September 12, 2011

Wedbush and Former Broker Ordered to Pay Investor $2.9M by FINRA

A Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) arbitration panel has ordered Wedbush Securities and one of its former brokers to pay $2.9 million in damages and fees to an elderly investor who allegedly fell victim to a faulty investment scheme. The founder Edward Wedbush, and broker Debbie Michelle Saleh were ordered to pay $2,865,885 in damages. The victim of this securities case, Rick Cooper, continued working with Debbie Michelle Saleh, who previously served as his mother’s broker, after she moved to Wedbush from Wachovia Securities LLC in 2004, stated Lorie Konish in an August 31, 2011, article in On Wall Street.

Cooper’s attorney alleges, Saleh sent him false monthly account statements while conducting unauthorized transactions and forging Cooper’s signature. That allegedly included buying unsuitable variable annuities products and selling them, then subsequently buying more unsuitable products.

Konish writes that while Saleh profited from fees and commissions from those transactions, funds in Cooper’s accounts ultimately dwindled to less than a third of the $1.86 million displayed in account statements.

It was noted in a strongly worded Aug. 26 decision, the FINRA arbitration panel concluded that Saleh intentionally misrepresented information about Cooper’s investments while making unauthorized redemptions or withdrawals.

“The panel determined that Respondent Saleh’s conduct was premeditated, egregious and unconscionable and part of a plan or scheme to defraud her customers,” the FINRA panel wrote in its decision. “Respondent Saleh’s conduct certainly borders on criminal misconduct, if not actually elevating her actions to actual criminal misconduct.”

Wedbush fought against the charges in the arbitration, arguing that the variable annuities sold to Cooper were suitable and that the firm’s supervision was adequate.

That supervision was not good enough, Cooper’s lawyer said, as the firm did not promptly respond to a Dec. 2007 letter from the Securities and Exchange Commission following an investigation on Saleh.

Saleh stepped down from her post at Wedbush in March, 2009. She was permanently barred from serving in the securities industry by FINRA in August, 2009. Her registration records show that she has also previously been named in other cases involving annuities she sold to customers.

The On Wall Street article reports that the $2.9 million award includes special damages for emotional distress, including $500,000 to be paid by Saleh, $300,000 by Wedbush and $200,000 by Wedbush Securities founder and President Edward Wedbush.

Including interest, the total award totals more than $3 million.

Securities Attorney, Lars Soreide, of Soreide Law Group, PLLC, has represented clients nationwide. If you feel you have become a victim of stock/securities loss, call a Securities Arbitration Lawyer for a free consultation on how to potentially recover your losses.  To speak with an attorney, call 888-760-6552, or visit www.securitieslawyer.com

Soreide Law Group, PLLC., representing investors nationwide before FINRA  the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority.

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