On April 3, 2015, we mentioned that Thomas J. Buck, who was Merrill Lynch’s top financial adviser in Indiana by assets under management –reportedly $1.3 billion – had been suddenly and unexpectedly terminated for alleged compliance violations. We quoted the publication Investment News as saying:
Mr. Buck was ultimately terminated because of ‘conduct including failing to discuss service level and pricing alternatives with a customer, providing inaccurate information to firm management during account reviews regarding this issue, mismarking bond cross-trade order tickets as unsolicited, and providing information to a client during an active account review that did not correspond to the firm’s records.
We figured the above reporting probably was understating the truth, noting:
Our hunch is that the alleged misconduct of Tom Buck and the Buck Group probably was more widespread and egregious than reported to Investment News or even FINRA, since (a) Merrill would not readily cut loose such a huge producer unless it was undertaking serious damage control and (b) whatever else Merrill might disclose publicly could be used against them if Buck’s customers begin pursuing claims.
Today, it was reported that Tom Buck has agreed to be permanently barred from the industry for allegedly overcharging and misleading clients. According to FINRA, Buck “willfully committed fraud” and in some instances his clients paid “substantially more in commissions than they would have paid in fee-based accounts.” FINRA found that Buck “not only failed to fully assess the suitability of the fee structure for certain clients, but decided to use commission-based accounts when he knew that it would have been less expensive for those clients to maintain fee-based accounts in some instances.”
This is just another lesson that greed can lead even the most successful stockbrokers to engage in misconduct. Many customers of superstar brokers think the success of the broker somehow ensures that he or she is honest and trustworthy. They are wrong. Success proves only that the broker is a brilliant salesman.
If you believe your broker willfully misled you or committed acts of fraud contact our attorneys today to discuss how you can receive compensation.
Hugh Berkson is a Securities Attorney with McCarthy, Lebit, Crystal & Liffman, Co. LPA. Hugh is rated AV® Preeminent™ by Martindale-Hubbell®.
He obtained a business degree in Finance from the University of Texas at Austin in 1989, and is a 1994 graduate of Case Western Reserve University School of Law, where he was a member of the Order of the Barristers and received both the American Jurisprudence Award, (National Mock Trial) in 1993 and the Jonathan M. Ault Mock Trial Prize for 1993-1994.