Brokers who have been touting their market sophistication to their customers now are pleading ignorance of the competitive market forces that determine their own income.

In a spate of class action lawsuits against Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Prudential and other brokerages, filed principally in New York, securities brokers — who earned billions in commissions annually — now claim they were just hourly “wage earners,” who were misclassified by their employers to thwart the Fair Labor Standards Act and the California Labor Code.

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