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It is not difficult, doing the right thing. There are rules regardless of what game in life you’re playing. Ignorance is no defense.

Unfortunately, just as the simplicities of the day, the “Pleases” and “Thank Yous” have fallen by the wayside, so too has the mindset “I will work hard and succeed.” Instead, today is about the quick fix, the shortcuts and unfortunately, the cheating and the breaking of the law.

For those who are taking the shortcuts, who are cheating others to get ahead, chances are you’re going to be caught, and it will cost you more than you gained. For those stockbrokers who are trying to cheat the system, by making the unauthorized trades in a client’s account, trading the account for the purpose of generating commissions or making an unsuitable recommendation to a client, there are consequences.

These consequences come in many forms, one of which is an arbitration claim. Stockbrokers are registered with the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”). When a customer opens a trading account, there is an arbitration requirement that mandates any claims relating to the trading in the account to be filed before FINRA’s dispute resolution. Depending upon the dollar amount of the losses, FINRA will provide (at a fee) one or three arbitrators to hear the case. The filing fee for the complaining investor is relatively small and in most instances the attorney handling the cases take the matters on a contingency basis (attorney does not charge on an hourly rate, but takes a percentage of any money recovered).

Pursuant to FINRA rules, an investor has six years from the date of the trade to file a claim against the broker. Once an arbitration claim has been filed, FINRA has streamlined discovery, a process in which the parties exchange documents prior to the actual arbitration. Pursuant to FINRA rules, there are certain categories of documents deemed “presumptively discoverable” and must be produced if they exist. While the burden of proof is always on the person bringing the claim, FINRA appears to do all it can to assist the investors in bringing their claims to a hearing.

For the broker who is looking to make a quick dollar, say a $500 commission on an unauthorized trade, and then another, and then another, the legal fees associated with the defense of the claim can be up to ten times the original commission. And this does not account for any award assessed by the arbitrators, the FINRA hearing fees assessed by the arbitrators or the possibility of punitive (punishment) damages.  An arbitration award is regularly converted into a judgment by the courts, and if not paid, the investor can go after your income or assets to collect on the judgment.

The stockbroker who thinks no one will notice the cheating is shortsighted. On a daily basis the trading is reviewed by a supervisor and often times a person in the firm’s compliance office. From the investor standpoint, not only does the investor see the trading from confirmations and account statements, but most likely the investor’s accountant is reviewing the trading for the tax purposes.

While it’s a lost art, hard work really does pay in the long run. The consequences simply are not worth the risks.

The Law Offices of Barry M. Bordetsky represents customers and industry representatives in FINRA securities and employment arbitrations as well as litigants before state and federal courts. If you have questions about an issue you are involved with, please contact Barry at (800) 998-7705 or email barry@bordetskylaw.com.