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Articles Posted in Can I Sue My Broker?

Today, the Texas State Securities Board (TSSB) announced in a Disciplinary Order the suspension of Jason Anderson, a broker from Beaumont, Texas formerly working in the last two years with each of LPL, Kovack Securities, IFS Securities, and since March of 2017, was seeking registration as an investment adviser with IFS Advisory, LLC (later withdrawn), and then went on to seek registration as an investment adviser with Financial Management Services of America, LLC.   Last year, Mr. Anderson was “indefinitely” suspended by FINRA for failing to comply with an arbitration award, pay a settlement, and/or failing to tell FINRA about the status of that award.   Mr. Anderson has been very busy—-why?  Some of the answers may be found in Mr. Anderson’s BrokerCheck, which reveals a rather concerning string of customer complaints and other problems.  So, is Mr. Anderson suspended?  Yes as a FINRA broker, and yes in the State of Texas, just not for long.

Well, while Mr. Anderson was with LPL between 2007 and February 2016, and perhaps while at the subsequent firms, Mr. Anderson was recommending to many of his clients an active trading program pursuant to a technical analysis.  The Texas State Securities Board called the trading program the “Equity Strategy.”  Similarly, there have been a number of customer complaints, and even a lawsuit filed against Mr. Anderson for his practices with his customers.

Mr. Anderson’s, and hence LPL’s, Equity Strategy involved actively trading stocks based apparently on Mr. Anderson’s belief in his prescient technical analysis.  The Texas State Securities Board stated that Mr. Anderson “did not consider the trading costs, which included commissions…or the impact that such costs would have on the rate of return the Equity Strategy would need to earn to generate a positive return for a client.”  The TSSB noted that for one client, the costs were 30%, meaning that in order for the client to breakeven, the Equity Strategy would have to earn 30%–no small feat for an investor with a moderate risk tolerance!  Not surprisingly, the TSSB concluded that Mr. Anderson did not have a reasonable basis to believe that the Equity Strategy was suitable for his clients because of his disregard of the trading costs (his own commissions), and thus such practice was deemed by the TSSB to be “inequitable practices in the sale of securities” and it suspended Mr. Anderson’s registration.  Hmmm…

Can I Sue My Stockbroker?

Well, yes and no.  The question is more appropriately “How do I sue my stockbroker?” or “Where can I sue my stockbroker?”  As I will explain shortly, the common denominator to all of these answers is that investors can (and should) seek recovery when their stockbroker breaches a duty owed to them and they suffer losses.

The short, but correct answer is “No,” you are likely prohibited from suing your brokerage firm in Court, and can only bring a claim in FINRA arbitration (which may look like a “Yes” answer…).  All broker-dealers (think Merrill Lynch, Edward Jones, LPL, Wells Fargo, and any company that employs a stockbroker) must be registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the Self-Regulatory Organization that is vested with the regulation of brokers and the enforcement of rules governing the brokerage industry.  All firms and their brokers are supposed to comply with FINRA’s rules and procedures, and these rules set forth many of the duties owed by the firm and the broker to the customer.  When one or more of these rules are violated, a customer can be harmed and lose money (account losses) or be prohibited from making money (missed profits).  One of these rules requires the broker-dealer to submit to a customer’s demand for arbitration using FINRA’s Dispute Resolution Forum–so even if there was no agreement to arbitrate, the customer could mandate that the firm submit to arbitration, but it is generally perceived that investors would prefer to be in a local court, before a local judge, and a jury of their peers.