There seems to be a new trend in town: broker-dealers unleashing compliance or “reputation managers” upon rich-target independent branch operators. Perhaps it isn’t really that new of a trend. Indeed, after handling several such matters over the years, I am able to at least describe the modus operandi for these “internal raids”.
First, the broker-dealer’s “business side” identifies a branch with a substantial AUM. As it stands, the broker-dealer is sharing in a small fraction of the revenue the branch is generating. Coupled with an external factor, such as a desire to satiate regulators or even a mere personality conflict, executives at the highest level of the organization decide to raid the branch. But they do it under the pretense of a newly born compliance concern, and they respond to old concerns with an utterly disproportionate sanction – termination without notice. No Letter of Caution or fine, of course, as this would merely give the target rich financial adviser the opportunity to escape the WMD.
Upon termination the broker-dealer is oddly well prepared to immediately file a devastating U-5, send a highly prejudicial warning/solicitation letter to the adviser’s clients, and/or offer immediate home-office supervision or new OSJ opportunities to all of the branch’s financial advisers. The impact upon the financial adviser is massive, as he is unable to become registered with a new broker-dealer until a naïve state regulator slowly plods through its investigation of the opportunistic and frequently defamatory U-5 disclosure. The raiding broker-dealer will be slow but “cooperative” in responding to the regulator’s requests for documents. In terms of private legal counsel, the financial adviser’s source of revenue will dry up at the very moment he or she needs to retain an army of lawyers. The non-terminated financial advisers will cherry-pick their old boss’ clients. (They will be ripe for the picking after the nasty letter they received about their now-terminated broker.) By the time the adviser is registered with a new broker-dealer, his or her book is all but gone.
I have previously written a blog about the causes of action available to a financial adviser who has been raided in such a fashion. But until FINRA panels start fully compensating the victims of these internal raiding schemes and awarding substantial punitive damage awards – the bombings will continue. Moreover, state regulators need to issue provisional registration states to such financial advisors while they conduct their investigation. Food for thought.