FREE INITIAL CONSULTATION WITH ATTORNEYS WHO CAN HANDLE YOUR SECURITIES, COMMODITIES AND INVESTMENT PROBLEMS

The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A. understands what is at stake in securities, commodities and investment law matters and constantly strives to secure the most favorable possible result. Mr. Pearce provides a complete review of your case and fully explains your legal options. The firm works to ensure that you have all of the information necessary to make a sound decision before any action is taken in your case.

For dedicated representation by a law firm with substantial experience in all kinds of securities, commodities and investment disputes, contact the firm by phone at 561-338-0037, toll free at 800-732-2889 or via e-mail. We may also be able to arrange a meeting with you at offices located in Boca Raton, Fort Lauderdale, Miami and West Palm Beach, Florida and elsewhere.

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.

Continue Reading

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...

Continue Reading

How to File a Complaint Against a Financial Advisor

When investors hire a financial advisor, they expect the advisor to act in their best interest to prevent unnecessary losses. Unfortunately, however, financial advisors do not always live up to these expectations.  In some cases, a financial advisor fails to follow an investor’s requests and guidelines or otherwise engages in misconduct, causing the investor to suffer losses. When this happens, the investor may be able to file a complaint against the advisor to recover his or her losses.  But how do you file a complaint against a financial advisor? And when do you know it may be time to do so?  If you or a loved one has suffered significant investment losses at the hands of your financial advisor, contact The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., today. With more than 40 years of experience, our investment loss recovery attorneys can help you understand when and how to file a complaint against an advisor. Give us a call to discuss your case, and see what our team can do for you.  A Brief Overview of FINRA and How It Affects Your Ability to File a Complaint Against a Financial Advisor Before discussing how to file a complaint against an advisor, it is important to have an understanding of the process in general and whether you can bring a claim at all.  Financial advisors and their employers are governed by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA). FINRA’s stated mission is to “safeguard the investing public against fraud and bad practices.” FINRA has the power to take disciplinary actions against registered financial advisors or broker-dealers who violate the industry’s rules.  In 2019, FINRA reported that it initiated 854 disciplinary actions, levied $39.5 million in fines, and ordered restitution of $27.9 million be paid to investors. FINRA also expelled 6 member firms, suspended 21 member firms, barred 348 individuals from the securities industry, and suspended 415 individuals.  In short, FINRA provides significant protections for investors and processes through which advisors can be held accountable for their misconduct. However, it is important to note that you may not be able to file a complaint against an advisor in court as you might expect.  Required Investor Arbitration When you open a brokerage account with a member firm regulated by FINRA, you will likely sign a customer agreement. This agreement controls many aspects of the investor-advisor relationship, including potential disputes you may have with your advisor or their firm in the future.  More often than not, these customer agreements contain a mandatory arbitration clause. An investor must arbitrate through FINRA when:  There is a written arbitration agreement;  The dispute is with a broker or firm who is a member of FINRA; and The dispute is related to the securities business of the broker or firm.  If all these are true, then you must bring any claim you may have against your broker or their firm to FINRA arbitration, rather than filing a lawsuit in the court system. Nevertheless, you do still have an opportunity for your claim to be heard and to hold your advisor accountable.  How FINRA Arbitration Works Many people believe that going to court is the best way to hold a financial advisor accountable. However, this is not necessarily the case. In fact, FINRA arbitration is much more common than you might think.  Arbitration is an alternative dispute resolution method that allows parties to a legal dispute to resolve their issues outside of court. Much like in a court case, the parties file pleadings, present testimony and evidence, and make oral arguments.  The key difference between a trial and arbitration is the forum. Whereas a trial is presented in front of a judge or jury, an arbitration is presented before a panel of independent arbitrators chosen by the parties.  However, just as a judge or jury renders a final judgment at trial, an arbitration panel also renders a final and binding award on the parties in the arbitration. Thus, arbitration can still be an effective method of resolving your claims with a financial advisor.  When Can I File a FINRA Complaint Against a Financial Advisor? Just because you lost money on an investment does not necessarily mean you should file a complaint against your financial advisor. Rather, you must show that you lost money because of your financial advisor’s negligence or misconduct.  Some of the most common types of investment fraud for which you may be able to file a complaint against your financial advisor include:  Ponzi schemes,  Pyramid schemes, “Pump and dump” scams, Advance fee fraud,  High yield investment frauds, and  Offshore scams.  Additionally, financial advisors have a fiduciary duty to their investors to reasonably invest and manage their investments. If your financial advisor breaches his or her duty, resulting in monetary loss, you may be entitled to file a complaint.  Of course, there are many ways in which a financial advisor can commit misconduct. For more information on what constitutes a breach of duty by a financial advisor, read our post, Can I Sue My Financial Advisor Over Losses? Filing Your Complaint Against a Financial Advisor The first step in initiating your complaint is completing what is called a “statement of claim.” The statement of claim details what occurred in your particular case.  This is your opportunity to tell FINRA your side of the story, so it is imperative that it is as complete and detailed as possible. You then submit your statement of claim to FINRA, after which time the case will move forward.  The steps following the filing of your complaint include:  The filing of an answer by the opposing party,  Arbitrator selection,  Prehearing conferences,  Discovery,  The arbitration hearing, and Final decision and awards. FINRA’s arbitration process can be faster and less formal than a court trial. However, it is still helpful to have an experienced attorney in your corner.  An investment fraud attorney can help you draft and file your statement of claim. This is arguably one of the most important parts of the FINRA arbitration process. ...

Continue Reading

LPL Financial LLC Sued For Scott Lanza’s Sales Of REITs And BDCs

LPL Financial LLC (“LPL”) is a securities brokerage firm with offices in Boca Raton, Florida and elsewhere. It is regulated by Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”).  LPL offered and sold to Claimants the investments at issue in this arbitration, namely, non-traded Real Estate Investment Trusts and Business Development Companies through Scott Lanza (“Mr. Lanza”) an individual registered with FINRA as an “Associate Member” of LPL.  The brokerage firm LPL has been sued because it is vicariously liable for Mr. Lanza’s acts, omissions and other misconduct described more fully herein.

Continue Reading

How to Sue a Financial Advisor Over Investment Losses

If you have lost a significant amount of money in your investment portfolios you may be asking yourself can you sue your financial advisor to help recover your losses. Can I Sue My Financial Advisor? Yes, you can sue your financial advisor. If you lost money on investments due to either a financial advisor’s advice or their failure to comply with FINRA’s rules & regulations, you have the right to file an arbitration claim to seek financial compensation. Investment Losses? Let’s talk. or, give us a ring at 561-338-0037. 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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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. 

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

FINRA Statute of Limitations: A Brief Overview

Investment brokers have a duty to treat their clients honesty and with integrity. Those who take advantage of, mislead, or steal from their clients shake the investing industry’s foundation. Regrettably, broker misconduct occurs all too often.  You need representation from an attorney who has the knowledge, skill, and extensive experience to help you recover your losses if you are a victim of investment broker misconduct. Robert Wayne Pearce and his staff with The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., have over 40 years of experience fighting on behalf of investors victimized by broker misconduct. Contact us today to protect your rights. 

Continue Reading

J.P. Morgan Sued for Edward Turley and Steven Foote’s Alleged Margin Account Misconduct

J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC (“J.P. Morgan”) employed San Francisco Financial Advisor Edward Turley (“Mr. Turley”) and his former New York City partner, Steven Foote (“Mr. Foote”), and is being sued for their alleged stockbroker fraud and stockbroker misconduct involving a highly speculative trading investment strategy in highly leveraged margin accounts1. We represent a family (the “Claimants”) in the Southwest who built a successful manufacturing business and entrusted their savings to J.P. Morgan and its two financial advisors to manage by investing in “solid companies” and in a “careful” manner. At the outset, it is important for our readers to know that our clients’ allegations have not yet been proven. We are providing information about our clients’ allegations and seeking information from other investors who did business with J.P. Morgan, Mr. Turley, and/or Mr. Foote and had similar investments, a similar investment strategy, and a similar bad experience to help us win our clients’ case.

Continue Reading