A New Contestant in Cold Caller Roulette “-” Geoffrey Garratt from First Standard Financial

I received a call today from someone who called himself “Jeff Garrett” from First Standard. The caller ID said “First Standard” with a phone number of 212-359-2934.  So, it took some digging, but I figured out that his name is spelled GEOFFREY GARRATT.  Geoff works in the Staten Island office of First Standard.

Geoff told me he was checking back with me after our last call. He said that during that last call he gave me a recommendation of Netflix. I told him that we hadn’t spoken. He said that we did. I asked him when. He said on July 2 of last year.

Well, it just so happens that, on July 2, 2015, I was winging my way to Boise, Idaho, to visit my daughter. Maybe Geoff was confused.  Maybe I am forgetful.  But I’m pretty sure that he didn’t call me at the airport or while I was on an airplane.

When I caught Geoff in this inconsistency, he then “apologized.”  I put apologize in quotes because he wasn’t remorseful in any way, he was simply chastened because he was caught in a lie.  He kept selling.  I then hung up.

I went to Brokercheck and searched for all brokers registered with the First Standard office in New York, which is where the phone number goes.  There are 11 brokers listed at that address.  They are listed here. Not one of them is either named Jeff or Garrett.  There may be other First Standard offices, but I couldn’t find them.  Besides, this was the phone number on the caller ID.  I also found an office in Garden City, NY.  No Jeff Garrett there, either.  Ultimately, I was able to figure out how Geoff spelled his name and found him on BrokerCheck.  That is when I learned that he was working on Staten Island.

Odd that he didn’t tell me that he was the subject of an unauthorized trading complaint or that there was a pending arbitration for over $633,000.  That’s probably something the average investor would want to know about a stranger who just cold called him or her.  And I’m sure it is a coincidence that he left his prior employer, National Securities, in March, 2015, which was shortly after this large arbitration claim was filed.

So, into the Cold Caller Hall of Fame we place Geoff Garratt and First Standard Financial for employing such a fine, upstanding, young man.  Nicely done, Geoff.

That’s all there is to say about this from lovely Jupiter, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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An interesting cold call from someone claiming to be Bob Mullic from Murphy Financial Group

So the phone rang up “Unkown” on the Caller ID. I answered. It was a higher-pitched male voice who identified himself as “Bob Mullic.” He reminded me that we spoke before and I told him to call me back with some ideas. Since I am not senile, I knew he was lying. While we were talking, suddenly “Bob” lowered his voice an octave and had a different accent. I thought “well this is different.”

We continued the conversation and new Bob told me that Murphy Financial Group has 500 offices. Even more interesting. I tried to look him up on Brokercheck and couldn’t find him. I asked him why his phone number wasn’t properly displayed on my Caller ID. He said he always calls “private” and there’s nothing wrong with that. I told him that FINRA would beg to differ.

I tried to ask him his address and callback number but the line went dead.

So, as a public service, if you get a call from one of two men named “Bob Mullic”, ask them to call me so I can have their address and phone number. I’m sure a regulator would like to chat with them.

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We lost another good person who happened to be a lawyer – Bill Nortman

I couldn’t bring myself to send another email blast with bad news. But I could not let Bill’s passing go by without noting it.

I didn’t know Bill until I came to Florida in 1993. I always liked dealing with him. He clearly knew a lot about the securities business and had the respect of his peers. I even hired his paralegal (who had a very long commute to the Fort Lauderdale office) and he wished us both well.

But that wasn’t the part that I liked most. We had occasion to meet Bill and his wife at several FSDA functions. First, it was clear he was a genuinely nice guy. We had similar taste in cars (except he seemed to be able to afford his). And he was clearly devoted to his family. We met his kids and I remember (I think) seeing pictures or hearing of at least one grandchild.

That, to me, was as important as his legal skills. Lots of people are good lawyers. It is the true testament to a person’s character when they don’t let their career ruin their family relationships. It was obvious, at least to me anyway, that Bill pulled it off.

But Bill, of course, had a professional family, too. Those with whom he worked closely and those with whom he had developed personal relationships. All of those people will miss Bill.

I don’t have much more to say. I hope I don’t have to write anything else like this in 2016.

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Apparently, a cold caller might read my blog “-” Revised

A couple of years ago, “Jerry” or “Gerry” from a brokerage firm in New York called me.  You can read about it here.  I pointed out in the post that the caller ID had a bogus number and that the bogus number was a violation of FINRA rules.

So “Jerry” or “Gerry” just called me again.  He told me he was from the same firm as before.  This time the Caller ID said it was anonymous.  First he called me Mr. Dublin, then I corrected his pronunciation of my name.  Then I asked him for his last name.  He gave me a phony name.  I questioned him about his name and he told me that was the son of the firm’s founder.  I have come to believe that this was a lie as well.  I realized that this was the same guy, or someone who sounded a lot like the guy from two+ years ago.

Gerry (I’m using the G because I think that is how it might be spelled) told me that he called me a couple months ago and told me to follow Apple and that it went from some low price (I forgot the price) to 120 (that part I remembered he said).  At least he got something right.  Apple did hit 120 some time in December 2015.

I asked Gerry if he knew his Caller ID said “Anonymous”.  He sounded surprised.  He said he knew that rule 3230 requires the caller ID to be accurate.  Funny, that is what my post in November 2013 says.  Maybe I have a fan?

I then told Gerry that he was lying to me.  We didn’t speak at any time, let alone a few months ago, about Apple.  He then said I spoke with one of his associates.  I reminded him that he said that “we” spoke.  He said that’s not what he said.  Instead, he insisted that I must have something in my ears!  At that point I hung up.  But I was still curious.

So I looked up the firm’s broker roster in New York.  There is only one person who might be called “Gerry” and that is his middle name.  I won’t use his name in case that is not the person who called me.  But there is no one named Gerry or some derivative listed on the New York roster and that is the only office listed on their website.  Additionally, there are no significant owners listed on the Brokercheck with the last name he gave me.  So I am pretty sure that Gerry was not being truthful with me.

A cold-caller making things up?  I know that we are all shocked.

Gerry – please stop calling me.  You’re annoying and you don’t know who you’re dealing with when you call.

Postscript – After I posted this page, I sent a link to the Compliance Officer of the firm.  I was pretty mad.  I received a call today from the President of the firm.  He apologized.  He told me that “Gerry” was no longer with the firm and hadn’t been for several months.  He told me that “Gerry” was fired by the firm.  He told me that two years ago he personally placed my name on their do-not-call list.  I believe him.  I give him credit for calling me.  He assured me that they do not make outbound calls using an anonymous caller ID.  So I modified this post to remove any reference to the firm because I think that “Gerry” might not have been calling me from the firm.

But I do think he read my blog post.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin and you didn’t call me to tell me to buy Apple, whoever you are.

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Credit Suisse's going-away present to the brokerage industry.

So I’ve been in the securities business for over 30 years now.  For as long as I can remember, disputes between brokers and their firms went to NASD, then FINRA, arbitration.  The U-4 says it.  The FINRA Manual says it.  But Credit Suisse has a different view and, in a bizarro ruling, the Second Circuit agreed.  If you want to read the opinion, here it is..

I’m going to try to explain what happened in simple terms.  The employees had an internal beef with Credit Suisse.  The firm has an internal dispute resolution program that is informal, then mediated, then formal.  The employees went through the first two steps not to their satisfaction so, not surprisingly, they took their marbles and client list and left for Merrill Lynch.  Both firms are members of the Protocol for Broker Recruiting.

Credit Suisse then filed an arbitration against the brokers with JAMS, a mediation and arbitration service, regarding their alleged improper solicitation after leaving the firm’s employ.  Eventually, the brokers and Merrill Lynch filed a FINRA arbitration alleging that Credit Suisse violated the Protocol.  Credit Suisse said “oh no, we have to go to JAMS” and went to court to stop the FINRA arbitration, at least with the brokers.

The brokers told the court that they agreed to arbitrate in FINRA under the U-4 and FINRA Constitution and Rules.  Credit Suisse argued, incredibly, that Rule 13200 only requires arbitration, not an arbitration at FINRA.  Huh?  Worse yet, that argument prevailed, both at the trial level and the Second Circuit.  This makes my head hurt.

Did I forget to mention, Credit Suisse is pulling out of the US retail business?  So this will be the firm’s legacy.

The result left me wondering about FINRA’s actions against Merrill Lynch for making retention loans from a non-FINRA entity.  In that situation, Merrill paid a $1,000,000 fine.  I’m trying to reconcile these two situations and it makes my head hurt – again.

I’m thinking, just like the manner in which FINRA keeps sticking its finger in the expungement dike, that FINRA will be making pronouncements about how arbitration means FINRA arbitration.  If not, then it will confirm some of the suspicions held about the agency’s bias.

That’s the sporadic view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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On Wall Street agrees with me.

So I haven’t written in a while.  I apologize to the three people who actually read my blog.  But this struck me.  On Wall Street magazine recently posted an article discussing the wisdom of firing clients.  I wholeheartedly agree.

I’ve tried so many cases and handled so many more.  Like a disintegrating marriage, there are frequently signs that a broker’s relationship with a client is deteriorating.  Phone calls don’t get returned.  The client doesn’t respond in the usual manner to seminar invitations.  The client becomes more demanding, including demands for significant commission discounts because of account performance.  These are all signs.

It is not unusual to hear from a broker, during the course of an arbitration proceeding, “I should have fired the client, but I did not want to make him/her angry.”  Well, by that time it’s too late.  And it doesn’t matter.  Once a client has decided that the broker is the enemy, no amount of being nice is going to repair the relationship.  As Queen Else sings in Frozen, let it go.  A broker will lose more money and time trying to retain an unhappy client rather than simply showing the client the door, politely of course.

That’s the view of one lawyer from sunny and unseasonably warm Jupiter, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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A warm, cold calling, welcome to someone from Morgan Wilshire “-” Revised

Note:  This post was revised in March 2016 after receiving communication from the original subject of the post and giving consideration to the fact that he might be telling the truth.  The original call I described did occur, but I have removed references to his name because he’s mad that I’ve used his name and appears to be blaming me for his trouble in finding a job.  He actually characterized the posting as “incriminating, disgusting and insulting” to him and his integrity.  Now I’ve fixed it.  His name is not on here.

I received a call yesterday from an “unknown” caller ID with an “unknown” number.  I answered it.  The caller identified himself using the name of a broker at Morgan Wilshire Securities, Inc.  I knew I would be entertained.

This  broker “reminded” me that we spoke in November and I “told” him that I would follow Honeywell International.  I apparently also “told” him to call me back after I had been watching Honeywell for a while.  All of this, of course, was made up.  The only truthful statement might be that he called me.  And, if you believe the broker whose name was used during the phone call, even the name was phony.

After I got the proper spelling of his alleged name, I explained to this person, whoever he was, that I had never told him that I would follow Honeywell, that he was violating several FINRA rules, including the FINRA rule that requires that the firm’s caller ID information show the name of his firm and the firm’s phone number.  We should add to that the fact that he might have been using someone else’s identity, based upon the email communications I received from the original subject of this post.

Because I was now curious, I looked up the Brokercheck history for the person who claimed to be talking to me.  He has a civil judgment that was entered in December 2014.  He was fired from his prior job after it was alleged that he solicited in a state where he was not registered (we’ll get back to that in a moment).  In 2012, he failed to comply with an arbitration award, and so on and so on.

Down at the bottom of the Brokercheck report were the states of registration for the person who I was told I was talking to.  Surprise! He’s not registered in Florida.  Of course, the broker who was the original subject of this posting states that, while he was registered at Morgan Wilshire, he never made any phone calls at all and never solicited any business in any state.

Here’s to you, unidentified broker from Morgan Wilshire, o cold caller extraordinaire, and your disregard to the rules and regulations that govern our industry.  Carry on.

Added 3/7/16 – So here’s the basic problem.  I don’t get cold calls from the well-known brokerage firms, we’ll call them the major wirehouses, with brokers telling me that they previously spoke to me when they didn’t.  I don’t get called from these well-known firms by people who are using phony names or impersonating other people.  I don’t get “anonymous” calls from these firms either.  But all of these types of calls occur from firms with impressive sounding names but, in reality, are small broker-dealers that have about as much in common with the major firms as a Ferrari does with a Yugo.  They are both cars, but that’s about it.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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A warm cold caller welcome to Larry Scott of Salomon Whitney Financial LLC.

Today’s contestant in “Is Marc Dobin an idiot?” is Larry Scott from the venerable (not) firm of Salomon Whitney Financial.  Larry’s claim to fame is two criminal disclosures on his Brokercheck report (both for marijuana possession) and working for a variety of firms with little or no reputation.

The telephone connection was terrible and I don’t know whose fault that was, but we spoke long enough for Larry to ask me if I followed a stock “…like [I] said [I] would.”  I told Larry that we had never spoken before.  He hung up.

Even more interesting, however, is that Larry IS NOT REGISTERED IN FLORIDA.  Now, to give this guy the benefit of the doubt, maybe he is dyslexic and couldn’t distinguish the 561 area code, which is in Florida, from the 516 area code, which is Long Island where Larry smiles and dials for fun and profit.

Either way, he certainly annoyed me but he probably didn’t violate any FINRA rules.  However, he may have violated Florida law.  If I had purchased something from him based on this phone call, he most certainly would have.

Written Supervisory Procedures are supposed to be in place to prevent this from happening.  But my experience with these cold calling firms from New York City and Long Island is that they are short on procedures and long on cold callers.  So, Larry Scott, here’s to you and welcome to the club.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin.

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I am ambivalent about Avvo and here is why.

As the son of a lawyer, I kind of knew about Martindale-Hubbell ratings.  As a new lawyer, I knew that I wanted that Av Martindale-Hubbell rating.  It meant that my peers thought highly of my work and ethics.  When I first received the rating, I told my dad and I was quite proud.  When I had a partner, the law firm had an Av rating.  Then the internet came along.

The internet wants to democratize everything.  Who cares what lawyers think about other lawyers?  Let’s let everyone rank everyone else.  Also, let’s let clients rate their lawyers the same way Yelpers rate a takeout Korean barbecue joint.  I wasn’t a fan of this, but Avvo forced me to participate.  Why? Because if I didn’t, my rating would languish somewhere around “meh”.

I soon figured out, though, that the Avvo numerical rating may use some of the consumer input, but without any input I could make my number rise.  I put in my educational background, significant cases, CLE articles and lectures, which all increased my rating.  My current Avvo rating is a 9.9 “superb”.  My wife, by the way, still thinks I’m “meh” but I don’t think that has to do with my lawyering.

Back to Avvo.  So I don’t put much stock in Avvo’s 9.9 assessment of me or walk around with a big LED sign over my head saying “superb” like the pig in Charlotte’s Web.  Instead, I just let it sit there.  But I have clients that found my Avvo page.  This is what causes the ambivalence.

When I finish a case, the client usually says “thank you” and we move on.  The closing papers are filed or signed.  We send out any trust account funds and, unless the client has another problem, we don’t hear from the client again.  Avvo has changed that.  Three clients have said some of the nicest things anyone (who isn’t my mother) has said about a lawyer, let alone about me.  The internet, unfiltered, facilitated compliments from clients that reminded me why I like being a lawyer.  The most recent comment was written by a client whom I last represented in 2009.  I haven’t heard from the client in years.  But the things the client wrote meant a lot.

I’m used to reading all the vile and mean stuff that commenters have written in response to articles in the local or national papers.  I’ve seen the stories about the online bullying done through Facebook and elsewhere.  But to have three people take the time to tell the world (or at least the world that looks on my Avvo listing) about their experience with me, that’s what causes the ambivalence.  Because I don’t think Avvo should call me “superb” just because I gave them lots of info for my listing.  But those three clients, they all gave me five stars.  If I was a barbecue joint, people would be lining up around the corner after seeing the ratings on Yelp.

My advice is don’t rely on numeric or star ratings.  They aren’t the guarantee of success or failure.  On the other hand, if you like the lawyer and he or she is competent and cares, that’s what should matter.  Then tell the world on Avvo.

That’s the view of one lawyer from Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin and I don’t feel “superb”.

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Merrill Lynch fined for late U5 filing

The U-5, the Uniform Termination Notice, is an important part of the information flow in the securities industry.  When a Registered Representative leaves a firm, a U-5 must be filed.  The firm has 30 days to do so.  Most firms have procedures in place to timely file a U-5.

Merrill Lynch, I am sure, has such procedures.  But those procedures were apparently missed when it came to a Missouri broker named Greg Campbell.  The firm received two complaints alleging theft from customer accounts.  Firms do not tolerate theft from customer accounts.

But when Mr. Campbell left Merrill Lynch and joined LPL, it took the firm a year to notify FINRA of the complaints.  That led to Campbell’s termination at LPL.  But I am sure that LPL would not have hired him in the first place had they known about the complaints.  And that would have avoided $500,000 of theft, the amount reported by the Wall Street Journal that was stolen from LPL customers.  This is on top of the $1.7 million stolen from Merrill Lynch customers.

I have seen situations like this before.  I’m wondering if LPL will go after Merrill Lynch for its failure to timely report, arguing that had Merrill Lynch reported the two complaints, LPL would not have hired the thief and not paid out $500,000 in restitution.  I guess we’ll see.  But it will be in arbitration, so maybe we won’t see unless a decision is reported.

That’s the view of one lawyer from beautiful Jupiter, Palm Beach County, Florida.  I’m Marc Dobin and I’m looking at blue skies outside my window.

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