Broker-Dealer & Investment Litigation


Whether markets are up or down, investors will sue brokers and banks for losses or insufficient returns. From Massachusetts to California and from Michigan to Texas, it is to the responsive, quick-thinking, and sophisticated attorneys of Ulmer & Berne that many of the nation’s major brokerages, banks, and financial services firms turn to confront and resolve charges of securities fraud, misrepresentation, unauthorized trading, alleged violations of the SEC and financial services regulations, and even criminal violations. These actions run the gamut from complex class actions to individual suits.

Ulmer & Berne attorneys also are pursuing and defending employee raiding disputes, non-solicitation and trade secret matters, and resolving regulatory and compliance issues. Our attorneys routinely represent financial services clients before courts, SEC, FINRA, CFTC, NFA, NYSE, CME, CBOE and in other state and federal forums.

The practice’s clients include JPMorgan Chase & Co., Charles Schwab & Co., KeyCorp, MorganStanley SmithBarney, PNC/Hilliard Lyons, Raymond James Financial, MF Global, and Wells Fargo Advisors.

Clients see the strength of the firm in both its reach across litigation, arbitration, regulatory proceedings and employment matters, and in its size. Ulmer & Berne is large enough to handle any financial services matter anywhere in the nation from its four Midwest and Florida office locations. Many of the group’s members work full time on securities litigation matters. At the same time, we are also right-sized to be efficient and responsive, and to offer our clients a highly competitive rate structure.

Our formula, in short, is to focus on the client, give great service, with first-rate lawyering, responsiveness and efficient staffing — all at a fair price.

We have successfully represented:

  • A former managing director of a major New York broker-dealer in a $900 million securities arbitration alleging fraudulent analyst research involving WorldCom; arbitration panel awarded a complete defense verdict.
  • A major New York broker-dealer and one of its former managing directors in a $450 million securities fraud arbitration involving a series of allegedly improper hedging transactions in the over-the-counter derivatives markets; obtained a complete defense verdict and expungement.
  • A major New York broker-dealer in a $10 million federal jury trial involving alleged securities fraud in connection with complex futures and derivative transactions on both the CME and Globex.
  • A hedge fund in connection with a $50 million securities dispute involving residential mortgage-backed securities in a case involving a novel application of Section 11 of the Securities Act to misstatements and omissions in registration documents incorporated by reference into private offering memoranda.
  • Several hedge funds in connection with market timing investigations and related civil litigation, avoiding imposition of any fines, penalties or other sanctions by regulators.
  • A national securities broker-dealer in defense of a lawsuit brought by an Ohio county to recover $115 million in investment losses from a pooled public investment fund.
  • A national futures commission merchant in defense of a lawsuit brought by investors in a commodity pool where the pool operator had plead guilty to criminal fraud; obtained dismissal of complaint.
  • Partners in a trading group at the CBOE who were sued in arbitration by their former partners for fraud; obtained complete dismissal.
  • A national broker-dealer accused in a nationwide class action complaint of misleading investors in limited partnerships; obtained a dismissal of all charges, affirmed on appeal.
  • Major national and international companies in numerous cases involving trade secrets, non-competitive/non-solicitations, inevitable disclosure, raiding and unfair competition issues.
  • A national banking institution accused of breach of fiduciary duty under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act for failing to timely invest participants’ contributions to the pension and profit-sharing plan of a major insurance carrier.
  • National broker-dealers in non-solicitation, trade secrets and employee raiding cases.
  • A national securities broker charged by the NYSE Division of Enforcement with aiding market timing in annuity subaccounts and failing to know his customer; obtained dismissal of charges.
  • A national securities broker sued in arbitration at FINRA by a customer for investment losses; obtained a “0” award and then successfully defended the award from attack in the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Heidi E. VonderHeide Heidi is my go-to destination for all things Reg BI.  Here’s a quick, but really helpful, update from her. –  Alan This week OCIE issued twin alerts relating to the upcoming implementation of Reg BI. A lot of the statements are...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper Forced to sit at home under government-ordered decree, and having finished binge-watching Season 3 of Ozark and Season 4 of Money Heist on Netflix, what’s left to do except prey upon scared investors – particularly seniors – who have been watching the...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper I think that most lawyers who handle arbitrations, no matter what side of the table they occupy, would agree that one of the most important components of the case – perhaps the most important – is the selection of the arbitrators who comprise the...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper A couple of years ago, I complained here about FINRA’s Office of Disciplinary Affairs, or ODA. I am here to report that…nothing has changed. Let me explain. I am defending a FINRA Enforcement case that is scheduled to go to hearing in a...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Heidi E. VonderHeide Heidi continues to stay on top of developments relating to Reg BI. – Alan Just in case you’ve not yet seen them, both the SEC and FINRA, over the last week or so, have released a series of documents that touch, partly or entirely,...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Christopher D. Seps Between the usual holiday season madness and a recent trial, I have been a little tied up lately. Happily, Chris Seps has stepped up with this excellent piece on Reg BI. – Alan   My young boys will sometimes chase me...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper As I have mentioned before, several times, PIABA is deathly concerned with the fact that sometimes customers who prevail in arbitrations are unable to collect their awards, which typically happens when the respondent firm and/or the RR leaves the industry (thus eliminating...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper Last year, for the first time, FINRA produced a statistical report designed to provide some perspective on the firms that comprise its membership. I blogged about it, and concluded at the time that the report basically demonstrated the following: FINRA is still mostly...

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce that the Cleveland Jewish News has named Associate Michael Davis Hoenig to its 2019 list of “18 Difference Makers,” which honors and celebrates individuals making invaluable contributions for the betterment of Northeast Ohio’s Jewish community. The “18 Difference Makers” awards were created to recognize...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper I have written a few times about FINRA’s ceaseless interest in bringing cases against registered reps who fail to update their Form U-4 in a timely manner to disclose the fact that a tax lien has been filed against them. Or several...

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to share that Associate Michael Davis Hoenig has joined the Board of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Cleveland regional office, which serves Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Western Pennsylvania. The ADL is dedicated to fighting anti-Semitism and threats to our democracy, including cyber hate, bullying, bias in...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper Once again – twice again, actually – FINRA has used Rule 8210 as a cudgel, beating the poor unfortunate recipients of the “request” for documents and information into submission, or worse. This has got to stop. The first case is a repeat...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper I read an article this week in Investment News with the following headline: “Brokerage Customers Winning More FINRA Arbitration Cases.” As a guy who defends customer cases, I was naturally intriguied by this. According to the article, “brokerage customers who do file...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper Rightly or wrongly, I don’t know much about cryptocurrencies or digital coins. But that’s ok. What is worrisome, on the other hand, is that I am increasingly concerned that FINRA doesn’t either. And while my own ignorance will have exactly zero impact...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper FINRA loves to tout its supposed intent to bring meaningful cases, cases that matter to the investing public, rather than enforcing “foot faults,” as it has been accused of doing over the years. My own experience with FINRA suggests that while it...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Kenneth F. Berg I am fortunate to have Ken Berg, a commodities regulatory guru, just down the hall from me, so I’ve never had to learn that stuff too well.  But, here, as you will see, there can be considerable overlap between the securities and the...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Christopher D. Seps I heartily endorse this post from my colleague, Chris, who’s been quiet of late.  It says a lot about FINRA, in terms of how it deigns to spend your assessment money, how fairness in the Enforcement process can be completely illusory, and...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper Reading Reg Notice 19-17 makes me think of the legal arguments that I’ve recently read regarding whether a president can be found guilty of obstructing justice if the actions in question were taken out in the open, for everyone to see. Here, FINRA’s proposed...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper I apologize for all the posts this week, but I am traveling and am in a different time zone, so I am awake at hours when, ordinarily, I would be asleep, giving me time to muse.  Anyway, given that, I will not...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper If you are a regular reader of this blog, then you know that over my last few posts, I have been talking about an increasingly visible effort by FINRA to turn its regulatory eye from rogue brokers – who have been an...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper I told you two weeks ago in my blog post that this would happen. I told you that when Robert Cook announced the topics to be taken up at the February/March FINRA Board meeting in Boca Raton, he slipped and used the new phrase...

Ulmer Partner Frances Floriano Goins and Associate Michael Davis Hoenig recently wrote an article for Bloomberg Law entitled, “INSIGHT: Protecting Broker Dealers from Cyber Threats.” In the article, Goins and Hoenig examine a FINRA report that provides broker dealers with best practices for effective cybersecurity, and warn that it is...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Michael A. Gross Does FINRA have jurisdiction over me? This is a question that I regularly field at the outset of regulatory engagements. My answer differs depending on a number of factors, including the nature of a person’s role and duties at a firm, his...

Ulmer Partner Alan M. Wolper was recently interviewed by PLANADVISER in an article entitled, “B/D Attorney: Don’t Be Distracted by FINRA Examination Priorities Letter.” Wolper provided his insights into the recently published FINRA 2019 priorities list, which he thinks is interesting, but ultimately not all that informative when it comes...

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce that five attorneys from its Chicago office have been selected to the 2019 list of Illinois Super Lawyers. The list features the top attorneys in the state, chosen for their demonstrated excellence in the practice of law. Of those named from Ulmer,...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper In what has become an annual, but hardly exciting – I mean, it’s not like anxiously awaiting the day that pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training – tradition, with the turning of the calendar to the new year, FINRA has...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper About a year ago, the SEC offered investment advisors the unique opportunity to report themselves to the SEC if they sold mutual funds to their clients that offered a lower priced share class than the class actually selected by the advisor,...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Michael A. Gross It is not a wise career move for a registered rep to leave his broker-dealer – thereby abandoning his customers, and affording competitors the opportunity to make his customers their own – and then to begin the long, expensive, and uncertain process...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan M. Wolper What exists at the point where PIABA’s transparent self-interest in getting paid and FINRA’s historical lack of transparency about who is actually driving its agenda regarding arbitrations? This: a late December decision by FINRA to propose a rule that prohibits non-lawyers from...

Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce the election of four partners to the firm, effective January 1, 2019. This class of new partners includes accomplished attorneys from three of Ulmer’s offices who have diverse experience spanning multiple legal disciplines. “Through their hard work, determination, and dedication to providing...

Representative Experience

  • Defended one of the largest investment and trust advisor firms in the United States, its individual investment advisor, and a relationship manager in a FINRA arbitration brought by a customer alleging unsuitable investment recommendations. After obtaining a pre-hearing dismissal of the affiliated bank broker-dealer and several individual respondents, the case proceeded to a three-day hearing which resulted in complete dismissal of all claims against the remaining respondents and a zero award for the customer.
  • Defended a national broker-dealer and its branch manager against claims of negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty asserted by the successor trustee of a $200 million trust seeking damages in excess of $6.5 million. After a full hearing on the merits, a panel of three FINRA arbitrators dismissed all claims, issued an order of expungement of the branch manager’s professional record, and ordered the claimant to pay respondents’ attorneys’ fees in the amount of $193,526.84.
  • Defended a national broker-dealer (one of many involved in the case) sued in a high profile claim brought by a number of customers seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in damages arising out of a broker’s alleged fraudulent acts. After obtaining partial summary judgment based on the applicable statute of limitations, we proceeded to a 12-day hearing before a panel of NYSE arbitrators which resulted in a complete dismissal of all claims against our client.
  • Obtained a directed verdict in favor of a regional broker-dealer and its registered representative at the conclusion of the claimant’s case-in-chief at a FINRA arbitration hearing where the claimant (successor trustee, executor, and beneficiary of the estate of a deceased municipal and corporate bond holder) had asserted claims of negligence, breach of contract, and breach of fiduciary duty.
  • Defended a regional broker-dealer and its branch manager against claims of fraud, forgery, unsuitable investment recommendations and unauthorized trading asserted by a customer seeking damages in excess of $5 million.
  • Obtained an order from the U. S. District Court holding that many of the claims asserted against a national broker-dealer and its registered representative by the beneficiary of an estate containing various limited partnership interests were ineligible for arbitration pursuant to the FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure. Defended the remaining claims in FINRA arbitration, resulting in a complete dismissal.
  • After successfully defending a national broker-dealer and its registered representative against claims of fraud, negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and unauthorized trading asserted by a customer, obtained an order from the Court of Common Pleas of Cuyahoga County, Ohio dismissing the customer’s application to vacate the arbitration award.
  • Obtained eight separate pre-hearing dismissals of claims brought before FINRA against two national broker-dealers and a registered representative on the grounds that the claims were barred by the applicable statute of limitations and/or were ineligible for arbitration under the FINRA Code of Arbitration Procedure.
  • Headed off a lawsuit in excess of $10 million against a national broker-dealer based on claims of conversion (resulting from the criminal acts of a third party) by negotiating a favorable pre-suit settlement.
  • Defended a national broker-dealer and its registered representative against claims of negligence, breach of contract, breach of fiduciary duty, fraud, churning, and failure to supervise, asserted by several customers seeking damages of approximately $500,000 based on alleged trading losses, unauthorized withdrawals, and improper margin borrowing.
  • Obtained a directed verdict in favor of a regional broker-dealer at the conclusion of the claimant’s case-in-chief at a FINRA arbitration hearing where the elderly claimant had asserted claims of negligence and failure to supervise based on her investment in technology stocks and unit investment trusts and was seeking damages in excess of $250,000.
  • Obtained a pre-hearing dismissal of all claims against a national broker-dealer and two clearing brokers brought in a FINRA arbitration by a customer seeking $100 million in damages based on allegations of fraud and failure to execute.
  • Defended a national broker-dealer and its registered representatives against claims of negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and failure to supervise, asserted by a sophisticated businessman seeking damages in excess of $1 million. After a full hearing on the merits, a panel of three FINRA arbitrators dismissed all claims against all respondents and issued an award of zero for the claimant.
  • Successfully defended Investment Advisor in SEC Administrative Proceeding against fraud allegations regarding supposed inadequacy of disclosures in Form ADV and other documents related to compensation and other supposed conflicts of interest. (Coverage in Law360 and National Law Journal)