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Merrill Lynch Financial Advisor, Christopher Hellman, Terminated By Merrill Lynch And Sanctioned By FINRA For Allegedly Selling Away

The Wolper Law Firm  is currently investigating claims against Christopher Hellman (CRD  6584084),a former Financial Adviser at Merrill Lynch in Boca Raton, Florida.  Christopher Hellman has been in the securities industry for less than three years and previously worked at FMS Bonds. 

According to publicly available records released by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), on September 20, 2018, Christopher Hellman was terminated by Merrill Lynch for “Conduct including failure to adhere to Firm standards regarding selling away and failure to fully disclose participation in outside business activities.”

The conduct which gave rise to Christopher Hellman’s termination ultimately led to the commencement of a FINRA regulatory proceeding, which resulted a sanction, barring him from the securities industry. 

For a full copy of the sanction, click http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/fda_documents/2018060168801%20Christopher%20C.%20Hellman%20CRD%206584084%20AWC%20jm.pdf

The alleged misconduct is referred to in the industry as “selling away.”  The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) strictly prohibits financial advisors from “selling away” or selling securities and investments to clients that are not offered by the brokerage firm with which they are employed. For example, it is illegal and a violation of industry rules for a financial advisor to recommend or even suggest that a client invest in the financial advisor’s own business or a business operated by his or her friends or family. It is not necessary that the financial advisor earn any compensation for recommending an outside investment.

The purpose behind this prohibition is to ensure that a financial advisor only offers to sell securities that have been vetted by his or her employer brokerage firm through a rigorous due diligence process. Most brokerage firms have an approved list of investments, products, and research that can be provided or made available to clients. Any deviation by the financial advisor from the approved product list may constitute selling away.

Contemporaneous with his termination, a customer complaint was filed against him for
“misappropriation of funds on October 23, 2017.”  Alleged damages are $600,000 and the matter remains pending.

In addition, between 2011-2016, Christopher Hellman has several reported liens/judgments that were subsequently compromised.  The existence of these liens/judgments may be an indication of financial irresponsibility on the part of the Financial Advisor. 

For a full copy of Christopher Hellman’s FINRA BrokerCheck, click https://brokercheck.finra.org/individual/summary/6584084#disclosuresSection.

Per the regulations, Financial Advisors are required to disclose personal tax liens and judgments pending against them as these events may be an indication of financial irresponsibility.  FINRA wants to ensure that the investing public is aware of these tax liens before establishing account relationships with Financial Advisors.  Financial Advisors who are in personal financial distress may be more likely to recommend products and securities that pay higher commissions as opposed to products and securities that are in the best interest of the customer. 

Financial advisors have a legal and regulatory obligation to recommend only suitable investments that are appropriate for their clients’ needs and objectives. Their employing brokerage firm has a legal and regulatory obligation to supervise the Financial Advisors’ sales practices and dealings with clients.  To the extent any of these duties are breached, the customer may be entitled to a recovery of his or her investment losses.  

The Wolper Law Firm is interested in speaking with clients of Christopher Hellman as part of its investigation.  We can be reached at 800.931.8452 or by email at mwolper@wolperlawfirm.com.  The Wolper Law Firm represents investors nationwide in securities litigation and arbitration on a contingency fee basis.  Matt Wolper, the Managing Principal of the Wolper Law Firm, is a trial lawyer who has handled hundreds of securities cases during his career involving a wide range of products, strategies and securities.  Prior to representing investors, he was a partner with a national law firm, where he represented some of the largest banks and brokerage firms in the world in securities matters. 

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