M. Holdings Securities, a subsidiary of the M. Financial Group, is an independent broker-dealer headquartered in Portland, Oregon and reportedly has over 800 registered representatives across the United States operating in one or two person offices. Its branch offices are largely comprised of small producers earning commissions at higher pay out rates than the major full-service brokerage firms, a recipe for disaster when it comes to protecting investors from churning and unsuitable investments and unsuitable investment strategies!
Churning is a violation of Federal and state securities statutes, industry rules and regulations and a breach of fiduciary duty to investors under common law. Churning can occur if an M Holdings Securities broker exercises control over the investment decisions in your account and purchases stocks or recommends that you purchase and sell stocks for his benefit, i.e., commissions not yours! These trades rarely, if ever, make the investor any money. In fact, the additional commissions raise the break-even point for the investor to the level where the stock must perform at an extremely high level in order for the investor to make any money.
In every broker-investor relationship, the broker must assess what the investor's goals are as well as his or her risk tolerance. This assessment is based on a number of key factors, including the investor's stated objectives, risk tolerance, financial condition and tax status. It is the broker's responsibility to only pursue investments suitable for that investor based on these factors. A stockbroker is obligated to only recommend suitable investments and investment strategies. If an M Holdings Securities broker recommends unsuitable investments and unsuitable investment strategies, it can leave you vulnerable to unnecessary risk and losses.
Independent broker-dealers are notorious for their lax supervisory practices and procedures. The business model of these operations is to open many offices nationwide for steady growth of fixed monthly revenues without the costs attendant to a full-service branch office with on-site manager, compliance officer and operation personnel. The registered representatives of these independent broker-dealers generally operate as separately incorporated businesses. They are not employees of the broker-dealer and therefore not controlled in the same manner as full-service brokerage firm representatives. The registered representatives control their structure and costs to maximize profits and often leave the protection of investors' rights and interests as their lowest priority.
The typical supervisory organization of independent broker-dealer operations is to have other independent contractors operate Offices of Supervisory Jurisdiction (OSJs) to monitor the registered representatives from geographically remote offices and then report to the main franchisor's compliance office at national headquarters. The supervisors at the OSJs are not employees of the franchisor and often run their own brokerage, insurance and other businesses. They are not devoted full-time supervisors of the smaller branch offices. Consequently, OSJ managers cannot and do not supervise the day-to-day operations of the registered representatives of these Independent broker-dealers.
There is no immediate review of new accounts opened, securities transactions, business records, cash or securities receipts and deliveries, correspondence and business activities unrelated to the securities brokerage operation at these independent brokerage firms. The lax supervision leaves investors who have transferred their accounts to the smaller independent broker-dealer vulnerable to excessive purchases and sales of securities and securities that have not been reviewed or authorized by anyone other than the sales representative earning a commission. Generally, no manager is onsite to detect the placement of inaccurate information about a client's investment objectives and financial condition to document the suitability of a particular investment recommendation. There is no daily review of sales literature and client correspondence to protect against misrepresentations and misleading statements being made to investors. In fact, there may be only one compliance audit visit per year at many of these offices. These Independent brokerage business operations are worrisome to the North American Securities Administrators Association (NASAA), which has documented more instances of sales abuse and consequently investor losses at these firms.
The most important of investors' rights is the right to be informed! This Investors' Rights blog post is by the Law Offices of Robert Wayne Pearce, P.A., located in Boca Raton, Florida. Please see our Instablog profile (left column) for ways to contact us and get answers to any of your questions about this blog post and/or any related matter.
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