A prominent former Merrill Lynch broker has been barred from the brokerage and investment advisory industries by the SEC. The advisor had already been banned by FINRA and pleaded guilty to a criminal charge.
Thomas Buck, 63, was at one time a top-ranked advisor with Merrill, managing $1.3 billion in client assets and a team of 13 people at its office in Carmel, Indiana. Buck spent 33 years with the firm before he was fired in 2015, after it came to light that he had been allegedly defrauding his clients.
In its most recent decision against Buck, handed down on February 9, 2018, the SEC barred him from association with any broker-dealer, investment advisor, municipal securities dealer, municipal advisor, transfer agent or nationally recognized statistical rating organization.
Additionally, he is banned from participating in any offering of a penny stock, including inducing or attempting to induce the purchase or sale of a penny stock.
Buck couldn’t be reached for comment and his lawyers also were not available for comment.
In October of 2017 in federal court in Indianapolis, Buck agreed to a guilty plea on a charge of securities fraud and settled other SEC charges of misconduct for $5 million. He is still awaiting sentencing on the criminal charge and faces up to 25 years in prison, according to a statement from federal prosecutors.
The October SEC complaint says that from 2012 to 2015 Buck received over $2.5 million in excessive commissions and fees from at least 50 clients. He is said to have lied to clients about how much they were paying in commissions and to have withheld information about less expensive fee-based alternatives.
“During the relevant period, approximately 70% of all revenue from Merrill Lynch’s Indiana-based financial advisors came from clients on a fee-based cost platform,” the SEC said in its October filing. “However, during the same period, approximately 80% of the revenue from Buck’s customers came from commissions.”
Merrill Lynch declined to comment on the SEC’s decision. The SEC did not respond to a request for comment.