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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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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What Is Selling Away?

The securities industry is one of the most regulated, largely because of the high potential for fraud and abuse. Various laws and regulations protect investors by imposing requirements on securities transactions and the people who facilitate them. Individual brokers and brokerage firms must be registered and licensed with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) before they are permitted to conduct securities transactions. FINRA also administers a number of exams that provide certification for selling specific kinds of securities. All of these regulations exist to protect investors from fraudulent conduct by brokers. Nevertheless, brokers occasionally attempt to skirt the rules and offer private deals to their clients. Not only do these transactions violate FINRA rules, they also pose additional risks for investors. What Is Selling Away? “Selling away” describes the practice of selling securities in unauthorized private transactions outside the regular scope of the broker’s business. Brokerage firms maintain a list of approved securities their brokers are allowed to offer. By approving products ahead of time, brokerage firms ensure that their brokers sell only securities that are vetted and verified as legitimate products. Brokers sell away when they offer their clients securities not on the firm’s approved product list. Brokers may sell away if they want to make extra commissions without sharing with their firm. Selling away is not always malicious; sometimes, a broker means well but isn’t able to offer the securities a client wants through normal channels. Regardless of the broker’s intent, however, FINRA prohibits selling away and sanctions brokers for doing so. Common Examples of Selling Away While there is no specific form a selling-away transaction takes, they frequently involve certain types of investments. These investments include: Private placements involving unregistered securities; Private deals involving promissory notes; and Real estate deals conducted privately and away from the broker’s regular business. Deals that involve selling away often exhibit the same red flags as other types of investment fraud, like Ponzi schemes. Excessively high or consistent returns are indicators that the deal is probably too good to be true. What Are the Risks of Investing in Securities That Are Sold Away? Investments of all kinds carry a certain level of risk. However, investing in a selling-away deal carries more risk because they come without the safeguards that accompany approved investments. Lack of screening First, selling-away deals involve securities that are not screened by the brokerage firm. Brokerage firms screen the products they offer for a reason: to make sure that their customers have access to solid investments. Without these safeguards, investors are taking on significantly higher risk. Lack of disclosures Second, selling away deals rarely include the formal risk disclosures found with approved brokerage products. There is no review of the investment by the brokerage’s compliance department, and the exact nature of the risk involved may be unclear. Less accountability Finally, it may be harder to recover losses. When a broker engages in an approved transaction, the brokerage takes on liability for the broker’s activity. Because brokerages are often completely unaware of selling-away transactions, it is much harder to prove liability on the part of the brokerage. In the case of significant investor losses, this can mean less money recovered overall. Selling-Away FINRA Regulations There are two main FINRA regulations that cover selling away: Rule 3270 and Rule 3280.  FINRA Rule 3270 prohibits brokers from engaging in activities that are outside of the broker’s relationship with their brokerage firm unless written notice is provided to the firm.  FINRA Rule 3280 is similar, and prohibits brokers from engaging in private securities transactions (including selling away) without first providing written notice to their firm. After receiving that notice, the member firm may approve or disapprove the transaction. If the firm approves, then the firm supervises and records the transaction. Disapproval, on the other hand, prohibits the broker from participation in the transaction either directly or indirectly. What Are the Penalties for Selling Away? Both brokers and brokerage firms can be held liable when a broker sells away. FINRA regulations require brokers to offer securities products suitable for each of their client’s needs. Brokers must account for their clients’ objectives, level of investing sophistication, and risk tolerances. When a broker fails to fulfill this obligation, FINRA may sanction, suspend, or bar the broker from the financial industry. According to FINRA’s Sanctions Guidelines, Brokers who engage in selling away open themselves up to monetary sanctions between $2,500 and $77,000 for each rule violation. For serious violations, FINRA may suspend the broker for up to two years or permanently bar them from practicing as a broker. The severity of the penalty depends on several factors: Whether the selling away involved customers of the broker’s firm; How directly the selling away relates to the injury caused to investors; How long the outside activity occurred; The amount of money involved in the sales; Whether the broker misled their firm or clients with respect to the transactions; and How important the broker was in facilitating the transaction. Because selling away involves transactions outside of a broker’s relationship with their brokerage firm, holding the firm responsible for investor losses is more difficult. Nevertheless, a brokerage firm may still be liable for the conduct of its brokers under FINRA regulations. Brokerage firms have an obligation to supervise the brokers with which they are associated. Failure to do so may result in the firm’s liability to the investor. How Do I Recover Losses from Selling Away Deals? Investors can try to recover their losses through several formal and informal methods. Speaking with a securities attorney is the best way to determine which method is right for your situation. FINRA Arbitration Many brokerage firms require their customers to sign mandatory arbitration clauses. If this is the case, then the investor must use FINRA’s arbitration process rather than filing a lawsuit.  Arbitration starts when the investor files a claim. From there, the parties go through similar procedures to those in the regular court system. Each side will engage in discovery and present their...

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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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The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Wins $6 Million Plus Award Against UBS and UBS Puerto Rico

In an arbitration proceeding against UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and UBS Financial Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. won $4.25 million in compensatory damages plus interest at 6.25% from February 28, 2014 and costs of $170,000 for one of the firm’s clients last month. A summary of our clients’ allegations against UBS and UBS-PR are set forth below. If you or any family member received similar unsuitable recommendations from UBS-PR and its stockbrokers, or found yourself with an account overconcentrated in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and/or closed-end bond funds, or if you borrowed monies from UBS and used your investments as loan collateral, we may be able to help you recover your losses. Contact our office as soon as possible for a free consultation about your case. Time is of the essence!

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The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Wins $1.45 Million Plus Interest Award Against UBS and UBS Puerto Rico

In an arbitration proceeding against UBS Financial Services, Inc. (UBS) and UBS Financial Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P. A. won a $1.45 million plus interest award for one of the firm’s clients last week. A summary of Claimant’s allegations against UBS and UBS-PR are set forth below. If you or any family member received similar unsuitable recommendations from UBS-PR and its stockbrokers or found yourself with an account overconcentrated in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and/or closed-end bond funds, or if you borrowed monies from UBS and used your investments as collateral for those loans, we may be able to help you recover your losses. Contact our office for a free consultation about your case.

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The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. Wins $600,000 Plus Interest Award Against UBS Puerto Rico

In an arbitration proceeding against UBS Financial Services, Inc. of Puerto Rico (UBS-PR), the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P. A. won a $600,000 plus interest award for one of the firm’s clients. A summary of Claimant’s allegations against UBS-PR are set forth below. If you or any family member received similar unsuitable recommendations from UBS-PR and its stockbrokers or found yourself with an account overconcentrated in Puerto Rico municipal bonds and/or closed-end bond funds, or if you borrowed monies from UBS and used your investments as collateral for those loans, we may be able to help you recover your losses. Contact our office for a free consultation about your case.

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2013 Most Effective Lawyers Finalist

Daily Business Review Monday, December 9, 2013 ARBITRATION AWARD AGAINST WELLS FARGO RECOVERS MOST OF FAMILY’S LOSSES Mediation and arbitration are supposed to be faster and more cost-effective than going to court. However, it was neither in a case involving the theft of millions of dollars from College Health and Investment L.P., a family-run limited partnership. The case took more than three years to resolve as attorneys for Wachovia Securities, now part of Wells Fargo, used numerous delaying tactics before ultimately paying a $2.75 million arbitration award, said Boca Raton securities attorney Robert W. Pearce, who represented College Health. The case grew out of Wells Fargo’s failure to detect the alleged theft and unauthorized transactions of millions of dollars by Esther Spero, whose aunt, Shari Jakobowitz, was in charge of the partnership’s accounts. Spero was accused of misusing the family’s financial information to steal about $7 million, which she in turn lost to one-time Miami Beach developer Michael Stern, who was supposed to be investing in real estate. Instead, Stern allegedly used the money to pay off his own debts after the real estate crash while funding a lavish lifestyle. Pearce traced most of the money and made recoveries in state court against Stern, a title company, Spero and Wachovia. “They came up a bit short, but we came close to getting most of their money back,” Pearce said. Then, in July, a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel ordered Wells Fargo to pay $2.75 million in damages and interest for failing to detect Spero’s alleged embezzlement. Pearce alleged bank employees went so far as to create a false power of attorney to give Spero control over the account that held most of the assets. Had the bank enforced its own policies and procedures, as well as FINRA’s rules, it would have detected the embezzlement, Pearce argued. “The bank had numerous red flags. It should have made inquiries to stop the movement of funds,” Pearce said.

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Wells Fargo Advisors Ordered to Pay $2.8 Million to Limited Partnership

By Dow Jones Business News, July 09, 2013, 04:07:00 PM EDT By Corrie Driebusch NEW YORK–An arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors to pay $2.8 million to a family limited partnership that accused the firm of negligence in connection with alleged thefts from its investment account. The Miami , Fla.-based partnership had sued a former secretary, accusing her of forging signatures to transfer money out of its accounts, and won a $21 million judgment in a Florida district court in 2010. That suit alleged the secretary, Esther Spero, took the money for her personal use from accounts at Wachovia Securities and elsewhere between 2005 and 2008. Wachovia was later acquired by Wells Fargo & Co. (WFC ). In its separate arbitration claim against Wells Fargo, the partnership, called College Health and Investment Ltd., said the brokerage was negligent in failing to detect the alleged theft. The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel found Wells Fargo to be liable and ordered that it pay $ 2.3 million in damages and prejudgment interest. Wells Fargo also must also pay $419,000 in margin interest and $35,000 in costs. College Health and Investment Ltd. had requested $4.4 million, according to the arbitration panel ruling. As is customary in the FINRA claims system, the written award did not explain the panel’s reasoning. Robert Wayne Pearce, lawyer for the partnership, said it showed the panel agreed with the negligence claim. A Wells Fargo spokesman said in a statement, “We’re disappointed in the panel’s decision and don’t believe it was warranted by the facts presented during the hearing.” Write to Corrie Driebusch at corrie.driebusch@dowjones.com. Dow Jones Newswires 07-09-131607ET Copyright (c) 2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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