A Finra arbitration panel has ordered Wells Fargo Advisors and one of its brokers to pay $8.6 million to the former CEO of OfficeMax over the sales of Puerto Rico bonds, the Los Angeles Times writes.
Sam Duncan, the former chief executive of the office supplies giant and grocery store chain SuperValu, sued Wells Fargo’s wealth management unit and broker Marc Rogers in 2016, according to the paper.
Duncan alleged his money was invested inappropriately in the bonds, given his conservative risk profile, and that Rogers failed to follow Wells Fargo’s own analysts who deemed the bonds inappropriate for conservative risk profiles, the LA Times writes.
Rogers bought the bonds for a trust account set up for Duncan’s children, his attorney tells the paper.
Rogers and Wells Fargo Advisors are held jointly liable for $4.2 million to cover Duncan’s investment losses plus interest, with the rest of the award going toward lawyer fees and punitive damages, the LA Times writes.
A Wells Fargo Advisors spokeswoman tells the paper the company disagrees with the panel’s decision and is “researching our options.” A lawyer for Rogers didn’t respond to the LA Times’ request for comment.
He had been Duncan’s financial advisor “for years,” according to the LA Times, and another one of Duncan’s lawyers tells the paper that while Rogers bought the bonds for Duncan’s account while still with RBC, the “truly risky behavior” occurred when the broker was with Wells Fargo.
For example, Duncan’s accounts managed by Rogers were invested almost entirely in Puerto Rico bonds in 2012 and 2013, according to Finra filings cited by the LA Times. RBC settled with Duncan in May for $25,000, according to the paper.
Wells Fargo isn’t the only brokerage that’s been paying large fines related to Puerto Rico bonds — the market for which collapsed in 2013. Just last month Finra ordered UBS Financial Services to pay $4.3 million to the family of clients who lost money in the bonds.