September 8, 2018
Oops I Did It Again, Again In FINRA Public Customer Arbitration (BrokeAndBroker.com Blog)
You got yer oops. You got your oops, I did it again. In a recent FINRA public customer arbitration, however, we have at least three oops, which, the way I see it, is at least an oops, I did it again, again. Sort of like deja vu all over again, again. On the receiving ends of all this oopsiness are two registered representatives, who, in response to what they must have viewed as a garbage case against them, sought to have their good names expunged. In the end, it looks like it all works out but not without some cost and aggravation.
NYU sociologist Richard Sennett researched back-office employees of Wall Street firms in the wake of the 2008 subprime mortgage collapse, and he recounts the industry's long decline, as short-term profits displaced loyalty and culture as business objectives. Mid-level and lower officers soon began thinking that the executives to whom they reported in revolving-door fashion were incompetent hustlers rather than financial professionals. With lack of respect all around, employees with decades of experience were thrown out on the Street with barely a fare-thee-well as firms scrambled to regain quarterly profitability. There will be more of this to come, as blockchain and other technologies threaten to eliminate hundreds of traditional Wall Street positions.
In a recent FINRA regulatory settlement, we know how things turned out: a stockbroker is barred. We even know what caused the mess: the diversion of an elderly customer's checks. What we can't quite figure out is how FINRA found out about the misconduct and what prompted the regulator's ensuing investigation. Yes, it all ends well from a public policy perspective but something just doesn't seem right. We can find the end. We can't quite find the beginning.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico was devastated. Long before that natural disaster hit the island, a man-made storm of equally epic proportion made landfall and hammered the Commonwealth's economy. Over three years ago, Puerto Rican government officials conceded that the public debt was not repayable and the local economy was headed into a death spiral. As the crisis grew and mushroomed, Wall Street just didn't seem to care. It was an opportunity. There were commissions and fees yet to be made. All of which increased the industry's appetite for even riskier debt, which would get sold in tranches or bundled into mutual funds, and, as such, dumped on an unwary and foolish public. As we still sort through the mess in 2018, yet another lawsuit emanating from that era of unsustainable financing pits four public customers against UBS.
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