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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Things You Need To Know About a Securities Lawyer

Securities are financial instruments that can offer promising opportunities for investors to earn income and profit upon sale. Securities come in a variety of forms, including: Stocks, Options,  Municipal (government) bonds, Corporate bonds, Mutual Funds, Closed-End Funds, Promissory Notes, Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs), and Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). But investment losses are a possibility no matter what type of security you invest in. Some securities are more inherently risky than others. Because of the complexities of securities, investors often seek out experienced financial advisors or brokers to handle their investments. Investors expect their advisors to provide honest, transparent advice and to act in a way that serves the client’s best interests. Unfortunately, that is not always what happens.  If you have suffered investment losses due to the actions of a financial advisor, contact a securities lawyer today. You might be wondering, What does a securities lawyer do? The answer is simple—a securities lawyer can be an advocate in your corner who will help you fight for your rights in the aftermath of your investment losses.  Securities lawyer Robert Wayne Pearce has decades of experience helping investors recover. Call The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., today to discuss your case.  Why Would I Need a Securities Lawyer? When a financial advisor’s misconduct results in financial losses to their client, the financial advisor may be liable for securities fraud. However, suffering losses does not automatically entitle you to compensation. Investing is inherently risky, and success is never a guarantee. So what forms of misconduct amount to investment fraud? Knowing the most common types of investment fraud claims brought by investors is a good place to start. Breach of Fiduciary Duty Registered investment advisors are held to a fiduciary duty standard when it comes to serving their clients. Being a fiduciary essentially means that you have a legal duty to act in your client’s best interest. In some cases, a breach of fiduciary duty is easy to recognize. For example, if an investment advisor only recommends products that will generate the highest commission fees, they are putting their interest in gaining commissions over their client’s interest. However, a breach of fiduciary duty is not always so easy to recognize. Other ways a fiduciary can violate his or her duties include: Failure to disclose material facts; Commingling of investment funds; Failure to disclose conflicts of interest; Usurping an investment opportunity; and Misappropriation of client funds.  The fiduciary standard is the most stringent standard of care in American law. However, not all investment professionals must comply with this standard. The Investment Advisors Act of 1940 mandates that registered investment advisors adhere to the fiduciary standard. Other types of advisors may have more limited fiduciary duties.  Failure to Supervise Brokerage firms are responsible for the conduct of their securities representatives. FINRA Rule 3110 requires registered brokerage firms to establish and maintain a “reasonably well-crafted system” to supervise its representatives, so the firm can ensure compliance with securities laws and regulations. Some of the most common failure to supervise claims include: Inadequate screening practices; Inadequate training of representatives; Failure to install appropriate written supervisory procedures; Failure to follow up on suspected misconduct; Lack of sufficient reviews and inspections; Failure to effectively monitor transactions; and Failure to effectively monitor registered representatives’ communication.  Brokerage firms who fail to adequately supervise their representatives open the door for their customers to be taken advantage of. If you believe your representative was not being properly supervised, contact a securities lawyer today to discuss your case.  Fraud or Misrepresentation You need access to all relevant information about a security before you can make an informed decision on whether to invest. Thus, a financial advisor must disclose all relevant information when presenting you with an investment opportunity.  The failure to disclose material information about an investment is a form of investment fraud. If your broker or financial advisor failed to disclose information material to an investment opportunity, contact a securities lawyer to discuss your claim. Unauthorized Trading A broker or financial advisor must have valid authorization before effectuating a transaction in your investment account. You can grant authorization to your advisor in two ways: Open a discretionary trading account; or Grant express authorization for each individual trade. A discretionary account permits your broker to make trades in your account at his or her discretion, within the parameters you allow.  Otherwise, express authorization must be given for each individual transaction made in your investment account.  Excessive Trading Excessive trading, also known as churning, occurs when an investment professional makes repeated trades in a client’s account for the sole purpose of generating commissions. Churning is most common in discretionary accounts because investors might show alarm if their investment professional is seeking trade authorization repeatedly.  Making excessive trades is not a good investment strategy and often results in significant losses for investors. If your financial advisor or broker is repeatedly buying and selling securities in your account to drive up their commissions, contact a securities lawyer today.   Lack of Diversification An ideal investment portfolio contains multiple types of securities in a variety of sectors. This minimizes the risk of suffering significant losses if one sector of the stock market tumbles.  A failure to diversify a client’s investment portfolio is a form of investor fraud. If you suffered investment losses because your portfolio was over-concentrated, you may be entitled to relief.  What Does a Securities Lawyer Do? Unfortunately, investment professional misconduct that causes investors to suffer significant losses is not uncommon. If you find yourself in this situation, you may not know what your options are or what steps to take next. This is where a securities lawyer comes in.  If you are considering hiring a securities lawyer, you might also be wondering, What does a securities lawyer do? An experienced securities attorney will review your case to help you determine what to do to protect your rights and finances. Then, a securities lawyer can help you fight for the recovery you deserve.  Contact a...

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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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