Articles Posted in Arbitration Rulings

A FINRA arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors LLC (WFC) to pay UBS Financial Services Inc. $1.1M to resolve a claim involving financial adviser David Kinnear who went to work for the Wells Fargo & Co. brokerage arm after leaving the UBS Group AG (UBS) unit. UBS claims that Kinnear stole thousands of client and business records, as well as proprietary information, after resigning from the firm.

The Wall Street Journal reports that according to a source, Kinnear downloaded the data and distributed it to clients. UBS contends that the compensation Kinnear received at Wells Fargo was related to his ability to successfully bring UBS clients with him. UBS also claims that Kinnear owes it promissory notes.

Wells Fargo denies UBS’s allegations. It submitted a counterclaim accusing the firm of unfair completion, including preventing clients from moving from UBS to Wells Forgo.

Under the Protocol for Broker Recruiting, brokers are only allowed to bring the names and contact information of clients that they serviced while having worked at a firm when moving to another brokerage firm.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel says that Royal Bank of Scotland’s (RBS) securities division in the U.S. must pay Jeffrey Howard, an ex-executive that it fired, $2.05M in compensatory damages because of the way he was let go. The bank must also retract his termination and expunge his regulatory record of any comments that are defamatory.

The FINRA arbitration panel’s case summary said that according to Howard, the bank fired him because it didn’t want people to find out that there was “significant internal turmoil” at the financial institution. Howard, who joined the firm’s RBS Securities in 2012 as head of its prime services for the Americas, eventually went on to become global-co-head of the group and then later its sole head. Previous to all of that he worked at Bank of America (BAC) Merrill Lynch. After he was let go by Royal Bank of Scotland in 2014, Howard filed a breach of contract and defamation case with FINRA contending that the disclosure about his firing was false.

According to the FINRA panel, Howard should not have been let go for cause. It found that the bank made fundamental mistakes and inconsistencies in: the way it interpreted internal policies and put them into effect, the facts it employed to decide to fire him, and the rationale behind that decision. The panel said that Howard did not violate any internal policies.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel has awarded First United Bank & Trust and First United Corp. over $11.5M in their securities fraud case against FTN Financial Securities Corp., Hugh James Boone, and Franklin Benjamin Kennedy. The bank is claiming unsuitable investments, misrepresentations, omission, breach of fiduciary duty, failure to supervise, breach of implied contract, and common law fraud involving the claimants’ purchase of preferred term securities, trust preferred securities, and other collateralized debt obligations. Two of the preferred term securities at issue are the PreTSL Notes, also known as the I-PreTSLI notes, and the PreTSL XVII.

The claimants said that that purchase of the PreTSL Notes were among a number of transactions in their leverage strategy. They said that the respondents were aware that the notes had deteriorated after they were issued but did not inform the claimants. The respondents denied the claimants’ allegations. Boone and Kennedy in their response said that they acted properly as financial adviser.

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A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority panel arbitration panel says that Morgan Stanley (MS) must pay at least $2.4M to settle the latest client claims accusing its former broker, Steven Mark Wyatt, of mishandling their investments. The brokerage firm fired Wyatt in 2012.

According to a group of doctors and their loved ones, Wyatt, who was their broker, made unauthorized and excessive trades in the stock market that cost them during and after the 2008 financial crisis. Wyatt bought thinly-traded stocks for the investors and placed speculative bets on exchange-traded funds and other securities in their portfolios.

This is the latest batch of claims against Wyatt, Morgan Stanley, and managers at the Mississippi branch where he worked. The claimants believe that Morgan Stanley failed to detect warning signs of Wyatt’s purported wrongdoing. Other employees named in this securities case are adviser Hilary Zimmerman, currently a Morgan Stanley senior vice president, and branch manager Fred Eugene Brister III. The claimants contend that Brister failed to properly supervise Zimmerman and Wyatt. They say that their accounts were mismanaged and suspect trading occurred.

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According to a Financial Industry Regulatory Authority arbitration panel, Morgan Stanley & Co. (MS) must pay Banco Nacional de Mexico SA unit $4.5 million for allegedly letting funds from a family’s trust account be utilized for paying back third-party loans without authorization. The Mexican bank, also known as Banamex, was trustee to the account. It filed its securities arbitration case in 2012.

The trust was established in 2007 with proceeds from a property that members of a family had inherited and decided to sell. Banamex and the beneficiaries of the trust worked with a Morgan Stanley (MS) broker, who ran their accounts. The trust accounts were at a Morgan Stanley banking unit. They were set up in such a way that the assets were not supposed to be used as guarantees to pay third-party loans that another family member’s account had taken.

Morgan Stanley is accused of compelling the trust accounts to guarantee payment of a third-party loan without getting Banamex’s consent. According to the plaintiffs, the brokerage firm improperly guaranteed or recorded the trust assets for the relative, who did not belong to the trust.

A Financial Industry Arbitration Panel says that Stifel Financial Corp. (SF), the brokerage unit of Stifel Nicolaus, must pay $2.7 million to, Sean Horrigan. Stifel’s ex-head trader claims that the brokerage firm defamed him and withheld his bonus without just cause. Now, the panel is holding the broker-dealer liable.

Horrigan was fired from Stifel in 2012. According to his lawyer, his termination happened several weeks after he overheard a phone call in which a manager insulted his wife to a salesperson. Horrigan’s wife was also employed at Stifel at the time. After the incident, he reacted emotionally. It was after trading hours. The firm then demoted him before letting him go just weeks prior to giving him his bonus for 2011.

Stifel contended that Horrigan was not entitled to get that money because on the day that the bonuses were issued he no longer worked for the firm. His attorney, however, says that unless an industry professional signs a contract mandating that an employee has to be employed on bonus payout day, he/she is still entitled to that money.

The Public Investors Arbitration Bar Association (PIABA) is working with consumer rights group Public Citizen to get the US Securities and Exchange Commission to release documents about its oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s selection of the arbitrators who preside over disputes between broker-dealers and investors. According to PIABA President Jason Doss, because customers are “forced” into only having securities arbitration as a resolution venue when they sign documents to set up brokerage accounts (in the event of future disputes), they should be allowed to know how FINRA decides who hears the arbitration cases.

PIABA is a lawyers’ group that represents investors with securities arbitration claims. Contending that this is an issue of “transparency,” the attorneys have been trying to gain access to these documents for the last few years.

The group’s efforts started in 2010 with a Freedom of Information Act query to the SEC asking for documents that address how the regulator inspects FINRA’s process for selecting arbitrators and looking into their backgrounds. However, even though FOIA grants the public access to federal agency records, it has exemptions. (The exemption exists to protect sensitive matters, such as customer’s private financial data.)

US House Passes A Bill Prohibiting the US Labor Department DOL From Amending Its Definition of “Fiduciary” Until SEC’s Uniform Conduct Standard is Established

A bill that would not allow the Department of Labor to amend its rules regarding the definition of the term “fiduciary” until after Securities and Exchange Commission adopts its own rule that places broker-dealers and investment advisers under a uniform standard of conduct has passed in the US House of Representatives. The DOL has been trying to revise its definition of “fiduciary” in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Those who voted to prohibit revising the definition have been worried about possibly ending up with two rulemakings that were inconsistent with one another.

Reg A Plus Offerings and Their Oversight Get Capitol Hill Debate

Even though the number of disciplinary actions from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority has dropped just slightly this year, fines paid to the SRO are expected to be 41% lower from what was assessed in 2012.

In its Disciplinary and Other FINRA Actions report for the first half of 2013, FINRA said there were $23 million of fines—compare that to the same time period last year when the SRO fined brokerage firms and associated individuals $39 million. The total in fines it would assess for 2012 would reach $78 million. This year’s total is estimated to reach $46 million.

One reason for the decline might be that FINRA had already brought its biggest cases related to the market collapse. A decrease in supersize fines of those over $1 million has also occurred during the year’s first six months. However, in July, the SRO reported fining a financial firm $7.5 million while another had to pay investor restitution of $1.5 million. Supersize fines were also imposed on other broker-dealers.

A FINRA arbitration panel has decided that Citigroup (C) and Edward J. Mulcahy, one of the firm’s ex-branch managers, has to pay $11 million to investor John Fiorilla. Fiorilla is a legal adviser to the Holy See who went to Citigroup because he wanted to de-risk a $16 million stock position in Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS).

According to the claimant, he asked Citigroup to employ derivatives to assist in hedging his position against losses but the firm did not fulfill the request. When the market failed in 2008 his account suffered over $15 million in losses.

Fiorilla is claiming breach of contract, failure to control and supervise, breach of fiduciary duty, gross negligence, negligence, and other violations. His claim against Mulcahy is over an alleged failure to supervise.