Broker-Dealer & Investment Litigation


[Video: Partner Alan Wolper discusses what to consider when involved in arbitration in Puerto Rico.] 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 Alan Wolper Alan Wolper There’s a claimant’s lawyer I’ve litigated against several times who is very good at his job, and who I personally like very much. Part of the reason for his success is that he is very engaging, so even when...

Ulmer News Chicago Partner-In-Charge Alan M. Wolper was quoted in a Financial Advisor IQ article focusing on the heightened scrutiny for financial advisors held to a fiduciary standard. DOL Rule Opens More FAs to Negligence Claims From Financial Advisor IQ By Bruce Love Negligence measures the defendant’s conduct versus a standard of care, while...

Press Release Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce that Cleveland-based associate Candice Capoziello recently became an Associate Board Member for Recovery Resources. Recovery Resources is a Cleveland nonprofit dedicated to providing prevention, intervention, treatment, and supportive services to initiate, manage, and sustain recovery from addiction and mental health...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper Alan Wolper Not too long ago, I blogged a couple of times about the amount of attention that is suddenly being paid to the number of registered representatives with disciplinary histories working for FINRA member firms, i.e., the so-called recidivists (who...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Jennifer Monty Rieker While most of DC was watching the Comey hearing, the House of Representatives passed the Financial CHOICE Act, which would significantly alter the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Dodd-Frank created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). The...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper Outside business activities are in the news. In Reg Notice 17-20, FINRA announced that it was seeking comments in an effort to learn whether or not the existing rules governing OBAs are effective.  (The comment period is open until late June,...

Ulmer Client Alert Topic: Broker-Dealer Litigation | Financial Services By: Michael A. Gross & Frances Floriano Goins In a May 25, 2017 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit affirmed a Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Opinion and Order dismissing a reparations claim based on statute of limitations grounds....

Critics say FINRA proposal on unpaid arbitration awards doesn’t go far enough By Mark Schoeff, Jr., published May 22, 2017 FINRA is under fire from critics who believe the regulatory body did not go far enough to address unpaid arbitration awards with recently announced proposals. Alan Wolper, co-chair of Ulmer’s...

Ulmer Client Alert Topics: Data Privacy & Information Security; Financial Services By: Frances Floriano Goins We are now one week into the worldwide cyberattack known as the WannaCry virus, which targets computers running Microsoft Windows operating systems, encrypts their data, and demands ransom payments in Bitcoin currency. Many of the...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper On Wednesday, the FINRA Board met and discussed two topics that I recently blogged about: recidivist brokers and unpaid arbitration awards.  In predictable fashion, FINRA withered in the face of criticism that its existing rules and policies are somehow not...

SEC Disgorgement Could Face Tough Crowd At High Court From Law360 By Carmen Germaine “Of the cases that are up in front of the Supreme Court, with Gorsuch being appointed, this is not one of the more high-profile cases — there’s many cases that have much more profile and wide-sweeping impacts...

Ulmer Speaking Engagement Chicago Partner-in-Charge Alan Wolper joins a panel discussion Friday, April 7, during the IA Watch’s Compliance Conference in Washington D.C. Alan’s panel discussion is titled “CCO Liability: An Unvarnished Look at the Risks Along with Realistic Actions to Protect Yourself” and will take a look at personal liability...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper There has been a lot of discussion over the past few years, including in this blog, about the growing – and troubling – trend for Chief Compliance Officers to be named as respondents in disciplinary actions.  While regulators regularly deny...

Ulmer Speaking Engagement Chicago Partner-in-Charge Alan Wolper participated in the ACA Compliance Group’s annual FINRA Hot Topics webcast on Tuesday, March 28. Alan led a discussion about the “areas of significance” outlined in FINRA’s 2017 Regulatory and Examinations Priorities Letter. Topics included potential issues and solutions involving: high-risk brokers senior...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper A common complaint that I hear from broker-dealers and investment advisors is that it is nearly impossible anymore to obtain informal guidance from their regulators. Where it was once possible, even normal, to make a call and get casual advice...

Broker Theft Allegations Lead to Hundreds of Lifetime Bans Danielle Verbrigghe and Billy Nauman for FundFire, March 13, 2017 “Theft or conversion is at the top of the list of things that FINRA enforcement and other regulatory agencies are looking to stop, says Michael Gross, a partner at Ulmer & Berne,...

From Ulmer’s Broker Dealer Law Corner Blog By Alan Wolper I read an article this week bemoaning the fact that “rogue brokers” – a term that is commonly used but steadfastly undefined – apparently remain rampant in the securities industry. Anyone that has read FINRA’s 2017 Exam Priorities Letter knows...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner Blog Author: Frances Floriano Goins On February 3, 2017, President Trump signed a memorandum addressed to the Secretary of Labor directing that the Conflict of Interest Rule Retirement Investment Advice, 81 Fed. Reg. 20946 (April 8, 2016) (the “DOL Fiduciary Rule” or “Fiduciary Rule”) be...

Following a December 27, 2016, appeals court ruling, financial services industry lawyers may have a new defense against the Securities and Exchange Commission’s increased use of administrative proceedings. Alan Wolper, Co-Chair of Ulmer’s Financial Services and Securities Litigation Practice Group, provided commentary about the recent ruling in an S&P Global Market...

The U.S. Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) released its 2017 Regulation and Examination Priorities letter on January 5, 2017. Alan Wolper, Co-Chair of Ulmer’s Financial Services Practice, is quoted in an article written for Thomson Reuters’ Regulatory Intelligence that focuses on FINRA’s priorities in 2017. Addressing the fact that FINRA’s priorities letter...

Press Release Ulmer & Berne LLP is pleased to announce the promotions of five of its attorneys to partner. They include Daniel Gottesman, Richard Hamilton, Jr., Jesse Lipcius, Brad Sobolewski, and Ulmer’s General Counsel, Kenneth Zirm. In addition, Ulmer also elevated associate Evelyn Holmer to counsel. Lipcius is based in...

From Ulmer’s Broker-Dealer Law Corner BlogAuthors: Michael Gross and Alan Wolper I have blogged multiple times, as recently as a couple of weeks ago, about the slew of Enforcement actions that FINRA has brought for an RR’s failure to update his or her Form U-4 in a timely manner to disclose a...

Alan Wolper provided commentary in a recent RIABiz article focused on BrokerCheck, FINRA’s report card on broker-dealers. In the article “FINRA shifts an unwelcome spotlight away from itself – by training it on the brokers it oversees,” Wolper noted: “Rather than the entity that was created decades ago, which was...

“FINRA Powers Could Shrivel Under New Legal Challenge,” Law360 March 24, 2016

“Law360’s FINRA Arbitration Survival Guide,” Law360 February 23, 2016

Michael A. Gross, previously Senior Litigation Counsel at the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), has joined Ulmer & Berne as a partner. This marks Mr. Gross’s second tenure at the firm, where he worked as an associate before joining FINRA. Mr. Gross will be based in Boca Raton, Florida, Ulmer &...

“SEC Reform of In-House Trials Gets Lukewarm Reception” Compliance Week October 6, 2015

“SEC Court To Get Face-Lift, But Attys Still See The Wrinkles” Law360 September 25, 2015

“SEC to ‘Modernize’ Administrative Law Judge Rules” Pensions & Investments September 25, 2015

“Finra Cracks Down on ‘Cockroach’ Brokers” Investment News September 15, 2015

Ulmer & Berne announces that partner Frances Floriano Goins was selected for inclusion in the 2015 Top 250 Women in Litigation, distributed by Benchmark Litigation, and also has been named a Fellow in The Trial Lawyer Honorary Society of The Litigation Counsel of America. Benchmark’s Top 250 Women in Litigation...

“Law360 Names Attys Who Moved Up The Firm Ranks in Q2” Law360 July 10, 2015

“SEC ALJ Dismisses Action Against Small Adviser Over Form ADV Disclosures” IAWatch June 15, 2015

“SEC Administrative Judge Dismisses Conflicts Case Against Robare” BloombergBusiness June 11, 2015

“Judge Suggests SEC’s Administrative Cases Unconstitutional” The AmLaw Litigation Daily June 9, 2015

“Judge Suggests SEC’s Administrative Cases Unconstitutional” The AmLaw Litigation Daily June 9, 2015

“Adviser Gets a Rare Win Over the SEC in Mutual Fund Case” InvestmentNews June 8, 2015

“A Rare Setback for SEC in Administrative Proceeding” Law.com June 5, 2015

“In Rare Victory, Texas Advisory Firm Slips SEC Admin Suit” Law360 June 5, 2015

“Judge Clears Local Financial Firm of Fraud Charges: Judge Dismisses SEC’s Fraid Charges Against Robare Group” Houston Chronicle June 5, 2015

“A Rare Setback for SEC in Administrative Proceeding” The National Law Journal June 5, 2015

Chicago-based partner Alan Wolper has been named co-chair of Ulmer & Berne’s Financial Services & Securities Litigation Practice Group. Mr. Wolper joins Cleveland-based partner Frances Floriano Goins in leading the group. Mr. Wolper focuses his practice exclusively on the representation of brokers, broker-dealers and investment advisors. He defends regulatory investigations...

“Tips To Avoid Trouble When FINRA Makes a Request For Your Records” IAWatch April 30, 2015

“Michael Nathan Ungar | Ulmer & Berne LLP” Cleveland Jewish News January 15, 2015 Perennial Super Lawyer Michael Nathan Ungar considers settlement of a dispute embroiling Case Western University among his most memorable cases of 2014. Read the full article »

Ulmer & Berne LLP has been ranked within the top 10 percent of all law firms by The BTI Consulting Group, one of the nation’s leading legal industry research firms, in their recently published 2015 BTI Litigation Outlook report. The firm was selected as a “Litigation Powerhouse” and is named...

Ulmer & Berne LLP was named 2014 Ohio Firm of the Year by Benchmark Litigation at the second annual Benchmark Litigation US Awards held at the Essex Hotel in New York City on January 29, 2014. The US Benchmark Awards were based on a six-month research period involving extensive interviews...

January 2013 – Almost two years ago, I wrote an article discussing FINRA’s seemingly tireless efforts to expand the scope of Rule 8210 beyond the clear bounds as established by the language of the rule itself.1 In particular, the problem on which I focused was FINRA’s increasing use of Rule...

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)