Category: Florida Securities Attorneys

FINRA Lawyers can help protect investments

When someone has made financial investments in the form of securities, it is possible that their investments won’t result in the profit they anticipate. This can happen for a number of reasons, including changes in the industry you’ve invested in, but it can also be the result of broker misconduct. If you feel that your investments failed as the result of actions made by your broker, it’s important to find reliable a FINRA lawyer to help you with your case. There may have been misconduct on the part of your broker or brokerage firm which caused your investments to fail, and it’s important to explore all of these possibilities when determining the cause of your financial losses. FINRA is the regulatory organization which oversees the financial industry, including securities investments. A security is an investment which is made by individuals or businesses with the anticipation of a return in profit. Because these types of investments can be a good way to ensure a comfortable future for yourself and your family, investing has become a more common practice. FINRA exists to protect the market’s integrity and provide investors quick and effective regulation should they run into trouble. FINRA isn’t part of the government, but are authorized by congress to protect American investors in Florida and nationwide. Of course every investor assumes they are trading in a fair financial market, and FINRA’s regulatory efforts make this true the majority of the time.

However, there are predatory practices employed by brokers which can lead to losses on your end. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s likely that you have already agreed to solve any disputes through arbitration. When entering into arbitration for financial disputes there are many guidelines and procedures which have strict deadlines and must be followed accordingly. Failure to properly fill out paperwork, provide documentation, respond to motions, etc. can all invalidate your claim, resulting in potentially huge losses on your end. A qualified FINRA lawyer in Florida will help you navigate the many facets of securities arbitration and make sure that your claim is not only handled according to all of FINRA’s procedures, but handled in a way which ensures the best possible outcome for investors.

The Hanley Law are experienced FINRA lawyers who help investors in Naples, Fort Myers, Sarasota, Tampa, greater Florida and nationwide settle their FINRA related disputes or arbitration. To have your case evaluated for free by experienced FINRA lawyers, contact The Hanley Law.

What is Securities Arbitration?

Securities Arbitration is the process, which takes place following a dispute with a broker or dealer. Prior to arbitration, the investor has determined that the broker engaged in some form of wrongdoing, or otherwise negligent action that resulted in a loss. Depending on the amount of the claim, the investor may or may not have to appear before an arbitrator or group of arbitrators. Arbitration is an alternative to settling in court and is often the preferred method of dispute resolution because it is typically faster and less expensive.

While typically a contract between a firm and investor is what provides ground for arbitration, the absence of a contractual agreement does not mean that the dispute cannot be settled through arbitration. If the broker or firm is registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority, they are bound to FINRAs procedural guidelines, which include the duty to participate in arbitration when a conflict arises.

Arbitration is NOT an investor complaint. If you want to make FINRA aware of any suspicious activity then you should file an investor complaint. Arbitration is similar to a court case, with formal proceedings but for the reasons stated above is a simpler and quicker alternative to litigation. If a claim is under $50,000 then the dispute can be settled through what is known as “Simplified Arbitration”. In this scenario, parties provide case materials, which are reviewed by an arbitrator; this does not require parties to appear in person. For cases involving larger sums, arbitration takes place in-person and is reviewed by a panel of up to 3 arbitrators.

To initiate an arbitration, the investor must submit what is known as a “Statement of Claim”. The statement of claim must be articulate and while there is no standardized format, following the format of a suit in court is effective. The statement of claim should include all the pertinent information that the arbitrator(s) need to make an intelligent decision. This included the nature of the dispute, any background information, dates, types of securities at hand, names of the parties involved, the kind of transactions that took place and the damages sought.

Following the statement of claim, the respondents must answer to the allegations. This must also be detailed and simple denial will not suffice. At this point in time the respondent can file a counter-claim against the investor or a 3rd party involved. Once the submission of facts from either side is received by FINRA, a hearing location is chosen. Before the hearing is a discover period, where documentation is provided and exchanged amongst parties involved and FINRA officials. This stage is a window of opportunity for the assertive attorney as it is the opportunity to obtain any and all relevant information from the other party prior to the hearing. Often, the persistence of a dedicated attorney during the prehearing discovery phase can result in a favorable verdict for their client.

The hearing itself is scheduled in advance and follows a similar format to a case in court. Witnesses are interviewed, cross-examined and evidence is produced. A series of questions are asked and there are multiple stages before the process is concluded. The arbitrators will determine what awards are served usually within 30 days of the last hearing. The award will include the basic facts of the dispute but does not have to provide justification or rationale behind the actual dollar amount awarded. The opportunity to appeal a decision exists on the state and federal level but it is rarely ever successful.

The Hanley Law is a Naples, Florida based firm who have an extensive track record of successfully securing awards for their clients. The arbitration process is complex and difficult to navigate without the guidance and advocacy that skilled attorneys can provide. Hanley Law offers a free case evaluation to determine the best course of action for you.

Florida FINRA Litigation

FINRA is the financial institution which regulates securities and the financial market. FINRA attorneys focus their practice on niche areas of FINRA law, whether they are defending brokers against regulatory inquiries, working on arbitration claims involving both investors & brokers, or defending investors against predatory broker practices. Most, if not every, brokerage firm requires potential investors to agree to resolve any disputes through FINRA arbitration. This is usually outlined in the opening documents, and states specifically that any issues will be settled through FINRA dispute resolution. Legal professionals with experience representing both investors & brokers before FINRA arbitrators should be familiar with all procedures, the forum & arbitrators. With their experience and knowledge, the first step to take if you have an issue with an investment should be to contact an accomplished FINRA attorney. They know how to properly prosecute cases on the behalf of both brokers and investors.

If you are an investor, they are many ways that you might feel you’ve been wronged by a broker or financial institution. You might believe that an investment made was unsuitable to your investment portfolio, or that an investment was made based on misleading or even fraudulent statements made by your broker. You might feel that your portfolio was over-concentrated in one industry or area, which resulted in your investments not being profitable or worthwhile. Even more concerning, you might feel your account was subjected to unauthorized trading, or churning (excessive trading to increase broker commissions). However you might feel that your investments have been mishandled, it’s important to consult with an attorney experienced in FINRA litigation to evaluate your case and determine any legal discourse necessary.

Most investment issues are resolved through securities arbitration, and as stated earlier, many brokers outline this requirement in their opening documents. Securities arbitration has become the most popular means of resolving broker-dealer conflicts in Florida and nationwide, largely due to a Supreme Court decision in 1987, and has long been used as it provides a quick and inexpensive alternative to arbitrating through the courts. After beginning the arbitration process, there are many different factors which need to be determined and decided upon by all involved parties, including arbitrator panel composition, hearing locations, and other details related to the arbitration process. While cases typically take between 1 year and 14 months to resolve, the process can be delayed or expedited depending on the complexity of the issue or the discovery timeline.

In Orlando and Florida, there are strict deadlines and regulations related to securities arbitration that can elude an inexperienced individual. If you are concerned about your investments it’s important to consult an experienced attorney who understands all FINRA litigation and arbitration requirements as they relate to Florida. Contact the Hanley Law to have your case evaluated for free and determine the legal validity and potential outcomes of your unique situation.

Fraud Lawyers in Florida

Investing in securities can be a great way to secure your financial future; however, it’s important to understand the ways your investments can be mishandled. Understanding the different types of fraudulent activity that can occur is crucial if you plan to invest your money. Making an arrangement with a stockbroker should be carefully considered, as there are many ways that your investments can be mishandled. Stockbroker fraud constitutes a large portion of all lawsuits related to securities, so understanding the different ways your broker could be mishandling your accounts is essential for investors.

You might feel that your investments are unsuitable to your portfolio, over-concentrated in one area or industry, were misrepresented to you (either by purposefully withholding information or presenting misleading information), or that your broker was churning your investments. Churning refers to when a broker trades excessively on your behalf to increase their commissions. Insurance and annuity fraud is often subject to this; annuities, for example, offer some of the highest commissions for stockbrokers, and as such can be misrepresented or sold to investors when it is not in their best interest.

In addition to stockbroker fraud, there are other abuses that regulatory agencies like FINRA & the SEC (Securities & Trade Commission) look out for. Insider trading, fraud and market manipulation also occur in the industry, when individuals privy to certain company information use that information to help theirs or others investments. Investment schemes need to also be considered – these include methods for stealing investor’s money, using misrepresentation and instilling false hope into the investor. A well-known example of an investment scheme is the Ponzi scheme – Where brokers will use the money from new investors to pay their current clients, rather than money generated from the investment. To this end, when the Ponzi scheme is shut down, there isn’t enough real money that can be used to pay back investors. Pyramid schemes are another example of an investment scheme.

Securities violations come in many different forms and carry severe punishments. The process for solving these issues can come in the form of litigation or, more commonly, arbitration, and anyone looking to recover damages from a securities lawsuit should fully understand both options and the prerequisites to filing a claim. If you feel your investments have been mishandled or you may have been subject to securities abuses, it’s important to speak with an attorney who specializes in securities arbitration and litigation. The Hanley Law offer free case evaluations and can help you navigate through your claim.

Hanley Law Investigating Claims Involving Fredrik Magnus Virgin and Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith, Inc.

Hanley Law is currently investigating claims against Fredrik Magnus Virgin (CRD No. 2743410) and Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith, Inc. (“Merrill Lynch”) (CRD No.: 7691). The Hanley Law recently filed a FINRA Arbitration claim on behalf of Claimants in which it was alleged that the broker, Fredrick Magnus Virgin, sold an elderly investor a single life Nationwide annuity. On the date of issuance, the investor was 77 years old and legally blind.

The Nationwide Annuity Application lists the investor’s nephew as the primary beneficiary. Furthermore, the application provides that the nephew is to receive 100% of the benefit, confirms that he is the annuitant’s nephew, and also confirms his social security number and birth date. Upon the investor’s passing, the nephew was denied any death benefit payment by Nationwide. Nationwide advised that the annuity contract had a single life payout option which guaranteed the payments for the lifetime of the annuitant only. In a single life payout option, all payments cease with the last payment due prior to the death of the annuitant. Claimants allege that the investor clearly intended to elect a beneficiary to his Nationwide annuity since he completed the beneficiary section on his annuity application and provided all necessary information to elect a beneficiary to his annuity.

The annuity contract at issued was entered into when the investor was 77 years old. The investor lost a significant portion of his originally invested principal, plus the loss of a reasonable return on his investment, because he did not live long enough for his monthly annuity payments to equal to the original purchase price of the annuity. In order for the investor to have broken even on his investment, he would have had to live to be over 85 years old. Claimants allege that there was no reasonable basis to recommend a single life payout annuity to a senior who was 77 years old at the time of purchase. Furthermore, it is alleged that the policy application clearly evidences that it was the investor’s intention to name a beneficiary to the annuity as all the necessary information to elect a beneficiary was provided on the annuity application.

Claimants have alleged that Respondent violated industry rules, including but not limited to FINRA’s customer suitability standard (Rule 2111) as well as FINRA rules 3110 and 2010. Thus, it is alleged that Merrill Lynch violated the duty of care and was negligent. Claimants further allege that Merrill Lynch breached the contract that was entered into and also breached the fiduciary duty that a securities firm and its employees/agents owe to their clients. Claimants alleged that Respondent’s misconduct constitutes common law fraud. Moreover, Claimants allege that the account at issue was handled negligently and Merrill Lynch was negligent in their supervision of Virgin. As such, Claimants allege that Merrill Lynch is liable for their conduct and the conduct of their employees by virtue of the doctrines of agency, respondeat superior, and vicarious liability.

If you were a client of Fredrik Magnus Virgin or Merrill Lynch Pierce Fenner and Smith, Inc. and have suffered investment losses, please contact the Hanley Law to explore your legal options. The Hanley Law is dedicated to helping investors who have been victims of securities fraud. If you have lost money as a result of securities fraud, you may be able to recover your financial losses. Contact us today toll free at (239) 649-0050 for a free initial consultation.