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.
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:
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 $140 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.
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.
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 will not overturn an award.
There is a statute of limitations to bring a claim against your financial advisor. Under FINRA Rule 12206, you have six years from the time of the financial advisor’s act to take action. However, Florida has a four-year statute of limitation for negligence claims.
Collecting all the documentation and records and formulating a claim takes an immense amount of time and effort. It is crucial to your case that you contact an experienced investor loss recovery attorney as soon as you suspect that your advisor has caused you financial loss.
File a Lawsuit
If there is no mandatory arbitration clause in your customer agreement, you may file a lawsuit in court against your financial advisor. This is a lengthy and costly option. Speak with our investor loss recovery attorneys to weigh the pros and cons of mediation, arbitration, and litigation.
We Can Help
We are here to protect your rights as an investor. If your financial advisor stole your money or caused you to lose money through negligence or misconduct, we can help you recover. For over 40 years, the attorneys at The Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce have helped hundreds of investors navigate FINRA mediation and arbitration proceedings. We know the laws, rules, and regulations for bringing a successful claim against a financial advisor for investors’ financial losses. Contact us for a free initial consultation.