Christopher C. Hellman (CRD# 6584084) has been sanctioned and barred by securities industry watchdog FINRA. According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (FINRA) online BrokerCheck database, Hellman was formally sanctioned and barred in December of 2018 over allegations that he engaged in the sale of unapproved products (or “selling away”) and misappropriation of client funds.
A now-barred broker-advisor, Hellman had been registered with and employed by three securities firms in South Florida, including:
- Merril Lynch, Pierce Fenner & Smith Incorporated (Merril Lynch) in Boca Raton between September 2016 and October 2018.
- FMSBONDS, Inc. in North Miami Beach, where he had been employed between November 2015 and August 2016 and registered as a broker-advisor between January 2016 and August 2016.
- BrokerCheck also shows Hellman has been employed by Bank of America in Boca Raton since February 2017.
The disciplinary action against Hellman stems from a December 2018 regulatory proceeding. According to FINRA, Hellman consented to the sanction, without admitting or denying any findings, over claims that he failed to provide FINRA with requested information and documentation during a formal investigation. The investigation was prompted by a Form U5 submission from his employer, Merrill Lynch, to terminate his registration in connection to conduct which, according to Merrill Lynch, included: (1) failure to adhere to firm standards on selling away; and (2) failure to fully disclose participation in outside business dealings.
BrokerCheck shows Hellman has one currently pending customer complaint (filed in November 2018) involving allegations that he misappropriated customer funds and engaged in selling away in May 2017, with alleged damages totaling $155,000. A customer dispute filed in September 2018 claiming misappropriation of funds in October 2017 and alleged damages totaling $600,000 was settled for $440,000 in December 2018.
Hellman was terminated from Merrill Lynch in September 2018, and as of December 13, 2018, is permanently barred from the securities industry.
Investment Misconduct: Selling Away
Although the scope of Hellman’s alleged activities while at Merrill Lynch is not fully known as this time, the act of “selling away,” which Merrill Lynch claims as one of the two reasons for his registration termination, constitutes a violation of securities regulations. Such misconduct takes many forms and may involve providing loans, misappropriation of funds through false pretenses, or the selling of notes and other investment products without the brokerage firm’s express approval.
Generally, “selling away” is a term used to describe brokers selling or offering securities (i.e., stocks, promissory notes, and other products) which are not offered or approved by the brokerage firm with which they are affiliated.
Under FINRA rules, brokerage firms have a duty to detect and prevent their brokers from engaging in such forms of investment misconduct and other types of investment fraud by creating procedures which allow them to properly monitor and supervise employees. Though firms often claim they were unaware of their brokers offering outside investments, firms have an affirmative duty to supervise their employees. If a brokerage firm fails to detect and prevent misconduct by its employees, then the firm may be legally responsible for a client’s losses for failure to supervise.
You can learn more about “selling away” and other forms of investment fraud and misconduct on our website:
- Common Questions: What is “Selling Away?”
- Video Center: David Meyer Explains “Selling Away”
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Unfortunately, many investors who lose money because of their broker’s misconduct find out very late in the game – when investment schemes are publicly disclosed, a broker is terminated by their employer or indicted on criminal charges, calls from their broker-advisors cease to a halt, or when they’re left with nothing but financial losses.
If you or someone you know has suffered investment losses as a result of “selling away” or any other form of misconduct or fraud, the nationally recognized team of securities and investment fraud attorneys at Meyer Wilson is available to help. During an initial consultation, we can confidentially discuss your case, potential options and claims, and how we may be able to assist in the fight for a recovery of your losses.
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