There are different degrees of investor fraud, ranging from the lack of alignment between your interests and those of your stock broker to the notoriety of billion-dollar scam artists like Bernie Madoff. How do you calculate a figure like this? It’s difficult. But between structural problems like a lack of fiduciary duty between investors and advisors to criminal enterprises like Ponzi Schemes, the losses to investors are in the many billions.
Interestingly, comparatively few Americans realize that, under certain circumstances, they can sue their stock broker and his or her brokerage firm in the even that something goes wrong in the account. The most important part of that sentence is really “under certain circumstances.” While those circumstances are certainly not unlimited, there are a number of issues related to financial professional malpractice that come up again and again.
The Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, or SIFMA, has long advocated free and efficient capital markets in the United States. Recently, the organization came out in favor of a proposal by the securities industry self-regulator, FINRA, to force registered brokerage firms to contribute to an investor compensation fund. The fund would be earmarked for investors who have been injured by broker misconduct and investment fraud, and it would allow them to recover even when a brokerage company has gone bankrupt or out of business.
Financial scam artists are some of the most sophisticated criminals around. However, if you ask many law enforcement officials and regulatory agencies, investors often play right into their hands by not being cautious enough when vetting a new investment opportunity or by getting carried away into believing a “too good to be true scheme” that involves “no risk” and “huge returns.” There’s a reason why the Ponzi Scheme, invented around the turn of the 20th century, is still doing big business one hundred years later.