a result of your broker’s misconduct.  Excessive Commission Fees Unusually high commission fees appearing on your account statement is another indication of excessive trading. If the commission fees jump significantly from one month to the next, or if one segment of your investment portfolio consistently generates higher commissions than any other segment, there is a chance your broker is churning your account. Account statements do not typically include fee amounts charged for each individual transaction. Thus, do not hesitate to contact your broker-dealer to request an explanation of the commissions charged to your account. If you feel you are being charged excessive fees in your investment accounts, contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., to discuss your options.  Contact Our Office Today for a Free Consultation Churning in the financial industry can result in monetary sanctions and even disqualification from the financial industry in extreme cases. The practice involves the manipulation and deception of investors that entrust their brokers to act in their best interest, warranting severe punishment. Robert Wayne Pearce has handled dozens of churning cases and can provide a complete review of your account statements to determine whether excessive trading occurred. Additionally, The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., employs experts that can perform a churning analysis of the trading activity in your account to establish concrete evidence that the practice occurred. We have the experience, expertise, and commitment to obtain the damages you deserve. Contact our office today for a free case evaluation.

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FINRA Know Your Customer Rule and Investment Suitability—How Does it Apply to You?

FINRA regulates the conduct of brokers in the securities industry to protect investors from suffering losses due to financial advisor misconduct. The agency formulates rules to outline the behavior expected of broker-dealers and financial advisors when dealing with their investment clients. Nevertheless, FINRA receives thousands of customer complaints every year alleging violations of FINRA Rules. FINRA Rule 2090, the Know Your Customer (KYC) rule, and FINRA Rule 2111, the suitability rule, mandate minimum knowledge requirements for brokers when making investment recommendations and commonly appear in these customer complaints.  If you suffered investment losses due to unsuitable investment recommendations, The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., can help you determine if your broker violated one of these rules. Contact our office today for a free consultation. FINRA Rule 2090: Know Your Customer Rule FINRA Rule 2090, or the Know Your Client rule, requires financial advisors to know the “essential facts concerning every customer and concerning the authority of each person acting on behalf of such customer” when opening and maintaining a client investment account. The “essential facts” described in the rule include details that are required to: Service the account effectively; Satisfy any special handling instructions for the account; Understand the authority of anyone acting on the customer’s behalf; and Comply with applicable laws, regulations, and rules. The KYC rule protects clients from investment losses by requiring their financial advisor to learn detailed information about their personal financial circumstances. The rule protects financial advisors by outlining the essential information about customers at the outset of the relationship, prior to any recommendations. Additionally, the financial adviser receives notification of any third parties authorized to act on the customer’s behalf. The Know Your Client rule acts in tandem with the suitability rule, FINRA Rule 2111. The information learned by financial advisors through the KYC requirement factors into the analysis of whether an investment recommendation is suitable.  FINRA Rule 2111: Suitability Alleged violation of investment suitability requirements resulted in 1,220 customer complaints filed with FINRA in 2020 alone, down from 1,580 complaints in 2019. The suitability rule requires financial advisors to have a “reasonable basis” to believe that a recommended transaction or investment strategy is suitable for the customer. A financial advisor determines the suitability of a transaction or investment strategy through ascertaining the customer’s investment profile. Factors involved in a suitability analysis include the customer’s: Age, Investment experience, Financial situation, Tax status, Investment goals, Investment time horizon, Liquidity needs, and Risk tolerance. Numerous cases interpret the FINRA suitability rule as requiring financial advisors to make recommendations that are in the best interest of their customers. FINRA outlines situation where financial advisors have violated the suitability rule by placing their interests above the interests of their client, including: A broker who recommends one product over another to receive larger commissions; Financial advisors who recommend that clients use margin to purchase a larger number of securities to increase commissions; and Brokers who recommend speculative securities with high commissions because of pressure from their firm to sell the securities. Any indication that a financial advisor has placed his or her interests ahead of the client’s interest can support a claim for a violation of the suitability rule. Rule 2111 consists of three primary obligations: (1) reasonable basis suitability, (2) customer-specific suitability, and (3) quantitative suitability. Reasonable Basis Suitability Reasonable basis suitability requires a financial advisor to have a reasonable basis to believe, based on reasonable diligence, that a recommendation is suitable for the public at large. A financial advisor’s reasonable diligence should provide him or her with an understanding of risks and rewards associated with the recommended investment or strategy. A failure to comprehend the risks and rewards associated with a particular investment prior to recommending the investment to a client can result in allegations of misrepresentation or fraud. If a broker fails to perform reasonable diligence regarding either component, the financial advisor violates this obligation. Customer-Specific Suitability Customer-specific suitability involves considering the specific details about an individual customer to determine if a transaction or investment strategy is suitable. The financial advisor reviews the details outlined above to determine the suitability of a particular transaction or strategy for each customer. Quantitative Suitability The quantitative suitability element requires financial advisors to recommend transactions that are suitable when viewed as a whole, not only when viewed in isolation. This element aims to prevent financial advisors from making excessive trades in a client’s account solely for the purpose of generating commission fees. Factors such as turnover rate, cost-equity ratio, and use of in-and-out trading indicate that the quantitative suitability obligation was violated. What Constitutes “Reasonable Diligence”  FINRA’s suitability rule requires brokers to exercise “reasonable diligence” in attempting to obtain customer-specific information. The reasonableness of a financial advisor’s effort to obtain such information will depend on the facts and circumstances of each investment relationship. A financial advisor typically relies on the responses provided by the customer in compiling information relevant to the customer’s investment profile. Some situations may prevent a broker from relying exclusively on a customer’s responses, including times when: A financial advisor poses misleading or confusing questions to a degree that the information-gathering process is tainted; The customer exhibits clear signs of diminished capacity; or Red flags exist that indicate the information may be inaccurate. Additionally, the suitability rule requires brokers to consider any other information provided by the customer in connection with investment recommendations.  Hiring an Investment Loss Attorney Violation of FINRA Rules 2090 and 2111 result in significant financial losses for investors every year. If you suffered losses because of unsuitable investment recommendations, you have the right to seek compensation from the parties responsible for your losses.  Cases against brokers and registered investment advisors can be complex for attorneys without experience in securities law.  Robert Wayne Pearce has over 40 years of experience representing investors in disputes against financial advisors and broker dealers. Mr. Pearce has tried, arbitrated, and mediated hundreds of investment-related disputes involving complex securities and FINRA rule violations. In fact, Mr. Pearce serves...

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What a Securities Lawyer Does

The term “securities” encompasses several forms of financial instruments that hold some type of monetary value. Securities exist in the form of: Stocks, Bonds, Options, Notes, Certificates of interest, Collateral trust certificates, Transferable shares, and Investment contracts. Consumers and financial professionals trade securities in financial markets in an attempt to generate profits.  The law regulating securities and financial industry professionals exists to protect investors and shareholders from misconduct and enforce compliance with federal and state securities laws. Securities laws evolve rapidly to keep pace with developments in financial markets. This is where securities lawyers come in. What Does a Securities Lawyer Do? A securities lawyer specializes in securities laws and regulations that apply to investors, brokers, and financial advisors. Securities lawyers represent investors claiming losses as a result of misconduct or fraud, as well as brokers and financial advisors accused of misconduct by their clients or their employers. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Attorney Robert Pearce has over 40 years of experience as a securities lawyer and has been named a Florida Super Lawyer through Thomson Reuters for Securities Litigation. The Super Lawyer title is awarded only to those in the top 5% in their area of law. Robert’s extensive knowledge of securities law and experience representing investors and financial professionals equip him to obtain the best results for each and every client. When Should an Investor Hire a Securities Lawyer? If you are an investor who suffered losses due to broker misconduct, you have the right to seek reimbursement from the parties responsible. Broker misconduct exists in multiple forms, including: Breach of fiduciary duty; Failure to disclose a conflict of interest; Churning, also known as excessive trading; Lack of diversification; Failure to adequately supervise; Misrepresentation; Omission of material facts; Unsuitable investment recommendations; Unauthorized trading; and  Misappropriating client funds.  While some forms of broker misconduct are easy to recognize, others are not. A financial advisor who stole funds out of your account and transferred them to a personal account clearly misappropriated your funds and committed misconduct. It’s more difficult to prove that a financial advisor recommended unsuitable investments, however, because the suitability of an investment depends on a number of different factors.  If you suffered investment losses and believe it was a result of broker misconduct, contact a securities lawyer today to evaluate your case.  The FINRA Arbitration Process FINRA is a self-governing regulatory agency charged with ensuring its members comply with the ethical rules of the financial industry and investigating investor complaints alleging misconduct and fraud. FINRA can impose fines and restrictions on brokers when necessary. Many investment contracts between brokers and investors include an arbitration provision that requires investors to file claims with FINRA. The FINRA arbitration process involves several steps, including: Filing a statement of claim; Selecting arbitrators; Participating in pre-hearing conferences and discovery; and Attending the arbitration hearing. Robert Pearce has represented hundreds of clients in the FINRA arbitration process. He is committed to obtaining the best results for his client in every case.  When Should a Financial Professional Hire a Securities Lawyer?  Brokers and investment advisors facing disputes with their brokerage firms or regulators should consider seeking the advice of a securities lawyer. We have represented investment professionals in investigations and administrative proceedings initiated by the: United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA); United States Commodities Futures Trading Commission (CFTC); and Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards (CFP Board). Regulatory judgments against financial professionals can result in serious consequences, including being barred from the financial industry. You should seek the counsel of a securities lawyer as soon as possible after being contacted by any securities regulatory agency.  The securities lawyers at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., represent brokers and advisors in employment agreement disputes and in employment disputes involving discrimination. Additionally, our securities attorneys represent brokers and advisors against their employers in the event of Form U-5 Abuse, which occurs when an employer uses a Form U-5 to blackmail a former employee.  Contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., Today Robert has over 40 years of experience representing clients in securities disputes and has won multiple million-dollar awards on their behalf. We operate on a contingency fee basis. That means you have to pay for your legal representation only in the event of a settlement or award. When you suffer losses through no fault of your own, having an experienced securities lawyer in your corner can increase your chances of recovery. Contact our office today for a free case review.

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What is Financial Elder Abuse: The Signs You Should Look Out For

Growing up, one of the lessons we’re all taught is to respect our elders. Unfortunately, many people fail to take this to heart. Unscrupulous family members and other bad actors often take advantage of senior citizens, especially when it comes to their finances. According to one study, financial elder abuse accounted for roughly 18% of elder abuse reports. However, the actual percentage is likely much higher; only about 1 in 44 financial abuse cases is ever reported. Because many elderly people live off of their investments, the consequences of this type of abuse can be particularly extreme. The best way to protect our elderly family members is to know the signs of financial elder abuse. By recognizing the abuse as soon as possible, we can hopefully prevent irreversible damage to their finances. What Is Elder Financial Abuse? Elder financial abuse is theft or mismanagement of an elderly person’s assets. These may include real estate, bank accounts, or other property that belongs to the elderly person. Because the abuser is often a close family member, or trusted financial advisor, elder financial abuse frequently goes unnoticed. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Sign #1: Unusual Bank Account Activity As they get older, many people grant financial powers of attorney to their spouse or adult children or trusted financial advisors. While this is perfectly normal, it opens up the possibility that the designated person may abuse that power. If you suspect elder financial abuse, pay close attention to the elderly person’s bank accounts and investments in their brokerage accounts. Withdrawals, transfers, or other suspicious activity like new or inactive accounts suddenly becoming active are red flags. The elderly person may be making these transfers themself, but it’s always good to be sure, since it could be for the wrong reasons (like the internet scams discussed below). Keep an eye on their investments as well. An elderly person’s portfolio is typically structured to provide a livable income off interest alone through low-risk investments. Keep an eye out for restructuring of investments to riskier funds or unexplained “cash outs.” Sign #2: Suspicious Internet Activity Over the past few years, there has been a drastic increase in the number of online scams targeting elderly people. Because elderly people are more trusting and less able to distinguish a scam from a legitimate venture, scammers frequently target them with fake tech support calls and the like. One of the most common online scams involves the scammer posing as a lover, friend, or family member online. After contacting the elderly victim, the scammer then requests money for plane tickets or some kind of emergency. This sign may be impossible to notice without speaking to the potential victim. Be wary if they mention someone new they met online or if you notice suspicious financial activity initiated by the victim. Sign #3: Missing Food or Unpaid Bills Ordinarily, caregivers or family members will make sure that an eldery person’s home is stocked with food and that bills are paid on time. Especially in a world with automatic bill payments, aging parents shouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills on time. A lack of food in the house and unpaid bills are indicators that that money is going elsewhere. Sign #4: Frequent Requests for Money by Someone Close to the Victim If someone makes frequent demands for money, that could be an indicator of financial exploitation. Anyone from neighbors to adult children may try to make frequent requests for money because they know the victim may have a poor memory or may have difficulty saying no.  Keep in mind that elder financial abuse like this is often subtle. Demands may not always be for large amounts of cash; this sign also includes polite requests for small amounts here and there. Over time, however, those “small amounts” can become exploitative. Sign #5: Payment for Unnecessary Services Door-to-door salesmen and “cold callers” may try to a upsell your elderly family member on services they don’t want or need. One common example of door-to-door sales abuse is roof repair or landscaping work. Cold callers barrage elderly at home with the next best investment in gold, silver, diamonds, and the next supposed Apple, Amazon, or Nextflix investment opportunity  to get into before its too late! These scams can take many different forms and may be difficult to spot. Sign #6: Threats or Coercion It may be difficult to imagine, but people may threaten their elderly family members to obtain money. These threats usually do not involve force, but rather things like, “I will put you in a home” or “I will stop visiting you.” If you don’t buy this stock, I’ll never call you again with any investment opportunities.  The abuser may also instruct the victim not to tell anyone what is happening. As a result, you’ll often have to pay close attention to spot this sign of elder financial abuse. Watch for a change in the elderly person’s demeanor or mood, especially around a suspected abuser.  What to Do If You Suspect Elder Financial Abuse If you suspect your loved one is the victim of elder financial abuse, there are a couple things you can do. If there is a health emergency, call 911 immediately; calling state adult protective services may also be appropriate in some circumstances. In most cases, your next step should be contacting a financial elder abuse attorney. They can provide legal advice and support to help stop the abuse and may be able to help the victim recover lost assets. Elder Financial Abuse and Financial Fraud Attorneys At the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., we have the experience and resources necessary to properly handle your elder financial abuse claim. We’ve helped hundreds of clients with securities and investment fraud of all kinds and are prepared to give you the professional, dedicated representation you need. Contact us today through our website or by phone at 800-732-2889 for a free consultation.

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Securities Fraud: What You Should Know as an Investor

Investors trust their financial advisors to make important and wise decisions regarding the management of their investment portfolio. Financial advisors hold a position of trust with their clients, and clients expect their advisor to act with the client’s goals in mind. Unfortunately, advisors frequently violate the trust of their clients by committing various forms of securities fraud. It is important to note that suffering losses on your investments, by itself, is not a form of securities fraud. Securities fraud involves the deception of investors or the manipulation of financial markets through illegal methods. If you suffered investment losses but don’t know if you have a claim for securities fraud, our securities fraud lawyers at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., are ready to help. Contact us today to get started on your case. What Is Securities Fraud? Securities fraud, also known as investment fraud and stock fraud, is the deception of investors or the manipulation of financial markets through illegal methods. Investors who suffer losses as a result of securities fraud can seek to recover their losses. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. Common Forms of Securities Fraud Securities fraud occurs in multiple different ways, making it even more difficult to recognize. Victims of securities fraud often suffer steep losses as a result of the fraud. Fortunately, victims of securities fraud can seek to recover their losses. So, what is securities fraud? Below are some of the most common forms of securities fraud.  Misrepresentations and Misleading Statements Misrepresentation is the most common type of securities fraud. It involves a false statement about an investment in a company; for example, a company that supposedly has earnings, a revolutionary product, or multi-million dollar contract when it has none of those assets. Misleading statements arise by omission; such as, using the same examples, when the financial advisor fails to tell you the earnings surprise was a one time past event, the revolutionary product can’t be patented, or the multi-million dollar contract is with another company about to file bankruptcy. Undoubtedly, those missing facts would have made all the difference to you in making your investment decision. The fraudster doesn’t care, he/she lies or misleads you to just get you to part with your money so he/she makes a commission. If you relied upon that intentionally false statement or misleading statement and made that investment, you have the right to claim securities fraud under federal and state statutes as well as ordinary common law fraud. But the securities fraud statutes usually have statutory remedies, including, prejudgment interest on the full purchase price from the date of purchase and attorney fees, to fully compensate you for your loss. The only problem with securities fraud statutes is they generally come with short statutes of limitation and so, you need to act fast and file suit quickly to take advantage of them. Ponzi-Like Schemes Ponzi schemes involve promises of high returns with little risk for investors, a staple of many forms of securities fraud. However, instead of issuing returns to investors out of profits, the funds of new investors are paid to early investors. Thus, Ponzi scheme victims receive guarantees of returns regardless of market conditions.  Ponzi schemes fall apart once there are no new investors providing funds. Companies operating Ponzi schemes focus the majority of their efforts into advertising to new investors to keep the scheme afloat.  Well-known financier Bernie Madoff was convicted of running the largest Ponzi scheme in history after evidence showed that Madoff falsified trading reports to indicate clients were earning profits on investments that did not exist. Madoff received a 150-year sentence in federal prison after pleading guilty. Embezzlement Embezzlement refers to the misappropriation of assets by a person entrusted with those assets. An embezzler possesses the assets lawfully at the outset, but once the assets are used for unintended purposes, embezzlement has occurred.  For example, financial advisors placed in charge of clients’ accounts possess authority to conduct transactions in the accounts, subject to some limitations. A financial advisor who steals assets entrusted to him or her by a client commits embezzlement.  Advance Fee Schemes Advance fee schemes target all kinds of victims and are becoming more prevalent with the rise of internet scams. Con artists operating advance fee schemes require the victim to pay an “advance fee” in anticipation of receiving something—such as a service, a product, or an investment opportunity—of greater value in return. The scheme operator convinces the victim to provide the fee, then subsequently informs the victim that he or she is ineligible for whatever was offered after the fee is paid. The victim is unable to recover the fee that was paid. To avoid suffering losses due to an advance fee scheme, take precautions before conducting business with a company you have never heard of. Providing any payment amount to a person or company you are unfamiliar with is a risky practice. When in doubt, speak to an experienced securities fraud attorney to determine whether the investment opportunity is fraudulent.  Pump and Dump Fraud A pump and dump scheme, also referred to as market manipulation, occurs when a group of fraudsters post content on the internet enticing investors to purchase a stock as soon as possible.  The fraudsters claim to have insider information regarding the product that will result in a jump in the share price of the stock. The fraudsters post content in multiple forums in an attempt to entice as many new investors as possible. Once investors purchase shares of the stock, the fraudsters sell their shares, resulting in a dramatic dip in the share price. New investors, lacking awareness of any fraudulent conduct, suffer the losses.  Pump and dump schemes began primarily through cold calling. However, the internet and social media provide fraudsters a more efficient way to attempt the scheme. Insider Trading Insider trading involves the use of “non-public, material information” to buy or sell stocks. Non-public material information includes any information that could substantially impact an investor’s decision...

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FINRA Arbitration in 2021: The Complete Guide

If you lost money in the stock market because of your broker’s bad advice or careless investment practices, would you know where to turn for help recouping your losses? Robert Wayne Pearce and his team with the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., possess a tremendous amount of experience fighting for people just like you who pledged their hard-earned money to a securities broker or investment professional who lost most or all of their nest egg.  You might have a legal case if you relied on your investment professional to grow and protect your money but lost money instead. Taking on your broker and their firm is not easy. You need a tough, accomplished, and successful FINRA arbitration attorney who knows how to win by your side. Below is a complete guide on FINRA Arbitration in 2021. In this guide, you will learn about FINRA and the steps you can take to help recover your losses. I. FINRA Overview FINRA, the acronym for Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, governs disputes between investors and brokers and disputes between brokers. In this article, we solely concentrate on how an individual private investor files a claim to recover losses against their broker or financial advisor.  We will explain how FINRA fits into the securities regulatory scheme. We will discuss how FINRA provides services designed to resolve disputes in a cost-effective manner that is quicker than a traditional court and give some insight into how FINRA‘s arbitration procedure works. Next, we will examine the pros and cons of FINRA arbitration. Lastly, we will discuss how a highly experienced lawyer who has represented numerous clients successfully at FINRA arbitration can help you recover your damages from your broker or financial advisor.  What Is FINRA? FINRA is not a government agency. Unlike the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), FINRA is an organization established by Congress to oversee the brokerage industry. FINRA is a self-governing body and operates independently from the U.S. government. By contrast, the SEC more broadly regulates the buying and selling of securities on various exchanges such as the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ, and the American Stock Exchange. The SEC approves initial public offerings and secondary offerings and can halt trading to avoid a crash if necessary.  Additionally, the SEC has law enforcement powers. Along with the FBI and the U.S. Attorneys Office, the SEC can investigate acts surrounding the buying, selling, and issuing of securities. The U.S. Attorney can pursue charges for crimes relating to the stock market, such as insider trading and wire fraud.While, the SEC has the authority to file civil lawsuits against any person or organization violating the securities statutes and the SEC’s rules. How Is FINRA Different from the SEC? FINRA has a different function than the SEC altogether. FINRA is a regulatory agency designed to promote public confidence in the brokerage industry and the financial markets as well. People will not invest if they believe they have trusted unscrupulous financial advisors to protect their economic interests. FINRA ensures that its members comply with the ethical rules of their profession, similar to a state bar for attorneys or a board of registration for medical professionals.  Congress granted FINRA authorization to investigate complaints investors make concerning misconduct, fraud, or potentially criminal behavior. As a result, FINRA can discipline its members if the agency determines that a broker violated its professional code. FINRA can assess fines, place restrictions on a broker’s authority, or expel the member from its ranks for an egregious violation. Anyone who suspects their broker or their financial advisor of wrongdoing should file a complaint with FINRA’s complaint center for investors.  You should be aware that FINRA’s rules do not restrict you from filing a complaint seeking an investigation into wrongdoing and pursuing monetary damages in arbitration.  II. FINRA Alternative Dispute Resolution FINRA provides a forum for investors to resolve their disputes with their brokers or financial advisors. In fact, FINRA boasts the largest securities dispute resolution forum in the US. FINRA offers arbitration services, as well as mediation services, as a means to avoid costly and inefficient litigation in courts. FINRA provides a fair, effective, and efficient forum to resolve broker disputes. FINRA’s goal is to settle disputes quickly and efficiently without the standard procedural and discovery requirements that bog down cases filed in courts.  How Does Arbitration Work with FINRA? Arbitration is an alternative to filing a case in civil court. Arbitration tends to be less formal and is designed to process claims more quickly than filing a lawsuit in court.  FINRA’s arbitration process involves resolving monetary disputes among brokers and investors. FINRA’s arbitrators can issue monetary judgments and have the authority to order a broker to deliver securities to you if that is a just resolution of the case.  An arbitration hearing is similar to a trial in court. The parties admit evidence and argue their side to a neutral person or panel of arbitrators who will decide the case. The arbitrator’s decision, called an award, is the judgment of the case and is final. You should know that you do not have the right to appeal the award to another arbitrator. You may have an opportunity to pursue an appeal in court under limited circumstances. However, you cannot elect to arbitrate your case and then file a complaint in court seeking a trial on the issues decided by the arbitrator.  FINRA’s arbitration forum operates under the rules set forth by the SEC. FINRA ensures that the platform serves as it should and facilitates ending disputes. No member of FINRA participates in the arbitration. FINRA merely provides the forum and enforces the rules. Arbitrators decide the cases.  The arbitrators typically need about 16 months to issue an award. This is a lot quicker than court, where cases could take years to get to trial. The parties also have the opportunity to resolve the dispute by negotiating among themselves without going to arbitration.  FINRA’s Arbitration Forum Protects Investor Confidentiality Arbitration with FINRA is often confidential. The parties...

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Securities Law in 2021: The Definitive Guide

The law governing securities evolves constantly to keep pace with changes in the industry. Regulatory agencies like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) F/K/A National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD) enforce various rules and regulations designed to promote fair and full disclosure of material facts related to financial markets and individual securities transactions. This guide provides a surface-level overview of the securities laws in the United States and what those laws mean for you. Important Terms in Securities Law A security is an intangible financial instrument that entitles its owner to claims of ownership on assets and earnings of the issuer or the voting power that accompanies the claims. Securities exist in the form of: Notes, Stocks, Treasury stocks, Bonds, Certificates of interest, Collateral trust certificates, Transferable shares, Investment contracts, Voting trust certificates, Certificates of deposit for a security; or A fraction, undivided interest in mineral rights. Stock markets in the United States collect trillions of dollars on investments through the securities trade.  The individuals buying or selling securities are referred to as investors. The term “retail investor” refers to an individual who typically purchases securities from a broker and, in most cases, does not purchase a large quantity of securities. The term “institutional investor,” on the other hand, often refers to a company investing large sums of money in securities.  The company buying and selling securities for investors is known as a broker-dealer. Firms like Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch employ brokers to serve clients by buying and selling securities on their behalf.  History of Federal Securities Law Prior to the Great Depression, the United States lacked an expansive securities regulation at the federal level. As a result, companies falsified and misrepresented financial information without fear of consequences. During the 1920s, the stock market expanded rapidly as the U.S. economy grew and stock prices reached record highs. Between August 1921 and September 1929, the Dow increased by 600%. Excitement surrounding the stock market fueled retail investors to get involved. Many retail investors purchased stocks “on margin,” meaning they only paid a small portion of the stock price and borrowed the remaining amount from a bank or broker. Despite the audacity of the claim, many believed that stock prices would continue rising forever. In early September 1929, stock prices started to decline. Not yet alarmed, many investors saw an opportunity to buy into the stock market at a lower price. The Stock Market Crash of 1929 On October 18, 1929, stock prices decreased more significantly. October 24 signaled the first day of panic among investors. Known as “Black Thursday,” a record 12,894,650 shares were traded throughout the day. On October 28, the Dow suffered a record loss of 38.33 points, or 12.82%. The following day—”Black Tuesday”— held more devastating news for investors as stock prices dropped even more. 16,410,030 shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange in a single day. The 1929 stock market crash resulted in billions of dollars lost and signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. The Aftermath In the wake of the crash, the U.S. Senate formed a commission responsible for determining the causes. The investigation uncovered a wide range of abusive practices within banks and bank affiliates and spurred public support for banking and securities regulations. As a result of the findings, Congress passed the Banking Act of 1933, the Securities Act of 1933, and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. New York County Assistant District Attorney Ferdinand Pecora finalized the final report and conducted hearings on behalf of the commission and was later selected as one of the first commissioners of the SEC. Federal Securities Laws and Regulations The American banking systems suffered significantly in the wake of the stock market crash, as approximately one in three banks closed their doors permanently. Following the crash, the U.S. government imposed tighter rules and regulations on the financial industry. As securities evolve, regulatory agencies are responsible for imposing up-to-date regulations to protect investors. Banking Act of 1933 The Banking Act of 1933 (the Banking Act), implemented by Congress on June 16, 1933, signaled the start of many changes in the securities industry. First, the Banking Act established the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), created to provide deposit insurance to depositors in United States depository institutions in an effort to restore the public’s trust in the American banking system.  Glass-Steagall provisions Four sections of the Banking Act—referred to as the Glass-Steagall legislation—addressed the conflicts of interest uncovered by Ferdinand Pecora during his investigation into the stock market crash of 1929. The Glass-Steagall legislation sought to limit the conflicts of interests created when commercial banks are allowed to underwrite stocks and bonds. In the previous decade, banks put their interest in promoting stocks and bonds to their own benefit, rather than considering the risks placed on investors. The new legislation banned commercial banks from: Dealing in non-governmental securities for customers; Investing in non-investment grade securities on behalf of the bank itself; Underwriting or distributing non-governmental securities; and Affiliation or employee sharing with companies involved in such activities. On the other side, the legislation prohibited investment banks from accepting deposits from customers. Deterioration and reinterpretation of Glass-Steagall provisions The separation of commercial and investment banks proved to be a controversial topic throughout the financial industry. Only two years after passing the Banking Act, Senator Carter Glass—the namesake of the provisions—sought to repeal the prohibition on commercial banks underwriting securities, stating that the provisions had unduly damaged securities markets.  Beginning in the 1960s, banks began lobbying Congress to allow them to enter the municipal bond market. In the 1970s, large banks argued that the Glass-Steagall provisions were preventing them from being competitive with foreign securities firms. The Federal Reserve Board reinterpreted Section 20 of the Glass-Steagall provisions to allow banks to have up to 5% of gross revenues from investment banking business. Soon after, the Federal Reserve Board voted to loosen regulations under the Glass-Steagall provisions after hearing arguments from Citicorp,...

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The Most Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty (And What to Do)

Breaches of fiduciary duty are unfortunately common. Since the fiduciary duty is the highest legal standard of care, however, there are severe consequences for a breach of fiduciary duty. With the help of an investment loss recovery attorney, you can hold the fiduciary accountable for his or her misconduct. What Is a Fiduciary Duty? A fiduciary is a person entrusted to act in the best interests of another (i.e. the principal). Once the fiduciary agrees to the relationship, the fiduciary is bound by a set of legal and ethical obligations, known as fiduciary duties.  In general, all fiduciaries owe a duty of loyalty and a duty of care. Some fiduciaries will owe additional duties based on the relationship and the industry in which they are in.  The duty of loyalty requires fiduciaries to act in the best interest of the principa, avoid any conflicts of interest, and refrain from self-dealing. The duty of care means the fiduciary must make informed decisions based on all information available.  Fiduciary Duties of Financial Advisors  While all financial advisors have a duty of care to their clients, only registered advisors have a fiduciary duty. It is important to know whether your financial advisor is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulating agency. Financial advisors who are not registered can make investments that benefit them, as long as the investment is within your stated objectives. A registered financial advisor, on the other hand, can invest only if it is in your best interest. For registered financial advisors, the fiduciary duties owed vary by state. However, the following fiduciary duties apply to all registered financial advisors in all states Duty to Recommend Suitable Investments Prior to recommending an investment, the financial advisor must study and understand the investor’s objectives, tax status, and financial situation, among other things. Any investments that the financial advisor recommends must be suitable to the investor’s needs.  Duty to Inform Investor A financial advisor must fully inform the investor of the risks associated with the purchase or sale of a security. The advisor cannot misrepresent any material facts regarding the transaction. Duty to Act Promptly and with Authorization  All client orders must be performed promptly and with investor’s express consent. The advisor must obtain separate authorization for each investment unless the investor has a discretionary account.  Duty to Refrain from Self-Dealing  A financial advisor cannot initiate a transaction where he or she personally benefits. Duty to Avoid Conflicts of Interest For any recommendations made after June 30, 2020, financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to avoid any conflicts of interest. If unavoidable, the advisor must disclose the conflict to the investor.  What Constitutes a Breach of Fiduciary Duty? A breach of fiduciary duty occurs when the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the principal. This can happen through an intentional act or failure to act.  There are four elements to a valid breach of fiduciary duty claim. Duty A fiduciary relationship must exist for the fiduciary to owe a duty. You must show that the fiduciary knowingly accepted that role to hold them to the fiduciary standard of care. This is typically shown through a written agreement between the parties, such as a customer agreement. Breach The fiduciary must act contrary to your best interests. A breach of fiduciary duty can be shown through deliberate acts, such as making decisions on your behalf without consent. You can also prove a breach through the fiduciary’s failure to act—for example, not disclosing a conflict of interest.  Damages You must suffer actual harm or damages from the fiduciary’s breach. Proving there was a breach is not enough for a valid claim of breach of fiduciary duty. Damages can be either economic or non-economic, such as mental anguish.  Causation There must be a direct causal link between the fiduciary’s breach and harm to you. Despite your damages, if they are unrelated to the fiduciary’s misconduct or an unforeseeable result of the breach, you cannot recover your losses.  What Are Common Forms of Breach of Fiduciary Duty? Below are just a few examples of how a financial advisor can breach his or her fiduciary duty. In each instance, the fiduciary fails to act in the best interest of the investor. Misrepresentation or Failure to Disclose Information If a financial advisor does not present a client with all material information about an investment, this is a breach of fiduciary duty. Material information is what a reasonable investor would consider important when deciding whether to invest.  Sometimes financial advisors will mislead investors by omitting information, such as risk factors or any negative information about a stock.  Excessive Trading Excessive trading, also known as churning, in your account is a breach of fiduciary duty. Financial advisors will make large numbers of trades solely to generate more commissions for themselves.  Unsuitable Investments Financial advisors must “know their customer” before making investment recommendations. This includes understanding the client’s investment objectives, risk tolerance, time horizon, financial standing, and tax status. The advisor breaches their fiduciary duty if they make an unsuitable investment, even with the best intentions.  Failure to Diversify Your financial advisor must recommend a mix of investments so that your assets are properly allocated among various asset classes and industries. Failing to diversify your portfolio puts you in a position of great risk and is a breach of fiduciary duty. If your assets are over-concentrated in a particular stock or sector, you may experience significant losses if the company or industry does not perform well.  Failure to Follow Instructions When you give instructions to your financial advisor, they have the fiduciary duty to promptly perform your orders. If your advisor fails to follow your instructions in a timely manner and you suffer financial losses, you can recover.  What To Do If Your Financial Advisor Breached a Fiduciary Duty If you lost money at the hands of your financial advisor, there are several potential courses of action. An experienced investor loss recovery attorney can walk you through the different options and...

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