SUPERIOR COURT OF FULTON COUNTY STATE OF GEORGIA
The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority hired an “independent” law firm to conduct a review of its arbitrator selection procedures after a Judge rebukes FIRNA in an order vacating a Wells Fargo award in a controversial case, according to FINRA.
Finra, whom denied any flaw in its process, hired the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler after a scathing order to vacate a Wells Fargo award. The Judge had said Finra and Wells Fargo’s lawyer appeared to have a secret agreement to strike potential arbitrators from a neutral list and questioned the fairness of the process.
The concerns were reiterated by the Public Investors Advocate Bar Association, which called for “an immediate investigation” by the Securities and Exchange Commission and hearings in Congress, and by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) in a February 10 letter.
According to Advisor Hub and FINRA Website, in a decision overturning an arbitration award, a Georgia state court judge vacated an Arbitration decision in which Wells Fargo successfully beat an investor’s $1.7 million damage claims over investment losses.
According to the Order, Judge Belinda E. Edwards based her ruling in part on grounds that the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority administrators had allowed Wells Fargo and an outside lawyer to “manipulate” the arbitrator selection process. The article in Advisor Hub notes that “A Finra dispute resolution director improperly granted Wells Fargo’s request to strike two arbitrators, including one from a computer-generated “neutral” list, as part of an unwritten side agreement between the regulator and Wells’ lawyer.”
“Permitting one lawyer to secretly red line the neutral list makes the list anything but neutral, and calls into question the entire fairness of the arbitral forum,” Judge Edwards wrote in the January 25 ruling.
FINRA’s ongoing campaign to rein in alleged sales abuses involving short-term trading of unit investment trusts in customer accounts has led a 23-year veteran advisor to accept a $10,000 fine and three-month suspension.
Miller Stern Lawyers – 410-Law-Firm is currently investigating clients of Stifel Nicolaus and all firms and broker dealers who may be victims of, and suffered damages and losses, due to abuses such as short-term trading of unit investment trusts, breach of fiduciary duty, overcharging , and unauthorized trading.
Miller Stern Lawyers – 410-Law-Firm is currently investigating clients of Wells Fargo Advisors who are victims of, and suffered damages and losses, due to the failure to supervise. It has been reported that Wells Fargo Advisors has agreed to pay more than $550,000 in fines and restitution for failing to follow up on warnings it received about two now-barred California brokers who piled their customers into speculative energy stocks, according to FINRA. Miller Stern Lawyers recently won a $1.5 Million award against Stifel for similar actions of piling their customers into biotechnology and health care stocks.
According to FINRA, the firm failed to investigate trading across customer accounts managed by the brokers. Red flags were raised about overconcentration in the accounts of four customers in a single, low-priced energy stock (ranging from 35.2% to 87.0%), according to a consent letter signed on Thursday by Wells Fargo Advisors CEO Jim Hays.