The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission brought another civil suit against brokers Wednesday in what it’s describing as an intensifying of its focus on the practices that hurt customers while enriching those trading for them.
Zachary Berkey and Daniel Fischer are accused by regulators of conducting in-and-out trading that did little to generate profits for the 10 customers of Four Points Capital Partners. However, the trades did allegedly generate tens of thousands in fees for the pair.
According to the SEC, customers lost a total of almost $573,000 on the trades. Berkey and Fischer, however, received approximately $106,000 and $175,000, respectively, in commission.
“We’re intensifying our focus on unscrupulous brokers and their harmful practices,” Sanjay Wadhwa, senior associate director of the SEC’s New York regional office, said in a statement. “As alleged in our complaint, Berkey and Fischer did grave harm to their customers by providing unsuitable recommendations and siphoning money in the form of high commissions and costs.”
The SEC claims Berkey and Fischer had no reasonable basis to believe their recommendations for investments were suitable. Despite this, the pair convinced investors to allow them to execute the trades, each of which resulted in a $75 fee for the transaction. On average, Berkey held a position for just under 31 days, while Fischer’s hold time was for just over two weeks.
Regulators said that the turnover rates and cost-to-equity ratios on the pair’s accounts were very high. The securities in a customer’s portfolio turning over six times or more a year, and a cost-to-equity ratio of 20 percent appreciation required annually to cover the account’s expenses—including commissions—is indicative of excessive trading, regulators said.
Some of Berkey’s accounts saw an annualized turnover as high as 28.83 a year and a cost-to-equity ratio of 94.10 percent, while Fischer reached a turnover of 51.82 in one account, which had a cost-to-equity ratio of 80.26 percent, according to regulators.
Fischer has consented to a final judgment permanently enjoining him from similar future violations. He’s agreed to return his ill-gotten gains with interest and to pay a $160,000 penalty.
Fischer is represented by Serpe Ryan name attorney Paul Ryan, who declined to comment.
No attorney information was available for Berkey. The SEC said its case agains him will proceed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.
The suit is SEC v. Berkey, 17-cv-09552.