What To Do if You Believe Your Financial Advisor is Stealing Your Money (Step by Step)

Financial advisors are highly trusted professionals who help make decisions that impact your economic future. When that trust is broken through a bad or negligent act, the investor suffers and the financial advisor must be held accountable. If you believe your financial advisor stole your money, there are several options for you to recover.  The Fiduciary Duty All financial advisors are held to a standard of care when dealing with investors. Registered financial advisors have a higher fiduciary duty to their clients under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940. This is the highest legal standard of care and requires financial advisors to act in the best interest of their clients, make suitable investments, and disclose relevant information to you.  Knowing whether your financial advisor is registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or a state securities regulator is important because if the advisor breaches the fiduciary duty, you can bring a claim against the financial advisor through the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA is the governing organization that creates and enforces rules for advisors and their firms and assists in resolving disputes between advisors and investors.  Do You Have a Claim? If your financial advisor outright stole money from your account, this is theft. These cases involve an intentional act by your financial advisor, such as transferring money out of your account. However, your financial advisor could also be stealing from you if their actions or failure to act causes you financial loss.   Losing money through an investment is not enough to bring a claim against your financial advisor. Remember, there is no guarantee of return when investing. Even if your financial advisor made the recommendation, under federal securities law and FINRA regulations, you cannot hold your advisor liable simply because they lost you money. You need a viable cause of action, such as a breach of fiduciary duty, negligence, or malpractice. Types of Claims Against Your Financial Advisor  Understanding securities law and FINRA regulations is crucial to knowing whether you have a valid claim against your financial advisor. The investment loss recovery attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce P.A. have over 40 years of experience in securities and investment law. They have helped countless investors recover their financial losses caused by bad or negligent acts by their financial advisor. The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce P.A. have handled hundreds of cases involving many types of misconduct by financial advisors. Negligence In a negligence claim, you do not need to show that the financial advisor intentionally acted in a harmful way, but rather that the advisor failed to do something they had an obligation to do and caused economic loss. For example, your advisor may have made an unsuitable investment by failing to take into consideration your risk tolerance. If you lost money based on the recommended investment, it may be appropriate to file a claim for negligence against your financial advisor.  Breach of Fiduciary Duty A financial advisor who breaches his fiduciary duty has failed to meet the required standard of care. You may have a valid claim for breach of fiduciary duty if your advisor failed to execute your stated objectives or did not disclose information about a product. Other examples of breaching the fiduciary duty include: Unauthorized trading, Unsuitable investments,  Undiversified portfolio, and  Account churning.  In each of these instances, the financial advisor did not act in your best interest.  Failure to Supervise A brokerage firm is responsible for supervising the actions of its financial advisors and any other employees. If the firm fails to do this, it can be held liable for your financial losses.  What You Can Do There are several stages of resolution to recover your financial losses. Depending on the facts of your case, you may be able to resolve it and recover without any formal proceedings, or you may have to litigate. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce P.A. have helped investors in all stages and have successfully recovered over $125 million in losses for our clients.  Review Customer Agreement If you believe your financial advisor stole money from you, either directly or indirectly through losses in your account, you should first review your customer agreement. Understand what sort of authority you gave your financial advisor and if there is a mandatory arbitration clause. This clause is common in most customer agreements with brokerage firms. These clauses often state that you waive your right to file a lawsuit against your advisor and agree to engage in a FINRA arbitration proceeding instead.  Informal Dispute Resolution Claims against financial advisors are incredibly complex legal matters. There are informal options available, however. Even at this stage you should contact an investor loss recovery attorney for assistance. FINRA, which regulates the investment industry, instructs investors to first pursue informal dispute resolutions before filling a claim against their financial advisor.  Depending on the severity of the financial advisor’s misconduct, you may be able to resolve the matter directly with your advisor or the firm’s compliance department. If this is not suitable or you fail to come to a resolution, the next stage is participating in voluntary, non-binding mediation.  FINRA Mediation Mediation is a voluntary process that involves a neutral third party who assists in reaching a mutually agreeable solution. FINRA offers a forum for advisors and investors to mediate. This option is faster and less expensive than arbitration and litigation. Four out of five cases mediated by FINRA are resolved. If you fail to reach a satisfactory solution through mediation, you still have the right to arbitrate or litigate.   FINRA Arbitration Arbitration is more like a traditional legal proceeding in that an impartial party or panel hears arguments from both sides, analyzes the facts and evidence, and makes a final, binding decision. If you choose arbitration or are required to arbitrate under your customer agreement, you forfeit your right to file a lawsuit. Courts of law can review an arbitration award for fairness, but typically they...

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Securities & Exchange Commission Complaint: How to Report Your Broker Anonymously

Your investments are important—that’s why so many individuals hire investment brokers and financial advisors to manage their investment accounts.  Having a qualified broker can be a great advantage to the growth of your investments. Unfortunately, however, investment and securities fraud remains a common and serious issue in the United States each year. So what do you do if you are a victim of investment fraud at the hands of your broker?  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a mission of protecting investors; maintaining fair, orderly, and efficient markets; and facilitating capital formation. In furtherance of this goal, the SEC allows individual investors to file complaints against their broker or their broker’s firm. If your broker committed negligence or broker fraud, you may be entitled to file a complaint and recover your losses. Violations of securities law can be reported to the SEC, which will conduct a comprehensive investigation.  Looking for information on how to file a complaint against a broker? Look no further than the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Not only can our attorneys help you report your broker, but we can also help you recover your investment losses.  Filing a complaint against your broker with the SEC can be a great way to hold them accountable and put future investors on notice of their wrongdoing. However, doing so doesn’t necessarily help you get your money back. Contacting an attorney, however, can be the first step toward actually recovering your personal investment losses that you suffered at the hands of your broker.  Stockbroker fraud attorney Robert Wayne Pearce has over 40 years of experience handling complex securities, commodities, and investment arbitration and litigation cases. He has helped countless clients through their investment-related disputes, and he will fight to do the same for you. Why Would I File a Complaint? There are numerous reasons you may need to file a complaint with the SEC against your broker. Common examples of wrongful actions by a broker or brokerage firm include: Offering fraudulent or unregistered securities;  Misappropriating client funds; Insider trading; Making false or misleading statements; and Failing to file required reports with the SEC. Of course, not all actions by a broker constitute fraud for which you can file a complaint with the SEC. Remember, the stock market is inherently volatile, so the fact that you lost money does not necessarily mean your broker took any wrongful actions.  An experienced investment fraud attorney can help you determine whether filing a complaint with the SEC against a broker might be warranted. Filing a Complaint with the SEC Against a Broker: What You Need to Know If you suffer financial losses due to the negligence or misconduct of a broker or brokerage firm, filing a complaint with the SEC against the broker can be an important step to take.  Not only can this help prevent future investors from being subject to the same fraudulent and predatory actions, but it may also provide you with an avenue to recover your losses. How to File a Complaint Against a Broker The first step in reporting your broker for fraud or misconduct is to file your formal complaint with the SEC.  The SEC provides an opportunity for members of the public at large to submit broker complaints electronically using the SEC’s Investor Complaint Form.  What to Include in Your Complaint The Investor Complaint Form may appear simple to complete. However, there is more to it than you might think.  The form requires basic information such as: Your name and address; Basic information about your broker; The type of investment involved; A brief description of the events giving rise to your complaint; and Any actions you may have already to resolve your complaint against your broker, such as mediation, arbitration, or court action. The complaint form can play a vital role in whether the SEC allows your case to move forward. Thus, the more information you are able to provide, the better equipped the SEC will be to investigate your complaint. An experienced investment fraud attorney can be a great benefit to you as you complete your Investor Complaint Form and move forward in the process.  What Happens After Submitting My Complaint After the SEC receives your complaint, they will thoroughly investigate your claim and all relevant evidence.  Central to the process is confidentiality. The SEC conducts its investigations in a manner that will protect the parties and preserve the integrity of the complaint process.  Then, depending on the allegations asserted in your form, the complaint will be referred to the appropriate SEC office. The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy The Office of Investor Education and Advocacy handles basic investor questions regarding securities law and complaints related to financial professionals. These SEC officers will also advise complainants of possible remedies and, in some cases, will intervene on your behalf and reach out to brokers or other financial advisors concerning the issues raised in your complaint. This office may also refer your complaint to another division of the SEC for resolution. Enforcement Division The Division of Enforcement, on the other hand, employs attorneys to review information and tips regarding securities law violations.  Officers in this office investigate the claims in their entirety, retrieving whatever evidence may be necessary. Again, it is important to note that the investigations conducted by the SEC are typically confidential unless made a matter of public record.  After completing a thorough investigation, the Enforcement Division may recommend that the SEC bring civil actions in federal court or before an administrative law judge to prosecute securities law violations.  Why Hire an Investment Loss Attorney to Assist with Complaints Against Your Broker? Reporting the fraudulent misconduct of a broker to the SEC is important. However, filing an SEC complaint is not the only way to hold a broker or brokerage firm accountable.  In fact, in some cases, filing an SEC complaint may not be enough to get you the compensation you need to recover from your investment losses. In these cases,...

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The Most Common Types of Investment Frauds (and How to Take Action)

Consult a Highly-Experienced and Dedicated Investment Fraud Attorney to Learn How to Protect Your Rights If You Suspect Your Broker or Financial Planner of Fraud Hiring a reputable investment advisor is frequently a wise decision. You did things right by hiring someone you thought you could trust, but you still lost money. Knowing more about types of investment frauds could help you understand what you need to do. A skilled investment loss attorney could investigate your situation and determine if you are the victim of investment fraud.  At the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Peace, P.A., we devote our extensive experience and advanced skill to protecting investors who fell prey to unscrupulous investment professionals. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help hold your financial advisors accountable for fraud or malpractice. Investment Fraud is More Pervasive Than You Think Your story is probably like many others. You have worked hard and saved money to plan for your future. So instead of “playing the market” yourself, you engage a financial advisor to help protect your nest egg.  You probably felt at ease with your decision to hire a financial advisor.  Your financial advisor is a fiduciary, and, accordingly, they owe you a duty of care. This is someone you believe you can trust with your savings and rely on to make the right decisions for you and your family. Most financial advisors are honest, hardworking, and caring professionals who try their best for their clients. Notwithstanding their strict ethical rules, some investment advisors cannot resist the temptation of making money the easy way.  How Do You Know If You’re the Victim of Some Type of Investment Fraud? Everyone knows the old saying that “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is.” This adage still pertains to investment opportunities even today. Many fraudulent schemes perpetrated by dishonest financial advisors lure unsuspecting investors into their trap with some type of “get rich quick” scheme. We will examine five types of investment fraud commonly employed by shady financial advisors. Promissory Note Fraud If you have ever bought a home or a car and financed the transaction, you probably understand the significance of a promissory note. Buying and selling promissory notes is a sophisticated investment strategy. Your advisor must adhere to the strict regulations enforced by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) when transferring promissory notes. Promissory notes might seem like a worthwhile investment. The deal allows you to hold the note and receive interest payments as well as repayments on the principal. You might have purchased the note for a discount, which increased your potential return. Investing in promissory notes, especially short-term notes, is extremely risky. Short-term notes offer higher than market interest rates and the allure of making a substantial amount of money quickly.  Promissory note scams prove to cost private investors millions of dollars. The seller of the note has no responsibility to register short-term notes with the SEC. Therefore, small investors cannot research the viability of these notes, the historical performance of similar notes, and whether the dealer has a good reputation.  Investors accept some risk. However, investors could get wiped out if they invest in promissory notes without proper guidance from a reputable financial advisor. Small or retail investors may not have any recourse against the party who defaults on a promissory note.  They have other options, however. Private investors like you could file a lawsuit against your financial advisor from fraud if they misrepresented or lied about the investment’s inherent risk, its return, or any other material fact concerning the promissory note. Proving fraud is difficult. That is why you need a strong legal advocate for individual investors.  Ponzi and Pyramid Schemes Ponzi schemes always fail. Yet, people still use them as a way to make easy money. Ponzi schemes always fail because the person running the scam will always run out of money.  The average investor might not identify a Ponzi scheme if it is well disguised. However, suppose you have given money to someone to invest, and there are no underlying assets in the fund, or you are asked to recruit others to join in the initial investment. In that case, you might be unwittingly involved in a Ponzi scheme.  Pyramid or multi-tiered marketing strategies are a similar investment tactic. Pyramid schemes are not inherently unlawful like Ponzi schemes. Notwithstanding, participants in multi-tiered marketing schemes often get swindled out of their money because they continue to invest, with little or no return, based on a promise that they will reach the top of the pyramid.  Like Ponzi schemes, a fraudulent pyramid scheme offers no legitimate underlying investment. On the other hand, some legitimate multi-tiered marketing programs sell consumer goods or other products.  Pyramid schemes are not investment groups or pooled funds. Pyramid schemes operate on the premise you make money based on the number of participants you recruit.  Suppose you or a loved one believes they have lost money because an investment advisor conned you into thinking that you could earn a good return by investing in a strategy that does not involve assets. In that case, you should talk with an investment attorney right away. Investing in Real Estate In America, we are conditioned to believe that the real estate market always goes up. As a result, real estate investing could be a vital component of a diversified portfolio. However, flipping houses, buying distressed properties, or becoming a landlord is not for everyone. Unprepared people could lose their shirts because of bad real estate investments. They have bad tenants, underestimate the rehab costs of a home, or overestimate their return when trying to sell and lose their investment. Moreover, they might end up in debt after making a bad deal. Buying and flipping houses are not the only way to make a living in real estate. Beware if your financial advisor asks you to participate in financing real estate deals that do not involve banks. This is known as “hard-money...

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Can I Sue My Financial Advisor Over Losses?

People hire financial advisors and brokers to grow and protect their money. Financial advisors have advanced education and training, which should provide their clients with valuable insight and accurate financial advice. Individual investors expect that their advisors will not defraud or harm them in any other way. Market volatility is difficult to predict with any certainty. Markets dip and rebound over time. A financial advisor must guide you through those difficult times and offer you sound investment advice to minimize or avoid losses.  Some investments are riskier than others. Brokers and financial advisors need to understand their clients’ risk tolerance, as well as their clients’ investment needs. Losses could ruin years of hard work and financial planning.  Market volatility is one thing—negligence, deception, and fraud are something else entirely. Therefore, you should review your portfolio closely to see if you are a victim of misconduct.

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Solicited vs. Unsolicited Trades: Understanding the Difference

Ideally, hiring a skilled broker takes some of the risk out of investing. Unfortunately, however, some brokers fail to act with the appropriate level of integrity. As an investor, it’s very important to understand the difference between solicited and unsolicited trades. The distinction has significant consequences on your ability to recover losses from a bad trade. What’s the Difference Between Solicited and Unsolicited Trades? Solicited trades differ from unsolicited trades based on who originally suggested the trade. A solicited trade is one “solicited” by the broker; in other words, the broker sees the potential trade and recommends it to the investor. As a result, the broker is ultimately responsible for the consideration and execution of the trade because he or she brought it to the investor’s attention. In contrast, unsolicited trades are those initially suggested by the investor. The responsibility for unsolicited trades therefore lies primarily with the investor, while the broker merely facilitates the investor’s proposed transaction.

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What Is a Broker CRD Number?

Brokers and brokerage firms in the United States must register with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). Without registering, firms and individuals may not conduct security transactions. By maintaining a registration system, FINRA can better monitor and record the activities of registered brokers. FINRA offers a free online service for investors to check the history of their brokers for suspensions, sanctions, or other FINRA actions. What Is a Broker CRD Number? FINRA manages the Central Registration Depository (CRD) program. This program covers the licensing and registration of individuals and firms in the securities industry in the United States. When a broker or firm registers with FINRA, the regulator assigns them a CRD number. Investors can use a broker’s CRD number to check that broker’s work history and disciplinary record using BrokerCheck. 

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Non-Discretionary Accounts vs. Discretionary Accounts

When investors first set up an account with a brokerage firm, that account is designated as either discretionary or non-discretionary. Unfortunately, many investors are simply unaware of the status of their account or what it means. This is usually because investment brokers fail to properly explain each type of account. However, knowing what kind of investment account you have is important. The claims available to a victim of investment fraud or broker misconduct depend on the status of your account.

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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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