Tag Archives: suitability

WFG Investor Loss Recovery

WFG has recently been identified and fined as the result of allegations that its supervision of its brokers is lacking.  To speak to an attorney to discuss your rights please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free and confidential consultation.

FINRA asserts that during 2012 and 2013, senior personnel at WFG were aware of red flags that one of its brokers in its San Antonio office, who FINRA only identifies as “MB,” was engaged in unsuitable trading with respect to low-priced securities, which generally carry a high level of risk. Notwithstanding their knowledge of these red flags, the Firm consistently failed to take adequate supervisory steps to ensure that MB’s sales of low-priced securities to his customers were suitable.

Unsuitable investments are investments a broker recommends that are either more aggressive than an investor’s risk tolerance, inconsistent with an investor’s objectives, too risky given an investor’s financial condition, too complicated for an investor given the investor’s lack of investment sophistication, or otherwise inconsistent with the wants and needs of an investor.  There are many incentives that a broker may have for recommending unsuitable investments, but the most common is that risky investments often pay a higher commission.

Brokerage firms have a duty to ensure that only suitable investments are sold.  FINRA’s action alleges that WFG failed to respond appropriately when it should have been aware that a broker was recommending unsuitable investments.

For instance, in August 2012, the Firm held a meeting at WFG’s headquarters that was attended by senior supervisory and compliance personnel, as well as a supervisor FINRA identifies only as “WG,” MB’s direct supervisor. During this meeting, compliance personnel noted that MB was unsuitably concentrating his customers’ portfolios in low-priced securities. WG was instructed during this meeting not to permit MB or other representatives in the San Antonio branch office to purchase any more positions in a specific security, LB, on behalf of their clients.

WG, however, failed to enforce this directive. In fact, MB continued to sell low-priced securities, including LB, in his WFG and RIA (investment advisory) accounts. The Firm and its personnel also failed to follow up appropriately on red flag information that they learned about MB’s sale practices during this meeting.

ln September 2012, the Firm conducted an inadequate inspection of MB’s branch office in San Antonio. The Compliance Manager assigned to conduct this audit, JA, another supervisor, had participated in the August 2012 meeting. Notwithstanding his knowledge of potential sales practice violations involving low-priced securities, the audit conducted by JA related only to non-sales practice issues, such as the review of change of address requests and a check of controls over the receipt of incoming mail.

During this audit, JA did not review: (1) advisory activity by representatives in this branch office, including MB, (2) trading in low-priced securities, including LB; or (3) suitability of transactions recommended or executed in this branch office. In January 2013, the Firm held another meeting at its headquarters with senior supervisory and compliance personnel, as well as WG and MB. During this meeting, compliance personnel raised continuing concerns about ongoing unsuitable trading in low-priced securities in MB’s accounts and about undisclosed complaints against MB from his time with his previous employer.

Ultimately, FINRA censured the firm and ordered it to pay a $150,000 fine for their supervisory lapses.  Such lapses in supervision can make the firm responsible for other broker misdeeds.  If you suffered a loss, call toll-free 1-866-817-0201.

Losses with First Financial Equity (FFEC)

If you have suffered investment losses with First Financial Equity Corp. (“FFEC”) please call for a free consultation with an attorney at 1-866-817-0201.  Recent actions of FINRA, the financial industry regulator, indicate that investors may have been harmed by the actions of this firm.

FFEC and its chief compliance officer entered into a settlement with FINRA regulators  on March 8, 2017 concerning the lapses in supervision.  The alleged lapses allowed a variety of different fraudulent activity to occur throughout FFEC and in particular the Scottsdale, Arizona branch.  FINRA asserted that the chief supervisor of FFEC, the chief compliance officer, had not adequately supervised and that the firm did not have adequate supervisory procedures.

The most obvious result of the lack of supervision is the 26 customer complaints of broker John Schooler.  These complaints, many of which evolved into arbitration lawsuits, involved his inappropriate trades in oil & gas investments and TIC investments.

One issue alleged to be a result of the inadequate supervision is the sale of unsuitable ETFs.  Unsuitable securities are those which are not consistent with the wants and needs of an investor.  Usually, an investment is unsuitable if it puts at risk funds not earmarked for risk, or otherwise is inconsistent with who the client is as an investor.

In the case of FFEC, its brokers recommended and invested its customers in aggressive ETFs, including leveraged and inverse ETFs.  Such investments are known to be high risk, yet the brokers recommended the investments to individuals who did not express a desire for high risk investments.  Worse, many of these investments were purchased by the FFEC brokers for accounts where the brokers were given discretion and not given the required supervisory review.

To ensure suitability, FFEC brokers were required to obtain sufficient information about their investors to evaluate the investments that would be suitable.  The settlement states that this was not done.

Another issue alleged to have been caused by the lack of supervision is churning/excessive trading.  This occurs any time trades are made which the costs and fees are of an amount that the trades benefit the adviser more than the investor.

David B. Tysk of Ameriprise Investment Loss

If you suffered investment loss with David B. Tysk please call 1-866-817-0201 for a free consultation.

David Tysk, financial advisor for Ameriprise in Eden Prairie, MN, was fined $50,000 and
suspended from association with any FINRA member in any capacity for one year. The
Invest photo 2NAC affirmed the findings in the OHO decision and increased the sanctions. The sanctions
were based on findings that Tysk altered computer notes of customer contacts after the
customer complained about the suitability of a recommendation.

The findings stated that Tysk knew or should have known the importance of customer-related notes in the event of complaints. Tysk’s concealed alterations of his notes did not comply with the clear import of the document-retention policies in his member firm’s code of conduct. Tysk failed toinform the firm of the alterations when he provided a copy of the notes to be produced in discovery during an arbitration proceeding.

The customer became suspicious of the notes and requested further discovery to determine whether the notes had been altered after he lodged his complaint with the firm. Tysk and his firm opposed the requests. In a meeting to prepare for the arbitration hearing, Tysk finally disclosed to the firm that he had altered the notes. At the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the firm and Tysk were sanctioned for violating arbitration discovery rules.

A copy of the NAC decision can be found at the following link.