Hanley Law Files FINRA Arbitration Against Morgan Stanley Smith Barney

Hanley Law recently filed a FINRA arbitration claim alleging that Morgan Stanley (CRD No.: 149777) refused to distribute a deceased client’s IRA directly to her beneficiaries because Morgan Stanley determined that the beneficiary designation for the IRAs was invalid under applicable Treasury rulings.  The trustees to the estate allege that the new account form with the invalid beneficiary designation was prepared by Morgan Stanley and approved by Morgan Stanley’s compliance personnel over a decade earlier.  Claimants further allege that no one at Morgan Stanley raised any objection to the way the new account form was completed regarding the invalid beneficiary designations during the previous 13 years.  Claimants allege that the deceased client relied on Morgan Stanley to manage the funds in her IRA accounts, and also to assure that upon her death the funds would be distributed in accordance to her wishes.

Ultimately, the IRAs were distributed to the Estate because, as a result of the invalid beneficiary designation, the funds were payable to the Estate pursuant to the Internal Revenue Code and applicable Treasury rulings, and the Estate was forced to pay substantial taxes.  Claimants allege that unfortunately, because of the violation of the Internal Revenue Code by Morgan Stanley when completing and approving the client’s Individual Retirement Account Applications, the Estate was forced to pay substantial inheritance taxes.  Claimants allege that it is beyond unconscionable that Morgan Stanley raised the issue with the beneficiary designations on the Individual Retirement Account forms almost immediately upon request for the distribution of the accounts, but had remained silent during the 13 years after the client signed the form.  Claimants allege that Morgan Stanley had a duty to review and correct the Individual Retirement Account forms at the time the client opened her Morgan Stanley IRA accounts, and/or at some point thereafter prior to her death, and they failed to meet their obligation to their client which resulted in needless losses.

BROKER DEALERS MUST ACT IN THE CUSTOMER’S BEST INTERESTS

FINRA’s guidance to its members makes the members obligations to its customers unequivocal:  FINRA members must act in their customer’s best interests; not the best interest of the firm.

It is well-settled that a “broker’s recommendations must be consistent with his customer’s best interests” and are “not suitable merely because the customer acquiesces in [them].” Dane S. Faber, Securities Exchange Act Release No. 49216, 2004 SEC LEXIS 277, at *23-24 (February 10, 2004); see also Dep’t of Enforcement v. Bendetsen, No. C01020025, 2004 NASD Discip. LEXIS 13, at *12 (NAC August 9, 2004) (“[A] broker’s recommendations must serve his client’s best interests and the test for whether a broker’s recommendations are suitable is not whether the client acquiesced in them, but whether the broker’s recommendations were consistent with the client’s financial situation and needs”).  In the instant FINRA Arbitration claim, Claimants allege that Morgan Stanley failed to act in the best interest of their client, and because of this failure, Claimant’s estate was damaged when it was forced to pay substantial federal and state estate taxes.

HANLEY LAW

Hanley law represents individual investors nationwide with significant losses in their portfolios, retirement plans or investment accounts.  Hanley Law is dedicated to assisting investors to recover losses suffered by unsuitability, over-concentration, fraud, misrepresentation, self-dealing, unauthorized trades or other wrongful acts, whether intentional or negligent.  Hanley Law represents clients nationwide in cases against the major Wall Street broker dealers, including Morgan Stanley Smith Barney.

If you have suffered investment losses as a result of your broker’s or brokerage firm’s misconduct, contact Hanley Law to discuss your legal options. Contact Hanley Law at (239)649-0050 or contact us through our Website to arrange a free confidential consultation with an attorney to discuss your experiences with your stock broker which resulted in investment losses.

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