Hilliard Lyons lost an arbitration case to an elderly client who sought damages for alleged unauthorized trading, churning and failure to supervise among other misconduct.
A FINRA arbitration panel awarded $445,000 in damages to Elizabeth Nickens, according to a copy of the award.
Nickens, 84, claimed that she suffered losses in qualified and non-qualified retirement accounts, and that her advisor, Christopher Bennett, executed transactions in her accounts without authorization. She further claimed that he had allocated her assets in "an unsuitable manner for her age and investment objectives," according to the award.
At her age, Nickens was more interested in wealth preservation and had a conservative risk tolerance, according to her attorney, Michael Valenti.
"During the operative period of time over 50% of her average account equity – that's approximately $360,000 were in four stocks," the Louisville, Kentucky-based attorney says.
She ultimately suffered losses of more than $300,000 ― one of the stocks belonged to a copper mining company that declared bankruptcy, Valenti says.
"It really came down to him exercising discretionary power over her account when he didn't have it. They argued he had gotten it for every trade, though we obviously disputed that," he says.
Hilliard Lyons and Bennett rejected the accusations, according to arbitration documents. A company spokesman declined to discuss specifics in the case.
"To protect client confidentiality, we do not comment on litigation, arbitration, or individual customer matters, though we do defend ourselves vigorously in adversarial matters. We are proud of the service we provide thousands of clients every day in navigating life’s financial challenges," the spokesman said in a statement.
Bennett could not be reached for additional comment.
He has been an advisor at Hilliard Lyons since joining the industry in 1995, according to FINRA BrokerCheck records. He has had five other client complaints on his BrokerCheck record; three have been denied and two are pending, with client seeking $5.3 million in damages.
Nickens, who filed her claim in March 2017, won less than the $900,000 she asked for at the end of arbitration hearings, but more than the $250,000 she originally sought in her statement of claim.
The Louisville, Kentucky-based panel of three arbitrators reached its decision after 13 hearings in January and February 2018. Arbitration costs of $15,750 were split evenly between the two parties.
"We're pleased with the results, it substantially makes her whole," Valenti says.