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Can a person sue a financial advisor for not doing anything (advising) after thier money is all gone ?

Arroyo Grande, CA |

I inheirited $500,000 in the form of stock shares in oil mostly and some other things. Well I didn't know anything about investing and how it all works (still don't) . This was all set up through Smith Barney and now 5 yrs later I have nothing and I am in worse shape than ever. I have no job and lost my home and wife and I feel like I've been taken advantage of. He got big commisions from my selling and never gave my any advice at all on how to do anything other than spend it all. Now he is retired form Smith Barney and I am just wondering if I would have a snowballs chance of getting anything back ? I imagine they probably have pretty good lawyers working for them too.

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Attorney answers 4


Whether or not you have claims will depend on a number of factors. You should gather all of your documents, account statements, etc. and find a lawyer on Avvo or through the PIABA website and discuss this with them.

Your account is probably covered by an arbitration agreement as well.

Don't delay as there are time limits for being able to bring a claim.

Best of luck.

Daniel Mcleod Carlson

Daniel Mcleod Carlson


You may have a case, and you do need to act swiftly as much time has past. I am a PIABA attorney in San Diego, Ca. who specializes in these cases. Feel free to contact me if you would like a free consultation.


I regularly handle securities arbitrations and also sit as a FINRA arbitrator. You are generally bound to arbitrate your claims, and the eligibility period for claims is 6 years from the occurrence giving rise to the claim. There are a few, but not many ways to toll the eligibility period. So you're getting very, very close to having your case precluded from arbitration and likely many causes of action under CA and NY law (your customer agreement if you haven't read it likely has a NY choice of law clause).

You have to give serious thought to what your causes of action are. Mismanagement of investments where trading and commissions cause loss are one thing. Simply following a client's instruction to sell to facilitate spending is another -- unless you are paying the firm for full blown financial advice and soup to buts financial services, I don't see how the enabling of spending alone gives rise to a claim (other than the fact that the broker gave that advice to you to generate commissions).

In short, these matters are intensely fact specific, and yes, firms generally retain experienced law firms to defend such cases. FINRA practice is unique animal where you will need counsel to handle your case. Whatever you do, don't try to handle this sort of case pro se. You can take a look at FINRA arbitration awards on and see that few, if any pro se claimants ever prevail. You might also want to check your former broker's regulatory record at on their BrokerCheck syste,. An attorney will also advise you on pursuing relief through state regulators and the SEC through their respective complaint processes in parallel (emphasize parallel - these things are never the substitute for legal action) legal proceedings.

Happy to assist further.

The foregoing is not legal advice nor is it in any manner whatsoever meant to create or impute an attorney/client relationship.


You absolutely have rights. But, don't wait any more time to exercise them. Its already been 5 years and there are time limits. That your advisor is retired is of no consequence. He, as well as his former broker, are both responsible for any wrongdoing. Based on what you have related, it is impossible to evaluate your case but their are lawyers who can do that for you. There is a self regulatory organization called FINRA whose job it is to investigate and adjudicate exactly your kind of complaint. Yes, brokers have able counsel but just as able counsel are available to you and specialize in this kind of work. The Association, which I belong to, is called the Public Investor Arbitration Bar Association or (PIABA).


The act of recommending carries liability for brokers even in non discretionary accounts. Some courts have held they are your fiduciary. The problem as I see it from the limited information I am given is damages. Spent money does not equate to losses. One has to assume you received some financial benefit or acquired some assets spending the money which is markedly different that the stock plummeting to zero while your broker sat on your hands. The first place you should start is looking at the account opening documents and look at the written stated investment objectives of your account. If there is a material deviation from those objectives then they many not have recommended a suitable strategy for you. If you are going to pursue this you have 6 year statute of limitations through FINRA and even shorter statutes if you will bring state specific or Federal causes of action.

Nothing in this answer is intended to be relied upon as legal advice and I make no warranties either express or implied that the information is accurate. Always consult a local attorney.

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